Tuesday, February 28, 2017

leadership dot #1733: the envelope please

By now, everyone has heard that the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards was initially announced incorrectly, awarding the highest honor to the wrong film before the ensuing chaos and correction. Presenter Warren Beatty was handed the wrong card, and he knew it. But instead of calling a "time out" and asking for clarification, he just showed it to his co-presenter Faye Dunaway and she called out the film that was listed on the card, incorrectly referring to the film of the Best Actress winner instead of the Best Picture recipient.
Beatty is like so many people -- who realize that something is amiss, but proceed anyway. The pressures of time, not "wanting to look stupid" or hesitation as you second guess yourself all work to allow mistakes to happen.
And so errors trickle down the line. Someone handed Beatty the wrong card and didn't catch it. Beatty knew it seemed odd but passed it to Dunaway. Only after she publicly read the wrong name did the chain stop. 
Think of how you can create a culture in your organization where people have the time -- and the courage -- to question things down the line. It's one thing to speak up in a problem-solving meeting or brainstorming session, but another thing entirely to voice a problem discovered at a product launch or board gathering. 
Reward your employees for following the TSA mantra: "If you see something, say something." Even if it's on international television while the drumroll is playing in the background.

Monday, February 27, 2017

leadership dot #1732: Pomodoro

There are a lot of time management gimmicks out there, but the Pomodoro Technique has proved to be amazingly effective for me. This strategy, developed by Francesco Cirillo (and shared by Chris Winfield in his newsletter), has four steps to help you maximize the use of your time.
The piece that has been most helpful to me is the core of the idea: you select one specific task, set a timer for 25 minutes and work on (only) your task until the timer rings. That's it. The magic of the Pomodoro Technique is that it gets you started, and beginning is always the most difficult part. You may not finish your project within the allotted 25 minutes, so Cirillo recommends taking a short break and then starting another Pomodoro session to continue.
If you find yourself switching between email, phone calls, interruptions and busy work instead of going deep on the important tasks, give this method a try. You may find that short bursts of intense, focused activity is like having extra time in your day.
(You can receive a free copy of Chris Winfield's white paper: "How to Save 23.3 Hours Each Week" by clicking here.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

leadership dot #1731: non-answer

Yesterday I wrote about good customer service. And then there is American Airlines.
After cancelling the last leg of my trip, I asked how much of a refund I would receive if I just rented a car and drove the three hours home. "About $120," she said, so I made my decision based upon that.
A week later I received a refund for $87 -- a third less than quoted -- so I wrote American asking them to honor what the agent told me. Here is their reply:
From the comments in your recent email, it seems as if we need some improvement in the area of reservations. Our reservations agents should make every effort to provide our customers with correct information and I'm sorry we didn't do so when you called us. The Reservationist does not have the capability to give you an estimate on a refund amount for a partially flown ticket. I've made a copy of your comments of your email available to the Managing Director of Reservations for follow-up with our reservations staff. Dr. Triplet, [note the misspelling] only our Refunds Department would have that kind of information available, thank you again for contacting us and letting us know about this.
It reminded me of what the Washington Post's Ben Bradlee called a non-denial denial from the White House during the Watergate era. It said nothing. This was not a response to my request for a refund. It was a non-answer answer.
Vagueness has its place in certain settings. Customer service is not one of them. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

leadership dot #1730: human

I have been participating in free webinars with a particular consultant, and now she is offering a class for pay. I received the promotional emails and was considering signing up, but had some questions that the email did not answer.
The next day, I received another email from her as if she had read my mind. "If you still have questions about this program, click here to sign up for a 15 minute call and I'll personally answer your questions for you."
Suddenly, it became human instead of a distant, impersonal product. 
Discover Card is playing off this fact by promoting their customer service as 24/7 in-person support. So many people are frustrated by the automated call menus that this seemingly small point of distinction is worthy of a major advertising focus.
While technology is wonderful, there is nothing like the connection with another person. That voice across a phone line can be reassuring in ways that no automation ever will. Your service will serve you better if a human delivers it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

