Tuesday, January 31, 2017

leadership dot #1705: jazz

Over the weekend, I saw the movie La La Land. The primary character Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling) is a jazz aficionado, but in a way that plays tribute to Count Basie, Thelonious Monk and the legends from days gone by. He is struggling as to whether to accept a steady gig with his friend Keith who has modernized, even electrified, a new type of jazz music.
"How are you going to be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist?" Keith asks Sebastian. "How are you going to save Jazz if no one's listening?"
It reminds me of the discussions we are having in the business class I am teaching. Many of our case studies revolve around whether the CEO has the right vision or is best suited for the company given its current stage in the organization's life cycle. Often the issue boils down to the CEO deciding to become a revolutionary instead of a traditionalist in this moment.
I think we all reach a point in both our personal and organizational lives where we have to wrestle with letting go of the past in order to create the future. You need to "preserve the core" as Collins and Porras* wrote, but "stimulate progress." You need to honor the music and improvisation of the legends, while embracing the rhythms and beats of a modern audience in order to thrive. What kind of jazz will you be playing?
Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, 1994

Monday, January 30, 2017

leadership dot #1704: matchy matchy

Many moons ago, I complimented someone who was wearing red shoes and a different shade of red scarf. I asked why she had chosen not to wear her pair of red eyeglasses that day. "Too matchy, matchy," she said. 
The comment has always stuck with me. I am not adventurous in color pairings in my house or wardrobe -- in part because of a lack of knowledge, and in part because of ease. It seems that I am not alone as Lowes now sells a new line of window shades that can be the exact color of your paint, allowing the shades to blend into your walls. Maybe that is a good thing, or maybe it is too "matchy, matchy."
Is part of our larger problem that we are trying to make too many things in our lives "matchy, matchy?" We want to hang with people who look like we do. We have social media feeds with those whose opinions match ours. We frequent the same places, read the same magazines and cultivate our tribe. It's very comfortable, but is that the aim?
I recommend taking small steps to mix up your world. Clothing is an area where it is relatively easy and inexpensive to experiment. You can wear one combination for a day, and if you don't like it, you never need to pair the pieces again. That tie clashes with the shirt? Pick a different one tomorrow. Is it going to bring world peace? Not alone, but small steps toward openness need to start somewhere.
Commit to having one less thing in your world this week that is "matchy, matchy." There is a whole color wheel out there just waiting for you to take it for a spin, and a wide array of diversity wanting to color your world.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

leadership dot #1703: misdirection

It seems that nothing is straightforward anymore. In much the same way as I read the cereal box because there is nothing else available, while I was sitting at Sam's snack bar, I was reading their menu and pricing chart.
Each item is featured in its own display panel, so a side-by-side comparison doesn't come naturally. I am sure that is by design.
If you just buy a drink, it is 89 cents.
> A hotdog alone is $1.30. A hotdog and drink is $1.70 -- so the drink is an additional 20 cents.
> A slice of pizza is $1.98, but a pizza and drink is $2.49 -- so the drink is an additional 51 cents.
> A pretzel is 99 cents, but a pretzel and drink is $1.78 -- so the drink is an additional 79 cents.
> A pork sandwich is $2.99, but the sandwich, chips and drink combo costs an additional $1.78 -- so the drink and chips are actually full price at 89 cents each.
The drink as an add-on ranges from a 77% discount to none. People inherently think that "a combo" price affords them a better deal, but I doubt many take the time to discern the variances. The same is true of sale shopping -- as in Kmart's going-out-of-business sale where the discounted price was still more than the everyday price at other retailers, but people were walking out with a cart full.
With pricing as well as what you read on the internet, a second look often makes sense -- or cents, depending.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

leadership dot #1702: hidden truth

There has been a lot more attention paid to introverts recently, in part because of Susan Cain's book Quiet and also due to other business leaders recognizing the untapped potential of those who go inward for their energy. There are many serious studies and resources to help the extroverted understand their more introverted colleagues.
But on a light note, the differences between the temperaments can be summed up in one humorous banner. Instead of the usual HAPPY BIRTHDAY or CONGRATULATIONS you would find strung in big letters across twine at a party, this one says: PLEASE LEAVE BY 9. I laughed out loud when I saw it for the truth that it proclaimed.
There is not one right way to draw your energy or to do your mental processing, but the ways of introversion and extraversion differ in how they do so. Whether through humor or just plain 'ole understanding, it helps to honor the ways your colleagues are hard-wired and to provide them with outlets to be at their best. Even if it means exiting when you are just getting started.

