Friday, September 30, 2016

leadership dot #1582: big magic

I recently read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a treatise about the creative process and living a creative life. I found it to be one of the most realistic accounts of the ups and downs of "making art", and simultaneously one of the most inspirational. I think I will keep it handy for when I have one of those days where I am ready to throw in the blogging towel!

One of the key concepts that I learned in the book is from the chapter "An Idea Goes Away." Gilbert writes that she often has ideas, but if they are unaddressed, the idea will vanish. "If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you," she writes.

Don't I know it! I have a whole list of blog ideas that sounded good at the time: a comment from a friend, an article in the paper, an observation while out wandering -- that are now just sitting there -- on a list. The words are there, but the inspiration is not, or as Gilbert would put it, the soul of the idea is gone. 

It causes unnecessary angst for me -- the paradox that I have a list full of ideas, yet nothing to write about. It reminds me that I need to act quickly on turning the notion into a dot, or the idea will go away, even if the topic remains in my consciousness.

What ideas do you have that have taken up residence with someone else because you did not give them attention in a timely manner? Have you missed out on chances to create your art (whether that be in business, hobbies or fine arts pursuits) because you ignored the window when the idea had life? Did the delay in acting on a notion turn it into work instead of play when you finally did give it attention?

When the next idea comes calling, be ready. You don't want it to let the magic get away.

-- beth triplett

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, 2015

Thursday, September 29, 2016

leadership dot #1581: unscheduled time

When you come across someone with a set of letters after their name, it shouldn't automatically lead you to believe that the person is smart. What the letters actually signify is that they are persistent, and even more, that they have found a way to conquer the demons of unscheduled time.

Children go to grade school and their day is programmed for them from the moment they arrive until they are picked up at the conclusion. No choice in scheduling, no free periods with which to wander. In high school, there is more choice and more freedom, but the assignments all have due dates and the classes are all offered in the same time periods. 

Students who go to college often struggle with the "free time" they suddenly find themselves having. There isn't a rigid "must-do-this-today" mentality or a severe penalty for skipping classes. Those who succeed are those who figure out a way to discipline themselves to do the small steps that accumulate to complete the big projects that are due in the end.

Graduate school is even more unstructured. Many students never complete that elusive dissertation, not because of a lack of ability or brains, rather simply because they did not create a way to accomplish that which did not have a deadline. Something more appealing or urgent always took precedence, and the paper remained unwritten.

I have found myself relying on those skills from my dissertation days as I transition to work as a consultant. In the office, my calendar was chock-full and I went from one meeting to the next. But now the important things I need to do don't make it to the calendar unless I put them there. I have whole days with nothing "scheduled," so need to create my own urgency that there is still plenty of work that needs to be done.

And so it is the case with everyone in some aspects of their life. The really important things don't come with a deadline or to-do list. No one says that you have to be in touch with friends by 2pm Tuesday or puts healthy eating on your to-do list. The community college doesn't send you a meeting request for that personal development class and no one tells you that the home inventory video must be submitted by 5pm. There isn't a deadline to write a proposal for your new idea or to create that piece of art. 

Only you can add structure to the important, unscheduled aspects of your life. It's a skill that schooling doesn't teach, yet success doesn't happen without.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

leadership dot #1580: life of the party

Who was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Business Week magazine? 

It was 1954, and the first female to be showcased in a cover story was Brownie Wise. Now can you name the company?

The answer is Tupperware, the famous polyethylene containers with the "burp" as a seal. Developed by Earl Tupper, the product and its highly successful home sales distribution network was made a household name by Brownie. But because of a falling out with the founder, her name was banished for 50 years from even the company's history, and she did not receive the legacy she deserved.

In many ways, Brownie Wise was ahead of her time, not only because she recruited and empowered a large female work force and provided opportunities for women to have significant incomes at a time when few did, but because she saw the gains that could be realized when a company took care of its people. "If we build the people, they'll build the business" was her mantra.

Under her leadership as head of the Tupperware Home Parties division, the company grew to over 10,000 dealers and $25 million in retail sales (in 1954!). She was a precursor to Oprah: giving away trips around the world and cars, granting wishes for her top dealers, writing a book and providing inspiration through regular newsletters and training films. Brownie was also known for her handwritten notes to people and for the lavish jubilee celebrations she held each year to inspire top dealers. 