leadership dot #1729: drawing conclusions

I read a fascinating story about the discovery that linked hand washing to the prevention of disease. In the 1840s, women were dying at alarming rates -- not during child birth, but days afterward. No one knew the cause of the mysterious "child birth fever" that took the lives of the mothers.
During the same period, doctors were beginning to become more scientific in their work, thus began conducting autopsies with regularity. It was not uncommon for a doctor to do an autopsy as part of his day, then go directly to treat other patients -- without washing hands or changing clothes.
Enter Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who wondered why the ward with doctors had 5x the childbirth deaths as the ward with midwives. His answer came when a colleague pricked his finger during an autopsy and died. Dr. Semmelweis then realized the deaths were not linked to child birth, rather to the autopsies. He reasoned that some type of poison was seeping from the body, and ordered doctors to use chlorine after their procedures.
Happy ending, right? Wrong. The other doctors did not believe they were responsible for the deaths, and would not accept Semmelweis' findings. Instead, they fired him and sent him to an asylum where he died. Twenty years later, the work of Louis Pasteur confirmed that Semmelweis was correct, and hand washing has become common practice.
The next time you have a problem to solve, think of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis. Pay attention to the clues and draw conclusions on the facts, not on what people have believed. And if you know your conclusion is correct, stay with it, even if others won't believe you until after you are gone.
Full story linked in Chelsea Clinton's Tweet

Thursday, February 23, 2017

leadership dot #1728: sound track

On the other side of the wall, someone was watching a movie on television. I obviously could not see it and could not even make out the dialogue, but I could hear the sound track clearly.
From listening to the music, I could tell when drama was occurring, when things were romantic, when the mood was light and when the end of the movie was nearing. As the music changed, I assume the plot and emotions corresponded to the tone.
Think about the sound track of your life. What songs are playing? And if you don't like the mood that it is creating, what can you do to change the melody? You are in control of making your own music.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

leadership dot #1727: crux

It is the crux of supervision:
supervisors achieve results through those they supervise
and employees need a good supervisor to be great.
And yet, we invest so little time in helping those new to supervision develop the skills necessary to become a great leader of their team. Most organizations assume that if you can do the work, you can also lead those who are doing the work. 
Don't confuse the two. Supervision requires a skill set on to itself. If you have responsibility for a staff, (and especially if you have leadership of staff who has their own staff), continually develop your knowledge in this area to make it a good experience for all of you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

leadership dot #1726: simplify

I recently facilitated a strategic planning process and worked hard to get the task force to end up with one goal. One total.
They wouldn't do it.
Or maybe they couldn't do it, because it involves making hard choices that as a task force they were unable to make.
I don't disagree with anything that ended up in the final plan. It is all important. But having multiple goals means that it's all equally important and I don't think that is ever truly the case.
I wrote yesterday about managing complexity. Having a laser focus on one goal is a strategy to do just that. The more we can simplify, the more we reduce the complexity that distracts and dilutes.
If you ask your boss for one thing that you can do to improve, her feedback will be more helpful than a multi-page performance appraisal. If you ask your family what is their favorite thing to do on a vacation, it will guide your planning more than a travel agent could. If you make one promise to yourself of something to accomplish today, the odds are great it will get done.
Michael Bungay Stanier from Box of Crayons has a wonderful two-line planning tool that you can download here.  Follow his advice and simplify. Force yourself to get to the essence of what is important. If you weed out the fluff, you take what remains more seriously.

Monday, February 20, 2017

leadership dot #1725: complexity

"We have to figure out how to get ourselves out of the complexity of an inherently complex system."
My colleague Mike Cyze shared this sentiment when discussing school districts, but it applies to a much broader content than that. People often find themselves with complexity paralysis, unable to determine a course of action because of the multitude of options and intertwined variables.
As my class studies systems thinking, we have used the Affordable Care Act as an example. People may not like it as it is, but no one seems to have another solution that doesn't come with its own downside. For example, one small act of allowing people to opt out could destabilize the markets if healthy people discontinue coverage and costs rise for those needing care who remain. More comprehensive changes have broader implications -- that some people will like, others won't -- but all of them are interdependent upon each other.
One way to maneuver in a complex system is to stay focused on the vision or end goal. By taking steps to achieve the "why", a pathway to action can become more clear. In the school district, a defining principle is "what's best for the kids." It guides steps and strategies that may otherwise be buried in the complexity.
What is the beacon that will light your organization's way amidst the many choices and options?
Thanks Mike!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

