Wednesday, November 30, 2016

leadership dot #1643: black

All of the informal conversation this week has been about the Thanksgiving holiday and what people did over the weekend. I usually have a mental health retreat instead of partaking in the Thanksgiving festivities, but not this year. In addition to traveling over the river and through the woods for a feast, I ventured out on Black Friday.
Black Friday is an exercise in prioritization. You need to have a plan and know specifically what you want. You need to determine what item/bargain is most important to you, and head to that department in that store first. You may have to forego other treasures to get your top item, but chances are you will succeed in obtaining your #1 pick.
Or you can prioritize sleep over bargain hunting, or sanity over crowds, and not participate at all.
I found most stores were offering "Black Friday sales" that resembled normal sales and were nothing to lose sleep over. But some shoppers were decked out in Christmas sweaters with antler headbands and had been part of the frenzy for hours. They prioritized the experience, regardless of the savings or lost time standing in lines.
Use Black Friday as a metaphor for your upcoming holiday experience. Prioritize what is most important to you and intentionally go after it -- but let the rest go without regret.
-- beth triplett

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

leadership dot #1642: lean in

In her book Lean In, executive Sheryl Sandberg offers observations and advice on many topics, but her thoughts on feedback really resonated with me.

Sandberg writes: "Feedback is not truth. It is an observation grounded in impressions and observations. There is rarely one absolute truth. It is not the truth. It is my truth and your truth, but feedback allows us to know the impression we make on others."

Sandberg suggests that people seek out feedback more than praise by asking:
> How can I do better?
> What I am doing that I don't know?
> What could I be doing that I don't see?

I think that often people take feedback as a declaration rather than an opinion, and often deliver feedback in that manner as well. Instead she suggests:

> Opinions should not be brutally honest, rather delicately honest
> When communicating hard feedback, less is more
> Communicate with appropriate authenticity

All of us are making impressions every day, and it is often in our best interest to learn how we are being perceived. Take Sheryl Sandberg's thoughts to heart, and lean in to grow from what you hear.

-- beth triplett

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, 2013

Monday, November 28, 2016

leadership dot #1641: right way

I recently attended a party and a woman complimented me on the scarf I was wearing. "I really like scarves," she said. "But I don't know how to fold them to wear them the right way."

Since when did there get to be a "right way" to wear a scarf? 

I wear a scarf most days during the winter, and there is no folding involved. I scrunch it up, wrap it around my neck and stuff the excess into my shirt. It never looks the same twice, but that is irrelevant.

I think people feel about many things the way the woman felt about scarves: they don't try for fear of failing or doing something 'wrong.' 

When there is a "right way" or "wrong way" it implies that someone else is deciding what is acceptable and what is not. Don't give away your power, even on the inconsequential things. As often as you can, put yourself out there and be the one to decide your own version of right.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, November 27, 2016

leadership dot #1640: burn

It is a gift to be able to explain something complex in simple terms. 

Mayo Clinic is attempting to do just that through a series of Health Highlights. These full-page ads provide specific information (eg: To lose 1 lb. of fat per week, burn 500 calories per day more than you consume) in a visual and understandable way. The average person could look at this ad and determine ways that they could achieve calorie-burning.

I am sure the hardest part of developing these ads is determining what to leave out. 

Look at the latest informational material that your organization has produced. What could you cut? How could you make your message more clear? Is it obvious as to the key point you are trying to communicate?

Mayo's ad says "time to burn." While they meant calories, maybe it's time for you to burn some copy in your next publication.

-- beth triplett


Saturday, November 26, 2016

leadership dot #1639: proposal, 2.0

A man and his girlfriend were shopping at Sam's Club and stopped by the jewelry counter. They looked through the case at engagement rings, and the clerk asked if they would like to see one. "Yes," the man replied.

Soon he had the ring in his hand, was down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend - right there in Sam's Club! (She said yes.)

It reminded me of the dot I wrote on Monday about proposals not needing to be lofty. Marriage proposals don't need to be fancy either. 

Yes, people spend hundreds of dollars and an inordinate amount of hours creating the right atmosphere and perfect moment to pop the question. Or they do it in Sam's. Either way, there is still an engagement.

