Saturday, December 31, 2016

leadership dot #1674: new year

If you are interested in marking the end 2016, but not interested in doing so at midnight, Vimeo has just the thing for you. King Julien from the Madagascar movie series is at-the-ready to count down to the new year -- at any hour of your choosing.
If you have young children and you want to send them to bed early -- or just want to slumber yourself, this application is for you. King Julien counts down from 10 so you or the kids can yell "Happy New Year" without burning the midnight oil.
Whether you decide to celebrate with Madagascar or watch the New York ball in real time, I hope you take a moment to note the passage of the year and to resolve to make 2017 the best it can be for you.
Thanks Julie!

Friday, December 30, 2016

leadership dot #1673: spotlight the right

In a recent teleclass, author Michelle Gielan of Broadcasting Happiness shared several strategies on how to help infuse our lives with more positivity. A caller asked her how to deal with people who don't share this aim and are themselves full of negativity.
Her suggestion: "Spotlight the Right." By this Gielan means that for one week you should only share with them what they are doing right. Comment on all the little, positive moves that they make, being as specific as you can. Let the negative things pass by without mention. Your goal is to help them see the positive that they are doing/contributing/being. "We want to be pulled to the best of our self concept," Gielan said. "The more we can remind people of what that is, the better."
The new year affords us a metaphorical clean slate. Use the opportunity to "spotlight the right" in a relationship that has been challenging for you, either at home or at work. One week might make all the difference for both of you.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

leadership dot #1672: philanthropy

The media often reports large philanthropic gifts given by the Buffets, Gates Foundation or Zuckerbergs, and it may cause you to think that your donation does not matter. But charitable giving is one of the most powerful thing you can do, no matter the size of your gift. "Philanthropy is quite democratic and always has been -- more people give than vote in the U.S. -- and $20, $10, and $1 gifts do make a cumulative difference," reports Patrick Rooney, associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
The Giving USA Foundation reported that last year, $373.3 billion was donated in the U.S., comprising 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Religious organizations, education, human services and foundations were the largest beneficiaries of those funds. (The report provides a much more detailed breakdown of giving if you are interested in more detail.)  You may think that large foundations or the companies supply all the funds to keep services flowing, but many organizations depend on the generosity of individuals to survive: individuals provided 70% of all charitable giving last year ($264.5 billion.)
As you wind up this year, grab your checkbook and be that individual who makes a difference for an organization. In addition to your regular charities, think about an unusual suspect* to be the recipient of your generosity as well. This podcast by Malcolm Gladwell is a great illustration of how your gift can make a disproportionately large impact to lesser known organizations.
Wishing you much success in 2017 so that your contributions may increase, too!
*Need a great cause to support? My sister's 501(c)3 Alia is doing powerful work in transforming child welfare systems! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

leadership dot #1671: famous

Last week, Zsa Zsa Gabor passed away at age 99. It seems like everyone has heard of her, but no one really knew what made her famous. Turns out, she was the original "hall-of-mirrors celebrity, famous for being famous."* Long before social media and tabloid magazines could amplify her fame, Gabor made a career out of her eccentricity, riches (from husband Conrad Hilton) and jewels. She flaunted her accent and wealth, and made herself into a personality.
Today, others have followed her. Great niece Paris Hilton has had a few lessons in trumped up fame. The Kardashians have made being famous for being famous an art form. The tabloids are full of faces who are known only because they are known, not for any substance behind the style.
In an episode of Grey's Anatomy, character Dr. Cristina Yang interviews a candidate who says his goal is to win a prestigious research award. "You'll probably never win," she says. "I have known people who have won and others who have deserved to win, and the thing they all have in common is the work. They all focus on the work and the patient -- on making someone better or someone whole or someone live -- that's their goal. So, no, you specifically will never win [the award] if that's what you're after."
As you assess and make plans for the new year, don't make fame your goal. Set out to do something that makes you worthy of being famous instead.
*Source: Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at age 99 by the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, December 19 2016, p. 6B
Grey's Anatomy, Season 10, episode 23: "Everything I Try to Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