leadership dot #1724: derailed

There recently was a train derailment just outside of town and several cars left the track. We were talking about what caused this, and learned that with the change of seasons the tracks expand or contract. If the tracks contract too much, a small gap can impact the smooth flow of the wheels and tilt the cars.
This hit home with me as I personally experienced the impact of a small heave in the sidewalk. While the height gap between one panel and another was only an inch, it was enough to send me off balance and "derailing" onto the cold concrete.
What is true for railroad cars and walkers also applies to organizational cultures. Train tracks and sidewalks remind us that a small misalignment can cause big consequences. Railways have inspectors that are continually checking the tracks for any gaps. Leaders should do the same and vigilantly take steps to keep small cracks from derailing their organization's effectiveness or morale.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

leadership dot #1723: rocket

Because of my love of organizational strategies (and cool new office supplies), two friends shared information about the Rocketbook notebook. This system is a combination of high tech/low tech, allowing you to write with a (special) pen, then the pages are synched to the cloud so your handwritten notes are stored electronically. 
I have yet to try it, but there are some appealing features of having handwritten notes instantly sent to your Dropbox, Evernote or mail. Through the use of a special symbol and a QR code, you tell the Rocketbook where to file your document, and it first enhances the image then sends it on its way. When you're finished, you microwave the notebook (yes, you read that correctly) to erase your writing and allow you to reuse the book up to five times.
There is always a quest to build a better mousetrap, and the Rocketbook is trying to improve on the standard notebook that has been around for decades. They aren't competing with the 17 cent back-to-school-specials, but it may be a winner for those who want to spiral their notes into the cloud.
Maybe paper works for you, maybe you like all-electronic notes, or maybe you want to blend the two. With notebooks and all other gadgets, find your own sweet spot for technology: how comfortable you are, what you are willing to pay, the learning curve and the efficiency/effectiveness of use. No choice is right for all, but whatever you choose, do it with intentionality. 
Thanks to Nate and Mike for the tip!

Friday, February 17, 2017

leadership dot #1722: proximity

One of the hardest aspects of writing this blog is keeping track of all my potential ideas. As I wrote yesterday, most dots are a synthesis of several thoughts that I connect together to craft a lesson. But I collect those ideas from multiple places and over an extended time period -- making it challenging to keep them in a format that allows them to stay alive and not lost.
For example, Sunday's dot was from an email my friend sent me in December, 2015 (14 months ago -- Thanks, Tracy!), inspired by a dot I did last week, coupled with information from years ago when I was working on a campus. I have ideas written in little notebooks, pictures on my phone, emails and texts with ideas from friends, electronic copies of articles that inspired me, things I hear on the radio, social media entries, newspaper and magazine clippings and more. The challenge of synthesis is not only melding the ideas in my head, but being able to physically access the accompanying reference materials to be able to write about it.
It reminds me of a scene in the 1988 movie Working Girl, where Melanie Griffith is asked how she got her idea for Trask Industries to acquire a radio network. She pulled out a file folder with an article that had Mr. Trask's daughter's wedding announcement on one page and a feature about the radio's star DJ on the next page. The proximity helped her to make the connection.
I don't think most of our environments are set up to foster synthesis. Our office has rows of file folders or electronic documents that keep each item in its own separate location. Our schools teach individual subjects and don't often provide interdisciplinary instruction. Our lives are kept manageable by keeping things in silos and schedules.
Think about what you can do to put some of your different inputs in proximity with each other in a way that may encourage synthesis. Have conversations with friends and family that elevate the discourse by chatting about ideas, rather than just the events of the day. Make time to journal or reflect on what things mean to you and how they relate to each other. Mentally try to make connections as you absorb new materials.
And if any of these methods reveal an effective way to integrate multiple media inputs, please let me know! 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

