Friday, October 20, 2017

leadership dot #1967: tendencies

Socrates said: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” and even though the advice is two thousand years old, it is still valid; self-knowledge is one of the most powerful tools that you can have in your career arsenal.

I have always been fascinated with personality assessments and tools that help you gain insight into your personal preferences or styles. I look at them as mirrors, bringing into resolution an aspect of myself that I otherwise would not see. The assessments also provide me with language to describe feelings or behaviors that are so ingrained that I take for granted that everyone possesses them.

One of the newest insights has occurred through Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz. The results describe how you respond to inner expectations we set for ourselves and outer expectations that others impose. Rubin outlines four frameworks for the Tendencies: Upholder (who meets both inner and outer expectations), Rebel (who resists both), Questioner (resists outer but meets inner) and Obliger (meets outer but resists inner).

You can take the free quiz here.

Having additional knowledge about yourself can help you design strategies to compensate in areas where you are challenged and to set up systems that play to your strengths. Knowing such information about your staff can also help you tailor your supervisory style to align with others’ tendencies and help everyone achieve success.

Spend a few minutes today heeding Socrates’ advice and gain some wisdom that will help change your habits.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

leadership dot #1966: check out

The Delta Airlines app on my phone recently did an update and I was delighted to learn that they have eliminated the check-in process. Boarding passes will now automatically populate 24 hours before a flight, saving thousands of passengers from tracking down a computer and verifying that they will, in fact, use the non-refundable seat that they have paid hundreds of dollars to buy.

I suspect that airline check-ins have been a staple of the process since commercial flight began. I also imagine that many of those who have a seat that they don’t use still have checked in for the flight: an emergency came up at the last minute, their incoming flight was late so they missed the connection, they were held up en route or at TSA, etc.

I applaud the person who had the wisdom to question this long-standing practice and ask if the value outweighed the inconvenience to passengers. It was something that was taken for granted as part of the process that did not need to remain.

Maybe it is time for you to step back and evaluate the processes that have not been questioned for years. Tom Wujec’s How to Draw Toast may help you structure this exercise. What do you require of your clients that has outlived its usefulness: filling out forms instead of updating them to register each year? Requiring clients to show the same insurance card for each visit? Printing out pages of medication instructions for renewals?

If Delta can fly without manual check-ins, what can you do to travel lighter with your processes?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

leadership dot #1965: Gen X

Generation X Рthose born between 1965-1979 are the middle child of current generational studies. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are seen as pass̩ and all the attention is on Millennials (1980-1994) or Generation Z (1995-present) instead of Gen X even though they represent over 20% of the workforce.

Generation Xers are predominately people in their 40s and were heavily influenced by the social changes that occurred during their childhood. Gen X is the first generation that grew up with technology, one of the factors that make them fans of multi-tasking.

When I first started presenting about Gen X coming to college, they were known as the “baby busters.” While I was aware that, compared to the Baby Boomers, historians labeled them as much more self-oriented and materialistic, what I saw as their key distinguishing trait was the element of choice. Gen Xers had a choice in far more categories than any generation before them: no longer were Prell and Breck the only shampoos, pink and red the only nail colors and one license plate design issued per state. Gen X had aisles full of toothpaste brands, thousands of credit card options and a proliferation of media content.

And with this choice came the desire to have it “my way,” a characteristic that earned them their negative connotations. Gen X was the first generation to be lavished with recognition and praise (making them cynical), and also the first group who wanted to postpone commitment (why decide when there are so many choices and something better may come along?!). This was the first group that grew up with both parents working, making them more independent and interested in autonomy.

Generation Xers hold many of the up-and-coming leadership roles in our organizations and society. Keep their perspective in mind if you are working with or for someone in the 38-52 age range. Provide options, independence, lots of information in little bite-sized pieces, clear procedures and praise!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

leadership dot #1964: easier

A reader with a past gambling history wrote to syndicated columnist Jerry Romansky asking how to handle a night at the casino that other couples planned for the group during their vacation. His advice: “Prevention is easier than correction.”

How true it is, and not just for gambling, but for dozens of other applications:

> Maintaining a grasp on your email volume is easier when done daily rather than when your storage is full.

> Nipping a performance issue in the bud is certainly more effective than discipline down the line.

> Keeping up with preventative maintenance on your car and home is far easier than dealing with repairs.

> Tending to relationships and preventing issues from festering leads to greater satisfaction vs. counseling or shouting.

> Limiting your opponent to small gains and maintaining your lead sure beats playing catch up.

> Keeping your body at an appropriate weight is easier than trying to lose weight after gaining it.

> Spending within your means involves fewer sacrifices than trying to get out of debt.

