Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

leadership dot #2025: giving wreaths

During the holiday season, many people are feeling generous and are inclined to contribute to a charity, but organizations must think creatively to make an appeal that stands out from all the other requests. Rush Copley Hospital has done that with their Giving Wreaths.

Employees or departments at the hospital choose to decorate a wreath. The wreaths are first displayed along the glass windows in the main entranceway, making for festive d├ęcor, and then anyone can purchase a raffle ticket for $2 and indicate which wreath they would like to win.

The Giving Wreaths have become a competition of pride among the participants and you can tell that much time and love went into making them. Wreaths each have a theme: Christmas on the Beach, Making Spirits Bright (with alcohol bottles), or Sugar Plum Fairy (with candy and sweets).

Think of how you can make your holiday donation drive serve multiple purposes: engaging employees, decorating your space, entertaining visitors and raising money. The wreaths accomplish all these things and may be an idea to adapt for your elves next year.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

leadership dot #2024: expedite

Especially at this time of year, retailers are trying to move customers through the check out lines as quickly as possible. They have opened up extra lanes, set up roping to manage the lines and often have additional staff on hand. But why not involve the customers in efforts to expedite the flow?

The Ross stores capitalized on customer participation by putting a hanger stand in their lines. While customers waited, they could take the clothing off the hangers to facilitate the checkout and bagging process. Ross framed this task in a positive light: “Get your treasures home faster. If you’d like, remove your hangers and place them here.”

From the looks of the stands, many consumers were happy to oblige. Think of how you can engage your clientele to facilitate goals that are important to both of you and make everyone a bit more jolly.

Friday, December 15, 2017

leadership dot #2023: home stretch

I recently helped my sister complete the home stretch of submitting her doctoral dissertation. My job was to proofread the paper, help with formatting and put the list of references in proper APA style. We spent 13 hours a day, for two days, engrossed at the kitchen table completing these tasks.

In addition to learning proper comma placement for a government document/no author citation, it brought to light how we often underestimate the time it takes to create and maintain a solid infrastructure. For this paper, it required an extended period of time just to print the 216 pages, let alone proof them. I made substantial progress on a reading book while sitting at the printer waiting for the job to complete.

Our two days together was also a reminder that people bring different strengths to the table. My sister is visionary and excels at the big picture, but would have gone nuts if she had to plod through APA to get her references in order. She could do it, but it would have been harrowing. I can’t say that the task was fun for me either, but it was far better suited to my temperament.

On the next big project that you encounter, think about my sister’s dissertation. Remember that the message will be weakened if the mechanics become a distraction, so allow much more time than you expect to attend to the details and finishing touches. Find a partner with a different skill set than you have to complement the assignment of tasks and make them more palatable for all. And, of course, have more paper and toner on hand than you anticipate!

The last two days turned a draft into a dissertation. The devil isn’t in the details; the magic is.

P.S. Today is her defense: congratulations to Dr. Amy!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

leadership dot #2022: prepared

Before a snow flurry fell, I took dozens of actions to get prepared for the impending change of seasons:

Outdoors, I cleared the patio, put the hammock and grill away, moved plants indoors, cut back all the bushes, removed the hose, put my snow tires on and brought in the bird bath then the bird feeders. Inside I moved the sweaters to the prime drawer, put my sandals away, threw an extra cover on the bed, took the polish off my toes and ended pedicures. I stopped cutting the grass, bagged all the leaves and swapped the lawn mower for the snow blower in the garage.

Mother Nature sent all kinds of signals that winter was coming: the water in the dog’s dish freezes, the plants die, and gradually I go from wearing sweaters to coats to coats/mittens/scarf/hat. No one told me to stop wearing shorts or to turn off the air conditioner – it just made sense to do it.

Organizations should model their change efforts after the change in seasons. Help people understand what is coming and allow them to take steps along the way to prepare themselves physically and mentally for what is ahead. Point out the positives – like pomegranates, sweet potato fries, dogs on the bed at night and hot cocoa. Help them make minor adjustments to become ready for the new reality.

A night of steady 50mph winds brought us winter overnight and we went from 60 degrees to 30 degrees for highs. We may not like the change, but we were ready for it – which may be all you can ask for in your organization.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

leadership dot #2021: waiting

While the hustle and bustle of the holidays swirled around me, I found myself sitting in a room with my siblings, aunt and uncle with nothing to do. We were all at the hospital while my mom underwent surgery so no one wanted to leave, but there was really no other option except to sit and wait. And tell stories.

We talked more in those few hours than we have in the past year. We heard about our grandparents, our mom growing up, what the third cousins are doing and other family news that would normally not be shared except via Facebook.

I see these relatives every Christmas, but normally the conversation revolves around the basketball game on television, what presents were under the tree, the meal and its preparation/clean up or other trivial chat. There are so many diversions and so many in attendance that the dialogue is exchanged in snippets, not paragraphs, unlike during the long hours in the hospital waiting room.