leadership dot #1670: augmentation

It used to be that people did not like their picture taken, let alone shared, but those inhibitions seem to be lessening. What is growing, however, is the interest by young people in plastic surgery. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, more Millennials are electing to have cosmetic procedures, and the Academy attributes social media for this trend. Nearly two-thirds of facial plastic surgeon members reported an increase in business by patients under age 30.
Do women in their 20s really need Botox? Apparently they think so. Patients under 30 are choosing surgery to permanently alter noses, lips, eyes and cheekbones -- all this in a quest to look like the latest supermodel or to provide a glamorized impression on their social media accounts.
What they don't realize is that it takes more than surgery to achieve the look they desire. It takes PhotoShop or a similar design program to make the real look surreal. I think the original Dove Real Beauty video "evolution" should be required viewing in every plastic surgeon's office before a knife or needle is picked up.
Whether it is with your cheekbones or your organization, you need to make the most out of what you have. Stop comparing yourself to others and be the best you that you can be. I doubt that Botox is required.
Thanks again bg!

Monday, December 26, 2016

leadership dot #1669: fleeting

Undoubtedly some of those photos you took yesterday ended up on your Facebook or Instagram account. It doesn't even need to be a holiday for that to happen: there are now close to 2 billion photos posted to social media every day!
I think about all the pictures that are taken and shared, but then lost forever. A Millennial friend of mine told me about how his wife doesn't like him to send photos via Snapchat because she can't print them and make scrapbooks, but he knows she is the last generation to care about that. Printing has become passe'.
With photos, quantity has become more important than quality. We share without regard to composition or permanence, and the meaningful shots get lost among the billions. Don't let that happen to you. Take that extra moment to truly capture a few key images and let them speak more than a fleeting word to you.
Thanks bg!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

leadership dot #1668: everybody smile

We live in a visual world, and undoubtedly today the cameras (phones) will be put to good use capturing the images of the holiday. People tend to take shots of individuals or pairs, but rarely do they go through the effort to get the whole gang together in one shot.
Give yourself a Christmas present for years to come and do precisely that. Find a friend or neighbor to take a photo of the whole tribe together. Put on those smiles and say "cheese" for the camera, even if they are fake grins. You'll be glad to have the photo as part of your holiday memories.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

leadership dot #1667: wishes

Our local paper featured a section where Santa shared some of the letters he had received from children this year.
Reading them made me feel old, or at least out of touch with children, as I had no idea what many of the wishes entailed. Imaginext toys, bubble bracelets, damage cards, a level 40 indomiums Rex, a bumble bee transformer, a Palace Pet and Pony Prize set, a bunch of Beanie Boos and a Tsuma hedgehog all made the list. Quite different from the lists I would have mentioned at their age!
But my favorite wish is from Shaelyn, age 7 who asked Santa for: "A puppy so I can hug it. I have one now but it is too big and it bites." 
May you wake up tomorrow morning with all that you wish for under the tree.

Source: Santa share some of his favorite letters with the Telegraph Herald readers, December 18, 2016, p. 10-11F

Friday, December 23, 2016

leadership dot #1666: postal

Yesterday I wrote about the serious role that the postal service has played in America, but today I will share some fun facts about the mail.
> To service all its customers, including those who live in remote areas, the postal service delivers via planes, trains, boats, trucks and even mules.
> Today they deliver letters and packages, but in the early days, they also delivered children on occasion!
> Mailboxes were not all blue until the color was standardized in 1971.
I was also fascinated to learn that the USPS has a Remote Encoding Center (REC) whose job it is to decipher bad handwriting and partial addresses and see if they can somehow route the mail anyway. (I wonder what the qualifications are for that job, and what kind of success rate they have?!)
Think about more lessons for your organization from the USPS. Do you need to do some of your service delivery by mule rather than leaving out a segment of customers? Does your organization need a central encoding center to enhance your completion rate? Are there things you have done that you should stop doing?
The USPS often gets a bad rap, but when you really think about it, they are doing an amazing job of delivering on a very complex mission. Give them a stamp of approval and learn from them for your organization.
Thanks Meg!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