The time and energy you spend correcting a problem are usually greater than the efforts you would have invested to avoid it. Make the hard choices in the beginning and keep your focus on the prevention side of the equation.

Source: Ask Jerry column by Jerry Romansky in the Telegraph Herald, October 15, 2017, p. 2C

Monday, October 16, 2017

leadership dot #1963: radical candor

As we commemorate Bosses Day today, I remind all bosses and aspiring bosses that one of their most important functions is to provide feedback to employees. One model that helps to frame the spectrum of feedback options was developed by Kim Scott, author of the 2017 book Radical Candor.

Kim’s premise is that for effective feedback, the person must Care Personally and Challenge Directly. If someone has accomplished both aspects, she terms their feedback as Radical Candor – where you can provide direct and helpful feedback to help the person grow.


People often Care Personally – a lot – and because of their focus on being nice, they fail to challenge directly. Kim believes this is Ruinous Empathy, luring the person into a false sense of security because they have not received the honest feedback they deserve.
The opposite extreme is Obnoxious Aggression – feedback that is given without care and thus is often ignored or seen as not helpful.

On her website (radicalcandor.com), Kim shares stories and provides many more examples of the quadrants in action, but I believe this simple diagram will provide you with some fodder to consider today.

Where do you fall on the Care Personally/Challenge Directly spectrum? Have you truly shown your employees (or colleagues, partner, children, etc.) that you care about them? Do you care enough to provide the honest feedback that they would benefit from hearing or do you avoid it to keep yourself comfortable?

We'd all be better off if we delivered feedback with Radical Candor, keeping the civility and care as part of the equation while still saying what needs to be said.

Radical Candor handout

Thanks to Meghan for connecting me with this resource!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

leadership dot #1962: hello science

There have been many efforts to promote science and STEM education with girls, but I think that the target audience will hear the message more loudly thanks to a new partnership with Hello Kitty. The internationally famous icon has come out with a new line of products promoting science, and especially science for girls.

Hello Kitty has previously attached its brand to cosmetic lines and frilly pink items so it is delightful to see it expanding its influence in ways that could encourage young girls to explore new career areas. Even if Hello Kitty fans don’t go into science directly, prompting them to “think like a scientist” will pay dividends in all aspects of life.

Hello Kitty + science is outside their norm, but smart. How can you think beyond the obvious to identify a new spokesperson for your brand and partner with someone that makes your message purr?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

leadership dot #1961: souvenir

How many times has the airport been the only place you have seen in a city? Unfortunately, for frequent travelers, it happens regularly.

Kansas City (KCI) is catering to the airport crowd by offering a vending machine that allows travelers to bring home a souvenir of a higher caliber than the typical tchotchkes sold in airport stores. Even if you never get beyond the concourse, you can purchase desirable items from their clever SouveNEAR machine. It’s like an automated Etsy store, featuring cards, shirts, journals, snacks and jewelry – but all are handmade items that are produced locally.

KCI airport has done a great job of bringing their product to potential customers. Think of how you can take advantage of the ever-expanding capabilities of vending machines to reach your clientele. Spirit wear at athletic venues? Branded merchandise for your organization at your office or events? Convention centers that rotate merchandise depending on the current show? Rain gear at outdoor public places like zoos or amusement parks? A way to sell products of students or employees?

Dorothy and Toto may not be in Kansas anymore, but the effective use of vending machines certainly is. Click your Ruby Slippers and add vending to your brand outreach.

Friday, October 13, 2017

leadership dot #1960: looking for

When you are asked to recommend something – such as a book, a restaurant or an activity – it is tempting to jump in and answer with your favorite item in that category, but that is the wrong approach.

A concierge taught me that the correct answer to such questions is: “What are you looking for?” It is simple, yet brilliant.

> If you ask: “What are you looking for?” you can learn that a person wants either a quick bite to eat or a fancy meal – so your initial thought to recommend your favorite moderate restaurant is not appropriate for either.

> Knowing that someone wants a light romance novel or a romantic comedy movie shifts you away from suggesting the 800-page Hamilton book or Hacksaw Ridge movie even though both were excellent.

> If you learn that someone wants a stylist that is quick or inexpensive, it guides your answer to become much more helpful than giving the name of a professional who is costly and meticulously slow.

Whether providing recommendations for a realtor, candidate, store, contractor or neighborhood, the answer depends significantly on what the questioner is seeking.