Don’t wait for a somber occasion to slow down the clock and have a good old-fashioned story hour with some of your relatives. Use the upcoming holiday gatherings to pull up a chair and actually talk with each other, sans technology, and learn a bit more about those roots on your family tree.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

leadership dot #2020: spelling

For many people, myself included, dictionaries are about the spelling and looking up how to properly do that vs learning what the meaning or root cause of the word might be. One of my very favorite apps is It says a lot about how I spend my time!

Having an electronic version makes it nice that I don’t have to lug a big dictionary around with me, but what I really love is the “did you mean?” feature. When you look up words in a print version— presumably because you don’t know how to spell them, you are left with no assistance if you are off the mark. But will provide you with a whole list of related or possible suggestions — and presto you can insert it and be in your way.

Think about how your organization operates. Are you like the print dictionary where all the information is there and fully accessible to clients — IF they know what to ask or where to look? Or are you like the app where you provide all the same resources PLUS anticipate what your clients might really mean and give it to them in that format instead?

There is a reason the print version is yellowing on my shelf.

Monday, December 11, 2017

leadership dot #2019: cut

There are so many actions that we take that can’t be undone: cutting a piece of lumber, trimming your hair or filing down fingernails – once it’s done you can’t go back. I learned this lesson the hard way after my laser surgery and the subsequent smoothing out of my tooth – the periodontist was a bit too aggressive and there is no “putting just a bit more back on.” It is what it is, even though It affects me every day.

When you are making a decision or doing something that is unable to be reversed, take that extra moment to follow the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, cut once.” It’s sound advice for everyone.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

leadership dot #2018: trigger

A great way to get gift-giving ideas is to walk the scrapbooking aisle at a craft store. There, amongst the paper themes and sticker collections, you will find a visual gallery of niches to inspire you. You’ll be able to glean ideas of many hobbies/ interests/ demographics/ backgrounds and hopefully connect one to a similar interest your recipient has. While the stickers won’t be your actual gift, a quick search on Etsy or Google will provide you with a host of gift-giving options to fit that niche.

It’s hard to come up with ideas from scratch so you can use the scrapbooking options as a trigger for other things. And believe me, stickers come in every niche: high school band, Germany, wine lovers, dancers, hunters, firefighters and beyond.

Take advantage of the idea gallery just waiting at your local craft store and see if a gift-giving idea doesn’t stick. 

Thanks, Tracy!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

leadership dot #2017: portrait

One of the nicest traditions of December is the Help-Portrait project, where those with talents in photography, hair or makeup provide photographs for anyone in need. The goal is to create a smile and a memory for those who could not otherwise afford to have their picture taken.

I learned of this project through a colleague whose campus sponsors a Help-Portrait session every December. It is one of the most rewarding programs they host, as families are given a gift that will last for generations.

My childhood home was lined with portraits: each of us at 3 months, 6 months and every year thereafter through high school. Multiply that by five kids and there was a rotating art gallery of favorites. I think of the families who are not fortunate enough to capture these memories, or even to afford school pictures each year. The Help-Portrait meets that need for them.

We normally think of taking pictures, but these are the portraits that give. You don’t have to be a professional or create an elaborate event to give the gift of photography to another this holiday season. Consider organizing a Help-Portrait event instead of another holiday party and provide a memorable evening for all.

Thanks, Dave!

Friday, December 8, 2017

leadership dot #2016: don't suck

I consider myself to be environmentally conscious, but one aspect of my impact I did not consider is my use of plastic straws. I just routinely snapped on the drink lid, peeled off the paper and inserted the straw – in almost every drink I had outside my home. Just like other Americans do, contributing to the 500 million straws destined for a life in the landfill every day.


It is one thing to do it on large drinks to go, but do you really need a straw in a glass beverage at Applebees? Or one in a paper cup that you don’t plan on taking with you? No.

I never use straws at home (except for the one that is permanently inserted in my Tervis cup), and the thought of having a dispenser or putting a straw in a glass at the dinner table seems absurd. Yet we do it routinely whenever we have a drink at restaurants, fast food, snack bars, etc.

I never paid attention to any of this until I read the great article in the Washington Post that caused me to start consciously using straws instead of mindlessly using them.
You, too, can suck a lot less if you heed their admonition to go straw-less or at least use far fewer of the environmental nightmares than you are using now. Be mindful instead of mindless for a week and see what a difference you can make.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

leadership dot #2015: decisions

If you do any kind of reflection activity, it always involves you thinking about the decisions you made in life and the trajectory that was created because of those choices. From interviews to journaling to meditation, we highlight the things that have influenced our lives – which college we attended, our upbringing, choice of a partner or having children, etc.

I like to spend some time thinking about the flip side of this – the choices I did not take or the moments that changed my path because of what I did not do. I wonder what would have happened if I would have taken the job in Seattle instead of St. Louis or if I had made a higher offer on a different house instead of ending up in the one I am in. I muse about what life would be like if I had not gotten married or if I had not divorced or what my health would be like now if I had accepted that first cigarette when it was offered.

My reality may be significantly impacted by consequences I did not even consciously make: did running five minutes late keep me away from an accident or choosing one seat on the plane over another prevent me from meeting a business partner? I think about the investment choices some broker in New York makes that impact my ability to retire or the regulations a politician makes that influence the air I breathe.