leadership dot #1721: synthesis

One of the assignments in the class I am teaching requires students to write a synthesis paper. The objective of this is to allow (force?!) students to reflect on the connections between the textbook, additional readings, class discussions and their personal experience. It is obvious that they need some practice in this skill!
Synthesis is where the magic happens.
It is taking information that is readily available to all and making new insights and observations. Synthesis is creating a more complete picture out of fragments and seeing relationships that may have otherwise been overlooked. Synthesis is, dare I say, connecting the dots, of disparate ideas into something original.
Think about how you can exercise your "synthesis muscle" on a regular basis. When you read a news item, consider how it relates to other stories you have read before, or tie the national news to the local level. Tie your experiences together and see if you can't find additional meaning between the lessons you gain in church and what is happening at work, as an example. Maybe you can connect what you are doing in your volunteer work with something that relates to a vacation or your family. 
With effective synthesis, one plus one really does equal three.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

leadership dot #1720: subliminal

The passing of Mary Tyler Moore got me reminiscing about her iconic Mary Tyler Moore television show. Though I haven't thought of it in ages, I was able to sing most of the theme song by memory, and, of course, knew the cue for the signature tossing of the hat.
I watched every episode of that series during grade school/high school, but did not really realize it was a groundbreaking premise to feature a single woman pursuing a career. It was just a good show.
It wasn't until I recently read Tim McGraw's tribute to MTM upon her passing that I wondered what impact the show had on my development. Did it subliminally convey that it was an option to pursue a career and not children? Did it shape my desire to major in journalism? Did it draw me to want to live in a big city?
While I am not sure whether I subconsciously followed Mary Richard's path, I am sure that we take in shapes us, whether we realize it at the time or not. Pay attention to your social media feeds, reading list, entertainment and friends. They are all sending messages that help us become who we are.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

leadership dot #1719: valentine

A friend and I were struck by the multitude of advertisements for Valentine's Day: flowers, jewelry, edible bouquets, heart-shaped pizzas, dinners, dating sites, etc. "It's a Hallmark Holiday," he said, "but one that has been around for a long time."
That is an understatement. Valentine's Day in some form has been celebrated as far back as the Middle Ages. Printed valentines began in 1415, and today over 1 billion valentines are exchanged each year.  It is estimated that people spend $20 billion/year on Valentine's Day, buying 220 million roses and 35 million chocolate candy-filled hearts among other tokens of love. Over 62% of Americans celebrate the holiday in one form or another.
According to the History Channel, the origins of the holiday began with Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival. The priests would sacrifice a goat, strip its hide and dip it in blood, then touch the women and crops to increase their fertility. Also as part of the festival, women would place their names in an urn then bachelors would reach in to select a partner. At the end of the 5th century, the Catholic Church renamed the holiday St. Valentine's Day, and the mid-February date was chosen to correspond with the birds' mating season. The holiday of romance has persisted since then.
Whether you celebrate with goat's blood or a fancy dinner with goat's cheese, I hope that you have a full heart today. In these antagonistic times, we could all use a little more love in our life. Choose a valentine or a total stranger, but commit to spread some love today.

Monday, February 13, 2017

leadership dot #1718: rock walls

wrote on Friday about the importance of sleep, and it seems that companies are recognizing its benefits as well. Phoenix Investors in Milwaukee is now offering "napping rooms" in its office facility. These spaces allow employees to grab a "power nap" during the day in order to recharge.
Napping rooms are just one more sign that company benefits are spiraling, just as college amenities did in the race for more enrollment. Campuses added rock walls, hot tubs, lavish recreation centers, a la carte 24/7 dining areas, organic food, plasma televisions and moreCompanies are now adding exercise classes, physical therapy suites, acupuncture, concierge services, SCUBA certification, cooking lessons and bowling lanes.
I am reminded of a dot I wrote in 2013 that referenced a study by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones. They spent three years asking executives what characteristics the best company on earth to work for would possess. They arrived at a list of six: You can be yourself. You're told what's really going on. Your strengths are magnified. The company stands for something meaningful. Your daily work is rewarding. Stupid rules don't exist.
Rock walls and napping rooms weren't mentioned. Don't get so caught up in the amenities race that you forget about the real things that make a difference.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