No matter on what topic your advice is being solicited, one simple question can provide the clarification that makes your response both relevant and responsive. To provide the best service, reply to the next query with a question instead of an answer.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

leadership dot #1959: cleaning

Chihuly glass sculptures make for great art and are a visual treat for the observers, but what about the person who has to clean them? This article describes the work of glass cleaner Dave Pugh, who meticulously and cautiously takes individual pieces off the stainless steel studs, labels them, wraps them, cleans them and returns them to their original position. It is work behind-the-scenes that few consider, but is essential to the on-going enjoyment of the sculptures.

It reminded me of a photograph of the National Park Service workers who are charged with maintaining the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Twice a year they do their work in the middle of the night, cleaning areas that would entropy without attention. Cleaning the monument involves power washing, steam-cleaning, dusting and hand-finishing of the marble and takes a crew seven hours to complete.


Photo by Terry Adams,
National Park Service


None of the back-of-the-house jobs are glamorous, but all of them are essential. It is work that makes the front-facing elements more enjoyable and maintains the quality instead of allowing it to diminish over time.

Think about what is in your organization that should be on an annual or semi-annual cleaning schedule. Is there an exhibit that is starting to look tired or displays that could benefit from a sprucing up? Do you have furniture that is used daily in your waiting room, but no one can remember when the upholstery was last washed? Have you left all of your outside cleaning to Mother Nature instead of tending to your windows, signs and bricks?

Physical assets may be low maintenance, but nothing is no maintenance. Include some elbow grease time on your annual planning calendar to keep the sparkle in your possessions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

leadership dot #1958: compilation

If you have ever seen a Dale Chihuly sculpture, you know that they are a montage of intertwined glass in vibrant colors, with different shapes and colors assembled in unique and visually captivating forms.

Chihuly's work reminds me of yesterday’s dot, about how the Smithsonian curated a collection of John F. Kennedy photographs purchased from eBay. The exhibit exclusively utilized ordinary artifacts and made them special by their compilation. In a similar way, Chihuly utilizes individual pieces of glass that are not spectacular by themselves, but create stunning works of arts through their arrangement.

I think that too often we believe that greatness or creativity must be ONE.BIG.THING. -- a monumental discovery, an epic piece of art or a product that is truly magnificent. What Chihuly and the Smithsonian demonstrate is that little things can add up to create something with synergy greater than the individual pieces. Dots that are connected can result in something amazing and new, even though the components are not so special if considered alone.

Don’t let your fear of the mountain prevent you from taking that first step. Start from where you are, with what you have, and see if you don’t end up with something noteworthy by putting together the ordinary in new ways.



Chihuly Sanctuary at the Buffet Cancer Center, Omaha

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

leadership dot #1957: curate

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian features 77 photographs of President John F. Kennedy – nothing extraordinary there, except that all of them were purchased on eBay.

I imagine the Smithsonian as an elite institution with access to behind-the-scenes, never-before-seen artifacts (which I am sure is true), but for this exhibit, they chose to display only materials previously seen by thousands. And, again by choice, the materials were exhibited in their original form – without enlargements or enhancements for the display.

What struck me about this is that everyone had access to this Smithsonian-quality exhibit. You could have curated the exact same thing in your home or office. The magic is not in the items themselves, rather in the compilation of them.

What items can you assemble en masse to create a story of your own? Maybe it involves a wall of photographs, a collection of magazine covers or record albums, historical documents from your organization or ticket stubs from the events you have sponsored.

Whether from your archives or via eBay, your story is waiting to be told. Be resourceful like the Smithsonian and gather the visuals you need to tell it.

Source: Smithsonian displays JFK photos by Alex Gangitano for the Tribune News Service, in the Telegraph Herald, May 14, 2017, p. 5C.

Monday, October 9, 2017

leadership dot #1956: team building

I continue to be astonished at how many organizations leave some of their most important people to fend for themselves and leave critical relationships to chance.

In organization after organization, I see people promoted to a supervisory role with little to no training on how to be effective in that drastically new position. Managers assume that if they had a star employee doing X that the person will remain a star when now supervising those who do X, even though the two skill sets are vastly different.

I also see too many organizations that believe because a group of people has a common function that they automatically become a team. Putting a group of people together under a heading on the organizational chart does nothing to take into account the dynamics of that relationship, the trust required to form a solid foundation or the challenges in communication that arise when multiple people are involved. Yet the organization offers little in terms of formal team building experiences or aid to the leader on how to create a cohesive unit.

This does not need to happen! There are many excellent resources and opportunities if only the organization wished to be intentional about building capacity in its key staff.

Don’t assume strong supervision or effective team development will happen on its own. Proactively investing in those who lead others permeates many levels and provides value throughout the whole organization.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

leadership dot #1955: dispense

You have seen public art, but the Prudential Mall in Boston has a new take on making culture accessible to the masses. The concourse features a Short Story Dispenser where you can select a reading time (1, 3 or 5 minutes) and the machine produces a story for your enjoyment. It’s fast, easy and free!