Our lives are an amalgamation of millions of tiny events – often far removed from us – that shape who we are and the world around us. On this Pearl Harbor Day, I think of all those who made choices that put them in peril’s way, and all those who averted disaster because of actions that had different consequences down the line.

The next time you are stressed about a decision you have to make, remember that we cannot control even a fraction of the decisions that impact us. Whether you do something or you don’t, or someone else does something that influences your life, all paths lead us to a place where we are destined to be.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

leadership dot #2014: Santa

I heard a heartwarming story that encapsulates the spirit of Christmas, and it seems appropriate to share on this Feast of St. Nicholas.

A mother suspected that her young son was becoming suspicious about the real Santa Claus, so she took him out for “coffee” and a serious talk. “When you know who Santa is,” she said, “it is time to BECOME Santa. You do this by providing a gift or an act of kindness without someone else knowing who did it.”

The son apparently took the message to heart and stealthily dropped off slippers on the doorstep for a neighbor who went to the mailbox without them, with the note simply saying that they were from Santa.

Whether you have known about Santa for days or decades, it is never too late to share his spirit and to become Santa this holiday season. The world needs such kindness now more than ever.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

leadership dot #2013: untold

My best Black Friday deal was the movie Hidden Figures for $4 – and I was delighted to watch it again this weekend. If you don’t know the story, it is a movie about success despite obstacles, specifically for three women who manually computed trajectories for the initial NASA space missions. Set in 1953, it chronicles Katherine Johnson and two other women whose mathematical genius went unappreciated because of their gender and ethnicity.

In 2010, Margot Lee Shetterly began researching the female “computers” who worked at the Langley Space Station in Hampton, Virginia where she grew up. (At the time, computers were people, not machines.) It was an untold story that no one had pursued, but her curiosity and investigation led to the publishing of a book and then the Academy Award-nominated film. In addition to the artistic acclaim, it has resulted in recognition of Johnson and her contributions to the space program.

NASA, who initially would not allow Johnson to compute figures except from heavily redacted reports, recently dedicated the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2015.

I wonder if Johnson, now age 99, would have lived her whole life without acknowledgment for her role in putting men in space had Shetterly not pursued a casual conversation with her father about his days at Langley…

…and I wonder what “Katherine Johnson” is lurking in your organization’s archives. Who was involved in the early days, maybe working behind the scenes, that has not received the recognition or accord that they are due? Do you have an untold story that needs to be shared?

Katherine’s story not only shines a light on her past, but it hopefully provides a beacon to inspire others to persist in light of challenges. Do some digging and see what figures are hidden in your organization’s history.

Photo source: Black Enterprise

Monday, December 4, 2017

leadership dot #2012: entire

As Amazon extends its reach into more and more of the buying experience, now they offer delivery inside your home. With the handy new Amazon Key, you can install a device that allows Amazon to control access to your front door lock, allowing drivers to put packages inside your home.

Amazon Key is only offered in select cities, but I don’t think I would be comfortable with this if it were to become an option for me. It’s bad enough when hackers access your social security number and financial data – I don’t need them having my front door code as well. But for some who live in higher crime areas or purchase items that shouldn’t be left out in the elements, maybe this is the solution they need.

But step back from the specific product to look at the overarching element of this – Amazon is intentionally involved in everything from the “Ask Alexa” initial ordering to delivery inside your front door. They don’t put things away in your cupboards – yet – but they have succeeded in monetizing each other aspect of the purchase – how you order, what is available for you to buy, the speed of your shipping and now in-home delivery.

What lessons can your organization take from this A to Z (pun intended) approach? Maybe you are limiting yourself to only one aspect of the entire acquisition chain when incorporating other elements could be the key to your success.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

leadership dot #2011: the big apple

One in every 38 Americans lives in New York City. It makes the metropolis of 8.5 million people larger than more than 40 of the 50 states and twice as large as the second largest city (Los Angeles).

Yet, because it is a city, it does not receive the direct Federal funding, additional Senate representation or other benefits accorded to statehood because our system is set up to acknowledge the primary unit as a state.

Think about how your organization is structured. Do you have a “New York City” that contributes disproportionate revenue and influence without the proportionate recognition? Should you reconfigure some of your units or your infrastructure to support them in light of the uneven size differential? Would you be better off if there was increased parity instead of drastic variations in size/revenue/impact?

Or maybe your system works the way it is. Either way, it’s worth taking a moment to review and to either change it or consciously proclaim that you love your “New York.”

Source: New York City Department of City Planning,  Read more fun facts about New York City’s population here.

Thanks, Meg!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

leadership dot #2010: resourceful

If you lived on a remote island in the North Atlantic, chances are that you would need to be resourceful and to develop some hearty problem-solving skills. Such was the case with the people in the Faroe Islands, a rugged country located between Norway and Island. This small country involved their sheep (which outnumber the people!) in order to get their beautiful landscapes on Google Maps in order to draw the attention of tourists.

Frustrated by their attempts to be included in Google’s Street View option, Faroe tourist board members strapped 360-degree cameras to the backs of sheep to record the views. And it worked – Google now includes them and the number of visitors has increased since the project’s successful end.