Focus your time on the marriage, not the wedding. Spend your time on the work, not the proposal. Fancy is highly overrated.

-- beth triplett

Friday, November 25, 2016

leadership dot #1638: make

Today, instead of joining the crowds on Black Friday or spending more time in front of the television, why not opt to make something instead? A growing number of communities are making that possible by providing a Makerspace, a place that allows people access to equipment and resources to make something tangible.

"To describe them simply, makerspaces are community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone."

Makerspaces have often been appearing in libraries; quite the contrast from the traditional quiet racks of books. The new Makerspace in our library has a 3D printer that can print plastic, metal and wood filament objects, a Go-Pro camera, an Ozobot and Makey Makey for coding, button machine, die-cutter, sewing machine, and many other tools and technology. We saw a demonstration and it was like being in a candy store: you just wanted to touch things. 

The library's hope is that people will come together to work on projects and share ideas, now through technology instead of just through print. "The emphasis [of the library] remains on lifelong learning and literacy, but as with the variety of information formats, literacy has expanded to include technology literacy," states their brochure.

Look around your community and see if there is a makerspace available for you to gain hands-on experience with a new set of tactile tools. You never know what you'll be able to create.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, November 24, 2016

leadership dot #1637: contributions

I recently attended a meeting and found a piece of paper that someone had left behind. The sheet read:

10 Things that Require Zero Talent

1. Being on time
2. Work ethic
3. Effort
4. Body language
5. Energy
6. Attitude
7. Passion
8. Being coachable
9. Doing extra
10. Being prepared

Today, as you gather with family and friends, you may have moments when it would be good to pull out this list and make some contributions to the Thanksgiving feast. It takes more than good cooking to make warm holiday memories.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

leadership dot #1636: firm

Today is "Wrapfest," the day each year that I get together with one of my sisters so I can wrap all of her Christmas presents. 

Wrapfest is always early in the season so that I can also package all the boxes that need to be mailed and wrap the teacher gifts that need to be given early. And this year, as in many others, she will be finished and wrapped before I have even developed a list or started my shopping.

Author Michael Hyatt writes that "firm boundaries are easier to respect than flexible ones." December 25 is a firm boundary; it may be in a flurry, but the presents will be under the tree by that morning. The trick is to make your own deadline a firm one: to say that everything will be delivered by November 23 as she did.

You have the power to make any of your deadlines firm ones: When you do your holiday preparations. Whether or not you write a blog every day. The date you choose to launch a business or prepare a proposal. The deadline you set to do that item on your bucket list. When you begin a fitness routine. 

Decide what is important to you and then firmly set a date to wrap it up.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

leadership dot #1635: let's meet

As a general rule, whether meetings are productive or a waste of time is determined by the facilitator. If you find yourself responsible for convening meetings, consider these points before you send out your invitation:

Have a purpose before you convene a meeting.
And be clear up front what the purpose is: to share information, make a decision, get input, evaluate a strategy, etc. And if you don't have an explicit purpose, cancel the meeting. Just because something is scheduled for every week, doesn't mean it needs to happen every week.

Time frames and membership aren't set in stone.
To achieve some meeting goals, it requires extended time together. Other groups can meet briefly or less frequently. Adapt your meeting times to the purpose. The same is true with membership: add an unusual suspect for a new perspective, bring on new staff to help them learn, rotate people off regularly, or have people attend only as guests when needed and not regular members.

Effective meetings require preparation and follow up.
Have a written agenda and share it in advance.Outline expectations and what is needed to prepare or bring to the meeting. Keep a running list of agenda items that need to be discussed in the future. Take notes and indicate specific follow up actions/assignments that are necessary (assigned to a specific person). Use the notes to develop the topics for the next meeting.

Location matters.
Link your environment to your meeting purpose. A brainstorming session will be less effective around a formal board table. A large room does not work well for a small group. It is harder to engage in discussion at a long table vs. a round one. A one-to-one meeting is best at a small table instead of across a desk.

Many people spend much of their work day in meetings yet don't give thought as to how to make them better. Dedicate some energy to the meeting format itself, and chances are that the content and outcome will be better for it.

-- beth triplett

Monday, November 21, 2016

leadership dot #1634: proposal

There is no quicker way to move an idea into action than through writing a proposal. 