leadership dot #1665: delivery

I recently learned that the US Postal Service delivers 47% of the world's mail, which is surprising since the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world's population. Sure, the $1.4 trillion mailing industry includes a fair share of  "junk mail", but a the post office brings more than bills and ads to your doorstep.
In a new book How the Post Office Created America, author Winifred Gallagher argues that a national mail service is a core component of democracy. The postal service contributes to the free exchange of ideas by providing equal access to the 154 million addresses regardless of location, and provides a network of commerce that reaches to every corner of the country. Initially, the post office allowed for a robust political and civic culture and now has embedded itself as an essential public service.
Gallagher also acknowledges that the USPS missed a leadership opportunity to transform their role and remain a central communication hub after the digital revolution. She wonders what would it have been like if the USPS had coordinated equal access to broadband and email for everyone, just as they have provided access to mail delivery. If the USPS had evolved to service "mail" as it moved away from paper, would they have remained as relevant as they had been in the pony express days?
Think about your organization as it parallels the postal service. Are you focusing on the core service that you provide, regardless of the form it takes, or are you stuck in creating efficiencies for an outdated model? Have you become so embedded that you risk becoming invisible, and you need to do more to demonstrate your impact and value? Think about what you deliver now and how you will deliver it in the future.
Source: How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher, 2016 as reviewed in the (Minnesota) Star Tribune, August 14, 2016, p. E10.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

leadership dot #1664: master switch

Whenever I stay in a hotel, invariably there are some features that I need to figure out. Nothing major, but things that cause me to stop and learn how they worked instead of fluidly going about my business.
 > A Master Switch that automatically turned off all the lights -- but you had to figure out that it needed to be turned on before any of the lights would work. Searching for a Master Switch on the wall (not just inside the door) is not something travelers are used to when entering hotel rooms!
> The plates were below the breakfast bar instead of on the counter, making them hidden when you were standing next to the eggs looking for something upon which to serve them.
> The drapes had two sets of pulleys instead of the usual "wand" to pull them shut.
> Each TV remote seems to have its own array of buttons and a maddening sequence to access regular television
> Complex thermostats, presumably for energy efficiency, require assistance from maintenance personnel to alter the pre-sets
> Faucets and even toilets often have a different method of operation than the previous hotel  
I am sure the hotel staff doesn't even realize that people may not know where the plates are or how to operate the lights. And if you frequent the same chain, these features become second nature to you, too. But for those who are new to the facility, the nuances become aggravations and reminders that there is "no place like home."
What can you do to see your space or services with new eyes? Ask a weary traveler to use what your organization offers and provide feedback on its ease of use. You may learn that things you find to be intuitive or easy aren't that way at all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

leadership dot #1663: elegant

Yesterday I participated in part 2 of a three-part conversation about alternative ways to talk about overhead/core costs for non-profits. (Learn more about part 1 here) While most people agree that a single figure does not do justice to explaining the impact a non-profit organization is having, there is little agreement on what does.
Two interesting analogies that came out of that webinar that may apply to other work you are doing:
1. People can rely on multiple variables when making a complex decision -- it does not have to all come down to one data point. As an example: people consider many factors when buying a house, but sites like Zillow and Trulia present a large amount of information in a readable way. Instead of focusing on narrowing down the information you share, can you focus instead on the presentation of your data?
2. Think about nutrition labels as your model. All consumer packaged food uses the same set of key variables to communicate the key nutritional metrics about the food. They are presented in a way that is standardized and understood, even though they represent a huge variety of products. How can you limit your data sharing to the most important elements and then develop a common format to share across your services/products/etc.?
Sometimes we use complexity as an excuse. Instead of doing the hard work to find an elegantly simple solution, we throw up our hands and claim that something is too complex. The next time you are tempted to use that rationale, put a box of cereal next to a can of soup and a package of cheese and look at their labels.
Source: Jacob Harold, President & CEO GuideStar, GuideStar Conversation #2, #Overhead Myth, December 19, 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

