Friday, March 31, 2017

leadership dot #1764: abatement

I recently drove by a house that was gutted down to the studs. The contractors had torn off all of the shingles and you could see through the structure from one end to the other. I inquired as to why there was such a radical reconstruction and I got my answer in one word: asbestos.
There are many advantages to asbestos. It's a naturally occurring mineral. It has great strength and insulating properties. It resists heat and buffers sound. Thus, it was used extensively in building: ships, homes and commercial buildings. Asbestos was used in virtually all aspects of construction until the 1980s. Shingles, insulation, pipe covering, flooring, appliances, cement, roofing -- it was everywhere.
Until it wasn't allowed to be anywhere anymore.
The dangers of asbestos were known almost since its initial use, but it took decades until the courts were convinced that the fibers that give the mineral its strength also give its handlers cancer at a significantly higher rate than those who are not exposed. The delay allowed for the proliferation of its use, and now causes significant residual effects and costs.
What is the asbestos in your organization -- something that has many positives, but has a downside that should outweigh the strengths? Is there a practice or policy that should be stopped, sooner rather than later? Do you know of a hidden negative in one of your products or services that you have chosen to ignore? Take a moment today to consider what is below the surface and take steps to abate it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

leadership dot #1763: dear world

Until the moment I participated in a Dear World photo shoot, I had never heard of them, but predict that their presence and impact will be increasing rapidly. Dear World is a national effort to capture the photographs and stories of people around the world. What makes them distinctive is that people tell a story through a message written on their skin.
I admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but found surprising power in the exercise of reflecting on what story I would share. We were asked to consider a message that only I could tell vs. something generic: what was heartfelt and meaningful to me? 
I was at a convention where the past chair of the board was one of my former students (also pictured) and I was surrounded by young professionals. I chose: Love Young Grasshoppers -- a name of affection given to proteges as they are in their impatient stages of development. I do love young grasshoppers -- with all the enthusiasm, energy and wide-eyed optimism they bring as they find their footing as professionals -- and wanted to share the message that everyone should Love Young Grasshoppers as a way to help create a brighter future. I believe that time dedicated to this group now pays huge dividends in the future. 
Whether or not you are fortunate enough to have your message captured by Dear World, think of what you would want to say. What is the story that only you can tell? What is your message to the world that helps others know what you value? Even if you can't share it on your skin for a moment, hopefully you can display it through your actions for a lifetime.
See additional Dear World photos here.More about the origin of the Grasshopper term here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

leadership dot #1762: reserved

One of Jay Leno's recurring bits was to focus on the ridiculous things posted on signs. If one of today's late night talk show hosts is looking for their own variation of this, may I suggest that they focus on reserved parking spots.
Not too long ago, the only spots specifically designated for people were those reserved for handicapped drivers. But today, it seems like there are special spots for many more categories. On my recent errands, I saw parking spots saved for:
  • Combat wounded
  • New and expecting mothers
  • 10 minute express shoppers
  • Starbucks customers
  • Rapid pick up of to-go orders
  • Veterans
  • Low-emitting, fuel efficient vehicles
  • Buy on-line, pick up in store
  • Employee of the month
Each one of those spots is in a prime location, of course, diverting access from others who are in the general population. And often these spaces are empty, including the handicapped spots, making it even more frustrating for drivers who need to pass up open spaces because they don't fit the bill.
I wish we lived in a world where you could just have one sign: "saved for those who need to be close to the door", but of course it doesn't work that way. But before you create a set-aside for any sub-group, think about the implications -- both real and perceived -- on those whom you are excluding.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

leadership dot #1761: water

On the same webinar I referenced yesterday, a speaker* advocated for nonprofit leaders to be discriminating in which grants to pursue or what gifts to accept. Through a rigorous method of understanding true costs of the grant, including staff resources, direct costs, indirect costs and administrative time, her non-profit came to realize that they were actually losing money on some grants and would be better off without them.
"Not all resources are equal," she said. "Grants are like water. Fresh water refreshes you, but salt water dries you out. We are fighting over salt water and need to stop."
Think about what you say "yes" to, either in your personal life or in your organization. Are you involved with things that deplete you rather than add energy? Do you say "yes" without consideration as to what is involved in fulfilling this obligation? Are you adding activity after activity without regard to the cost of your time or the return from it? 
You'll never quench your thirst if all you are drinking is salt water.
*Dominique Bernardo, CEO Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Philadelphia on Conversation #3: How nonprofit practitioners are helping evolve the nonprofit conversation, March 23, 2017.