The thought of writing a proposal often seems daunting or lofty, but many are one page or less. While there is no set length, a proposal is designed to clarify your thoughts and frame the question for those who are involved in the discussion and decision making. In other words, a proposal puts in writing what you would say to a person were you having an in-person conversation about what you want and why.

To make your proposal most effective, include these three components:

1. A context: Answer WHY
Anticipate questions and try to answer them in advance
> Why do you want a change?
> Why is this issue being raised?
> What is the policy or situation now?
> What problem are you trying to solve?
> Why should this change be made?

2. A specific recommendation: WHAT
> What change do you want?
> What specific action are you proposing?
> What specifically would the change cost (if anything)?
> When do you want the change to occur?
> Who have you talked to that supports the change?

3. The next steps that are required: HOW
> What will it take to make the change happen?
> What needs to happen next if the change is approved?
> Where will funding come from?
> Who is in charge of implementation and communication?

Add your name and date and presto -- you have a proposal. In this age of electronic communication, it is so much easier to facilitate action when there is something in writing that can be shared. Don't let intimidation of the process keep you from putting your ideas forward.

-- beth triplett

If you want to see some actual samples, I would be happy to share.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

leadership dot #1633: excessive

The "Manager, Shipping Department" for Leadership Dots, LLC received a 700 page catalog in the mail. This was a full-color glossy publication that could not have been cheap to print or deliver. And it went straight from my mailbox into the recycle bin.

Leadership Dots doesn't need an industrial pallet truck or wooden crates that can ship up to 7,000 pounds. Nor do I need a spill containment drum shed or rolling scaffolding. In fact, I don't even need (or have) a shipping department, let alone a manager.

Wouldn't it have been more efficient (and environmentally friendly) to send a postcard to the names on the new business list and direct people to a website? Or offer a $25 discount if you requested a catalog? Or do something besides send an unsolicited 700 page publication?

Just because you can afford to send something like this, doesn't mean you should.  When you consider the ROI of your marketing efforts, factor in the environmental costs as well. Your initial outreach to unsolicited potential customers does not need to be so landfill laden.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, November 19, 2016

leadership dot #1632: traditional treat

I imagine that the grocery stores will be crowded today as many people need to buy the ingredients to make that signature Thanksgiving dish. 

There are so many recipes that have become traditions; just the smell or taste of the food brings on a flood of memories of all the previous years when the treat was served. Many dishes, like stuffing and green been casserole, are only served at holidays in many homes, making their appearance even more special.

My Thanksgiving staple is Cranberry Jello. It is simple to make, yet instantly connotes "special" as I think of all the years and places I have served this treat. Yum!

Not everything needs to be served every day. In your organization as well as your home, it good to save a few things for times when you want to create a moment beyond the ordinary.

-- beth triplett

Cranberry Jello Salad
1 large box sugar-free cherry Jello
2 cups boiling water
Make Jello first with no cold water

1 #2 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup chopped celery
1 chopped red apple
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 can whole cranberry sauce

"Dump stuff in," stir, let sit overnight

Friday, November 18, 2016

leadership dot #1631: censored

Yesterday I wrote about the American Library Association list of banned and challenged books and how I think it misleads people into thinking that somehow the ALA is part of the effort to ban them (which is not the case!)

In my research for that dot, I was surprised at all the books that someone has challenged:

> Where's Waldo -- for having a defined breast of one of the people on a beach

> Little Red Riding Hood -- for having a bottle of wine in the basket she was carrying to Grandma's house (not for having a wolf try to eat people!)

> Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop -- one of the best selling children's books of all time, from 1963, that apparently encourages children to use violence against their fathers

> Dr. Seuss' If I Ran the Zoo -- for its line about slanted eyes

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, the entire Harry Potter Series, Moby Dick, Gone with the Wind, the Diary of Anne Frank, Where the Wild Things Are -- all these are classics that have both been enjoyed by millions and requested to be removed from libraries by others.

I think that banned books are a good illustration of the different perspectives that people bring to an issue. Some see it as positive for literature to expose diverse viewpoints, provide realistic portrayals of unpleasant issues and include often marginalized characters. Others feel those exact same things are negative, and want to keep the materials out of public consumption.