Friday, January 27, 2017

leadership dot #1701: wise beyond her years

My sister took her 9-year old daughter with her to the Women's March in Washington last weekend. Afterwards, my niece reflected on her experience to share it with her class. 
Here is what she learned:
  • It is important to stand up for your rights
  • My voice matters
  • There are many kind people who believe like I believe
  • Love is better than hate or fear
  • I could speak freely at the march, but I couldn’t in other places
  • I can make a difference, even if I’m a kid
  • It’s not just one day, we have to keep our voices going
  • Women should have the same amount of rights as men
  • Even though it was hard—I was tired—it was important not to back down
In addition to the great lessons she shares above, the act of compiling them highlights the enormous power of reflection. Too often we let our lives whiz by without taking a few moments to consider the impact we are having or the meaning of our experiences. Take a lesson from this wanna-be veterinarian or perhaps president-to-be and learn from your living.

To see Josie's whole presentationclick here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

leadership dot #1700: flat

In the 1964 book Flat Stanley (by Jeff Brown), a bulletin board falls on Stanley while he is sleeping, and temporarily flattens him. This allows him to be mailed  -- which became the inspiration for the Flat Stanley Project. Canadian schoolteacher Dale Hubert had the great idea for children to make a construction paper figure and mail it to far-flung friends and relatives, who posed "Stanley" in photos from all around the globe, and then mailed Stanley back to the student to learn geography. Recently, many organizations have used the idea in conjunction with social media to spur sharing with their own version of Stanley in a photo.
You can create your own adaptation of this exercise, only use it to illustrate concepts a bit more germane to your organization. Have teams make a paper character and appropriately name it for your group, then send them out with a list of photos to procure featuring their character.  (You can limit them to your office, or allow them expanded time/distance/latitude for the assignment.)
Suggestions include:
> Two teams collaborating
> A place where learning is happening
> The mission coming to life
> Innovation in the making
> Someone providing stellar service
> An area that needs improvement
> Something that makes you proud
> Money well spent
> A strength
> Something that helps the bottom line
> With a person everyone should know
> An opportunity
Then have the teams share the photos with the whole group, as a way not only to reinforce their learning, but to expose the others to new ways of seeing the organization. You flat out can't beat it for a team exercise.
Example of a flat character
Example of a flat character
Someone helping students (financial aid)
Pix of "Someone helping students" (financial aid)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

leadership dot #1699: unsterile

James Garfield had been the United States president for just four months before he was shot in 1881 while walking to his train. The official cause of death is blood poisoning and complications from the shooting, but ignorance and stubbornness played a more substantial role.
At the time, doctors in America did not use antiseptic or take proactive measures to lessen germs and infections. The Europeans had already adopted such practices, but in the U.S. doctors lay Garfield on the train station platform and no less than 12 of them probed his wound with unsterilized fingers in search of the bullet! While they had the best of intentions, hindsight reveals that Garfield would have likely survived the gunshot, even with the bullet remaining inside him, had it not been for the human-induced germs. Instead, he died a grueling 80 days later.
Doctors in the United States soon embraced antiseptics, but at the time their actions were more detrimental than doing nothing. It's not that they did not know about the Listerian Theory that germs caused disease; they just did not believe it because it ran contrary to their decades of thinking that illness was caused by things you could see.
Consider the ways you may be acting like the doctors in 1881. What knowledge have you dismissed because it does not fit with your current model? Have you done all you can to expose yourself to new thinking and modern advances in your field? Are you open to asking for help when confronted with a problem? Are there things you are doing that are causing more harm than good to your self or your organization? The medical community learned from President Garfield's death; perhaps you can too.
Thanks to Margo Kemp Johnson for this idea.
Source:  How Doctors Killed President Garfield, CBS News, July 5, 2012. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