Monday, March 27, 2017

leadership dot #1760: the choir

A recent webinar about non-profit overhead attracted nearly 1000 participants. The CEO* of the sponsoring organization opened the program with a pitch about the importance of this topic in the non-profit world.
"I know I am speaking to the choir," he said. "But sometimes it is valuable to speak to the choir to align messages."
I couldn't agree more. Often we focus all of our communication efforts on the external audience while neglecting to provide our internal ambassadors with information. Regrettably, it is common for people to learn something about their organization from reading about it in the news or hearing it from someone else.  We fail to equip those closest to us with resources and understanding that could pay exponential benefits as it is shared.
Take a moment to review what you have been preaching to your choir recently. If there aren't sheets of shared music, who knows what tune they are singing about you.
*Jacob Harold, President and CEO of GuideStar on Conversation #3: How nonprofit practitioners are helping evolve the nonprofit conversation, March 23, 2017.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

leadership dot #1759: sane

One of the biggest complaints I hear with my coaching clients is that they can't get their email inbox under control. Apparently this is a wide-spread issue -- the downside of all the benefits electronic communication provides.
A new company has adapted Artificial Intelligence in an aim to tackle this issue. Sane Box has offers a service that "learns what is important to you" and filters the rest out of your inbox. They predict that this will save 12 hours/month -- a huge chunk of time if their estimate is anywhere close to accurate.
I have not used this service, but was intrigued at how they went about it. Sane Box is affiliated with Amazon -- thus your credit card is only through Amazon, as is service and promotion. You trust Amazon, right -- so why wouldn't you trust Sane Box? It leverages a huge brand for an unknown.
Do you have a solution to a problem that would benefit from an alliance with another partner? Is there a problem you hear about repeatedly that you could attempt to solve? Can you adapt the growing field of Artificial Intelligence to make something you offer even more tailored for your clients? There is no need for people to continue to go in-sane with tools like Sane Box at their disposal. How can you create some sanity in your organization?
P. S. If you're interested, Sane Box offers a 14 day free trial (then is $100/year). If it really works, 12 hrs/month recouped for $100 is a steal.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

leadership dot #1758: home sweet home

For reasons that I don't understand, I was invited to attend the Home Delivery World conference in Atlanta. This event -- which sounds like should be a new phenomenon -- is actually in its fifth year. Over 65 exhibitors participate, including:, AIT Worldwide Logistics, Amazon.comAnheuser-Busch Inbev, Anthony's Goods, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Atlanta Electronic Commerce Forum, B&H Photo Video, Birchbox, Bob's Discount Furniture, Boxberry, Boxed, Brick Meets Click, Bristol Seafood, BuildDirect, Bush Industries, Business Builders, Carter’s, Cheetah Software Systems, Click n Collect Pty Ltd, Convey, Delivery Center, Descartes, Design Within Reach, DHL eCommerce, Dillard's, DispatchTrack, Dollar Shave Club, ENJOY, Farmbox Direct, FedExFun.comGenesco, Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, Green Chef, Green Mountain Technology, Greenbriar Equity Group, GS1 Nederland, Gwynnie Bee, H.Y. Louie Co., Harry and David, Havertys Furniture, Hermes, Hilti, Holland & Knight, I.B.M., Imperfect Produce, Intelligent Audit, Interroll, Ipsy, J.W. Logistics, LaserShip, LE TOTE, LG Electronics, Lowes Foods, Luxer One, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, MXD Group, Naked Wines, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Neesvig's, Nespresso, Newgistics, Nuvizz, OnTrac, Oriflame Cosmetics, Original Unverpackt, Ortlieb Waterproof, Otter ProductsOverstock.comPeloton Cycle, PerfectPost, Pup Box, Purchasing Power, Raw Spice Bar, Restoration Hardware, RR Donnelley, Sealed Air Corporation, SEKO Logistics, SENE, Sonoco ThermoSafe, SSA Marine,, SupplyChainBrain, Tailored Brands, The Home Depot, The Kroger Co, The Neiman Marcus Group, Tiffany and Co, TrueNorth Companies, Unilever, UPS, Urban Outfitters, USPS, Verizon Wireless, Wakefern Food Corporation, Walmart, Worldpay, XPO
It is quite the list!
What is said to me is that on-line is no longer enough; now on-line needs to be coupled with a repeat subscription service or regular home delivery option. As I can attest by the number of times the grocery delivery truck drives down my street, people are embracing the idea of having their orders brought right to their home.
"Conference streams" at this event include: the Final Mile, White Glove service & returns, technology & IT, supply chain, international and grocery. Is there a way for your organization to fit into this movement? Can you tailor your service to become a subscription model? Or perhaps you can offer a behind-the-scenes component for others in this business? Is there an aspect of your offering that can partner with others for home delivery (eg: cakes with kids games for parties-on-demand)?
As Dorothy said while she clicked her Ruby Slippers long ago: "There's no place like home." Try to find your sweet spot in this emerging market.