The one-minute version was about a foot long; the five-minute version ran for about a yard. Both provided interesting little tales that had been translated into English. The strips also included a little “Thank you for visiting Prudential Center” at the bottom and a link to read 80,000 other short stories. What a delightful way to add a bit of serendipity and tactile component to the mall user experience.

When you are thinking about providing art for your space, don’t limit yourself to visual arts. The written word has much to offer, especially if you can be equally creative in how you dispense it to your patrons.



Thanks Meg!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

leadership dot #1954: bookshelf

What books constitute your ideal bookshelf? It’s a question they asked at the local independent bookstore, where they also provided this template for you to create your own.

The exercise is inspired by Thesslay LaForce’s book My Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of ideal bookshelves of leading cultural figures. The responses to the reflection – even which categories you choose, let alone the individual books -- speak volumes about the person and can be a fun exercise for you to ponder.

Examples of books to put on your "shelf" include: the book I never finished, a book that makes me laugh out loud, my childhood favorite, the best book I ever read, a book that makes me laugh out loud, the book that makes me look smart, the book I would grab if the house was burning, the book that gives me happy tears, the book that made me who I am, the book that changed my life, the book I read again and again, a book my best friend gave me or an unforgettable book. Or you can just follow the template which allows readers free reign to pick the “ten titles you can’t live without.”

If you’re an avid reader, choosing one per category or ten titles overall can be a challenging task, but a fun one too as you reconsider all the treasures that have crossed your path. This weekend, instead of curling up with a good book, think about using a template and some colored pencils to create your ideal bookshelf instead. Then share it with others at #idealbookshelf for a fascinating read in itself.


Friday, October 6, 2017

leadership dot #1953: resolve

Why is it that we often spend more time figuring out who to blame for the problem than we do trying to fix the error?

A colleague recounted the story of inquiring about wastebasket that had disappeared from the conference room. When she asked about it, she learned that a substitute custodian inadvertently threw the garbage can away. (The trash cans are small and sit inside the recycling can that is much larger.) But two weeks later, there was still no replacement wastebasket.

Staff knew the wastebasket was thrown away and likely had a discussion with the custodian to make sure they were aware of their error as to not repeat it in the future. But no one thought to place a new wastebasket in the room? It seemed people were so focused on the fact that the custodian threw away the trash can that they missed thinking through the next step.

Wouldn’t it be better if the focus became less on the error (mistakes happen) and more on how to respond to the error and get back on track with what needs to be in place? Problems seem to derail people from taking the logical next step to resolve the issue, instead of just to identify it.

It’s one thing to learn what happened, but it is so much better to follow through and rectify the problem instead of just stopping when you receive an explanation. Find a new trash can when you learn that one was inadvertently tossed. Wipe up the mess instead of walking around it and asking: “what happened?” Fix the copier or call repair when you see that the indicator comes on instead of just tossing up your hands. Let someone know that the website isn’t working instead of just growling about it.

The key information isn’t who caused the problem; the crucial element is who resolves it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

leadership dot #1952: historian

The goal of the Iowa Barn Foundation Barn Tour was to allow people access to historic barns, but what I enjoyed more than seeing the building was the farmer who provided our “tour.” Jack Smith is the proud (and I do mean proud!) owner of a barn built in 1917. It is a formidable structure and in great condition, but the real treat was hearing Jack get giddy over being able to share his history with visitors.

Jack has amassed quite a collection of antique farming implements and machines, tinkering with them to learn how the contraptions functioned. Some are still a mystery today. He has scoured old equipment catalogs to research the origins and usage of pieces that he inherited. He has a collection of flour bags with ancestors’ names stamped on them and even purchased a sign from the sawmill where the barn itself was first milled. Rather than display the goods as in a museum, Jack entertained guests with stories that brought the history to life. He said: “Isn’t it cool” more times than a kid on Christmas.

I would bet that there are “Jacks” in many organizations – or in the ranks of their former members. Think of how you can capture the enthusiasm and knowledge of these passionate historians. Could you ask them to become ambassadors and provide in-person storytelling to groups of new employees or guests? Perhaps you need to record their tales to immortalize their observations and reflections. Maybe you just need “your Jack” to walk through your facility and identify its background so that you can create signs or ways to share it with others.

That barn became so much more than a grand old building because of the love the owner imparted. Find ways to communicate the love that formed your organization in a way that shows its heart, not just its words.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

leadership dot #1951: tell me more

A colleague was struggling as to how to get more feedback from her supervisor and asked for my advice:

Is it the responsibility of the supervisor to modify behavior to meet the expressed needs of the employee or is it the responsibility of the employee to modify expectations of what the supervisor can provide? For example, the employee says she would like feedback from the supervisor as it would help her morale and let her know the supervisor is invested and confident in the employee's success.