Brownie was one of the early dealers herself, and then rose through the ranks and eventually became head of the sales division. She perfected the home party network, which gained such acclaim that Brownie's celebrity and her sales prowess overshadowed Earl Tupper and he fired her. 

A new book about Brownie Wise, Life of the Party, may revive interest in her story and give her the recognition she is due, but regardless, we can all learn from Brownie's dedication to her dealers. I just listened to a webinar by Simon Sinek who is preaching the same advice Brownie shared. "We are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results," he said. 

Take a lesson from Brownie Wise's playbook and shower love, personal concern and recognition on those who do the work. The results will follow.

-- beth triplett

Life of the Party by Bob Kealing, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

leadership dot #1579: interviewing

The interviewing process is inherently flawed as it requires an organization, within a matter of a few hours or less, to make a hiring decision that has long term consequences. The same is true on the other side of the table; the candidate has limited information on which to base a life-changing choice.

The best the supervisor can hope for is to ask compelling questions that reveal nuances and truths about the candidate, and to learn insights beyond the superficial and standard answers. Toward that end, I have compiled a list of 70 interview questions that I have used throughout my career. These are general questions from which you can pick and choose, and of course pair with questions that are job-specific. They can also provide some interesting answers when used as ice breakers at staff meetings or in conversation with mentees.

The questions may also help those who are preparing for interviews. While there is no way to formulate answers to everything, as a candidate, it does help to review sample questions in advance and consider potential answers. Even if you aren't asked the exact question, the principle behind it will likely be raised.

These questions have been compiled over time, by making notes on good questions that others ask or that I have been asked. I'd encourage you to keep your own list and add to this one. The stakes are high in the hiring process, and it is always worth the extra effort to make the outcome the best it can be. 

What's your favorite interview question? I'd love for you to share it and I'll add it to my list!

-- beth triplett

Monday, September 26, 2016

leadership dot #1578: request

I recently had to request official transcripts before I could be hired for an adjunct teaching position. The process brought to light some interesting differences between the four schools from which I have degrees.

My (beloved) alma mater charged nothing. There was a simple form on the website; I printed it, mailed it and was finished. My first master's institution charged me $7.45 and required a multi-step process from an outside vendor. My doctoral institution uses the same outsourcing, but charged me $12. 

My second master's institution showed that the fee was $5, but then sent back my uncashed check with a note that "due to our new school policy, this fee has been dissolved." I always welcome $5, but it seems that it would have taken less cost and effort to change the website rather than to mail back checks.

I was also surprised that in 2016, schools still require a hand-signed form to release transcripts. No faxes or emails. No use of electronic signatures. Even with the external vendors, you do everything electronically, but still have to print and mail a form with the signature. I know transcripts are valuable, but it seems very archaic and cumbersome in this day and age, and I can only imagine what the current graduates think. Use a stamp!?

With the cost of education as high as it is, it would seem that more institutions could include processing of a few official transcripts as a perk for at least their graduates if not for everyone. 

Think about what you do for those who may need services from you after their primary business is complete. Do you charge clients for copies of previous records (eg: taxes, medical files, blueprints, etc.)?  Have you reviewed the process to make it as easy as possible? Could you factor the costs into present-day charges and eliminate those pesky after-the-fact fees?

While some may be required to maintain relationships with you over time, good will and loyalty can never be mandated. Treat the on-going records requests as an opportunity to shine not as a nuisance.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, September 25, 2016

leadership dot #1577: punt vs. bunt

While I was out shopping, I came across two displays full of party accessories with football themes. Among the dozens of items, you can buy a tray with 10-yard line markings, a football shaped chip dish, ketchup and mustard containers with footballs and cups with sayings like: "Hey Ref, check your phone; I think you missed a call." My favorite was personal penalty flags that you could presumably throw at the television. 

These displays got me thinking about the difference in the culture of football vs. baseball. I have never seen a display for baseball party items, nor have I ever heard of the need for them. Who throws a baseball party except maybe for the World Series? Why hasn't tailgating made its way into baseball? Why do friends gather to watch regular season football games, for both college and pro, when baseball doesn't warrant group use of the Man Cave or sports bar until the post-season?

My theory is that the availability of football is limited. Teams only play one game per week. They only play on a few select days. The regular season is short. You only have a handful of opportunities to see your team live vs. 62 chances to go in baseball. There are no double headers.