Friday, March 24, 2017

leadership dot #1757: rebate

If you listen to the commercials on the radio, it seems businesses anticipate that everyone in America is getting a tax refund this year. There are dozens of ads imploring consumers to spend their refund on a new car, mattress, eyeglasses, furniture or other big purchase. If you believe the advertising copy, the refund allows you to buy the product practically for free.
Only the thing is, the refund is already YOUR money. This sounds obvious and we know it intellectually, but we don't always consciously think of refunds in this way. The gap between paying and receiving it makes it more difficult to see the linkage, just as the time separation between credit card charges and the bill sometimes results in surprises.
The delay is a factor with rebates too: we receive a check or pre-paid card in the mail and it feels like a gift, when, in fact, it is a return of funds we have already spent. This is not a bonus, rather payment of a loan we proffered with no interest charges.
Yet, despite the smoke and mirrors of the whole refund/rebate operation, there is something appealing about getting money back. Think about how you can use this to your advantage. Can you hold back a small portion of the salary pool and use it (plus the interest) to provide a bonus at the end of the year, or give another form of recognition after a particularly stressful quarter? Maybe you can offer a rebate to consumers -- knowing that many of them will not apply for it or ultimately cash in on it even if they do -- that allows you revenue to give additional funds in donations or sponsorships? Or offer a rebate only if they buy your product in multiples to share as an incentive to spread your message?
If people are happy to loan you their money without interest and are actually excited when you give it back, it's worth considering as part of your marketing strategy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

leadership dot #1756: one thing

I was recently preparing for a workshop and included a concept I learned at Brand Camp -- in 2007. I think it is the only thing I consciously remember from the multi-day conference, but it perfectly illustrated my point.
As I reflected on the fact I only had one takeaway from that event, it occurred to me that I have followed the same pattern for much of my career, but over the years have assembled quite an arsenal of tools, one concept at a time. I rip one page out of a magazine, take one lesson from each conference, remember an idea from a webinar and adopt a training technique from a speaker. By putting them together, I have amassed quite a repertoire of metaphors and exercises from which I can draw to make my teaching more powerful. Instead of being disappointed that I "only" remembered one concept, I should embrace the idea that one idea I repeatedly use is a valuable ROI for attendance. 
How can you process your intakes and post-event reflection to capture that "one thing" you hope to take forward and apply? We often come away from a book, a sojourn on social media or a conference with a multitude of ideas that get lost in the background. Be intentional about pulling out the one concept that can add to your thinking, maybe for decades to come.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

leadership dot #1755a: bonus addendum

My friend Stacey Steinbach shared this story with me after reading leadership dot #1755 about distinguishing sounds. I thought you would also enjoy it, and perhaps could add it to your toolbox of resource materials.

Read the Cricket Story here.

Thanks for sharing Stacey!

leadership dot #1755: distinguish

Those who live around train tracks often learn to distinguish the sound of one train vs. another: a passenger train sounds different from a freight train; one railway uses a different sounding engine vs. another, etc. The same is true for connoisseurs of automobiles: experts can tell by the hum of the engine what type of car is passing by. My dogs know that one truck parked in front of the house means a friend is here, while another truck parked there is visiting elsewhere. 
My hearing is piqued by the sound of the mail truck. Although the community mail boxes are several houses away, I can tell when the mail truck is pulling up and can distinguish that sound from all the other passing traffic. It is an efficient skill to have!
Whether your ears are tuned to trains, cars or mail trucks, remember that the nuances are not in the hearing of the sound, rather the meaning our mind associates with it. You and I both hear the same traffic in the background and the same noise the postal vehicle makes, only it is in my brain that the distinctive sound of the truck signals it is time to go get the mail.
Be intentional about the meaning you choose to attach to sounds in your world. You may not need to distinguish the mail truck, but perhaps you become attuned to the sound of a client walking in the door, the grumble of a client before they walk out the door, a teapot just before the water boils or a child just before they have a meltdown. 
Be intentional about giving meaning to what you hear so you bring the background to the foreground.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