leadership dot #1662: the cake

At a recent meeting I attended, a report was given about a brochure that was not completed by the desired deadline. While most members responded with a groan -- as this has happened more than once -- another raised his hand and recommended that we gather pricing for what it would take to have a professional do the job next year instead of a volunteer.
It reminded me of a quote from another meeting regarding the roles of the paid office staff vs. the functions volunteers are asked to play. "Is it the role of the central office to bake the cake and the volunteers are to put on the icing?" he asked*.
Are volunteers expecting to do it all? Or expected to do it all?
It makes me wonder at what point is it too much to ask volunteers to do. Is it reasonable to ask a volunteer to be the organization's webmaster or to produce the annual fund-raising brochure, even if they work in that field?
Your organization technically may not have volunteers, but even paid staff are often treated as such. We ask employees to "volunteer" to take on new assignments or on-going projects without always giving consideration as to whether that is an undue burden for one person to assume.
Be clear in your expectations about whether people taking on new responsibilities are baking the cake or decorating it, and be realistic in how many cakes one person can produce. Whipping up a batch of cupcakes is one thing, but making a tiered creation takes a lot of time whether you are the baker or the decorator. You may be better off with a store-bought version.
*Thanks to Josh Brandfon

Sunday, December 18, 2016

leadership dot #1661: uphill

If you glance at this picture, you would see skiers preparing to enjoy their favorite winter sport. If I asked you where they were, I doubt you would say "Iowa." But this picture is taken from the ski resort located two miles from my house in the Hawkeye State.
"Ski" and "Iowa" don't often go together in people's minds. They think of skiing as an activity that has a chairlift take you up a mountain so you can ski down it. In Iowa, it is in reverse. You start at the top of the bluff and ski down it, taking the chairlift back up. Eastern Iowa is graced with majestic bluffs on the banks of the Mississippi River, and it is anything but the stereotypical flat that most people believe about the state.
Think about how you can use this metaphor to change your perspective. There are few things in life that "have" to be the way they are. If you can ski in Iowa, think of what else is possible!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

leadership dot #1660: reviews

I recently went to dinner at the new Five Guys restaurant that opened in our town. If you have not been there, they have a menu with two items: burgers and fries. These are fresh, gourmet burgers (no freezer on site), but they do not come cheaply.
I was struck by the intensive focus on promoting how good they are. The entire restaurant is "decorated" with reviews and quotes about their product, some on large signs and others as replicas of restaurant reviews in magazines. Even their cup features testimonials from others.
Does it really matter that the Watauga Democrat called Five Guys "Best of the Best French Fries" in 2014 or that the Independent thinks they have the "Best Cheeseburger in Colorado Springs"? Apparently Five Guys thinks it reinforces that your meal is worth it, even if you paid a premium.
While I think they take self-aggrandizing to an extreme, you can learn from them about the value of testimonials and outside validation. What have you done to capture the positive comments others make about you or your organization? Have you asked for written evaluations or reviews? You don't need to plaster them on the walls, but strategically used comments can help you be seen as a gourmet instead of a picnic.
img_6815 img_6808