Now the tourist bureau has moved on to addressing language barriers of these visitors – pushing to be included in Google Translate, but creating their own “Faroe Islands Translate” until that happens.

Many people would throw up their hands and claim that it was impossible for a tiny entity to influence a giant like Google, but these islanders proved otherwise. They sought alternative solutions and did much of the work themselves. If you really want something badly enough, there Is probably a way to make some version of it happen.

Read the full story here.

Thanks, Meg!

Friday, December 1, 2017

leadership dot #2009: premature

You may have heard the saying: “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings” as an implicit warning not to consider something finished until the final steps are truly complete. Many times we get over a big hurdle in the implementation process and consider ourselves “done” when there are still loose ends and follow up projects to be completed.

In a stunning example of why you shouldn’t declare victory too soon, this 15-second video clip shows the end of a soccer match in Asia where just that happened. After a miracle missed shot at the end of the game, the goalie goes wild and celebrates by running toward the middle of the field and leaving his goal. Consequently, he is not there when the ball bounces back in and is scored as a goal.

Don’t stop working prematurely. Stay on your game until the curtain closes on the fat lady’s encore.

Fox News Asia

Shared on LinkedIn by Sudhanshu C Agarwal

Thursday, November 30, 2017

leadership dot #2008: away

I recently listened to the soundtrack to the musical Come From Away – the true story of Gander, Newfoundland, a small town that unexpectedly hosted 7,000 visitors from around the world that were diverted there immediately following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Gander is a town of only 6,000 yet they housed, fed, clothed and comforted double that number – for five days -- when 38 international flights were forced to land in Newfoundland when American airspace was closed. The musical tells the story of Gander’s efforts to accommodate their unexpected guests and relays the scope of their quest to do so. In one song, a resident contributes a tray of sandwiches and the organizer says: “We need 50 more.” “Sandwiches?” “No, trays.”

As an event planner myself, I think of the hours and hours of preparations and countless meetings that would have been involved if Gander had known that a multitude of jumbo jets would be descending upon them. They would have developed spreadsheets, plans, supply orders and made countless other arrangements if this was expected. But somehow they pulled it off anyway, with less than an hour’s notice.

I am in favor of proactive planning, but sometimes I think we invest too much effort into it. Even with meticulous preparations, you cannot anticipate every need or situation and it reaches a point where it is futile to try.

Do your best to be ready for the expected, but allow yourself some latitude to accommodate the unexpected as well.

Thanks Emily for sharing the soundtrack – I highly recommend it to others!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

leadership dot #2007: borer

They are smaller than a penny but have been labeled as “one of the most destructive pests ever seen in North America” – referring to the Emerald Ash Borer. This tiny insect feeds off the leaves of ash trees, but its larvae bore through the bark and feed on the tissue under it, thereby cutting off the water flow and killing the tree.

The spread of the disease has been hastened by transportation of wood, wood chips and firewood out of infected areas, and there are currently 14 states under quarantine because of this pest, including my Iowa. It is estimated that within the next several years our state will lose 17% of its tree population with the death of 50+ million ash trees, raising ecological, logistical, aesthetic and commercial questions about how to respond to such a massive loss of timber and the accompanying branches.

While there is not much that can be done to save a tree once it is infected, there are some steps that can be taken to prevent the invasion of the larvae and to prolong the tree’s health.

I think the same is true for organizational “borers” – the insidious few who infect an organization’s culture and diminish its health. There are things an organization can do to foster a climate that keeps the nay-sayers at bay and allows for free flow of trust and information, but once toxins permeate the environment it is hard to rid them except through cutting relationships with those that are spreading the negativity.

Organizational borers are often small and work undercover – like their equivalent the Emerald Ash – and many times management does not pay attention to them until it is too late. Don’t let your culture fall victim to disruption through neglect. Proactively address the little bugs before they bore into your foundation.

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

leadership dot #2006: generalist

Have you ever heard of a hospitalist? I had not until a friend was in the hospital, then I learned that a hospitalist is a doctor who cares for you (just) in the hospital. Instead of having primary care doctors or specialists make rounds, a hospitalist cares for admitted patients instead. The hospitalists are on duty 24/7/365 so a physician is always available to handle emergencies and on-going care.

“Hospitalists know every specialist and department,” reads the brochure. It seems that hospitalists are the healthcare equivalent of a utility infielder in baseball or a stringer in journalism. They are the good voice in the chorus or the administrative assistant who handles a variety of tasks.

In short, their specialty is being a generalist.

There are so many areas today where people specialize: coaches for each aspect of the game, accountants for certain types of businesses, lawyers who practice in one segment of the law and tradesmen who complete one segment of a construction project. All this specialization leads to depth, yes, but it also leads to a more narrow view of the whole.

Think of how you can incorporate the hospitalist concept into your organization. Is there an area which could benefit from a generalist? Or maybe someone to handle a variety of tasks? Or perhaps you just need someone well-trained to handle the extra workload or to increase your capacity at certain times of the year?

Generalists may not be specialists, but they certainly are special.