leadership dot #1754: metabolism

Most people know that a person's metabolism slows down as they age. The cruel fact is that even if you keep your food intake steady, unless there is an accompanying increase in exercise, it is likely that you will put on weight. Eating the same amount of food no longer is enough of a strategy to maintain a desired appearance.
I think the same thing occurs with people in the workplace. Their metabolism equates to energy levels, and it is at its highest when the employee first begins a new job. After a person ages in the position, their work metabolism begins to slow. Things become routine. Expectations are raised. The newness wears off and the numbness sets in. Something different has to happen for the person's performance to continue at its desired levels.
Whether planning an exercise plan as you grow older or a performance plan as you become seasoned in your job, keeping the concept of metabolism in mind will help you know when you need to increase the effort just to maintain.  It's a great goal to work smarter, but, unfortunately, you'll need to work harder, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

leadership dot #1753: evaluation

In many organizations, the employee evaluation process is a reflection tool rather than a vehicle for determining pay raises, yet it still can be a valuable tool in the supervisor's arsenal. If conducted in a developmental and intentional manner, the evaluation can inspire and guide employees to do their best work in the coming year.
I have developed a handout of a seven-step outline for a process that will allow you to conduct effective employee evaluations:
  1. Determine the purpose of the evaluation -- developmental or tied to merit pay
  2. Develop a system to allow you to account for the entire period. (My notebook method works well for this.)
  3. Develop a set of questions to foster conversation and reflection, and share them in advance.
  4. The conversation should both look back and look forward.
  5. The evaluation should not contain surprises.
  6. End with a focus on a short number of goals.
  7. Be intentional about process protocol -- I always had the employee begin
If you have created a culture where everything is assessed regularly, it should make the conversation about the employee's performance a natural part of your cycle. Don't minimize the importance of learning from the past and planning for the future -- together.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

leadership dot #1752: play with me

Oftentimes in an organization, we get locked in to who our customer is and spend all of our energy coming up with new ways to communicate with that group. It takes an extra dose of thinking outside of the box to develop a new audience, but that is what Mattel has done with their new Barbie campaign.
After decades of advertising to young girls and moms, Barbie's new focus is on dads. Mattel rolled out this campaign with eight full page ads in People, including two pseudo-covers featuring Good Morning America's Michael Strahan and actor Jerry O'Connell. (I can't imagine what that cost!) "The World's Greatest Dads Tell the Greatest Stories" proclaims their headline, and the ads reference a research study that shows dad's involvement with his children's play contributes to their development. Of course it is supplemented with a site, that includes instructions on "how to play Barbie" and a #DadsWhoPlayBarbie hashtag for posting pictures that could win dads $25,000 or a trip to Mattel where their child could become a Barbie Designer for a day. (It never mentions "daughter")
Think about the lessons you can take from this campaign. Is there a new audience that you could reach with your same product? Can you provide instructions on how to use your product or service in a different way? Do you have something to offer as a grand prize that can't be obtained in any other way? You may not be able to afford the grand splash that Mattel used, but I'll bet if you play around with their idea, you can imagine your own new story.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

leadership dot #1751: handles

One of the more unique forms of advertising is the handle on the tap beer dispenser at bars. Each brand has only a few square inches to distinguish itself from the other brews, and hopefully to entice the consumer to ask for it by name. Companies use this space creatively and try to get the most out of their limited allocation.
It reminded me of the CB-radio handles that truckers used to use in the days before cell phones. These infamous monikers would distinguish one driver from another and infuse a piece of personality in the label just by their unique name. Examples included: Rachet Jaw, Treefrog, Sod Buster, Large Marge, Snow Snake and, of course, Big Buddy.
Think about the handle you would use to describe yourself or your organization. It could be a good icebreaker or exercise in branding, but how would you communicate the essence of who you are in a beer tap handle or a CD-radio name? The limitations may help you get to the core of what distinguishes you from the other swigs or rigs.