So with football, less is more. The scarcity leads to greater demand and importance when the sport is in season. 

Think about your organization and whether it more closely resembles football or baseball. Do you have a limited offering or do you provide multiple services? Does your model spread out your involvement with clients or try to concentrate it into a select period? Can you engage customers in multiple ways (eg: watch parties or tailgating) vs. requiring them to attend the live event?

Football and baseball both have their benefits, and there isn't one right way to structure your organization. Just don't punt away your opportunity to be intentional about your choice.

-- beth triplett


Saturday, September 24, 2016

leadership dot #1576: relevant and prolific

One last observation from my travels: I was struck by the uneven nature of social media promotion by the sites we visited. 

We were at many of the primary tourist locations in the region, and their encouragement for us to promote them on social media ranged from no hashtags available to an entire "Connect Zone" with free charging cords and staff to assist in photo sharing.

I tweeted about Newport Aquarium in KY and got almost an instantaneous retweet and reply. My tweets about other locations went unnoticed by the sites.

It caused me to think of the many dimensions of social media use: what you publish yourself, how you encourage others to share on your behalf, and as I have written about before, how you listen and respond. 

My former "alpha pup" copywriter Rob Lombardi once said: "Your social media strategy should be relevant and prolific or don't bother. It's the wrong vehicle for your message." 

Add "how you engage others" to your strategic thinking and be relevant and prolific with this aspect of your social media plan as well.

-- beth triplett


Friday, September 23, 2016

leadership dot #1575: elite

As the airport gate attendant called people to board a flight, he ran through the litany of people who could board first: Executive Platinum, One World Emerald, One World Sapphire, One World Ruby, Advantage Platinum, Advantage Gold, Priority Access, Priority Gold and Active Duty Military.

When the nine groups with premium boarding finished, about 25% of the plane was seated. Airlines shower perks on this group, often at the expense of the other 75% who fill their planes. And once you are on board, American is now introducing "premium economy" seats, adding one more way to make the non-premium flyer feel like one step above cargo.

I know that the elite classifications are designed to engender loyalty among the most frequent travelers, and in many cases it works. But the programs highlight the challenge of how to make a large group feel important without making the remaining group feel unimportant. 

In addition to thinking about the ways you can provide recognition to your best clients, frame that against how it makes your majority feel. Those not in the upper echelon may not have earned all the perks of the elite, but it will serve you well to provide an occasional acknowledgement to the ordinary folks whose influence and impact do matter.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, September 22, 2016

leadership dots #1574: go retro

The Cincinnati Reds baseball team has spent much of the season in last place; as of this writing they are 31 games out of first with a 62-83 record. If you were the Reds marketing team and had an inkling that this wouldn't be a stellar season, how could you handle it?

It seems that the Reds came up with a brilliant solution: go retro and promote the storied past of the club. While the team has not been a contender in recent years, they do have such greats as Johnny Bench and Pete Rose as part of their legacy. They are also one of the oldest teams in the league, giving them plenty of history to tout.

If your past is more illustrious than your present, use it to gain transference of glory to the present day. It's still part of your story, and could inspire someone to add a new chapter of glory to your tale.

-- beth triplett

Championship headlines from 1976 and 1990 -- the last times they won

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

leadership dot #1573: walls

Outside the National Underground Railway Freedom Center is a tribute to the end of another type of barrier that kept people from being free. The Berlin Wall memorial is an actual piece of the concrete that separated the East and West sides of Berlin for over 25 years. The memorial honors "those who have died seeking freedom without walls," including the 130 who perished trying to scale the wall itself.

I suspect that when the wall was erected, there were many who felt it was a necessary or at least logical thing to do. Yet, when the wall came down in 1989, there was a great celebration of freedom. "Liberty is the right to choose, freedom is the result of that choice," reads one of the engravings at the site.

May we learn lessons from slavery and from Berlin and work hard to reduce barriers rather than erecting them, and to allow people to have freedoms instead of oppression. Start today by dismantling the figurative walls you have built around your belief system, and be open to listening to the voice of others.