leadership dot #1698: democracy

You may have heard that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will have its final performance in May. The circus, an attraction that used to draw crowds to fill the big tops and employ a thousand people, is closing after 146 years of entertainment. In 1971, the circus was sold for $40 million but now it is months away from disbanding.
I thought of this over the weekend when I was a scavenger in the shell of our Kmart store, now holding the final days of sales before it closes. In 1990, Kmart was the second largest retailer in the United States, just behind Sears. Kmart had 2,165 stores in 2000 and now it has less than 800 and falling. Blockbuster had over 8,000 stores at one point before its closing.
We know that just a shadow of these businesses remain today, but in their prime it was inconceivable to think of their demise. The circus, Sears and others had been around generations, and most thought they would continue throughout their lifetimes. Entropy is a powerful force, and if you do not tend to the culture and organization, death is more certain than life.
We have been a great nation for 240 years, but nothing guarantees that democracy will continue to flourish on its own. Democracy requires attention, passion, involvement and courage. It requires people willing to make sacrifices to promote it. Don't let "government of the people, by the people and for the people" become a circus and follow its fate.

Monday, January 23, 2017

leadership dot #1697: women

At the local Women's March on Saturday, one of the speakers urged women to consider becoming candidates themselves. "If women aren't at the table, they aren't being heard," she said, as if being a woman automatically wired you to address issues of human rights, climate change and immigration in universally agreeable ways. The Women's March wasn't because there is a male in the White House, and I don't support advocating for women just because they are women. It becomes one more variable to polarize us. 
Currently, I am represented by females in the Senate and state legislature. I did not vote for either one as they have vastly different policy views than I do. In contrast, I supported male candidates who shared my values though not my chromosome makeup.
No one person can "be" all that they need to consider in their actions. Males don''t automatically ignore females; Muslims don't inherently ignore Christians; Latinos can't disregard African Americans; the middle class can't forget the poor and so on. Those in leadership roles need to develop empathy for all their constituents and cultivate skills such as inclusion, listening, questioning and seeing. 
Yes, it would be nice if more CEOs, politicians and leaders were women. But I'll take more who think like I do any day, regardless of how they look.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

leadership dot #1696: gift card

The local independent movie theatre acknowledges that many may have received gift cards from the mega-plex for the holidays. Rather than lose their business to the chain theatre, the indie cinema is offering to redeem the AMC gift cards, dollar for dollar, plus throw in some freebies. They see it as a way for people to experience their theatre for the first time, and, hopefully become converts once they see how much cheaper the concessions are.
What a great idea. Movie theatres have excess capacity, so a few extra bodies in the seats costs them nothing. Pop and popcorn are cheap too, so a few giveaways can be considered advertising and may have a hefty return in the long run. AMC card holders may bring paying friends or spend beyond their gift card limit. And it keeps people away from the competitors and out of the habit of always going there without considering the independent place.
Think about what you have in excess that you can use to lure potential customers away from competitors. Can you offer to provide free services as a trial basis if someone can prove they currently go elsewhere? Do you offer a discounted registration to members of a sister association? Can you replicate the gift card redemption in some other way? It could be the gift that keeps on giving.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

leadership dot #1695: inscription

Last week when I picked up my mail, I was surprised to see a book delivered that I did not order. When I l looked at it more closely, I saw that it was sent to me from a former student. He was the author -- and wrote about his successful, albeit turbulent, journey through law school.
More importantly than that, he wrote a three-page inscription, thanking me for what I did for him while he was a student. "Despite my academic downfalls and periodic bouts with trouble and controversy, you always supported me and often directed me to constructive solutions. (I realize I likely put you through hell.) While I may not have always taken your advice, I respected you and what you tried to do for me with SGA, TKE, etc. You are certainly a big reason I was able to take the lessons I learned in leadership into my profession and life..."
I have not heard from Jeremy in almost 20 years. He did put me through hell as an outspoken student government president. When I last saw him, I would have never imagined he would be the one writing such a heartfelt and eloquent note in a book that he authored. And yet, apparently I made a difference in his life, just as his inscription made a difference for me.
Handwritten expressions of gratitude are incredibly powerful things. Take that extra few minutes today to let someone know the impact they have had on your life. If you haven't been in touch for a decade or two, so much the better. It's never too late to let someone know that they mattered.