Friday, March 17, 2017

leadership dot #1750: Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
It is the day when most everyone wears green and claims to have a bit of Irish heritage. Just as I wondered about the history of Valentine's Day, today got me thinking about why we celebrate this holiday, and why we do so in the way we do.
St. Patrick's was an Irish priest and those in Ireland celebrated his feast for centuries. But the line between a religious celebration was blurred with the first St. Patrick's Day parade, held in New York City in 1762. The Church declared the day to be a reprieve from the restrictions imposed during Lent, so the New Yorkers took advantage of the opportunity for celebration. The first parade became a vehicle for Irish soldiers who were members of the British Army, as a way for them to overcome homesickness and connect with each other. Over the years, the "parades became a display of solidarity and political strength as these often ridiculed Irish immigrants were frequently victims of prejudice.*" 
Green is omnipresent on today's feast day, but blue was the color originally associated with the holiday. Legend has it that those who were wearing green would be invisible to leprechauns, thus spared from their tendency to pinch people. More likely, green evolved from the day's association with Ireland, also known as The Emerald Isle.
Whether you indulge in green beer, green donuts, cabbage with corned beef or any of the other traditional foods of this feast day, I hope you also go back to the core of the celebration and rally against prejudice, especially against those with low social status. May the luck of the Irish shine upon you as you take on that challenge.
*Sources: History of St. Patrick's Day.
Christian Science Monitor: Why Do We Wear Green?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

leadership dot #1749: bake sale

Rather than offer a sale to inspire purchasing, a local bookstore recently ran a promotion whereby you received a piece of homemade pie for every book purchased. The tasty treats were much more of an incentive than a discount!
The pies were made by a local church group who was hoping that some of the purchases would be children's books for their child care center. The pies sat there are visible motivation to act -- either to give the book to them or kept it for yourself. I didn't see anyone in the store who did not buy at least something.
This particular pie promotion did not even cost the bookstore anything as they partnered with the church group. How can you provide incentives for your clients that go beyond the usual discounted price? Is there something you can do to motivate people to engage in the behavior you are seeking? Offering an unexpected treat may provide a slice of happiness as well as drive your sales. It provides a whole new meaning to bake sale!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

leadership dot #1748: dispensable

I recently met with a colleague who was preparing to go on maternity leave. She talked about the logistics involved to allow her program to run without her for several months, and how she has spent her time delegating and training others for her departure.
"I spent the first five years of my career trying to become indispensable," she said. "And then I realized that was not a sustainable lifestyle. I have spent the next five years of my career trying to make myself dispensable instead!"
We talked about how letting go is a hard lesson to learn for anyone in a new role: new employees, new parents or new leaders -- at first, everyone thinks they prove their value when others are reliant on them. It is only with wisdom that people learn that the true measure of their worth is how people operate without them there: how the child or employee lives out the values you have imparted without your monitoring or how the work is done when you are away.
It reminded me of a quote from one of David Ambler's Guidelines for Working With Students: "Accept the fact that we are not an end to ourselves. With each new program and student, we should work toward the end of eliminating our necessity." It may seem counter-intuitive, but it a maxim that ultimately rings true.
What steps can you take today to make yourself just a bit more dispensable than you are? You'll approach your work differently if you make eliminating your necessity the goal.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

leadership dot #1747: reconfiguration

Every week before class began, some students and I would rearrange the room from the traditional rows to a U-shaped set up. This allowed participants to see each other -- and engage in conversation -- without having to turn around or talk to each others' backs.
On the last night, when we had all student presentations, we left the classroom in its original format. What a difference it made. There was no engagement.  There was a great deal of chatter and distracting side conversations from the back row. There was an air of formality instead of collegiality that had been present in the other class sessions.
We took a moment to pause and reflect on the difference the classroom set up made. Yes, it was a hassle to rearrange at the beginning and to reset at the end, but it made it a better class. I wonder why classrooms aren't set in a discussion-mode by default. 
Think carefully about the setting where you want learning to occur. A U-shape is much better than rows. A round table beats rectangular by eliminating the "head" spot. An open square has different dynamics than a smaller table where participants are in close proximity to each other. A podium creates a barrier between the class and the presenter.
It can be easier to leave the set up as you find it, but it is exponentially worth using your brawn to benefit your brain through reconfiguration.