"The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom," reads a quote at the Memorial attributed to Lady Bird Johnson. Have a civil clash of freedom today.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

leadership dot #1572: sugar

One of the surprises to come out for me of the National Underground Railway Freedom Center was the link between sugar and the slave trade. "Sugar cane and its byproducts, processed sugar and rums, changed the history of the world," one sign proclaimed. (I always thought of slaves picking cotton, but that did not become a viable crop until after the invention of the cotton gin in 1794.)

Sugar had once been a luxury item, but as additional products were made with sugar, the demand grew and an abundance of labor was required to harvest the crop. Slaves on Caribbean, British, Spanish and Dutch islands were all deployed in the quest to produce more cane. Because the harvesting conditions were so oppressive, deaths occurred and more and more slaves were required to keep the plantation production going.

I think about sugar and its link to slavery, and now sugar's link to obesity and all the other health ailments that result. There are movements today to reduce the size of beverages with fructose, put healthier items in school vending machines, have "lite" versions of about every food imaginable and to limit sugar consumption as much as possible. 

"I would say that all human pleasure derives from sugar," said the director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.* "The sugar pathway goes directly to parts of the brain that are involved in emotion and pleasure." This highly addictive quality caused -- and still causes -- that insatiable demand that people pursued at unimaginably high costs; first superseding the lives of others and now placing their own lives at risk from overindulgence in the taste sensation.

Take a moment to pause and think about sugar. It's a metaphor for implications -- and an extreme example of how all good things have a downside. In the aggregate, there is nothing sweet about sugar.

-- beth triplett

*Source: Gary Beauchamp as quoted in "You May Also Like" by Tom Vanderbilt, Knopf, 2016, p. 19

Sugar originally was sold in a small cone with a hole for twine.
It was strung up on the ceiling and the twine wrapped in
tin to keep the ants from crawling into the sugar.

Monday, September 19, 2016

leadership dots #1571: underground

I wonder how different the underground railway would be today with the availability of social media and so many forms of communication. But back in the day, when the slaves were trying to escape to Cincinnati and the North for their freedom, escapees and helpers had to rely on more clandestine methods of communication.

This part of our nation's history was on display at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The Freedom Center featured examples of how people communicated to assist slaves in going from one point to another. They started fires at certain points along the riverbank when someone arrived. A lantern on a pole was another symbol that the house was safe, as was a row of white bricks in the chimney or a flag in the hand of a statue in the yard. A quilt in a certain window was a sign, and others traveled with a piece of thread to indicate who could be trusted. 

Members of the Railroad also communicated about potential runaways through coded letters. In this example, "the goods" refers to the slaves, and "two small boxes and two large ones" meant two children and two adults. 

I worry that the new Colson Whitehead Underground Railroad book highlighted by Oprah will lead legions of people to believe that the escape route was a literal railway instead of the network that it was. The true Railroad was a tribute to the ingenuity and bravery of a great many people who valued freedom and liberty above their own safety. 

Aren't you lucky that most all of your communication can be straightforward instead of encoded. Pause for a moment today and be grateful for the gift you have of open communication. In this season of election vitriol, the silver lining is that we live in a country where we can freely express opposing views and we don't need to go underground to do so.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, September 18, 2016

leadership dot #1570: fun raising

At the Newport (KY) Aquarium, the WAVE Foundation took a unique approach to fund raising. Instead of selling the usual items for a premium or asking for a straight donation, the Foundation worked with the Aquarium to allow real penguins to create original art.

The display had a video of penguin feet being dipped in paint before the birds were allowed to roam freely on blank canvases. The large canvases were then cut into smaller sizes, framed and sold to raise money for the foundation. The prints even came with a "certificate of authenticity" and story of how the artwork came to be created.

While art museums may not clamor for the prints for their pure artistic value, they did make a colorful conversational piece. And if you were a lover of the aquarium or penguins in particular, these would be a lot of fun to have.

Think of how you can adapt the idea of Penguin Artwork. What resources do you have that you can capitalize on? Is there something within your organization that you can use to create a product that only you can offer? Can you add some levity to your donation-seeking pitch?

FUN-raising is much more than fund-raising, and likely more successful too.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, September 17, 2016

leadership dot #1569: winner's circle

I only spent a few moments with the horses I saw in Kentucky, but could tell how easily it would be to fall in love with one of those gorgeous animals. 

On our tour, we learned of several owners who had created "horse cemeteries" with tombstones and markers for their beloved equines. The more famous horses even have life-size statues and memorial parks at their grave sites. 