Friday, December 16, 2016

leadership dot #1659: package deal

Many moons ago, in what now seems like a move prompted by the exuberance of youth, four of us applied simultaneously for jobs at the same institution. However; rather than submit separate resumes for the four openings that were posted, we sent one application to the president with a rationale as to why hiring an intact team would positively impact his institution and accelerate the change he was seeking.
One member of the group accepted another position before any resolution was attained on our "package deal" so we withdrew and never heard whether the idea had appeal. But as a supervisor, one of the most challenging tasks is to get individuals to coalesce into a team, so the thought of implanting one has merit.
I think of all that four talented people could do -- four with complimentary but diverse skill sets and personalities -- but who already knew and trusted each other. Such a team could start a department or take on a major new project with much less lead time than any newly assembled body could do. 
In the masterpiece Good to Great, Jim Collins advocates to focus on "first who, then what." I think his idea has merit not only for individuals, but for collections of them as well. What could a team of "whos" do for your organization? If you have such a posse in place, take care to challenge it and allow it to capitalize on your opportunities. And if you don't, perhaps you could encourage a group application such as what we submitted.
Good teams aren't just pieces and parts that can be reassembled with similar results.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

leadership dot #1658: bus books

A friend was getting into his car and I said to him: "Be careful driving." 
"I don't plan to get into an accident," he replied.
Does anyone plan to get into an accident? Of course not. Everyone starts out their journey thinking that it will be an ordinary drive, even though we all know that crashes happen. In fact, according to the NTSB, accidents happen every minute of every day.
While you can never prepare for an accident or its aftermath, you can take steps to document processes and cross train during the good times. Art Roche prepared what he terms a "Bus Book" -- how to do his job (and another version of how to manage things at home) -- should he be hit by the proverbial bus. 
There is a distinction between being prudent and being morbid. Think about what key things your organization would need to know in your absence and make sure that you have record of them where someone else can find them. Santa isn't the only one who should be making lists!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

leadership dot #1657: both sides

When you are new to something, it often seems that there is a simple solution to any problems that are visible to you. It is only when you increase your understanding and learn about the nuances that the real complexity comes to light.
> Children think that parents should just say "yes" to allowing them to see any movie, without comprehending the impact such media may have on their values.
> Employees often do not understand why an exception can't be made in salary levels or benefits because they don't understand the ripple effect such inequities would cause.
> New politicians often make campaign promises to "throw out the old" without knowing the underlying rationale that allowed the current plan to pass in the first place.
> Students may think that the current material is irrelevant until the theory undergirds knowledge they need in future courses.
> Citizens often want new services or amenities without regard to the tradeoffs such investment of tax dollars would cause.
> Clients want cheaper/faster products until they understand the ramifications on quality the shortcuts would create.
If there is an easy answer, someone has probably implemented it already. Most low hanging fruit is gone. Take the time to intentionally act by learning both sides of the decision, rather than just reacting by choosing the side you see first.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

leadership dot #1656: five ways

Yesterday I wrote about how people do not all experience things in the same way.  A tool to help you become cognizant of different perspectives is as easy as replicating a regular feature in Delta's Sky Magazine.
Each month, Sky Magazine showcases a particular destination from five different points of view. The "1 City/5 Ways" feature offers travelers different options for hotels, restaurants and attractions. Each article highlights different categories depending on the city:
> Boston: foodie, historian, sports fan, adventurer, modernist  (click here for an example)
> San Francisco: architecture enthusiast, first timer, active traveler, multicultural foodie, art junkie
> Washington DC: drinking buddy, urban explorer, art connoisseur, global eater, family tripper
> Memphis: first timer, musichead, scenester, foodie, cool hunter
Think about what five ways people experience your organization. You may have different membership categories or audiences. Maybe you interact with multiple populations or people at various stages of need. You might be a supplier to some and a customer for others. Identifying the different perspectives is a great way to make tangible the concept that not everyone sees your organization in the same manner. 1 Organization/5 Ways: what are yours?