Monday, March 13, 2017

leadership dot #1746: breach

When I was a novice driver, my mother was constantly admonishing me to be careful behind the wheel. "I know you are a good driver," she would say, "but there are bad drivers on the road that you need to watch out for."
I thought about her perspective after I picked up the mail and saw a letter from the IRS. It seems that the thief who stole computer data from my former employer used it -- and my W2 from them, complete with social security number -- to file my income taxes for me this year! I am obsessive about safeguarding my identity, but because someone else didn't protect it, I am left to suffer the consequences. 
The situation reminded me that there are times where you need to play defense. You aren't able to prevent bad drivers or data breaches, so you buy insurance and the IRS invests millions in flagging questionable returns. Offense is a lot more fun, but follow my mom's wise advice and factor defensive moves into your time allocation and budget.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

leadership dots #1745: fewer

Southwest Airlines is famous for its cost-saving moving of purchasing only the same Boeing 737 planes for its fleet. By standardizing the aircraft, they were able to save millions on bulk orders of replacement parts as well as requiring only one set of training for its mechanics and pilots. Simplicity just made operations easier.
Apparently fast food restaurant Fazoli's did not get the memo.
When I was cleaning off my table, I had a hard time stacking the dirty dishes -- because there were so many different types of them. As I left, there were six different sizes at a place that barely has that many different dishes on their menu. Are they all really necessary?
Before you specialize -- in forms, dishes, services, products or just about anything -- pause for a moment to calculate the cost of the complexity. Does the gain from "an additional" really outweigh the benefits of keeping things more simple? Have you considered the implications down the road of maintaining/updating/servicing/storing the different piece? Fewer really is greater in the end.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

leadership dot #1744: spot on

One of the biggest challenges in home decorating (at least for me) is figuring out the paint color. A 2"x2" paper sample in the hardware store does nothing to help me know if I am going to like that color when it appears on my wall. Apparently, I am not the only one with this problem.
Lowe's has developed an ingenious product, Spot On, that allows you to temporarily put a sample on your actual wall -- without buying the gallon of paint or even without ruining the current paint that is there. The Spot On kit provides you with all the materials to paint special temporary decals that you put on your wall to gain a much better idea of what the paint actually looks like in your home. It's still small, but it is giant compared to the paint chip and it is actually paint, not paper -- all good things.
Think about how you can allow your clients to sample your product before they must fully commit. Can you offer an introductory session before a full course? Maybe you can have a reduced price for a taste of something? Can you provide just a piece of your product/service to allow customers to authentically test it? I think Lowe's idea is spot on, and a great model to follow to make the buying process less stressful.

Friday, March 10, 2017

leadership dot #1743: just one more

In most situations where we find ourselves saying: "Just one more," we'd be better off if we quit before then. Yes, there are those who motivate themselves to do one additional push-up, to run that extra lap or to finish another task, but mostly "just one more" becomes a justification to extend our pleasure to a point of excess.
"One more" usually means reading another social media post instead of sleeping, having another cookie although we have already had two, putting down another bet at the table when we have broken even, ordering an additional drink after we've had plenty or playing another round of computer games rather than being productive. When we gain pleasure from doing these things, the hit of dopamine comes and overrules the rational logic telling us to stop.
"Just one more" is a curse -- a sure sign that we have set meaningful boundaries that are about to be violated. The short-term impact can be minimal, thus rationalized away, but the cumulative effect of ignoring parameters can have serious negative consequences. One bet, one drink, one pound, one hour later and the momentum takes us into undesirable territory.
Create your limits before the temptation is knocking, and then stick to them. If you hear that voice in your head urging you to give "just a little," know that it really is a disguise for giving up a lot.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

leadership dot #1742: hopeful

If I asked you how much extreme poverty has changed globally since 1990, what would you answer? An increase or decrease and by how much?
Compare that to respondents in a Glocalites survey who answered:
decreased more than 25% = 1% of responses
decreased 25% = 12% of responses
stayed the same = 18% of responses
increased 25% or more = 70% of responses
The 1% were correct. Extreme poverty has decreased more than half over the last 25 years according to the Annual Letter by Bill and Melinda Gates describing the work of the Gates Foundation. The Letter is full of several positive results, many of which are unnoticed by the U.S. mainstream.
For example, the number of new cases of polio/year was 350,000 in 1988 and last year was a total of 37 globally (not 37,0000; just 37 -- all those in high conflict areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria where it is too dangerous to do immunizations.) Why should this matter?
I think that optimism is in short supply these days, and to have proof of substantial results should be encouraging to all of us. It shows that staggering, global problems can be solved -- that it may take millions of dollars and decades of work, but that positive change does occur. Optimism also builds momentum as people want to be associated with winners and success -- the more that people believe efforts are having an impact, the more likely they are to personally support the changes.
If you need a dose of hopeful news (made more credible as it is balanced with a dose of realism), read the Annual Letter. Bill and Melinda conclude with their optimistic prediction: "We're confident of one thing: The future will surprise the pessimists." That's the best news I have heard in awhile.
[For more on this read the Fortune magazine commentary: What Bill and Melinda Gates see that Donald Trump Doesn't by William Taylor, February 17, 2017: "You can be a Gates fan, a Trump fan, or a fan of neither, but it’s impossible not to be struck by how differently these supremely powerful people see and explain the world. I’ll leave it to you to reckon with the implications of these differences for your business, your approach to leadership, and the future of the planet."]