Monday, November 27, 2017

leadership dot #2005: on second glance

Brian, a city-dwelling friend of mine, recently traveled through a long stretch of farmland to meet with me and remarked on what a boring drive he experienced.

It reminded me of photographer Larry Kanfer who originally lived in Oregon and moved to the Midwest. Kanfer was initially apprehensive about seeing beauty in someplace that was flat instead of full of mountains and forests. He came not only to appreciate the prairie but to publish several volumes of photographs from America’s heartland.
His second book, On Second Glance, shares a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree:

“Everyone should look around, carefully and more than once. A quick look will not reveal everything in these images, just as a quick look – out your car window while traveling down the interstate – will not allow you to see the beauty that surrounds you. It is the second glance – and the third - -that will help you appreciate the Midwest.”

On Brian’s trip home, he reflected on a problem that we had discussed at our meeting and came up with a new and creative solution. “Turns out there’s inspiration in them there corn fields,” he texted. Yes. Yes, there is.

If at first you see a landscape, meet a person or encounter a situation that appears to be “flat”, take a second glance. I’m sure there is beauty and inspiration there, too.

Quote source: On Second Glance, Midwest Photographs by Larry Kanfer, 1992, University of Illinois Press

See Larry Kanfer’s photographs here (mine below).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

leadership dot #2004: rock it

For the last year or two, adult coloring books have been all the rage. I guess people have figured out that it takes time – and a lot of it -- to complete any of the intricate designs that typify the standard selections. So this year a new form of art is making its appearance: rock painting.

Rocks offer a similar outlet for creativity, but in a much smaller space and time commitment. You can still release your inner child, but do so in a period that allows you to complete your creation before you are old!

There are many benefits to relaxation and art; if you’re still looking for something for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list, maybe a bag of stones and some paint could rock your holiday.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

leadership dot #2003: operating system

It wasn’t until I upgraded my phone that I became aware of the dozens of decisions I had made to customize it to me. In the system transfer, all of the main data moved from one phone to the next, but none of the options carried over. Thus I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make it “mine” again: ring tones, alarms, notification settings, phone favorites, cities to track for weather, the location of apps, and on and on.

I was also confronted with the fact that I have many passwords, most of which I never use as the app is permanently logged in or the network is “automatically” connected. When the apps didn’t remember me, I had a lot of work to do to get them functional again either by looking up the passwords or resetting them.

We take a lot of infrastructure details for granted. You turn on the phone and it will just have all the information you need. You crank up the thermostat and the heat will flow. You start the car and expect to be able to drive it.

A new phone reminded me that I need to be conscious of my contributions toward making my things work. Keep track of passwords. Conduct preventative maintenance. Have back up systems and documentation.

The software systems may alert you when it’s time to install a new version, but nothing else will. Proactively schedule upgrades and bug fixes for the rest of your operations.

Friday, November 24, 2017

leadership dot #2002: trade-off

Everyone knows that drinking water is good for your health, but I have been challenged in my quest to do just that.

I purchased a water cooler to avoid the impact of disposable bottles, but then learned that the water comes in jugs that are a “7” (aka toxic plastic that should be avoided.) I tried to be eco-conscious with a reusable straw, but it grew mold inside of it. I find myself drinking substantially less water than Diet Coke, wondering if some water is better than an intake of double the amount in other fluids.

In water, like with everything, is a trade-off.

You’re likely to experience it today with Black Friday: stay at home and avoid the crowds, but maybe miss out on some good deals. Shop online and get the convenience, but negatively impact the local vendors. Take advantage of the sales, but spend lots of money to do so.

With what and how you drink as well as with what and how you buy, it’s a continual tradeoff to create a balance that works for you. Strive to be conscious of the choices that you’re making.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

leadership dot #2001: resurgence

It seems like Thanksgiving is gaining respect as a holiday instead of being lost in the pre-Christmas frenzy:
  • I received Thanksgiving cards in the mail from my insurance agent, financial planner and Hallmark.
  • Yesterday my email inbox was filled with notes of gratitude from everyone from my credit union to Joe Biden!
  • Stores are selling collections of Thanksgiving clothing for kids.
  • A previous dot highlighted how Target was consciously reducing the Christmas Creep.
Maybe Thanksgiving is making a resurgence because people are feeling the need to find good things to celebrate. Maybe people are recognizing the important role gratitude can play in their lives. Or maybe it is just seen as another marketing opportunity.

Whatever the reasons, include Thanksgiving in your organization’s planning for next year. It’s always the right time to be grateful for clients and vendors who make your work possible.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading leadership dots!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

leadership dot #2000: milestone

Nearly a half-million words (497,122) and 11,740 paragraphs later, I share dot #2000 with you. Just as I am astounded that it is Thanksgiving already, I also wonder how I got to two thousand entries. My answer: the same way that I amassed 11,803 buttons: one at a time.

When I started accumulating buttons, I had no grand plan about lining the length of my house with my collection. I just had a few buttons on a bulletin board. And then a few more. When I reached #2000 (after 14 years), my dad made me a special button to commemorate the occasion. It seemed an appropriate way to acknowledge this entry, too.