We are likely never to agree on what makes a "good" book or what should be a banned one. What becomes important is that we have the option to choose. The act of censorship is always worse than whatever is being censored. We may not choose to read everything, but isn't it nice to know that we can.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, November 17, 2016

leadership dot #1630: banned

Two parents expressed objections to a book being used in an optional high school literature class and the story has taken on a life of its own. For two days, coverage has landed on the front page of the paper and several sets of parents voiced their concerns at the school board meeting. 

The paper reported: "The 1999 novel is on the American Library Association's list of the top 100 banned and challenged books for 2000-2009, according to the group's website."

When I first read that, it raised my eyebrows as I thought that the book must be bad if it on the top of the banned book list. But then I paused for a moment and wondered who decides what is on the banned book list and what criteria they use.

As it turns out, the American Library Association compiles the list of books that have been banned or challenged BY OTHERS and distributes it "in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular...[it] draws national attention to the harms of censorship."

In other words, being on the list means that someone else, not the American Library Association, raised objections about it, and in fact, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is actually trying to minimize what is banned, rather than being used as support to challenge the availability of books.

There seems to be a big disconnect here, and by maintaining such a list the ALA may be impeding its efforts instead of helping them. I think they could benefit greatly by renaming their list (eg: Attempts at Censorship) and being more clear about their intent and position. It's not as sexy as "Banned Books Week" but could be more powerful.

The media can make its argument in any way that suits them. It's up to you to communicate your position as clearly as you can as an organization, and to dig a layer deeper than what lands on page one as a reader.

-- beth triplet

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

leadership dot #1629: two turkeys

With Thanksgiving approaching, many people have turkey on their mind. May I suggest that you consider adding a different kind of turkey to your thinking.

During a webinar sponsored by LinkedIn Publishing, the presenters used the analogy of preparing a Thanksgiving meal: you only prepare one meal on the holiday, but from there you have enough leftovers to provide food for several other meals.

They suggested that leaders should develop one topic to which they devote considerable time and effort (the Thanksgiving turkey), but then repurpose and repackage the content to use in multiple other formats such as blogs, posts or webinars (the additional meals). It is impractical to dedicate substantial energy to every topic, but going deep with one has residual benefits.

Think about the "LinkedIn Turkey" when you are considering your content strategy for the coming year. What is your area of expertise? Where do you have robust material that can be shared through a variety of media? Have you considered packaging your 'turkey' around a full meal to make it truly special?

Plan to put as much time into developing your content turkey as you do preparing the bird for the holiday meal, and then bon appetite!

-- beth triplett

Linked In Content Marketing webinar presented by Ira Amilhussen, June 28, 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

leadership dot #1628: singles or home runs

Yesterday we hit "send" for a $1.8 million grant application. I was the one to coordinate the process and write the narrative, but it really did take a village to get it completed. I worked with one person for the content, another for the data, yet another for budget information, outside partners and finally senior leadership for approval and support. The grant was on a topic about which I knew little, but I know how to read and follow directions and with Federal grants that is enough direction.

A tremendous amount of time went into this project, not only from me, but from others throughout the organization. And now we wait -- for months -- and then hear that it is all or nothing. They either are awarded the grant, or they aren't; there is no honorable mention.

It reminds me of the elections, where candidates pour their heart and soul (and savings) into a competition and then they are either voted in or they aren't. Close doesn't get you anything.

I imagine it is like this in many other endeavors. You win the game or you lose. You close the merger or it falls through. You seal the deal or walk away.

On a limited basis, this all or nothing mentality is palatable for me, but I would not want it to define the majority of my work. I am more comfortable when my work leads to progress, rather than a dichotomy. I can savor creating small changes that eventually lead to employee or organizational growth, and I am even content with never knowing the impact my work created. 

Take a moment to consider your work temperament. Have you aligned your projects or profession to be congruent with it? In other words, do you gain motivation from hitting singles or are you happiest swinging for home runs? 

-- beth triplett

Monday, November 14, 2016

leadership dot #1627: five miles

Sometimes I write these dots one at a time, and other times, when the planets align, I write them a week at a time. Almost all of my favorites have been done during the extended sessions, as I seem to become a better writer when I am "in the zone" and not rushing to finish.