Monday, December 12, 2016

leadership dot #1655: individuals

In a recent conversation with a musician*, he talked about how everyone hears music differently. A person's physical make up as well as their life's experiences causes music to resonate on an individual basis. For example, a person cannot hear music at a beat faster than what their heart is able to pump. "It makes me crazy when people talk about normalizing education," he said, "because there is no normal. Everyone has a unique experience when listening to the same music."
For decades, we have tried to make a common experience for the masses. In his 2011 book We Are All Weird, Seth Godin argues that the masses are gone and the digital revolution has allowed for the creation of tribes, small groups of people with common choices and culture. He believes we need to cater to these small groups and allow them to create their new normal instead of forcing them to conform to one.
Think of what your organization can do to embrace the spirit of individualization. Can you run events simultaneously to allow people an element of choice? Could you ask for input and attempt to cater your offerings to meet different needs?  Or how about highlighting different aspects of your programming in different ways for different people? 
The more you can speak to individuals, the more likely it is that they will actually listen to you.

*Wes Luke, violinist for Spill Your Beans

Sunday, December 11, 2016

leadership dot #1654: escape

While at a recent board meeting, I participated in an Escape Room team building exercise. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, groups are "locked" into a room that resembles a theatre set. Each room has its own theme (ours was Wizards), and the participants have one hour to make sense of the props and follow the clues to solve the mystery so they are able to escape.
The clues were revealed after putting together multiple pieces of the puzzle. For example, one set of clues had us placing animals and insects mounted on hexagon bases in a certain order and facing a certain direction. Once this was achieved, a trap door opened, revealing yet another clue.
To solve the mystery, each team was allowed to push a button three times if additional help was needed. We requested help all three times, but in doing so, our team was the only one of the three teams to successfully escape. Bragging rights would have been greater if we had completed the task without additional assistance, but I will settle for the satisfaction that comes with just finishing.
Do you operate like you are in an escape room and let your pride get in the way of asking for help, even when you need it? Do you overlook things that seem inconsequential initially, only to later learn that they have great value? I also wonder how many would have stuck it out if it was a work exercise and not a fun game: would you have given up after the first half hour of frustration?
Whether you literally participate in an escape room or whether you operate in a metaphorical one, learn the importance of pushing the button for clues. There is no shame in asking for help.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

leadership dot #1653: available

At a recent meeting, the hotel meeting coordinator left a briefcase of office supplies on the counter in our meeting room. It looked like something James Bond might use: with each implement in its own spot surrounded by foam. 
The case was quite efficient, with many of the supplies meeting attendees may need or have forgotten. But more than that, the way it was presented made it easy for the planner to drop it off, then to know what was used or missing at the conclusion. The separate foam compartments discouraged participants from just taking the supplies, as may have been the case if they were offered in a basket or in bulk.
How can you anticipate the needs of your clientele, and then take steps to meet those needs without being asked? 

Friday, December 9, 2016

leadership dot #1652: brakes

Whenever I fly, I am always keenly aware of the brakes when we land. I may doze off during other portions of the trip, but I always make note of the landing,

A friend of mine works in the aviation industry, and it was he who heightened my awareness of them. “The brakes are the most difficult part of the plane,” he said. “They must endure terrific heat and pressure, multiple times per day without intervention in between. It is very challenging to get them right.”

Ever since that comment decades ago, I think of what it must take to bring a multi-ton jet to a stop in a fairly constricted distance. You must achieve the deceleration gradually, but ultimately firmly, to bring the plane to a complete stop.

I think the brakes are an analogy useful for organizations as well as airplanes. It is difficult to get braking right. A great amount of pressure and heat surrounds the braking process – whether it involves ending an existing program or bringing a jetliner to a halt.

Just as the aerospace industry puts significant effort into getting the stopping process right, so should your organization. Have a plan in place to schedule landings – you can always take off again, but it is helpful to have plans to bring things in for an evaluation. Regularly review what you have stopped doing as well as what you have added.

Organizations find it hard to stop doing things, but a plane flies better after a landing and refueling. So do projects and organizational services.