When I first started writing, I looked to blogger Seth Godin for tactic guidance on how to do it. He wrote every day (including weekends), so I did too. He used short pithy titles, so mine are as well. Seth just posted his blog #7000 – will I follow in those footsteps as well?

If there is a lesson I learn through the dots it is to make a commitment and follow through with it – whether you are in the mood or not. If I wrote only when I felt like it, I would have about 20 blogs instead of 100 times that.

Leadership dots are lessons to inspire you to create a cumulative pattern of intentional culture change, one dot at a time. I hope you have learned something in the past 5 ½ years that has helped you connect the dots in your personal and organizational lives.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

leadership dot #1999: no regrets

I have a wise brother-in-law who lives by the mantra of no regrets. “We make the best decision that we can with the information available at the time, then move on to make the next best decision,” he said. They are words to live by.

How much time have you wasted lamenting personal or professional decisions that are not able to be changed? No matter how much I regret that I did not see Michael Jordan play in person even though I lived an hour from the United Center, that opportunity is permanently lost. No need to compound it by spending more time wishing I had. We waste time second-guessing decisions that are now done deals as if beating ourselves up over something will make us smarter the next time. It won’t.

Few people intentionally set out to be reckless or careless. Give yourself a break and accept that the door you chose made the most sense at the time.

Monday, November 20, 2017

leadership dot #1998: answers

How often have you been in a meeting where the pretense was to gather input, but really the person in charge already had determined all the answers?

At a recent event, I participated in an icebreaker that can help you to illustrate this point in a light-hearted and humorous way.

One participant was given a plate with strips of paper marked QUESTIONS. The person sitting next to them was given a plate with strips marked ANSWERS. Person A drew a question then person B drew an answer to respond to it. All of the answers are interchangeable, and some provide hilarious combinations. After person B answers, the plate of QUESTIONS is passed to them and the ANSWERS are given to person C and it keeps going around the table until everyone has asked and answered a question.

For example:
Q. Would you like to be a millionaire?
A. No, once I tried, but it ended up a disaster.

Q. Do you have any shortcomings?
A. People do not speak about it aloud.

Q. Do you love children?
A. During my lunch hour.

Use this to show the futility of having pre-conceived answers without acknowledging what the question is – or just use it as a fun icebreaker at your next event (or Thanksgiving dinner). It avoids that awkwardness of not knowing what to say because the answers are provided for you!

(Get a sample list of questions and answers here.)

Thanks to Kayla Morrison for sharing.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

leadership dot #1997: tunnel

I never set out to get a doctorate; I just took one class because I was interested in the legal aspects of higher education. But one class led to another and then to another and then, in 1997, I earned my degree.

The classes, my defense and graduation are all a blur, but what I remember vividly about this process was the day I finished my final draft and took it to the on-campus mail room (yes, we had to send hard copies!) to send out to my committee. There, outside the drop-off window, was my whole staff and a gathering of other employees who made a cheer tunnel for me to walk through en route to the delivery.

That simple act of recognition cost them nothing, but it still gives me goosebumps to think about it all these many years later.

When you want to show someone that you really care, it does not need to be a lavish gift or even a tangible item. Sentiment from the heart is much more valuable than objects.

Photo source:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

leadership dot #1996: posted

Most people know that there is a law requiring employers to post certain job regulations in a prominent place for employees to have access to them: things like non-discrimination clauses, employee rights, minimum wage and other legal notices. But what happens when there is no office or break-room bulletin board?

This situation occurred on a recent construction project on my street. In addition to all the equipment and road signs that were delivered came a big sheet of plywood with notices in plastic holders. This board is sitting out by the mailboxes, presumably for the workers to have access to the required documents. I doubt anyone has read it!

When government officials were drafting the law, I am sure it made good sense to them to require employers to share the information with their employees and to have the notices posted in a prominent location. In their world of offices and meetings, it would be an easy thing to do only no one thought through the various situations in which posting would be ludicrous instead of practical.

Before you require everyone to do something, pause for a moment and think of the hardships this may cause others. It is far better to legislate the intent instead of prescribing the method.

Friday, November 17, 2017

leadership dot #1995: Generation Z

There is a lot of attention being paid to the Millennial generation right now when in reality, it would behoove organizations to spend as much effort preparing for Generation Z. Gen Z, as it is lovingly known, represents the generation born between 1995-ish and 2010 or so. They are the college students of today and the leaders of tomorrow, representing a quarter of the population and soon will have a significant impact on the workforce.

Gen Z grew up with technology and social media integrated into their lives. They have communicated all their lives through screens and will expect the use of technology to be pervasive in their organizations. Gen Z uses this technology to make their lives easier and to receive information/action on demand. Gen Z wants a work/life blend – and the ability to use the resources available to them to work from anywhere at anytime. They are more interested in the community than just themselves and also have a strong interest in entrepreneurship.

Think about the world in which Gen Z grew up: they never had to learn how to use technology – it was omnipresent since they were born. They carry this expectation onto campus and into the workforce, requiring organizations to rethink how they handle processes and transactions of all types. Yet Gen Z is not looking to automate everything; they value experiences, one-to-one interactions and being involved in decisions.