But the tribute that touched my heart the most was that of Karen Taylor, owner of the undefeated Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew. Every year, Ms. Taylor sent flowers to Seattle Slew's gravesite on each day of a triple crown race -- the same flowers the winner would receive -- roses on Derby Day, white carnations for the Belmont and black eyed susans on the day the Preakness was run. 

Of course, the flowers were to comfort her more than the horse, but isn't that the case with all memorials? The point is that she made her recognition specific, both in date and type of flowers.

Think about Karen Taylor the next time you need to pay tribute to someone. Intensely personalized symbols will put you in the winner's circle every time.

-- beth triplett

Friday, September 16, 2016

leadership dot #1568: black paint

If you picture the iconic fences that outline horse farms, they would be white. There are still miles and miles of white fences along the Kentucky roads, but now there are a growing number of black fences as well.

The darker wood does not provide nearly as beautiful of landscape, and it is also harder for the horses to see (and, more importantly, avoid!). 

But what it does provide is longevity, as in two to three years of additional wear, less noticeable disrepair when it is near painting time, and thus, monetary savings. So more owners are switching to the black fences for their farms and paddocks.

Someone made an intentional choice to prioritize economy over appearance, and that made it much easier for others to follow. Think about the trade offs that you make in your organization. Have you thought about the implications your cost reductions will have down the road? Are you intentionally choosing to place one value over another, or do you only look at the bottom line? Perhaps there is another way to gain savings without giving up something you value?

One owner's desire to save some money will change the landscape of Kentucky forever. Think twice before you paint that first fence black.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, September 15, 2016

leadership dot #1567: curves

While our horse farm tour guide was unable to enlighten me about the impetus for Kentucky's horse dominance, he was able to shed light on why all of the farms featured curved fences.

It is striking that none of the paddocks have right angles on their fence lines. I knew there had to be a reason why. And there is: the older horses like to exert their dominance on the younger horses that are in their grazing area. If there were square corners, the larger horse would trap the younger one there and could injure it, so rounded corners help the younger horse be able to run free. Think of it as the equine method of bully-prevention!

Horses also like to run along the fence line, and the curves direct them to keep going, rather than coming to a halt at the corner or running into the fence.


I think the curved fences are a great metaphor for what organizations can do when they intentionally control their environment. By setting up helpful parameters, organizations can shape the culture and prevent problems from happening. 

Think about the curves you can add in your environment. Can you provide clear guidelines or expectations that keep new employees from being trapped by unknown norms? Do you provide interaction spaces so employees can have informal time together instead only having meeting spaces where senior employees tend to dominate? Perhaps you could add a mentoring program to help more junior employees learn how to navigate the boundaries?

It may take more effort to build a curved fence, but as the horse owners have learned, it saves many issues from occurring in the future. Think of how you can remove some of the known barriers that could trap your newest members.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

leadership dot #1566: beyond bluegrass

It wouldn't be a trip to Kentucky without seeing horses, so I spent one morning on a tour of Keenland Race Track, several farms and even a breeding facility to see where the real money is made with Thoroughbreds!

The question I kept asking was: "Why Kentucky?" meaning why did Kentucky become the place where horse racing is so prevalent?

And the answers I got were all wrong.

"Because we have the horse farms here." "Because the main organization for Thoroughbred certification is here." "Because there are many great equine facilities and hospitals here." "Because the Kentucky Derby is here."

No, no, no.

Those are all outgrowth of the fact that Kentucky is the center of the horse universe, but not why it became so.

So instead of badgering all the natives, our tour guide and deeply-ingrained Kentuckians, I asked Google. And found an answer that made sense. Two answers really. One, Kentucky is blessed with lots of bluegrass and limestone, and the minerals that flow through the limestone seep into that beautiful grass and help the horses gain strength in their bones.

But the second reason is due to ingenuity and intentionality more than Mother Nature. After the Civil War Kentucky's economy was in ruins, and the leaders wanted to lure money back into the state. They did so by cultivating a Southern image and appealing to horse owners (who had money) to come to Kentucky farms, where gambling was still legal and land was plentiful. "Novelists and newspapermen started depicting a land of white-suited 'Kentucky colonels' and columned verandas -- a place where the living was easy for wealthy white people and black folks knew their place," writes Maryjean Wall in her How Kentucky Became Southern book.