Television writer/producer Shonda Rhimes experiences a similar phenomenon. In her book Year of Yes, Shonda writes about writing and the high she gets from doing it, and what keeps her from that.

Writing is the hum. Writing is laying track. Writing is the high. Now imagine that hum, that high, that track to be laid is behind a door. And that door is five miles away. Those five miles are just...writing crap and doodling and trying to have an idea and surfing the internet and hoping like hell not to get so distracted that you give up...Every time I sit down to write, I have to mentally run those five miles past all of that to get to that door. It's a long, hard five-mile run...

So when I reach for the door and open it -- that's when my creativity clicks in and that special spot in my brain starts working and I go from exertion to exultation and suddenly I can write forever and ever and ever and eve---

And then someone opens the door and asks me if I want coffee or water and I AM FIVE MILES AWAY all over again.

I think that we all experience our own version of being five miles away. Behind your door may not be writing, but everyone has some activity that would benefit from uninterrupted attention and dedication.

Yet we all leave ourselves open to distractions -- pings on the incoming email, social media alerts, open doors when we need to be truly concentrating, cubicles with no protection from drop-in visitors, phone calls, cute dogs at our feet and a host of other attention-diverting activities.

Think about what you allow in your environment that requires you to make that five mile run over and over again. Maybe you are tired from just getting to the door, rather than from the work you're doing behind it.

-- beth triplett

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes, 2015

Sunday, November 13, 2016

leadership dot #1626: two cookies

I was out to dinner on Friday night with a friend in a Marine Corps sweatshirt. It was Veterans' Day, and he showed his military ID at the counter to receive a free meal, but the interaction in line was very low key.

As we were sitting at the table waiting for our food, a young boy came up to our table and brought my friend a bag with two cookies. "Thank you for your service," he said. 

That brief interaction meant more to my friend than the free meal itself. A mother had seen Curt's USMC sweatshirt, purchased the cookies in line after we ordered and sent her son to deliver them with thanks. It was heartwarming.

Think of what simple act of kindness you can do today. Thank a veteran for her/his service even though it's not Veterans' Day? Wait that extra minute to hold open the door for someone? Let someone with just a few items ahead of you in line? Smile at the cashier and have an exceptionally positive interaction?

It doesn't take a whole meal to make someone's day. Just two cookies will do the trick.

Happy World Kindness Day!

-- beth triplett

Saturday, November 12, 2016

leadership dot #1625: what is the point?

There are many regulations out there that puzzle me, and I wonder why they are requirements at all.

> Why is suicide illegal? If you are successful, it is a moot point, and does anyone think someone who is trying to kill themselves would be deterred by breaking the law?

> Why do candidates need to gather names on a petition to get their names on the ballot? Most of the writing is illegible so I doubt anyone verifies it, and it seems to be pretty easy to do. My ballot included names for 9 presidential candidates including those from the Libertarian Party, New Independent Party, Iowa Green Party, Legal Marijuana Now Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation so it isn't keeping unknowns off the ballot and seems like a worthless hoop that the election officials make prospective candidates jump through.

> Speaking of ballots, why do we need to register for Democratic or Republican affiliation? Is it only for marketing efforts, which also makes no sense since I voted a mixed ballot even though I only received mailings from one party. Do we have to foster this divide right from the start?

> What is the purpose of a Dog Tax? I think it is just another way to get money from citizens since the dog doesn't use any city services, isn't allowed in parks and doesn't receive any city benefits. Why do I need to register them and get a license?

These are just some observations of practices in place that make no sense to me. Take a look around your organization and ask yourself: "what is the point of this?" If you can't come up with a compelling answer, perhaps it is time to rethink your process and simplify what you require yourself and others to do.

-- beth triplett

Friday, November 11, 2016

leadership dot #1624: ready to serve

Today is Veteran's Day, a time to honor those who have served. For those of us who haven't served, it is hard to imagine what that really means. 

This article describes what it was like escorting President George W. Bush on 9-11. It's a long one, but I think a good one to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work of our military, even when they are serving in the homeland. 