Friday, January 20, 2017

leadership dot #1694: outsider

Imagine that you worked for an organization most of your life. During this time, you held various roles to broaden your skills. You took on more and more leadership responsibilities, tackled the tough projects, did some of the grunt work and gained experience in a broad range of departments. In the analogy of the military, you "earned your stripes."
And then the top job came open and you applied. You had the experience and skills. You had proven yourself loyal to the organization. Many in the organization wanted you more than the other candidate.
Yet, someone from the outside got the job instead. Someone with no experience in your organization. Those hiring did not know this candidate or have evidence as to what he could do, but some thought an outside perspective could be valuable. He had no concrete plans for how to make things better, but the bravado in the interviewing process earned him the job anyway. 
And now you have to work with him.
And live with the consequences of his actions.
There is a flood of emotion as you find yourself in this spot, but it comes down to two choices. Leave the organization or work like the dickens to make it better. Our Declaration of Independence reminds us that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Fairness is not one of them.
So like it or not, the outsider has the wheel and we need to become involved to keep him from steering us all over the cliff. Get to work.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

leadership dot #1693: windows of awareness

In class last week, I taught my students the concept of the JoHari Window of Knowledgeablity, a model that helps frame personal awareness in four quadrants:
1> Things that are Known to Self and Known to Others -- In this "Open" quadrant are the facts, behaviors and emotions that are freely expressed. You know my name, if I am laughing with you, are aware that I am happy and if you know me for long, we'll both know that I am introverted.
2> Things NOT Known to Self and Known to Others -- In this "Blind" quadrant are things that others know about you that they have not shared. Perhaps they thought your presentation was poor but did not provide negative feedback. Maybe you offended someone and others are talking about it amongst themselves but not to you. Perhaps you are being considered for a new position, so your behavior is being scrutinized. The goal is to create a culture of trust and feedback so that you can move items from this window into the Open quadrant.
3) Things Known to Self and NOT Known to Others -- The "Hidden" quadrant represents feelings or emotions that I may not have shared or facts about me that you do not know. I may appear calm before a presentation, but you do not know that I am nervous inside. I may appear pleasant in a meeting, and you are unable to tell that I am silently seething. Again, familiarity and trust allow more information to be revealed and items to be moved from this quadrant.
4) Things NOT Known to Self and NOT Known to Others -- In the "Unknown" quadrant are reactions and emotions that have yet to manifest themselves. None of us know how I would react in an emergency or respond to a loss. We are both unaware how I would handle a new situation or assignment. A person may be surprised at how they fulfill the role when they become a new parent. The response remains unknown until the situation arises that moves the information into one of the other quadrants.
The JoHari model helps people become aware of the intentionality of sharing -- and of learning -- information about themselves. It encourages self-disclosure just as it encourages listening and creating safe environments where the Open window can be enhanced.
Think about what is in each quadrant of your window and what you can do to minimize the blind for yourself and others.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

leadership dot #1692: germs

Our local grocery recently installed an acute care clinic inside the store, ironically located next to the health foods aisle. This has made me crazy.
What is an acute care clinic? A magnet for parents with sick kids. Why is the clinic in the store? So the parents will "pick up a few things" while they are there anyway -- meaning that sick kids will have ample opportunities to spread their germs all over the food I am buying.
I believe that health care should be delivered in clinics and not in grocery stores.  Bakeries, delis, meat counters are all food-related, but the acute care does not belong.
Consider whether your organization has strayed too far from its core purpose. Are you considering expansion just for economics without considering the downside? Are you spreading germs as you spread yourself too thin?  Don't get sick in an attempt to make your bottom line healthy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

leadership dot #1691: rich

I recently listened to a speech by Kevin O'Leary, one of the "sharks" on the television show Shark Tank. (For those who do not know, Shark Tank provides aspiring entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their idea to potential investors [sharks], exchanging capital for equity in the new company.)
O'Leary made an interesting observation that what Shark Tank participants were truly seeking was freedom. "Success in business sets you free," O'Leary said. "Entrepreneurs in pursuit of personal freedom."
I had not really equated freedom with business ownership, but the two are definitely entwined. The amount of control I have over my time -- and the HUGE life benefits that brings -- far outweighs anything I ever anticipated. We always equate money with success, but if this past year has taught me nothing else, I have learned that having money is overrated if it consumes your life to earn it.
Save as much as you can. Live modestly. Be frugal and avoid excesses. Construct your life in such a way that you can live from earnings that allow you time to enjoy life. As the sharks know, you are far richer when the equation between freedom and funding is in balance. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