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

leadership dot #1741: women's day

Today is International Women's Day -- a "global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity." 
Every woman could cite an example of gender bias, often unrealized in the moment by anyone besides herself. But until the subtle differences are made conscious, it becomes difficult to impact change and achieve equality in pay, behavior and norms.
In a recent case my class read, Alex Sander was a hard-charging, driven executive who was the sales leader in the group. Alex's assertiveness was not liked, but accepted as a trade-off for top performance metrics. But the conversation changed when it was revealed that Alex was, in fact, a woman. Suddenly that same behavior seemed too aggressive and a behavioral issue. While it made for great class discussion, it makes for a lousy standard in the workplace.
Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg has said: "That little girl's not bossy -- that little girl has executive leadership skills." (It's one of the the e-cards the Massachusetts Conference for Women prepared for others to send to women today.) Sheryl could have been talking about the fictional Alex Sander -- or someone you know. Use today to heighten your sensitivity to differences in how women are treated -- by others and by you -- and make a commitment to do better.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

leadership dot #1740: pack of wolves

For my organizational behavior class, I am always on the lookout for examples of systems thinking. The more tangible I can make the concept of interconnectedness for my students, the sooner they understand that culture is entwined with every other aspect of the organization. It then makes it much more productive for us to discuss the role leadership plays in creating the desired climate.
The latest example I have used is from nature, specifically how the release of 14 wolves in Yellowstone National Park resulted in myriad of changes in the area. Components of the ecosystem were impacted in ways that were unplanned and unexpected, highlighting once again how everything on the planet ultimately relies on others for survival.
Watch this four-minute video to learn about "one of the most exciting scientific findings of the last half-century." If a pack of wolves can have this much impact, just think what a group of humans can do for an organization, community or beyond. How can you band together and howl?

Monday, March 6, 2017

leadership dot #1739: two dogs

When I sold my first house, the buyer was visibly nervous at the closing. I assumed her anxiety was due to the financial shock of signing papers for such a large amount, but I was wrong. As I attempted to reassure her, I learned the true reason for her distress.
"Your two dogs were outside when we saw it with the Realtor," she said. "My young son thinks that they come with the house and will still be there when we move in! He is so excited about moving because of it. I am just nervous about how he is going to react when we arrive and there are no pets to be found."
We often make assumptions about the motivations behind others' behavior -- whether that be at a house closing, business meeting or political rally. Make it a habit to ask, rather than to assume. You may be seeing the manifestation of something entirely different than what you would guess.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

leadership dot #1738: amaze-mint

When I checked into the Hilton, I took a piece of candy from the dish at the registration desk. I was surprised to see it read: "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and it is safe. Proverbs 18:10." I wasn't expecting such a message on my mint from the front desk of a major convention hotel.
There were several more dishes, all filled with candy of similar sentiments, and all branded by Scripture Candy: "Reaching the World One Piece at a Time!" Later I learned that they were placed there for the Catholic convention that was in the hotel, but I had to ask to find that out. Nowhere was there any signage or indication of the targeted audience.
All conventions have special touches that appeal to their attendees and I applaud the organizers and hotel for paying attention to such details. But if you are doing something that is out of the mainstream, remember the non-participants who will encounter it. A word of context can go a long way in making your message subtle instead of surprising.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

leadership dot #1737: worn wear

It seems counter intuitive for a company that sells clothes to sponsor and event to repair clothes, but that is just what is happening at Patagonia. Even more surprising: they are going directly to the consumers to make it happen.
Patagonia is sponsoring a Worn Wear Tour, taking a van to colleges throughout the country and repairing clothes (of any brand) to keep them out of the landfill. No selling involved; just free repairs on articles of clothing, done in partnership with the Post-Landfill Action Network. You can watch a video about the process here.
How can your organization get involved in a project that does the right thing, even if it doesn't lead to direct sales? What service could you perform that may seem like it works against your business, but ultimately could enhance it? Is there a cause you believe in that you could promote, even if it doesn't have an explicit business link? Use Patagonia's Worn Wear Tour as a model for thinking outside the box (or store) to create a project that sews together your passions and service.