The supervisor says she has multiple employees and it is not possible for her to function that way. She cannot be proactive but is committed to being immediately reactive when asked. So now there is an impasse - the employee made a request that will improve performance and the supervisor is not willing to accommodate that request. Is that where things sit? Should the employee now change her needs or should the supervisor attempt to accommodate the employee? Or is it a combination of both?”

Two thoughts come to mind.  One is the Marcus Buckingham quote about clarity in supervision that I have written about before. The supervisor was clear that a) she won’t be proactive and b) she doesn’t have time. While not the employee’s ideal answer, it sure beats having a supervisor that is wishy-washy. Really.

My second thought is for the employee to take the supervisor’s answer and run with it. The supervisor said she would be responsive, so ASK. I have been working with some younger staff members that also want more feedback than their boss is giving them. I suggested that they frame their question around “one thing.”  What is the one thing I did best this month?  What is the one thing I could do better to improve?  What is the one thing that worked best for you to close sales?  What is the one thing that you see as a gift I have?  What is the one piece of advice you would have for me before I meet with Company X?

What I heard the supervisor say is that she doesn’t have time. Whether explicitly stated or not, it is true for many supervisors, so I suggest that employees frame their questions so they don’t take a ton of time. By asking for F.E.E.D.B.A.C.K., it requires a lot of thought (aka time) to formulate a response and to be inclusive. The supervisor doesn’t want to say A and B when later she might think of A and B and C and then get caught because she left something out.  By asking for “one thing” you let her off the hook by saying just A. It could be A-Z, but she doesn’t need to take the time to think of all those things. And the thing that is top of mind is the most important to her anyway.

The desire for more feedback is an on-going struggle, especially between Baby Boomers and younger generations. Try the question approach as a way to meet in the middle.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

leadership dot #1950: limits

OneNote, binders, baskets, Moleskins, notebooks, index cards and files – I have tried many systems to collect the ideas I amass for dots, articles, sessions, class, etc. – but none of them have really hit a sweet spot for me. So the other day, I decided to make a list of the “pending” ideas that I have out there – collected from emails, clippings, notes, saved social media links and cut out articles.

There are many days when I feel like I have no ideas from which to write a leadership dot, but in reality, my problem is that I have too many ideas. Because there is more than one option, I waste valuable time and energy trying to decide which ideas connect with each other or what topic to pick for the day.

It reminded me of this quote (also in the pile!) from Box of Crayon’s Great Work Provocations: “One paradox is that creativity needs boundaries to flourish. How could you tighten the parameters?”

 The people that created a human-centered design class I am taking certainly subscribe to this principle. We had about 90 minutes to interview subjects, assess needs, brainstorm options and develop a crude prototype for possible solutions about how to make the morning commute better. If we would have been given 90 hours, our prototype would have been more elaborate, but I don’t think our proposed options would have been significantly better. The constraints kept us focused on the task, instead of wasting time hoping to come up with the perfect answer.

Whether for writing dots or completing other creative pursuits, too much time or too many options seem like it should be a good thing, but, counterintuitively, it isn’t. If you erect some fences, you’ll be free to run within them.

Source: Great Work Provocation, September 14, 2017. Subscribe here.



Monday, October 2, 2017

leadership dot #1949: the prize

For the umpteenth time, I watched The Shawshank Redemption and loved it as much as when I first saw it. The same is true for It’s a Wonderful Life, one of my favorites that I will watch yet again during the holiday season.

Both of these movies have become popular classics and are shown over and over on television. Yet neither of them were Oscar winners – in any category.

Although they were both nominees for Best Picture and had several nominations in other categories, the only Academy Award or Golden Globe win between the two of them was a Golden Globe for Frank Capra as director. (Ironically, the Japanese Film Academy awarded Shawshank as Best Foreign Film!)

Yet today, both movies have been included by the American Film Institute in the top 100 movies ever made. The Library of Congress has preserved Shawshank in the National Film Registry as a movie that is “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” It’s a Wonderful Life has been called “one of the most loved films in American cinema.”

Filmmakers may think that the Academy Awards or Golden Globes are the ultimate prize and such recognition is necessary for validation of their work. These two films show that it is not.

Don’t let your self-esteem or fortitude be dampened because you did not win the equivalent of your Oscar. Keep creating good work and let knowing that you did be your prize.