leadership dot #1690: march

The speech that really brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into the spotlight was his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in 1963. King galvanized the 200,000 participants at the rally to demand civil rights for all Americans and the March became a powerful symbol for unification and hope.
Another March on Washington will occur this Saturday, and thanks in part to the power of social media, the crowd is expected to be much larger. Men and women of all ethnicities and ages -- will stand together in solidarity to support the human rights of all people. The Women's March on Washington was organized in response to the insults and degradation of women and minorities by the incoming administration and is designed to foster connections and grass roots change much like the March on Washington did in 1963. Hopefully, there will be a modern-day Dr. King that can inspire and rally hundreds of thousands to work for change in today's era of civil unrest and inequality.
Whether you are in Washington to participate or whether you partake in one of the local marches (happening in every state and many local communities), I hope you let your voice be heard. As that "overrated" Meryl Streep so eloquently said: "Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence." Model respect and non-violence as Dr. King did, and do your part to make his dream a reality.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

leadership dot #1689: stranded

Last week, the last leg of my flight was cancelled. American could not get me another flight until the following day, which would have left me stranded at O'Hare for 36 hours. Instead, I rented a car and drove the three and a half hours home in weather that did not seem to warrant air travel disruption.
I learned the news about the cancellation when I landed, so there never was a gate assignment and a group of people gathered that were heading toward the same destination. I wished there was a way to get in touch with the others on my flight, as I was sure that at least some of them would have been happy to ride along with me.
A software developer should create a new app for similar situations. You would type your flight number into the "Stranded" app, and show that you wanted to share a Plan B transportation with others. Or maybe it is more broad than that and just becomes "Ride Share" so you could use it at the airport, but also at other events, like wanting to share rides home from a sporting event or concert. Either way, if someone responded, you could connect via the app to find a location to rendezvous and take it from there. 
With today's air travel entwinement, being stranded happens regularly. Why doesn't someone do more to minimize the cost and disruption of such occurrences? And think about your organization and points in the process where things frequently do not go according to plan. How can you have an alternative ready to seamlessly step in and mitigate the problem?
Don't leave yourself or your clients who are stranded to handle the resolution on their own.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

leadership dot #1688: small batches

You've heard of craft beers and microbrews for alcoholic beverages, but now the concept is happening in the non-alcoholic realm. Craft sodas are growing in popularity, with ever-increasing varieties and flavors. There is even a clearinghouse website to categorize, review and rank all of the niche beverages: Five Star Soda.
When I was in Illinois for the holidays, I got a glimpse of the explosion at Rocket Fizz -- a boutique shop that sells old-time candy and dozens of flavors of specialty pop. You could buy bacon pop, grass soda, key lie pie in liquid form or even a bottle of drinkable peanut butter and jelly. I do not vouch for any of the flavors, but they did make a tempting array of new taste sensations.
Some craft sodas are for the aficionados who want the perfect root beer or cream soda. Others are for the novelty. A few years ago you would have never thought there would be a market for coconut cream soda or pumpkin pie pop or numerous companies crafting their own concoctions. But whatever the cause, the craft soda industry and its accompanying stores, web sites, producers and clients are on an upward trajectory.
How can you take a lesson from craft sodas and create a small batch of a specialized product or service? Can you target the few instead of the many in a way that makes sense for your organization? Is there a way you can craft something new instead of reaching into the well over and over for the masses?  Like with sodas and beer, small could be very big for you.
Source: Your next soda should be a craft soda, American Way magazine, January, 2017, p. 18 and FiveStarSoda.com
Rocket Fizz, St. Charles, IL