leadership dot #1717: potentially

I had to laugh when I saw this sign:
Even though the dog wasn't there, it was effective in keeping me at an extended distance. But my favorite part was the word "potentially." Aren't all dogs potentially vicious -- if taunted or provoked?
I think of the wide range of emotions and behavioral expression that animals and people potentially have. Employees could put a sign at their desk or family members could hang one in the kitchen: Potentially _____________. Potentially Happy. Potentially Crabby. Potentially Snarky. Potentially Giddy. 
We all have the potential to pick our attitude and emotions. Take care to choose one that doesn't keep others away.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

leadership dot #1716: lifetime warranty

In 2011, I purchased a replacement watch battery from a jeweler in the mall. It cost triple what just the battery itself would be, but the jeweler has that special tool to easily install it. AND, as they proclaimed, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
The catch is that you have to have the original receipt to cash in on your free replacement. At the time, I asked if they kept records in their system that they could just look up to verify my purchase. No. Of course not. They do not want me to receive another battery.
Being the organized nerd that I am, I created a handy dandy file folder that said "watch warranties." In went the receipt. And last week, out came the receipt. Once they got over their amazement, the jeweler politely honored his guarantee and gave me a new battery.
Think about how your organization operates. Are you like this company that sets up conditions that make it difficult for the consumer to receive the full value of what they paid? Do you charge more on the front end, knowing that the vast majority of customers will not redeem all to which they are entitled? Could you assume more of the burden of record keeping and make it easy for your customers to do repeat business with you, even when that does not bring in additional revenue at the time?
Customer service is like that Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going. Don't let yours stop by trying to drain life from your promises.

Friday, February 10, 2017

leadership dot #1715: zzz

There has been much written lately about the importance of sleep and how being well rested contributes to both mental and physical health. There has also been research on the role of sleep deprivation in children. And yet, due to the complexities of bussing, after school activities, daycare, parental schedules and other constraints, the traditional school day begins much earlier than children would rise on their own.
I experienced this first hand this week when I accompanied the artists-in-residence to the schools. Their first performance was in first period -- 7:40am -- which meant getting up and ready in the dark. The crowd that morning was listless, with some actually leaning back in their seats and dozing off. The second performance at 10am was noticeably more alive, and by the 1:30 show students were vibrant and engaged. 
I am sure that teachers live this reality every single day, but it was vividly apparent to me (and the performers) as we watched the tenor of the crowd change with the later hour and advent of sunshine. Evidence from other national surveys indicate that "70 percent of adolescents sleep less than the recommended 8 to 9 hours each night. Lack of sleep may have a direct effect on children's health, behavior, and development." I know it takes a toll on adults as well.
Think of how you can role model behavior in yourself or in your organization to accommodate natural rhythms of sleep. Can you start every day later, or at least begin later in winter months when the sun is slow to rise? Is it possible to offer flex time to allow staff to follow their own internal clocks? Can you make it a family ritual to all head to bed at an earlier hour? [iPhones have a "bedtime" feature to help you get a reminder when it's time to head for slumber]
Sleep isn't just a luxury; it is an essential part of a balanced life. Move "getting zzz's" up on your priority list and it will improve the effectiveness of all the other things that follow.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

leadership dot #1714: guitjo

I recently accompanied Acoustic Eidolon as they performed as artists-in-residence in area schools. The duo performs with two instruments: a cello and a guitjo. If you have never heard of the later it is no surprise. The guitjo is a custom instrument that combines the guitar with the banjo into a two-neck string music-maker.
Joe Scott of Acoustic Eidolon wanted to incorporate the sounds of the banjo into his performance, so he designed the instrument to allow him to do so. Once he had the guitjo custom-made, he then had to learn a new technique to allow him to play chords and the melody simultaneously. 
It would have been easier for Joe to alternate between the guitar and banjo, to add another performer to play the second instrument or to throw up his hands and lament that a blended medium did not exist. Instead, he put pencil to paper to design something new, then found a luthier to craft one for him. The result is a uniquely captivating sound that has entertained audiences around the world.
How can you model Joe's behavior and actually bring to fruition an idea that currently is just inside your head? Can you move from a need into action and create something that fills a gap in what exists? Sometimes combining two disparate ideas can result in beautiful music.
Learn more at Acoustic Eidolon.com