Source: imdb and Wikipedia





Sunday, October 1, 2017

leadership dot #1948: take for granted

There are many things that you take for granted: that the city will notify you when your taxes are due, that they have the correct address to do so and that your sidewalks and streets aren’t for sale. But for a San Francisco community, none of these things proved to be true.

In a fluke case, an unpaid tax bill on the common areas of an exclusive private street (including sidewalks, the street and parking) caused the city to put the property up for sale. The bill ($994) went unpaid because the accountant’s address hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. So when the land went on the auction block, a real estate developer bought it and wants to charge the homeowners to park in front of their homes. Now there will be far more than $994 in legal bills as the new landowners and the long-time residents duel over who has control.

You know the morals of the story: Don’t take things for granted. Details matter. Little things can turn into large problems if left unchecked. Today is just a reminder to heed the wisdom.

Thanks Meg!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

leadership dot #1947: untangled

When one of my necklace chains gets tangled, I invariably want to try to untangle it by hand. It looks so simple, like you could just wiggle it apart and be on your way, but it never is.

What I have found is that using two pins to dislodge a knot is the way to do it. One pin holds the chain in place while the other pin is used to untangle the chain at the knot and efficiently pull it apart. Works like a charm every time.

I think the necklace untangling is a metaphor for how it works to pull apart conflicts in organizations. It seems like it should be easy, but often is not. The more you resist, the tighter the obstruction becomes. A few key tools (or people) go a long way in diffusing the situation: one to hold steady, another to work cautiously to make small movements of progress. The untangling happens with a little loosening here and a little loosening there until the knot has worked its way through the chain and the necklace (or situation) is smoothed out.

Untangling – whether in organizations or in jewelry – is a process of small movements that eventually lead to resolution. Hold steady and go slow to smooth out your knots.

Friday, September 29, 2017

leadership dot #1946: Boomers

I have always been fascinated by the study of generations – maybe because I worked so long on a college campus and could see the differing attitudes and values of the students over time. In keeping with using the dot number (1946) as the inspiration for the content, today I share information about the Baby Boomer generation, so named because there was such an influx of babies after soldiers returned home from World War II.

The years between 1946 and 1964 are categorized as the Baby Boomer generation, representing about one-quarter of today’s workforce. Baby Boomers grew up in an era of prosperity following World War II and lived through Vietnam, landing on the moon and rock ‘n roll. Boomers experienced the Cold War and Woodstock as well as civil rights protests and the women’s movement. Their sheer numbers have made them a force in the economy.

There is much written today about working among the generations as four or five different groups are simultaneously employed. Boomers, who now are primarily in their 50s and 60s, are often supervising Generation X, Millennials (Generation Y) or Generation Z – all of whom have different communication preferences, needs from work and lifestyles.

Those who work with (or for) Baby Boomers will find them to be comfortable with hierarchy and bureaucracy. They have been raised in a more linear world and organizational structure where there are rules to be followed and bosses to be obeyed. While not quite as traditional as the generation before them, many Boomers find their identity tied to their job and thus value the titles, rewards and prestige that come from career advancement. They have a strong work ethic and are willing to make sacrifices or compete against others to climb the career ladder, but strongly believe others should first pay their dues as well.

Baby Boomers can sometimes be resistant to change, fearing that the “new” will render their expertise (thus, them) less valuable. To succeed while working with a Baby Boomer, remember that they have grown up embracing face-to-face communication and value those in-person connections. Baby Boomers bring the wisdom that comes from experience to the workplace. Acknowledge and honor their experience in an in-person exchange and help them understand how meeting the different needs of a younger generation can make the whole team stronger. Boomers are used to learning in order to get ahead; help them learn from you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

leadership dot #1945: ours

A carrier delivers a box from a retailer and leaves it out in the rain, thus ruining the contents. Who do you blame – the store or the driver?

A shirt arrives in the mail, but has a defective seam. Do you find fault with seller or their manufacturer?

You buy a loaf of bread and find that it is moldy – are you aggravated with the store or the baker?

Every organization has a host of partners upon whom they rely to deliver goods and services on behalf of the organization. Those who do service best treat these relationships as part of their internal workings and realize that the organization owns the liabilities others may have caused, rather than redirecting their customers elsewhere.

How do you handle something that was not in your control, but had an impact on your clients? The answer should be: “as graciously and expeditiously as you would handle a mistake you made yourself.”

There is a technical accounting term FOB (“Free on Board”) to determine at what point responsibility of the goods and costs of shipping them transfer between the seller and the buyer. While FOB is used for commercial transactions, the concept can apply to organizations as they consider how to establish customer service policies and relate to their ultimate consumers.

Responsibility and ownership do not transfer when the box is delivered, the shirt is shipped or the bread makes it into the cupboard. The original organization is wise to service the transaction far into the future, regardless of where in the chain a misstep occurred.