Friday, January 13, 2017

leadership dot #1687: the best managers

In addition to running a massive search engine, Google undertakes research projects to better understand human behavior and the performance of their employees. One such study was entitled "Project Oxygen" and sought to identify traits of managers that made some more effective than others.
The study concluded that eight skills that corresponded with the best management. The good manager:
  1. a good coach
  2. empowers and does not micromanage
  3. expresses interest and concern in subordinates' success and well-being
  4. is results oriented
  5. listens and shares information
  6. helps with career development
  7. has a clear vision and strategy
  8. has key technical skills
This does not seem like rocket science. To be an effective leader of your staff, it seems to go a long way when you treat your people like people and care about them personally. It doesn't mean you have to be buddies, rather genuinely respectful and trusting.
Take a look at the list above and assess where you could improve. Better yet, ask your staff which area you should add to your new year's resolutions. You and your organization will both benefit if you practice the above eight skills until they become part of who you are.
In Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg, 2016

Thursday, January 12, 2017

leadership dot #1686: ribbit

There are definitely days when I stare at the computer dreading that I need to write a blog -- staring for as much time as ultimately takes me to write the darn thing. I think I need to adopt Brian Tracy's philosophy and start my day by eating a live frog.
Actually, it was Mark Twain that said if you started each day by eating a live frog it would probably be the worst thing that would happen to you all day so good to get it over with! Brian Tracy just brought Twain's logic into the new millennium. 
A frog, as the logic goes, is your most important task of the day. And if you start by accomplishing your one big task, not only do you check that off the list, but you save time by not avoiding it. Tracy suggests that developing a habit of "eating the frog" right away will pay countless dividends over time. He offers these five steps to master the skill:
  1. If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. (in other words, start with the hardest task and stick with it to completion)
  2. If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn't pay to sit and look at it very long. (so stop staring at the computer and start writing!)
  3. Take action immediately. (develop the discipline to begin and work toward results)
  4. Develop a positive attitude.  (success will help you become addicted to accomplishing more)
  5. No shortcuts. (practice eating frogs every day)
I have eaten 1686 frogs now, and you would think that they would begin to taste better, but that is not always the case. Perhaps I need to review Brian Tracy's ebook on the subject and adjust my palate. I hear frog legs are a delicacy!
What frog should be on your morning menu?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

leadership dot #1685: passion planning

To start the new year, many people purchase new calendars or appointment books, ostensibly to track their scheduled events in the coming months. But what if you want a vehicle to organize and plan time for those events that aren't time-specific -- the pieces of the big goals that are what, as Stephen Covey calls "important but not urgent." How can you get a handle on this type of scheduling?
There are many options out there, but I will offer two formats that help the creative or entrepreneurial person add some structure to more fluid projects. One is Natalie MacNeil's Conquer Your Year Planner. She combines space to track top priorities, well being, gratitude and progress toward the big picture all in one spiral notebook. (see below)
Another is the Passion Planner -- a type of pre-formatted Bullet Journal that allows you to track larger goals and weekly appointments plus other information all in the same place. Both planners allow you to express your creativity and to multi-function throughout the book.
There is more to life to plan out and schedule than just dentist appointments and meetings. Find a system that matches with your goals and temperament to maximize your effectiveness in the year ahead.
img_6989 img_6988
from Natalie MacNeil's Conquer Your Year Planner
Thanks to Michele and Amy

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

leadership dot #1684: puzzled

I received a puzzle for Christmas that featured a collage of campaign buttons. Given all the words on buttons and distinctive colors and type, I thought it would be a fairly simple venture to complete. I was wrong.
To begin with, I underestimated the time that it takes just to lay 1000 pieces out on the table and sort out the edge pieces. I did not count on the background between the buttons that was the same throughout, making it difficult to know where in the frame it belonged. Nor did I account for the fact the pieces were sadistically cut, splicing letters and faces in awkward splits so that they were indistinguishable even under close examination. In short, it took forever to complete.
It reminded me of change efforts overall, and in most cases we don't even start out with all the pieces. We think we know what the vision is or what the end result will look like, but never allocate as much time as it requires to get there. We have the false impression that parts of the quest will be simple, and don't factor in that the final product looks easy, but assembling it never is. We focus on the whole, and gloss over the intricate details that tend to trip us up. And we neglect to keep the dog from eating the piece that falls on the floor, confounding us time and time again as we become sure that the piece we can't find is the piece that was mauled.
The next time you or your organization is about to embark on a major change effort, have your team put together a thousand-piece puzzle first, then reflect on what lessons you learned from the exercise that can inform your timing and expectations for the real-life puzzle you're about to attempt. It makes sense to start with the vision and assemble the boundaries first, but the middle section is not a linear process. In the end, puzzles and change efforts look easy, but getting there happens a piece at a time.
                   img_6976        img_6979