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

leadership dot #1713: another round

I started teaching a new class this week -- one that I know already I will be teaching again this summer. While I have taken notes on all the previous classes I have taught, I am especially cognizant of how this one is going in terms of receptivity and timing. I am paying close attention because I know I will have another opportunity to use the content I am creating....
...but then it occurred to me that much more of my life is like that. I know I will be in a position to "rinse and repeat" many things throughout the year. The holidays come annually, as do taxes, vacations, business travel and veterinarian care. I have meetings where I volunteer in the community, professional involvement, educational workshops and calls with clients that cycle through on a regular basis. The specifics may be altered, but the overall framework is the same. I should be taking notes on the processes I use -- to make the task more efficient and to learn from what actually transpired. 
Think about when is the last time you did something for the first time. For many of us, it has been quite awhile. We become creatures of habit, so we should at least acknowledge that fact and learn from our repetition. My next class will be better than this one because I was attuned to the nuances. What will you notice in your routine that you can improve in the next iteration?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

leadership dot #1712: blow us all away

Eight months after we spent four hours on the phone procuring tickets, I finally was able to see the musical Hamilton. The energy around the whole neighborhood in Chicago was electric, with people in both blue jeans and fur coats posing for selfies outside the theatre marquee. And yes, all the hype is warranted.
I was surprised that at a Saturday evening production, we had the understudies for two of the main roles: Eliza Hamilton and Aaron Burr. As it turned out, our favorite two actors and those we thought had the strongest voices were -- you guessed it -- the actors who were Eliza and Burr. And the weakest link in the whole show, in our opinion, was the regular lead of Alexander himself.
The theatre is one of the masters of succession planning. They have cross-trained and prepared standby performers for all of their positions, and not just in a token way. The so-called "second string" is first rate, and able to assume the responsibilities in look, sound and function.
There are lessons your organization can learn from the theatre. Having more than one person trained in a role is costly and time-consuming, but allows for "non-stop" functioning of the work, and also allows the cast to "take a break." I would guess that knowing someone else is in the wings keeps the leads on their toes, and provides an incentive for the understudies to do well when they are asked to appear. 
What can your organization do to increase its performance depth? Having understudies for your key positions is as smart as the banking system that Hamilton first created.

Monday, February 6, 2017

leadership dot #1711: not barking

Most people are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes story in which the key clue for the detective was the watchdog that did not bark. Holmes termed the lack of barking as a "curious incident" that led to his conclusion that the burglar was a familiar person.
In the book The Amazon Way, John Rossman tells the story of how Amazon's Jeff Bezos related this to his company. Amazon had always done competitor analyses, but Bezos challenged his staff to think about the competitor that wasn't barking and could be a sleeping threat to the company. His staff came to identify Google, and Amazon's dependence on its systems. As a result, Amazon moved forward in creating its web services division.
Amazon Drive, as it is know known, is a worldwide leader in cloud computing. In 2016 Q1, it had $2.57 billion in revenue, $604 million in net income, and for the first time became more profitable than Amazon's retail operations. All because of a connection Bezos made to a Sherlock Holmes story.
What dog isn't barking in your competitive landscape? There is so much noise out there that often it is hard to make time to sit in the quiet and think. As Bezos and Sherlock agree, the quiet may be the most helpful information of all.
Sherlock Holmes Silver Blaze story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Amazon Way by John Rossman
Amazon financials from Wikipedia