A sign in an auto dealer maintenance shop reads: “They buy the first car because of the sales department and every other car after that because of the service department.”

Consider your FOB to mean Forever Our Business and handle issues that arise with aplomb – no matter who caused them.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

leadership dot #1944: right

Are lobsters yellow? If you answered no, you would be right one in 29,999,999 times, but, as this photo shows, they do appear once in about every 30 million births. And lobsters are blue, orange and split colors as well as the traditional orange, so if you insisted that these tasty crustaceans only come in one color, you would be wrong.



It makes sense that after years of seeing something only one way you would be convinced with some certainty that you are correct in your understanding. Where people get in trouble is that too often they insist that their experience is the only correct answer and that it applies to the breadth of the topic, not just a narrow interpretation.

I am reminded of this meme that was shared on Twitter:


The copy below the drawing claims that there is a “right” answer, but from the narrow context of what we see, there is not. Is it a six or a nine? Yes. But if you backed up or saw a larger context, one answer is likely to be wrong.

Right is a narrow construct. You can be right if the question is tightly defined. The broader your parameters are, the less likely there is a certainty. You are right that most lobsters are orange. But if you expand to consider more of them, a variety appears.
We’d all be better off you make claims of fact with caution and qualifiers that define the limits of your knowledge and experience, and if you were open to nuances that change your answer.

Thanks Meg!



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

leadership dot #1943: act

How is Ikea’s strategy impacted by what Apple does?

You wouldn’t think that the two influence each other, but when one of the giants makes a shift in direction, it impacts others down the supply chain. Such was the case when Apple recently announced that the iPhone X would have wireless charging. Suddenly a whole new market opened up for wireless chargers.

One of those to capitalize on this was an unlikely beneficiary: Ikea. The Swedish furniture-seller was quick to jump on the news and published a set of great ads promoting its lamps with wireless chargers. They never mention the iPhone by name, but clearly are targeting the next generation of users.

See their brilliant ads with headlines such as “Siri, what lamp should I buy?” and “Apple Juice” here.



It’s one thing to keep abreast of what is happening, and quite another to respond to it – and to do so quickly. This campaign seems to have come together quicker and more easily than you can assemble an Ikea bookshelf!

As you watch what is happening in the news, with your competition or with others in seemingly unrelated industries, go beyond saying “noted” or “humm...” and take that first step to act on your insight.

Thanks Tricia!


Monday, September 25, 2017

leadership dot #1942: towards

I have a plant in my house that was growing like crazy – actually, too much to accommodate the pot it was in and the place where it was located – so I turned it away from the sun to slow the growth down.

And what happened?

The plant reoriented itself and sprouted a whole new batch of growth – reaching back across the plant in the direction of the sun. The light was so compelling that growing “towards” something overrode the obstacles designed to keep the plant at bay.



In your organization, work to be the light that provides a strong “why” or greater purpose that makes your employees determined to move in that direction even when there are barriers. What can you do today to be “the sun” and create a spot of inspiration that your people want to move towards, even when circumstances make it more difficult for them to do so?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

leadership dot #1941: own it

I have written before about the importance of color in branding, and it came back to the forefront when the color gurus at Pantone named a special color in honor of Prince. You may not be a fan of his or able to name one song, but I suspect that the majority of readers could tell the color was purple. Prince “owned” purple and used it to his advantage in marketing and branding.

My city underwent a branding exercise a few years ago and should have taken a lesson from Prince’s songbook on how to effectively use color. While their primary logo is in orange, I don’t think I have seen anything else that is. The street signs are blue. The recycling bins are red. The councilmen’s shirts are royal. The bills are in blue. The police car is silver with red lettering. There is not a square of orange to be found in the new building.

It is a lost opportunity to choose a distinctive color and then opt to ignore it. Crayons come in boxes of eight colors or more, but effective brands rely on one or two.


Pantone Love Symbol #2

Saturday, September 23, 2017

leadership dot #1940: years

As the “dot” numbering gets deep into the 1900s, the number of the dot has started to remind me of significant events that occurred during those years – which reminds me of a favorite icebreaker in a similar vein.

The facilitator writes different years on strips of paper and tosses them into a basket. Years should be from last year back through the approximate age range of participants, with one year written separately on each strip.

Participants then draw a year out of the basket and share a story with the group of what they were doing during that year or what memory the year stimulates. There will likely be a lot of mental calculating involved as people try to recall how old they were or what they were doing during that year, but it just adds to the fun. I have also heard of people doing the same activity using pennies with different years (if you have the fortitude to assemble such a variety!).