Monday, January 9, 2017

leadership dot #1683: clear

I recently prepared to present a workshop on supervision and was reminded of one of my favorite quotes about leadership.  Marcus Buckingham writes in The One Thing You Need to Know:
"Effective leaders don't have to be charming or brilliant. What they must be is clear. CLARITY is the essence of great leadership. Show us clearly who we should seek to serve, show us where our core strength lays, show us which score we should focus on and which actions we must take, and we will reward you by working our hearts out to make our better future come true."
I agree with Marcus about clarity, not just with leadership, but with achieving almost anything worthwhile. I have written before about the importance of specificity in accomplishing goals or projects, and clarity achieves the same thing.
For today, try to be as specific and clear as you can -- about what you value, what you seek to achieve and what you need. The more detailed you are about your plans, the more likely the universe will conspire to help you attain them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

leadership dot #1682: red

If I asked you what color Target "owned", I'll bet that most of you could say red. It's the signature color of their bullseye logo, shopping carts, clerks' attire and packaging. 
A few weeks ago, the Target flyer appeared in the paper using blue (as in Walmart blue!) instead. Then there was green, followed by orange and now a gray. It makes no sense to me.
When I was working on a campus, people would often get tired of using -- and reusing -- the school colors. They would want to "mix it up" and interject a new color in the palette. Bad idea. If you have a color that seems to be everywhere, take it as a sign that your branding is working, not in need of a refresh. If they're not seeing red, I think Target is missing its mark by using anything else.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

leadership dot #1681: bark

Although winter is in its early stages, many dog owners and their canine companions are experiencing cabin fever. While merely walking your dog in frigid temperatures seems unappealing, perhaps a novel experience will entice you to head outdoors.
One option is Skijoring -- a Norewgian sport where harnessed dogs pull their owner on skis across cross-country ski trails. Horses have also been known to participate and pull their owners as well. Apparently both human and animal receive quite a work out from the event.
If something indoors is more your style, you can have fun with that as well. Our city offers an indoor dog park at the arena, which includes a "barkaoke" where owners can sing with their dog (no indication as to why anyone would want to do this), and a "Barka Lounge" with adult refreshments.
Perhaps you don't have a dog or maybe you're not in a winter climate. Take lessons from these activities anyway to craft a silver lining out of otherwise undesirable circumstances. If your clients have a change in seasons or needs, can you offer something creative to make a positive outcome from it? If there is something that you dread, can you put a new spin on an activity to help the downside become more palatable? Your clients may have a howling good time because of it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

leadership dot #1680: alarm

I was in a parking lot when a car alarm went off. I did nothing. Everyone around me did nothing as well. The car made noise and flashed its lights for a few moments, then went silent without intervention.
What is the point of a car alarm? Does anyone respond to them? Do they truly aid in theft reduction or deterrent? Or, more likely, it is an idea that sounded good, but really has little value in practical application.
Do you have "car alarms" in your organization -- something that is in place, but not adding much value, or something that generates angst but turns out to be nothing? If people are ignoring you as they do car alarms, it should be a warning sign.
Alarms that go off but mean nothing diffuse the reaction to legitimate alarms that merit a response. Remember that childhood fable about the little boy who cried "wolf" once too often, and only sound the alarm when a reaction is expected.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

leadership dot #1679: small pieces

My favorite place to eat when I return to my childhood home is a greasy pizza joint. Unlike most places today that cut the pies into about 8 large slices, they cut the pizza into little squares instead. As a result, there are 30 or more pieces -- that seem like bite size pieces -- luring you into a false sense of quantity.  Over the holidays, my brother lamented: "I always eat too much when we order these."  He is not alone.
I think that how this Ma and Pa pizza parlor cuts their product can become a metaphor for how other things in life work. If we only focus on the small -- tasks, things we eat, time -- we often overindulge because we don't have the perspective of the big picture. How many times have you wasted five minutes that becomes ten, then twenty? We never set out to waste an hour, rather we spend it five minutes at a time without realizing it.
Think about how you will cut up your pie in the new year. Will you focus on a few big "slices" or will you let the smaller pieces disappear without intentionality? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