-- beth triplett
@leadership dots 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

leadership dot #1651: see the signs

Yesterday I wrote about the small signs that form a pattern before a major change occurs. Another example of the behaviors that are triggers before a larger action comes from Sandy Hook Promise. This group was established after the elementary school shootings in 2012, and provides this powerful video:
Watch the 2 minute video here (in the middle of the page).
According to the Sandy Hook Promise, in 4 of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it. Pay attention to the world around you. If you see a pattern, share it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

leadership dot #1650: in infamy

Seventy-five years ago today is the "day that will live in infamy": the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those who were alive at the time will never forget it, but with each passing year it engenders less emotion in today's Americans. The same is true for the 9-11 attacks; the patriotism that was palpable immediately following fades with each anniversary.
At Pearl Harbor, there were many signs that an attack could be coming, yet the fleet was never placed on high alert. The Americans knew that the Japanese had divided the harbor into zones, calling signals were changed and documents were being destroyed.  Military messages were intercepted and decoded, yet no one in command connected all these dots and saw an attack was imminent. As a result, over 2400 lives were lost at Pearl Harbor and an estimated 60 million people were killed in the resulting World War II. 
Whether it be a literal war like WWII,  an economic assault on an industry, or simply a destruction of a relationship, massive change never is announced with a definitive proclamation. Upheavals occur with many warning signs available to keen observers before the damage is done. The music business did not pay attention to niche artists having access to music lovers through the explosion of distribution channels. The couple doesn't initially give credence to the nagging silences or lack of spark. 
Learn from Pearl Harbor and pay attention to the signs that the current action is about to be disrupted. Look for outliers and indicators. Make time to pause and reflect on what your senses are telling you. Start with the premise that change is coming and use the evidence to help predict how. Don't leave your fleet stagnant in one harbor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

leadership dot #1649: jmubeld

A friend shared this paragraph with me, and while at first glance it was startling to see, it actually proved to be easily readable.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmeneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you cna sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amazanig, huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.
When you think about it, it is pretty amazing that you can make sense of the above jumbled message. It all comes down to having the right anchor letters.
What are the anchors for your organization: the messages your employees need to make sense of everything else?  As you can see from the above paragraph, if the parameters are set clearly, there is leeway for variation in the middle. Spend the time to get the anchors right, and worry less about the details in between. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

leadership dot #1648: found a way

A friend recommended that I read Diana Nyad's Find a Way memoir about her historic swim from Cuba to Florida. I am so glad that I took her advice, and would suggest the book to anyone who needs a dose of inspiration.
Nyad made the attempt five times, first while she was in her thirties, and then ultimately succeeding when she was 64.  She swam 110.86 miles, for 52 hours, 54 minutes, 18 seconds straight -- never touching another object during that time. Her Handlers threw pasta off the boat into her mouth or tossed her bananas for food. I could not stay awake for 53 hours straight, let alone spend that time swimming in the ocean.
But the true story of Diana Nyad is not her swimming accomplishments, rather the grit it took to make them possible. One attempt was thwarted by venomous jellyfish stings so she found the world's expert who invented a waterproof goo as an antidote. She could not see in the dark and expended energy swimming off course, so her team created an underwater LED streamer to serve as her guide. She worked with a dentist and a prosthetics specialist to create a silicone mask -- with separate molds for nostrils, eyes and retainer molds for mouthpieces to keep jellyfish at bay. They modified the escort boat; Diana changed her stroke to lesson the friction and made countless other innovations to prepare for the journey.
Diana Nyad was the first and only swimmer to make this dangerous trek -- and accomplish a dream she had throughout her life. There were thousands of reasons why she could have given up (as did the other two who tried it), but she always went back to her mantra of "find a way." If you are feeling like throwing in the towel, pick up this book and see a model of persistence and resolve. Your problems are equivalent to the kiddy pool compared to what Diana overcame.
-- beth triplett
Find a Way by Diana Nyad, 2015.
Thanks Chris for the recommendation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