And it worked. So then one thing led to another and now equines are a $3 billion* industry in the state.

If Kentucky can intentionally brand itself as the Thoroughbred Capital of the World, what can you do for your organization? It helps to start by determining why you want something before jumping in to figure out how.

-- beth triplett

*2012 Kentucky Equine Survey  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

leadership dot #1565: assembly

If you're ever in the Georgetown, Kentucky area, I recommend that you take a tour of the Toyota plant. It's a hard place to miss: an 8.1 million square feet factory that employs 8,000 "team members" and makes nearly 2,000 Avalons, Camrys or Lexuses every day. It is the largest Toyota plant in the world.

Observations from my visit:

> While there are parts of the car that are made using gigantic robots, far more work is done manually than I would have guessed. Except for the main chassis, people assemble everything by hand, and then it is all inspected manually as well. To avoid monotony or repetitive stress injuries, crews rotate every two hours to tasks that involve different muscle movements.

> The human element allows for instantaneous quality checks. There is a rope that can be pulled to stop the assembly line if any defect is discovered, but rather than sounding an alarm or a tone that is inherently negative, pulling the cord results in "a tune" that resembles a chime that could be from a children's toy. We heard the tune several times during our tour.

> Employee comments are taken seriously. One example is a seat that allows the operator to rotate while doing a job, rather than continually standing then sitting. This was suggested by an employee who suggested they needed something like the seat in his bass fishing boat, and that is exactly what it now looks like!

> Toyota seems to measure everything. There were charts and graphs and printouts posted on large bulletin boards by each process station, overhead, near the assembly line and just about everywhere there was a blank space. 

> The plant is in the process of doubling in size, meaning the need for 8000 more workers from an area that is not densely populated. I think this is partly what motivates Toyota to be a responsive employer, offering 24-hour child care, a pharmacy, on-site doctor's office, nature trails, a fitness center and on-site college classes.

> And in addition to the intangibles, there is a tremendous amount of visible Kentucky pride. Even though our group filled four trams, and tours are offered three or four times each day, people treated us as if we were the only ones who had ever shown interest in their plant. Many people waved as the tram toured their area in the factory and seemed genuinely pleased to have us there. The Kentucky logo was visible everywhere -- it was very clear that you were at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) and not just anywhere.

If Toyota can build pride in an 8000 member workforce and quality in an assembly line that moves almost continuously, what can you learn from them to enhance your organization? Hint: start by identifying, with excruciating specificity, the outcomes that matter and communicate those widely!

-- beth triplett

The first Camry built in Kentucky, 1988

Monday, September 12, 2016

leadership dot #1564: the queen

Last week my sister and I went on vacation, so this week lucky readers will learn from all the observations and lessons that only travel can bring! 

Our trip revolved around Frankfort, KY. I'll bet not many people can say that, but it meant state capital #50 for my sister so it was an important trek. We have been to many off-the-beaten path cities on this capital quest, and once again we were pleasantly surprised -- maybe not by Frankfort itself, but certainly by the capitol building plus Lexington and Cincinnati that were part of the trip.

We dubbed Cincinnati the "city of intentionality." Or maybe it should be the city of excellent downtown planning. The Reds stadium in alignment with the Bengals stadium to share infrastructure. Shared development between Cincinnati and Newport, KY just across the pedestrian bridge/river to create an even larger and more active entertainment district. A carousel that has specially-carved animals that children drew and all have some Cincinnati tie (eg: Bengals, grasshoppers, herons seen along the river, etc.)

Their riverfront park features public porch swings to take in the view; picnic tables on rollers so they can be configured in different seating arrangements but remain on-site; and even bike channels to make transporting bicycles down stairs easier.

We happened to be there on Labor Day -- along with 500,000 of our closest friends -- to see the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen: one that capitalized on the full length of the two proximate bridges as well as a barge to shoot pyrotechnics off from three locations simultaneously. 

So much is usually the same from city to city. You encounter the same franchises, stores, highways and restaurants. Even one fireworks show or park looks very similar to others you have seen. But not here. 

How can you take a lesson from Cincinnati and add the little touches that make your location distinctive? How can you listen to users to learn (and then deliver) what they really want, but may not have seen elsewhere? Can you incorporate local elements into your designs and decor?