leadership dot #1678: out of sight

A friend asked me for a Christmas wish list and I asked for a hat -- a very specific hat that I saw in the local Dick's Sporting Goods. When he went to purchase it, the hat was gone and the clerk could not locate one for him. As a result, after Christmas I was on a hunt to find the item myself.
We went to Dick's to check that no more had come in/been returned, but no. So imagine my surprise when I looked on-line at Dick's and found that I could pick up the hat in the store -- in my store -- on the very same day. When I was there, I explained the situation to the manager, who unapologetically said that it had been in the back room the whole time. 
What is laying around in your "back room?"  Do you have resources that are being underutilized because no one knows you have them? Are there valuable supplies or services that could be put to good use if they were shared instead of stored? Are there physical things that could be moved out or given away to make room for more productive tools and treasures?
Don't be cavalier about the opportunity cost of what is lost in the background in your organization. Either feature your offerings in the front 'window' or remove them from 'inventory.' Having services no one can access services no one.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

leadership dot #1677: forgive and forget

I recently ate at Chipotle and got a smile when I read their napkin: "This napkin is made from 100% recycled content. It could have been a losing lottery ticket or a frustrating furniture assembly manual in its past life...forgive and forget."
As you use the start of the new year as a time for reflection, think about what you have been in your past life that you would like to forgive and forget. Were you an overly aggressive co-worker? An absent friend? An angry partner? An over-spender or over-eater? Part of the silent majority?
Forgive and forget. Let yourself off the hook and then resolve to do better in the new year. If Chipotle's napkin can have a new start, you can recycle yourself too.

Monday, January 2, 2017

leadership dot #1676: bullet

Looking for a different way to stay organized or to track your goals in the new year? The latest trend in personal project management is the bullet journal, so named because you can keep lists and monitor progress in short bursts or bullets.
Even better, the "BuJo" is completely tailored to your needs, as a bullet journal is no more than a blank notebook that you create into a comprehensive compilation of all you wish to record. (Often the journal has dotted pages instead of line to make the customization easier.) The bullet journal could include fitness goals, to-do lists, expense tracking, gratitude reflections or bucket list items -- whatever is important to you. For sample pages, see this.
As with any tool, there is an on-line community waiting to assist you in its set-up and use. Founder Ryder Carroll also provides background and information at bullet journal or via a 4-minute video tutorial. The key to this system is that, once it is set up, it allows for quick entries, so in theory you will actually use it instead of abandoning other more daunting systems.
If your organizational system isn't working for you, or you'd like a creative outlet to capture all your plans and dreams, you may want to give the bullet journal a try. There's no such thing as a silver bullet, but perhaps a multi-colored bullet will help move you toward success.
Photos from cerriesmooney.com
img_6833 img_6832

Photos from Edie:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

leadership dot #1675: success habits

Well, here it is, a new year and time to make new resolutions. No matter what you are hoping to achieve, making the most of your time will help you turn resolutions into habits. Inc. author Jeff Haden has compiled a list of 10 strategies that will help you develop routines to excel in 2017:
  1. Get positive by starting the day with a mantra you say out loud.
  2. Start your day by being proactive (working towards your goals) vs. reactive (checking email)
  3. Visualize your success by imagining in your mind how you want your day to unfold.
  4. Commit to reading one chapter of a book each day.
  5. Find a mentor to hold you accountable.
  6. Spend time writing every day.
  7. Make a small daily to-do list of the day's priorities (use a Post-It Note to keep the focus on just the most important things)
  8. Take regular breaks (Haden lists out a system for you to follow)
  9. Break your day into chunks with blocks of time designated for certain activities
  10. Theme your workdays/week by focusing on different tasks on different days 
All of these techniques may not work for you, but undoubtedly one will. Haden's article gives additional information and rationale for each of them, along with several bonus worksheets and habits. Start 2017 off on a positive note and adopt one new strategy to make this your best year yet.
Thanks Tim for sharing!