Thanks Meg!

Friday, March 3, 2017

leadership dot #1736: things I learned, part 2

Yesterday I shared four lessons I have learned on my journey from working on a campus to working for myself. Today, I have three additional lessons for your consideration as to how they may apply in your life:
  • Lesson 5: Be like Shonda Rhimes and “say yes” to opportunities that scare you. The Pecha Kucha l did last year was so far out of my comfort zone. I said yes to write a $2 million grant before I knew what a logic model was. I wrote fund raising copy for the first time. I am teaching a new business communications course this summer. Say YES, and then figure out how to do it.
  • Lesson 6: Save as much as you can now and live well within your means. Having a nest egg creates a world of options for you and greatly reduces your stress, in both the short and long term. The more you save now, the more freedom you have later.
  • Lesson 7: There is great value to in-person social connections. I have three friends that have become my “de facto board of directors”. We meet monthly in a tiny pizza joint for “Seinfeld-esque” lunches that have kept me sane. Cultivate friendships outside of work. Initiate these connections. Treasure them.
Whether you remember any of these specific lessons or not, I hope you remember the general theme that you control your own destiny. To paraphrase a Henry Ford quote: “If you think you’re happy or miserable, you’re right.” You can be happy anywhere and miserable anywhere. The choice to make lemonade is up to you.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

leadership dot #1735: things I learned, part 1

Last week, I gave a Pecha Kucha* talk about the lessons I have learned in my journey from working on a campus to working for myself. I share them here (and tomorrow) in the hopes that some may be applicable to you as well:
  • Lesson 1: Don’t discount the value of life beyond a paycheck. If you work 50+ hours/week, nights and weekends, you give up more than your realize. There is a definite trade off between time and money. Before I had much more money, much less time. Now the reverse is true, but I feel richer.
  • Lesson 2:  Write. I filled a notebook about my journey – and can look back at my progress and emotions. Like Marie Forleo said: “If you fall off a bike and get back up, you are no longer the person who fell – you are the person who is still riding.” Writing lets you see that.
  • Lesson 3: If work makes you feel small – get out before you are miserable. Think of the frog story: if you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump out; but if you put it in water and slowly heat it to a boil, it will stay there and die. Watch your water temperature so you’re not like the frog. Now I know that you don’t find your passion; you know it already. You just have to commit to make it a priority.
  • Lesson 4: You will do yourself a favor if you develop the discipline now to hold yourself accountable. Be your own boss, even if you aren’t. Don’t cheat on deadlines. Create a system that allows you to accomplish things that are important, but not urgent. Whether working for yourself or others, this will be a differentiator.
Hopefully these gave you a few things to think about. Stay tuned for more lessons tomorrow.
(*Pecha Kucha is a presentation format with 20 slides shared with 20 seconds of narrative on each.)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

leadership dot #1734: out of gas

The recent Daytona 500 NASCAR race outcome was influenced by five drivers who ran out of gas during the race. What I know about NASCAR could fit in a fortune cookie, but it seemed like gas was a pretty basic function that should be attended to in such a major event. How could five drivers be oblivious to their fuel capacity?
I had to ask a blogger's best friend: Google.
It turns out that while they may cost over $100,000, NASCAR vehicles do not come with a gas gauge. In fact, they are not allowed to have one -- or any on-board computer or information-gathering devices. So one of the many responsibilities of the crew chief is to calculate how much gas the driver has consumed, and to hope the combination of factors allows enough fuel to remain until the end of the race.
The use of gas is determined by the speed, track conditions, temperature, intensity of driving/shifting, position and the number of cars remaining. Decisions are made in the early laps that will determine whether the driver is able to extend the gas through the entire race. If a driver is too aggressive in his/her driving in the beginning, they may not have enough fuel to cross the finish line.
Such was the case in Daytona...
...and in most of life's situations. Our variable is energy, and if we expend too much of it in the process, we may run out of gas before we complete the project. Just like with NASCAR, we need to attend to our capacity and make adjustments to extend our energy through to the checkered flag.

Why NASCAR cars don't have gas gauges by Cork Gaines, Business, August 10, 2015
When fuel is all that matters by Kenny Bruce,, July 23, 2014