Cincinnati bills itself as the Queen City. Learn from the Queen of Intentionality on how to make your place your own.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, September 11, 2016

leadership dot #1563: sharing memories

It is hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. 

According to the World Bank, over 60 million Americans were not even born when the attacks occurred. Nearly 20% of our population has no memory of where they were when the planes hit the World Trade Centers or the devastation they felt after watching new reports on television for hour after hour.

Our local radio station is commemorating the 15th anniversary by playing audio clips from the 911 calls. Even all these years later, sitting in the comfort of my home or car as I listen, the tapes are haunting. I hope that they stir emotions for some of the younger people who hear them.

The radio is playing the clips to honor all those who "died, survived or responded" on 9-11. You can honor them as well by sharing your memories with those who do not have their own. Commemorate Patriot's Day today by passing along your stories of how it felt to be an American on September 11, 2001.

Never forget.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, September 10, 2016

leadership dot #1562: inattention

I was recently at a hotel that hired a security guard during the breakfast hours. Apparently he was on duty to keep unregistered interlopers from taking advantage of the free cereal and faux eggs.

The only thing that said "security" about this man was his uniform. If he had been dressed differently, he would have been a likely candidate to be tossed out. There was no eye contact, no patrolling and no engagement with others (just his phone).

What a lost opportunity this was. Where are the expectations for his performance? Is there any accountability or supervision? Has anyone considered ways to give this employee even semi-meaningful work? I see no advantage to having him slumped in a chair checking email.

Instead, I think of how the right hiring and training could have turned this position into a customer service role. He could have at least functioned as a "people greeter" (think Walmart) who offers welcome as well as low-key policing functions. Without turning into a waitress or clean-up crew, he could have wandered the dining area and offered minimal assistance to guests. He could have struck up a conversation, handed out newspapers or answered questions about the area. What kept him from being a host instead of a sloth?

If you have the opportunity to hire staff, consider it an honor. Treat that responsibility as stewardship and make every effort to provide a meaningful experience for those under your leadership. The supervisor of this employee should be embarrassed by their own inattention, which is as egregious as the guard's.

-- beth triplett

Friday, September 9, 2016

leadership dot #1561: switch

I was walking on a bridge that crossed railroad tracks and marveled at the seamless way that the tracks went from two lanes to one and also from one lane to two. There was no signal, no switching, no fanfare -- the tracks just split or combined at this particular point. 

The tracks can serve as a metaphor for the journey you are on. You can be moving along nicely and without realizing it, you find yourself on an entirely different route. You may find two interests that merge together (eg: a hobby morphs into your job instead of remaining separate) or you find that a relationship fades away and you are now monitoring one track instead of two.

It often feels like life changes require big transitions or deliberate choices, but I think in reality they occur more like these tracks that split or merge without effort. Allow your eye to follow the tracks in the photo to see how just a small jog can take you on a different path, and then remain aware of the track your own journey follows.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, September 8, 2016

leadership dot #1560: membership

Yesterday I wrote about the addictive qualities of Netflix, and how their formula is working on a personal level. Netflix seems to be a hit with others as well.

I heard about Netflix's corporate success on a recent webinar I watched that promoted the benefits of subscription services. The presenter, Stu McLaren, was sharing information on the growth of membership sites and how recurring purchase plans have become the new form of commerce. It gives a whole new meaning to "it keeps going and going."

Consider this diagram that he showed. In a span of seven years, Blockbuster went from $6 billion in sales to bankruptcy, while in that same period Netflix went from nearly nothing to almost $7 billion in sales. 

And it's not just Netflix. Recurring memberships are now available in almost every product category: groceries, software, videos, music, razors, pet food, cosmetics, clothes, wine, flowers, beer -- you name it. And an even greater number of membership sites revolve around on-line learning: how to become a better artist, how to train your dog, how to cook healthy meals in under 20 minutes, how to build membership sites, etc. etc. etc. 

Think of how your organization can capitalize on this new form of purchasing. Can you offer educational content in a subscription format? Do you have products or services that you can provide on an on-going basis? What about creating a community that others will pay to join?

Before you dismiss membership sites as a small market fad, take another look at the Netflix/Blockbuster graph and consider which line you choose to follow.

-- beth triplett