There are times when the president is in charge, and other times when military protocol dictates what happens. Even in the time of chaos, it was clear when those times were.

Dave Wilkinson assistant agent-in-charge, U.S. Secret Service: He [the president] fought with us tooth and nail all day to go back to Washington. We basically refused to take him back. The way we look at is that by federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president. The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically it’s not his call, it’s our call.

On the day of 9-11 or in a foxhole is not the time to determine who can make the ultimate decision. Are your procedures clear? Do you know who really is in command?

Take a moment today to thank a veteran or others who have served our country. We are glad they are there at the ready, for whatever needs arise.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, November 10, 2016

leadership dot #1623: abstentions

I was heartbroken over the election results, even more so because more people actually voted for Hillary than Trump, yet the glass ceiling remains unbroken. 

With Arizona and Michigan still up in the air, the tally was Clinton: 59,794,934 vs. Trump: 59,588,434 -- a difference of 206,500 -- a quarter of a million votes in Hillary's favor.

Once again, the third fourth and fifth party candidates diverted enough votes that could have swung the election; those candidates received over 6 million votes. Former President George W. Bush publicly admitted that he left his ballot blank for president, and I am sure he is not the only one to do the same. If you didn't vote for Hillary, you de facto voted against her and the world is left with the results.

I think about the parallels in this election to many things that happen in work life. People focus on the wrong results and end up with "more," but if it isn't the "right more," it doesn't have an impact. Winning the popular vote doesn't win you the election. What are the "electoral college votes" in your organization that deserve disproportionate attention? Or should you revise the system so popular votes are what matter? 

And for those who abstain in meetings or don't speak up -- or contribute efforts to the "third party" -- you may think you are remaining neutral, but you really aren't. You need to lend your voice to the work that will have results instead of taking the detour and claiming you are still on the road.

After every major event at work, we conducted a "lessons learned." I hope you take a moment to reflect on how you contributed to the good or ill in this election cycle. Click here for a good place to start.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

leadership dot #1622: better angels

I hope we awake this morning with a new president-elect, and that the election night was as uneventful as the campaign was eventful. 

No matter who is chosen, the hard work lies ahead. She or he will be assuming office at a time similar to Abraham Lincoln, with the country philosophically divided and tensions running high.

I doubt that either Clinton or Trump's speechwriters are as eloquent as Lincoln, so I leave you with a few of his words to ponder on this historic day:

Lincoln ended his first Inaugural Address with this impassioned plea:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
I wish for the better angels of our nature to be called forth in the coming term.

-- beth triplett

Source: Wikipedia, Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

leadership dot #1621: left out

Some of the most upset employees to have ever come in my office were worked up because a decision was made that affected them and they were not included in the process. They were blinded to whether the decision itself was a good one or not; all that mattered was that they were asked about it beforehand.

I, myself, have been in that position and the burn of exclusion is hot and deep. "Why didn't they ask me?" ferments in your darkness over and over, and leads to feelings of being undervalued, unimportant or worse. I think we all know the pain.

Today is the day Americans can have their voice. You are being asked your opinion. You are being asked to participate in the process. You are being included.

Take advantage of your freedom to be an educated voter and make a commitment to cast your ballot today.

-- beth triplett

Monday, November 7, 2016

leadership dot #1620: one word

It seems that many of the top "self-help" gurus these days have come to describe the essence of their work in one word:

Brene Brown = Vulnerability
Susan Cain = Quiet (the Quiet Revolution of introverts)
Angela Duckworth = Grit
Seth Godin = Tribes

It becomes a de facto marketing tool, but I think it gives them an anchor upon which to link all of their other work. It is very easy to go wide instead of deep; in fact I think momentum pulls you in a multitude of directions and it is actually harder to stay narrow.

As I write this, my office is scattered from one end to another with documents and articles to assemble into a major grant. I need to keep going back to my goal statement to narrow the focus of writing and to keep the scope within reason. It would be easier to put everything in, but I think it is more effective to keep much of it out.

The same is true for strategic planning. In my opinion, the most effective plans are those that have a laser focus -- a short list vs. a long one -- and that say no more than they say yes.