An adaptation of this is to assign each person (or allow people to draw) a year in advance of a gathering and ask people to research what was happening within the organization during that period. It’s a quick way to infuse some stories of the organization and provide context for how things have evolved. You can do several assignments before a group event or have one per meeting over a period of time.

Or you can even play along at home for the next few months and think of what each dot number represents as a year in your world!

Friday, September 22, 2017

leadership dot #1939: dominoes

As I think of the dot number today (1939), I am reminded of that year when Hitler invaded Poland and World War II began. It was the trigger event that started the war, but it got me wondering what led up to that event. First Hitler had to come to power. He had to choose Poland as a place to invade first. He had to negotiate a nonaggression pact with Poland in 1934 “to neutralize the possibility of a French-Polish military alliance against Germany before Germany had a chance to rearm.”* He had to assemble and equip an army. And a thousand other things occurred within Germany, Poland and the world to set the stage for the initial invasion to happen.

I wonder what the first domino was that started this horrific chain of events. More so, I wonder what dominoes are in play right now and are lining up for other events to happen. You could cite steps leading to climate change or the state of U.S. politics, but, closer to home, think about the dominoes in your organization. What small steps are happening now that seem insignificant, but eventually will take on greater prominence – either for good or ill?

Consider who is in your talent pipeline – will that brand new hire become CEO after a few decades – or does the departure of a key employee alter the trajectory of the organization? Is that preliminary research into a new market what will cause your growth to explode? Is there an idea that is percolating now which will eventually become the main focus of your work? Is someone making a decision that puts the organization at a crossroads with its values and will determine its future path?

Hitler didn’t wake up on September 1, 1939 and decide to invade Poland; that strategy was in the works for years before. Who knows what is in the works today.
We can’t predict the future, but we can watch for signs that will alert us to what is already in process and more likely to manifest itself into reality. Pay attention to the “dots” as the inertia of the universe is compelled to connect them with something.

*Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Invasion of Poland, Fall 1939

Thursday, September 21, 2017

leadership dot #1938: outline

As a supervisor, it is sometimes difficult to know how deeply to probe into the details of a project and when to hold back.

On one of my coaching calls, I was talking with a client about focusing on the bigger picture instead of getting mired down in the specifics that were no longer his job. I suggested that he use an outline approach and consciously track his level of questioning for a week to really get a feel for where he inserted himself into the conversation and what level of questions he most frequently asked:

Level I. Was he asking appropriate big picture questions that tied the project to overall strategy?
                    Level A. Was he asking high level information about the project?
                                              Level 1. Was he asking about more specific details?
                                                                       Level a: Or was he asking about minutia?

By keeping track mentally, or even literally making little hash marks for a few days, it will help him get a grasp on whether or not he is spending too much time on Level 1 or Level a questions, thus learning things he does not need to know. A supervisor is best when they can spend the time with staff adding value and connecting work to the raison d’etre rather than duplicating someone else’s job.

I asked my client why he felt it important to know all the details about so many things. “What if I am asked a question about something?” he answered. “What if you said ‘I don’t know, I’ll ask my staff member in charge and get back to you’?” I replied. The world will not end.
It takes time to learn information and if it is knowledge that you aren’t using, I’ll bet you have other uses for that precious commodity. A supervisor should be elevating the conversation, not moving it downward into things that should be the staff’s responsibility. Which direction do most of your questions take the discussion?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

leadership dot #1937: up your game

Having worked on a college campus for 30 years, I have long been attuned to the impact of rising expectations in other areas of life. When Amazon creates an easily searchable, fully mobile website, then students think that everyone’s website is of that caliber. If Chipotle allows you to customize your burrito, then the campus dining hall should have the same capability. If the local high school gives every student a new computer or is equipped with a state-of-the-art science lab, well, then, colleges should be even more technologically advanced. And if there are caps and gowns for kindergarten “graduation”, what does it take to elevate a college commencement to the prominence it deserves?

The bar was raised even higher by Sports Illustrated, which, in a move of genius, created SI Play, a platform that allows any team – from pee wee to high schools – to create their own mobile app – for free. SI Play is a platform for anyone involved in youth sports to share scores, photos and team information. It also tracks practices, travel locations, attendance and even scouting reports. SI Play launched in 2015, but already has 17 million users and has spurred a separate tournament management app and a third for live score sharing (not to mention a treasure trove of content for SI and SIKids!)

Think about it: if there is a professional app and multi-level functionality for the T-ball club, what does it do to raise expectations for your organization? The field isn’t leveled against your competition or others in your industry. You’re playing ball against all stars and, like it or not, things like SI Play should force you to up your game -- even if that game has nothing to do with youth sports.