Gen Z employees or entrepreneurs will be the ones to lead efforts on 3D printing, wearable technology, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and workplace inclusion. They will continue the movement to integrate smart learning into every facet of life and become active designers of both social and economic change.

As an organization leader, you can embrace their thinking and be inspired by Gen Z or try to hold on to more established ways of operating. Succeed by articulating and providing value, creating experiences that allow them to interact and paying attention to the user experience. Ready or not, Gen Z is coming and bringing a wave of optimism and motivation that will benefit us all.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

leadership dot #1994: yellow envelope

When Kim Dinan quit her job and set out on an adventure to see the world, a friend wasn’t sure how to commemorate the occasion. What do you give someone who has just sold everything that won’t fit into a backpack?

Her friend decided on a yellow envelope, filled with money and instructions to give the money away to others that they met through their adventures. The envelope came with three conditions: 1. Don’t overthink it, 2. Share your experiences and 3. Don’t feel pressured to give it all away.

What resulted were not only opportunities to help others, but a book and a lecture circuit to share Kim’s experiences. I heard Kim speak of her adventures and how doing something “unexpectedly kind” changes the energy of everything around you.

Like the 1% improvement principle I wrote about yesterday, Kim’s lessons shared the importance of small actions and how a little extra from the yellow envelope made such a difference in the lives of many. “The yellow envelope was magic,” she said. “It was a nudge that caused me to pay attention to opportunities to do good and be kind to someone else.”

You don’t need a literal yellow envelope to share the goodness with others, but it may be something special to pack into your next suitcase.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

leadership dot #1993: 1%

At a recent Diversity Summit, the speaker, Dr. Jermaine Davis, encouraged people to follow the “principle of the slight edge.” He reminded us that Olympic athletes often win a medal by nanoseconds, not leaps and bounds, and that this same idea of incremental improvement can be applied to learning about diversity and inclusion.

It reminded me of a talk by author James Clear who spoke of developing habits that allow for a 1% improvement every day. He recounts the story of Dave Brailsford, the coach of the Brittish cycling team, who believed in the “aggregation of marginal gains.” Brailsford tended to every detail, including bringing pillows on the road so riders slept better, teaching hand washing skills to prevent colds and evaluating the effectiveness of different massage techniques on muscle recovery. His pattern of 1% improvements led to numerous Tour de France titles and Olympic Gold.

Whether it is in weight loss or profit gain, we are too often tempted to look for the silver bullet that will result in a big win. What Davis, Clear and Brailsford show is that the small, repeated behaviors are really the key to long-term success.

Break down your big goal into tiny habits to achieve victory.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

leadership dot #1992: pieces

I spent several hours over the weekend working on a puzzle featuring scoops of ice cream in different flavors. I thought this would be an easy puzzle because of the variety of colors but when I spread out the pieces, all the same color pieces appeared to be the identical and I couldn’t distinguish to which scoop they belonged.

After making little to no progress, I began to see details and features of each piece that revealed their identity: that pecan goes in the scoop in the top left; the cluster of cherry pieces is the pink scoop in the center; the piece with the red connector goes here, etc. All the details became vivid clues and allowed me to complete the picture.

It reminded me of the training exercise where I do a similar thing with oranges. At first, all the fruit looks alike, but then people create distinctions and “identities” for their fruit. Once they craft a story about the fruit, they can easily pick their particular orange out of a bushel.

People, like puzzle pieces or oranges, often look alike when you view them from afar or with broad strokes. It is only when we spend time with them and truly understand their nuances that we come to appreciate the gifts they bring. You never say: “just the piece I’m looking for!” without spending time understanding the specifics of what you need or what you have.

Invest similar time in making connections with other people – by learning about their individuality and discovering what their connection can add to the picture of your world.

Monday, November 13, 2017

leadership dot #1991: red flower

There is a new (to me) philosophy for teaching art to elementary students that involves focusing on self-expression rather than technique. Students are encouraged to pick their own topic to explore, then taught how to use tools and technique to create that art. Instead of being about projects, class is about artistic expression.

When I heard about this concept, I immediately thought of the story about the red flower that was memorialized in an old Harry Chapin song and which is in story form here. In short, a teacher gives explicit instructions so many times that students become reliant upon them and are unable to create on their own, even when given permission to do so.

I think the red flower story has relevance to today’s structured activities for kids – because they grow up always having something on the calendar it becomes difficult for them to create their own fun, even when time permits. And after completing 12+ years of structured schooling, new employees are often challenged in taking initiative at work, instead wait for their supervisor to tell them what to do.

I applaud all efforts that help people – of all ages – truly think about things instead of memorizing them, and bravo to teaching that helps people learn how to conceptualize and understand the rationale of the fundamentals behind what they are studying.

Here’s to creating a gallery of snakes and snowmen and elephants and mice!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

leadership dot #1990: screen door

Without any computer expertise, I’ll bet you could hack into about half of the computers out there. Why? Because people use obvious and easily-guessable passwords.

Keeper online security service reviewed 10 million passwords and found that 17% of them were “123456”! The top 25 passwords accounted for over half of all passwords they analyzed.