Sunday, February 5, 2017

leadership dot #1710: animal wish list

I have long been a believer in the superpower of specificity, and here is another example that shows it in action.
Rather than asking for generic donations to "help the animals", Zoo New England created an Amazon Wish List with specific requests to fulfill their needs. You can find out that gorillas enjoy tea, but need the caffeine-free option or that chinchillas need a treadmill, or that some animals are on so many pills, they need a pill organizer! You can select the price range, type of item or animal that you'd like to help.
Could you use the Amazon Wish List concept for your organization? Certainly there are needs you have, and if you can find a way to make them specific enough, perhaps it will align with this format. It may be a great way to have your wishes fulfilled.
Thanks Meg!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

leadership dot #1709: reality

In the past year, there was a proliferation of coloring books for adults. Coloring seemed to be the latest new stress reduction technique, and books appeared everywhere. I, too, was caught up in the craze and acquired a book of mandalas and a spiffy set of colored pencils to color away my stress.
It quickly became evident that there were two problems with this: 1) I did not have much free time to wile away in coloring, and 2) when I did, it actually added to my frustration when trying to stay within the insanely small spaces that adult coloring book creators have concocted! 
Finally, a friend shared a coloring book that is stress-reducing and realistic. You can download your own copy here or view it here. This gem, from Creative Market, contrasts resolutions vs. reality and does so in a way that makes coloring entertaining. While targeted at graphic designers, I think we can all relate to the best of intentions becoming foiled when life intervenes.
What can you do in your world to align your resolutions with reality? It's great to have lofty goals, but sometimes achieving the less-lofty ones makes for a prettier picture all around.
Thanks, Tricia for sharing the Creative Market Blog

Friday, February 3, 2017

leadership dot #1708: appetizer

When I eat out at a restaurant, I rarely order an appetizer even when it is offered. Instead, I begin with the entree. This may be a good strategy for dining, but in time management, sometimes it is best to begin the process with a nibble. 
If you start your major project with a "appetizer," it will seem less daunting than taking on the entree. An appetizer isn't a diversion separate from the meal, rather it is the first, smaller part of it. By adopting this philosophy to your project, you can start with an initial piece of what you need to do before diving in. Think of it as preparing an outline before you begin writing or assembling the tools before you begin a renovation project. It moves you forward without overwhelming you or filling you up.
Having an appetizer also motivates you to start, and as I have said many times, beginning is the hardest part of doing anything. So the next time your to-do list contains something that looks like a main dish or even multi-course meal, focus on the appetizer first and see if that strategy doesn't easily slide you right into the meat of the project.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

leadership dot #1707: play

On a recent drive, I listened to Brene Brown's Power of Vulnerability workshop which included her 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. One of the guideposts that gave me pause was: Cultivate Play and Rest -- and Let Go of Exhaustion and Productivity as a Status Symbol. 
I have had several conversations about how people wear "too much to do" like a badge of honor, but I previously had not considered the role of true play toward our well being. It's not enough just to give up exhaustion and constant being-on-the-go, but Brene cites the work of Stuart Brown about the value of actual play. His definition: "play is time spent without purpose, time we don't want to end and where we lose the hyper-sense of self-consciousness." 
And when you really think about it, not much people do these days falls into that category. Kids are in organized activities. Families go on structured vacations. Even adults join clubs and organizations for social time, rather than engaging in silliness or putzing around at something just for the fun of it.
Brene notes a simple tactic that can help us shift the focus away from productivity to play. Instead of automatically asking people: "What do you do?" she advocates starting with "What do you love to do?" as a way to decouple self-worth and productivity. 
Think about what you love to do, and then make some time in your life to actually do it. The time you spend truly playing can be the most productive thing you can do for your well being in the long run.
The Power of Vulnerability: Teaching on Authenticity, Connection and Courage by Brene Brown, 2013

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

leadership dot #1706: volley

In volleyball, back and forth volleys make for an exciting match. It takes more power to get a kill or instantaneous point, but it is thrilling (for the audience at least) when the ball is hit back and forth over the net. 
Email is not like volleyball. If you find yourself in an email exchange that has volleyed back and forth more than a time or two, it's time to pick up the phone or have a face to face conversation with the parties involved. 
The volleyball player does not have a choice as to whether or not to keep returning the ball over the net. With email volleys, you do.