Stu McLaren gives a similar admonition to all aspiring entrepreneurs: "Become known for something specific." He followed his own advice and is now THE guru for establishing on-line membership sites. It is a fairly narrow niche, but one that has netted him millions.

And author Dan Pink has put it another way: "Figure out the 1%." He says that distilling the essence of an idea or an argument goes a long way in figuring out the other 99%. 

It all leads to the same conclusion: having a core focus is critical for success. You can't become an expert in everything, but if you define it succinctly, you can become the expert in your something. 

What word will you own? (sorry, but "dots" is already taken!)

-- beth triplett

Sunday, November 6, 2016

leadership dot #1619: stockpiling fear

When I went into Sam's Club this week, they handed me a flyer outlining some of their pre-Black Friday specials. It contained many of the items you would suspect, and also one that caught me by surprise.

Sam's is now selling an Emergency Food Kit -- a one-year supply of food that can sustain one person for a full year or a family of four for three months. This Ultimate Kit contains 22 cartons of food: 7,690 servings and a bonus wheat grinder. It all can be yours for the special holiday pricing of $1298.

I find it depressing that Sam's thinks this item is mainstream enough to feature in a small holiday booklet. Are people anticipating that global warming and the intense weather patterns will continue to cause destruction? Or are post-election extremists planning to reek havoc on life as we know it? Maybe Sam's knows more than I do about the dangers that lie ahead.

I have a few items of food and an extra case of water in my house should a blizzard come or the summer winds knock out power, but never in my wildest planning would I consider stockpiling food for a year. It is a sad thought to imagine a world where I would need it.

The little things in life plant seeds that grow into a culture. I don't like this seed. While innocuous by itself, one idea can create a pattern and spur on others. Pay attention to whether you are sowing hope or fear in the messages you send.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, November 5, 2016

leadership dot #1618: fly the flag

Cubs mania -- as in M.A.N.I.A. -- is sweeping the Midwest if not the whole country. Yesterday I watched some of the parade and rally on television and was amazed by the throngs of people. The television commentators estimated (how, I have no idea) that six million people lined the parade route. Metra (the public transportation) expected it to be its busiest day ever and pressed all of its trains and buses into service.

Clearly, those watching on television had a far superior view than anyone there in person. Even those lucky to make it into Grant Park couldn't possibly see except by watching the large screens in the area, and those along the parade route were packed in so tightly that I doubt they saw much of anything.

And yet they came. Enduring delays in transportation, cramped conditions and remote views, these people can still say they were THERE. It was a communal experience.

It is the one thing that sports does best -- bring people together. Cheering for the same team. Feeling a part of something larger than themselves. Experiencing emotion as a shared experience. Belonging.

Whether you are a Cubs fan always or just for today, take a moment to grasp how sports can transcend differences. The Republicans and Democrats were cheering next to each other at this rally. Old and young. White Sox fans who became Cubs fans at least for this week. 

The Cubs showed people what six million people have in common. We need to do more to focus on those commonalities to unite as a nation beyond sports. Do your part to start flying the American flag, not just the W one.

-- beth triplett

Friday, November 4, 2016

leadership dot #1617: do your homework

As I was preparing to vote next week, I looked at the sample ballot to ensure I knew who I was voting for in all of the positions. I did not.

While my mailbox is inundated with propaganda for the federal and state positions, I have heard nothing about those running for the Soil and Water Conservation Board or the County Agricultural Extension Council, yet these contested races are on my ballot. 

I wonder why some positions are elected and others are appointed and who determines it. Why do we elect the Ag Extension volunteers? Why are some positions partisan and some aren't? Are we best served when the sheriff -- a job with a very specific skill set -- is elected instead of interviewed by people who know what it takes? Who decides all this?

I don't have answers to any of these questions (including which three of the seven candidates deserve my vote on the Conservation Board), and I consider myself an informed voter. What happens when Rock the Vote or other voter turnout strategies send uninformed voters en masse into the booths? 

The election is in four days. Don't be surprised when you walk in to cast your ballot. Use your weekend to actually learn something about who running, even those in obscure positions. You would think in this day and age that candidate profiles for all the positions would be in one place for easy review, but they are not. You may have to dig, but voting without forethought is almost worse than not voting at all. 

-- beth triplett