Having a weak password is like having a screen door as the main entranceway to your house. You don’t expect someone to break in, but you make it incredibly easy for someone to do so.

Take a few minutes today to put a deadbolt on your electronic door. Use a long string of letters and characters that have meaning for you, but are not found in a dictionary. Or use a password program. Or develop a pattern that you use depending on the site (e.g. your custom string of letters + the second/third/fourth letter of the site for which you are creating the password).

You wouldn’t leave your house door unlocked; don’t do the same for your electronic home either.

Source: Get Serious About Cybersecurity: Three Simple Tips to Safeguard Your Account, American Funds Investor News, September 30, 2017.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

leadership dot #1989: selfie

One innovator combined two concepts together for their new business idea: a) people don’t like the stilted nature of having a professional photo taken and b) people are very willing to take selfies, and in fact, the younger generation is actually pretty good at doing so.

As a result, we now have the Iris Booth, a kiosk where you can take a professional headshot on your own. The booth is an automated photo studio, with LED lighting, retouching/editing options and a high- end camera. What is even better is that you receive six options and one high-resolution download for $20!

As someone who just had new professional shots taken, I can tell you that the price is a bargain, and I think they are on to something by allowing people to take their own shots. I always feel stilted when someone else is taking my photo, so, while I like how my pro photos turned out, I wonder what they would have looked like if it were just me in the booth.

If you travel through the right airport that has an Iris booth, you no longer have to have amateur-looking pictures as your profile photo or professional headshot. Iris allows you to go far beyond “just a selfie”; you can whiten teeth, remove blemishes and soften skin – editing one pose in the booth, or for a mere $5, to do all six later.

The world is becoming much more visual, and quality always matters. Iris Booth saw a need and met it in an innovative way, and did so at a very affordable price. How can you capitalize on access to professional-quality photography for yourself, your team or your organization? It’s time to say “Cheese!”

Thanks, Tracy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

leadership dot #1988: fuel

In the movie Only the Brave, the superintendent Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) takes a group of rookie wildfire firefighters on a training hike up the mountainside. “I want you all to breathe in this beautiful vista,” Marsh tells his men as they come upon an expansive view overlooking acres of forests. “Once you’ve been baptized, you’ll never be able to see it that way again…there’s only one thing you’ll be able to see — that’s fuel.”

I’m certainly not a firefighter and am far away from wildfire territory, but Marsh’s line has stuck with me. He was describing a lens with which to view the world; people wearing an invisible set of glasses that filter everything they see.

I wear those glasses every day, seeing dot topics instead of fuel. I take pictures in stores and on walks; I make notes during movies and while listening to the radio; I read the paper or magazines with leadership dots in mind. For the Granite Mountain Hotshots, trees equal fuel. For me, ideas equal dots.

I believe everyone is wearing some type of glasses with which they filter their life’s experiences. You may see incidents of injustice or be keenly aware of environmental waste. Perhaps your glasses help you see opportunities for entrepreneurship or zero in on unhealthy salts in foods. Maybe you view everything based on what it will cost or how much time it will require from you.

I think the trick is to have multiple sets of glasses and even to borrow others’ lenses for a new perspective sometimes. Don’t miss out on that beautiful vista and only see fuel.

Source for picture: here
Source for quote: Village VoiceTo read the GQ story that inspired the movie: click here

Thursday, November 9, 2017

leadership dot #1987: binge

Tonight is the 300th episode of the television drama Grey’s Anatomy. If the average episode is 42 minutes, that means I have already spent almost 210 hours as a couch potato because of this show.

I could have written a book in that amount of time.

While some have spread their 12,558 minutes over the course of 14 seasons, I came late to the Grey’s party, but thanks to the marvel of Netflix, I was able to catch up. In a few months. Watching far more than 42 minutes at a stretch.

Binge watching has changed the landscape of how television is consumed. It is becoming increasingly rare to watch just one show and to watch it as it originally airs. Even people who could do that often save up a few past episodes so that they can watch them as a set – somehow making it more of an experience than an individual event.

Binge watching has implications far beyond television though. People are getting accustomed to (or should we say “being trained”) to consume things on an on-demand basis and to receive an on-going feed of content they desire. Membership sites with monthly fees are available for delivery of almost every product imaginable. Sites like Netflix and Hulu have vast repositories of content that extend lives of television shows and movies. Now if a show gets a good buzz as the series builds, they can still capture an audience. People want to be able to go back and “catch up” rather than being told they missed their opportunity.

Has your website and content delivery been repackaged to allow for “binge-access” for your clients? It’s no longer enough to just have information about the event: now you need to record it, share it and archive it forever. Have you preserved your newsletters, magazines and other content for someone to retrieve at any point so they are able to meet their need at the moment? Do you provide an easy way for someone to dive deep into your organization and learn about your services, such as when preparing for a job interview or to hire you as a client? Do you have educational resources available for customers to learn all they can about a topic when a specific problem arises?

Binge watching is the new norm for entertainment, but I predict it is going to spread over to consumption of educational content as well. Think about how you package your content so you don’t need a crash cart to resuscitate your brand.