leadership dot # 1647: leakage

Even though I live in a relatively new house, I had members of our city's Green Initiative come to my house for a weatherization audit. They measured ceilings and inspected pipes, and also conducted a safety audit of my CO2 levels and air quality.
To test for the indoor pressure and sealant, they used a large contraption that made me feel like E.T. or men in protective white suits could be coming at any minute. But by putting this tarp around the door and measuring the air movement, they could tell how the house was sealed. The aim was to be like Goldilocks: "just right." Obviously, too much air leakage would be inefficient, but I had not considered that too tight of a seal could add to the accumulation of CO2 and be dangerous as well.
In the end, they concluded that if you took all of the pinholes of air leakage in my house, it would amount to a 6 inch by 6 inch square. They assured me that was in the acceptable range, although it seemed like a large gap to me.
How can you conduct an audit for your organization? It doesn't need to revolve around energy efficiency, but having someone from the outside come to review your procedures and benchmark them against others can be a valuable exercise. Sometimes we are so close to something that we don't consider the waste that is leaking through the system.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

leadership dot #1646: gallery

At a recent visit to the doctor, I was greeted by a wall of cheerful children's artwork. It was hung across a string with clothes pins; nothing fancy but it certainly added some color to an otherwise sterile and drab examination room.
I thought that this was a coordinated effort between the clinic and the school district, but later learned that the artists were the children of the doctor. She brought in their projects on a rotating basis for her own enjoyment as well as her patients'. 
But why couldn't it be done more broadly? As she pointed out, the children bring home dozens of pictures throughout the year. Could your organization adopt a classroom or two and offer to display their creations in your lobby? The children would love seeing their work in public, and it makes for a delightful and rotating addition to your institutional space.
It doesn't have to be formal to be a gallery and it doesn't have to be professional to be art. Take advantage of the vibrancy of children's projects to bring some color to your space.

Friday, December 2, 2016

leadership dot #1645: the back room

I was out shopping over the weekend and wanted to try on a pair of boots at a department store. This involved 15 minutes of waiting for a clerk to go check in the back room, only to tell me that they were out of my size.
Why do department stores still insist on keeping their shoes in the back room? Yes, it makes for a prettier display, but the lost customer convenience is a high price to pay for aesthetics.
Except for food items and prescriptions, almost all products are accessible directly to the consumer. Candy is no longer behind the counter in big glass jars. Eyeglasses are available through the mail. Electronics are sold through vending machines. Many remedies are sold over the counter.
You can conduct your bank transactions with a machine instead of a teller. You can use a self-checkout instead of the cashier. You can order your meal from the counter instead of through a waitress. You pump your own gas and clean your own windshield.
But you need an intermediary to try on a pair of shoes.
The clerk in the shoe department had zero value added after he told me they were out of my size. If they had shoes that fit, he would have handed me the box and I would have tried them on myself. Long gone are the days of the measured fittings and shoe horns.
Think about what you are keeping in your metaphorical back room. Is your process a vestige of a past when information was shared with only a few instead of on the internet? Do you have human intervention in a process that does not contribute to its value? Could you provide something more directly to your customers?
Let your clients easily find out if your shoe fits them.
-- beth triplett

Thursday, December 1, 2016

leadership dot #1644: lacking

Hanging on the wall in a restaurant was a painting of a stagecoach and horses crossing a river on the frontier. I remarked at what a hard life that must have been, but my friend disagreed. "Did they think that it was harder than we think our life is now?" he asked.
While I disagreed with him on his assessment, we did agree that people don't miss something before it exists. The frontier cowboys didn't miss microwaves or computers. My parents did not long for an iPad or 70" HD smart television. As I kid, I wasn't begging to be on a travel soccer team or to do 3D printing.
At times when I go to stores, I find myself desperately wanting something that I did not know even existed before I went shopping. People see things on social media that suddenly become a "must have." The whole advertising industry exists on this premise.
If you find yourself in this situation, take a moment to pause and realize that your life was good without it. Something may make your work or leisure easier/better/more pleasant with the addition of a new tool, but you were not missing it moments ago. The sensation of "lacking" is contrived in your head; it is a judgment you make for yourself.
Choose to appreciate your abundance rather than mourn for your lack of more.