Sunday, April 30, 2017

leadership dot #1794: double duty

The Baltimore Hilton has done a great job of combining design with functionality in its meeting room signage. Rather than have rooms with names that have no meaning and generic art lining the hallways, the Hilton has utilized its art to tell the story of the person for whom the room is named.
                         
Not only does it provide aesthetic enhancement, it also adds some knowledge and local flavor to an otherwise institutional space. In addition, when the room is not in use, instead of remaining blank, the electronic signs feature a Baltimore trivia fact (eg: Baltimore's Fort McHenry defended Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812 and is the birthplace of the American National Anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key.)
Kudos to the Hilton staff for intentionally thinking about how the signs could serve double (triple?) duty for its visitors. How can your signage do more for you than just show the way?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

leadership dot #1793: slime

I wonder what suddenly makes something a "hot item" among kids. I wrote before about rainbow loom bracelets, now they are quite passe'.  The newest trend for the younger set is homemade Slime. Elmer's Glue, the trusty classroom staple that has been around since 1947, is now flying off the shelves. There have even been glue shortages if you can believe that.
When I was in Michael's, they featured an entire display of Slime-making materials: Elmer's Glue by the gallon, glitter and small plastic animals to put into the concoction. The display provides directions: for how to make Glitter Slime, Jumbo Colored Slime and Extra-Large Custom Glitter Slime. It is a craft store's dream.
Slime is just one more fad that will be short lived and then irrelevant, but for today, it's the hot item. Up your cool factor and make some Slime of your own to use instead of the usual office stress balls. Have some fun with the kids in your life and whip up a batch. Make it a group team builder or creativity contest. There is so much negative slime circulated in the news media today; get out the glue and put a positive spin on slime instead.
  


Friday, April 28, 2017

leadership dot #1792: live

A webinar about Generation Z (those born since 1996) pointed out how communication styles are different for those who are Z's than even for Millennials or other recent generations. The speaker pointed out that Generation Z prefers to communicate on-line rather than in-person, and that when they do share "live" that their grammar and communication skills can be "frightening." 
I thought of this when I heard from a colleague that he had just visited an "all i-Pad bar" at the Minneapolis airport. While there is still a human to prepare the food and beverages, all ordering and paying is done via a technology-only interface. My colleague recounts: "There was a bartender and only two people at the bar. I asked him if I could get a Coke and something to eat. He said yes and directed me to one of the 500 iPads they had all over the place. I said, 'Can’t I just tell you what I want?' and he said: 'No, you have to order all things through the iPad and pay there as well.' Another older lady sitting at the bar just looked at me and rolled her eyes."
Ordering food is one more learning lab for conversation that has gone by the wayside. No wonder younger people prefer technology; they have far more practice with it!  Think about the skills you can develop from chatting with a bank teller, a server, clerks in retail stores, cashiers (instead of self-checkouts), travel agents and dozens of other professionals with whom you make small talk during your transactions. Those opportunities are lost to automation, and while it has made life far easier, it has also made communication skills far worse.
While the younger travelers will enjoy ordering their food in the human-less method to which they have become accustomed, there is something lost in the process. A bartender app can't replace the ambiance of "shooting the crap" or cheering together over a sporting event. An iPad can't teach people how to develop conversational skills or to learn interpersonal confidence. Only a human can do that. 
Before you trade off engagement for efficiency and swap talk for tablets, think twice. A live interaction is a gift not to be wasted.
Thanks Toby!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

leadership dot #1791: maturity

"We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice -- that is, until we have stopped saying "It got lost" and say "I lost it."  Sydney J. Harris
How many times have you found yourself referring to "they" or someone else as a reason for your shortcomings? It a symbol of maturity when you own up to your own mistakes or delays, even though it may be tempting to blame the nebulous "other" for our failure to produce. 
Take a pledge to use your active voice today and take clear responsibility for your actions. Admit "I was late" vs. "Traffic was bad." Or "I can't figure it out" vs. "This computer is acting up." The more your language speaks of maturity, the more your actions will follow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

leadership dot #1790: slow slide

There was an article in the newspaper describing how credit-score calculations are being overhauled in a significant way, impacting both those with high and low scores. The most substantial change in how the scores are calculated involves the inclusion of trended data. Instead of just looking at whether a person paid on time or not, the credit bureaus will not assess whether the overall debt is growing or declining. Trended data is intended to give early warning signs to the credit bureau that a consumer may be headed in the wrong direction before they actually start having late payments or debt trouble. 
It reminded me of the question a reader asked about addressing the "slow slide" that happens with weight gain. This is how the financial industry is addressing that exact phenomenon. It is not enough to look at one point in time, but it is much more effective and preventative to utilize trended data to give early triggers as to where there is a problem. (As in stepping on the scale weekly or using debt totals to calculate credit scores instead of payment history.)
The slow slide happens not only with weight gain and borrowing limits, but with many other things in life. One dandelion doesn't mean anything -- except that dozens are soon to follow. One unanswered email in your inbox doesn't cause clutter -- but it signals the slide toward overload. One gray hair is not cause for alarm -- but unless you color it soon, you whole head will be white. One late arrival by an employee isn't earth shattering, but is worthy of closely monitoring to prevent a tardiness problem. 
A graph usually depicts a gradual curve more frequently than it has sharp peaks and valleys. Your life happens like that, too. Find ways to incorporate trended data in what matters most to you to be able to intervene before the behavior has deviated too far from your desired norm. 
Source: Credit-score calculations changing by Ken Sweet for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, April 23, 2017, p. 2D.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

leadership dot #1789: never satisfied

Renee Elise Goldsberry originated the powerful role of Angelica Schuyler in the hit musical Hamilton. Not only did she have one of the leads in a mega-hit on Broadway, she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her standout number was "Satisfied", which included the lyrics "you strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied." This line becomes a recurring theme in the musical and "never satisfied" is one of the phrases from the show that made it into popular lexicon.
Goldsberry seems to have taken this "never satisfied" message to heart. I am sure when she was growing up, her perfect day would have been performing in the premier female part in the hottest show on Broadway, but priorities change. Now she tells People: "Jogging through Central Park and reading until I pick my kids up from school...that would be a perfect day!"
Think about your life. How can you keep growing and changing so that you are "never satisfied" with stagnation? Are there things you want to do, but are happy not to keep doing them forever? Are you open to change and new experiences, even though you may be in a good situation now?  Being "never satisfied" can open the window to a whole new script if you let it.
*"Renee Elise Goldsberry: Life after Hamilton" in People, May 1, 2017, p. 39

Monday, April 24, 2017

leadership dot #1788: pipelines

We don't always think about the infrastructure that makes our communities function, but some local families got a stark reminder of what it takes to make a city work. As part of a storm water reconstruction process, the pipeline went through the middle of several properties -- meaning that the yards were totally dug up in order to insert the giant sections.
There is probably a similar pipe running through my yard and many others, but we don't think about it. It is invisible to the homeowner, but the public works staff needs to be well aware of what is there, how long it has been underground and its capacity. They need to schedule when and where to dig up yards.
Think about the infrastructure that runs your organization or family. Have you taken time to consider the condition of the systems you need to conduct your operations? You take many of them for granted, but as the CEO of your home and perhaps in your role in your organization, you need to assess, plan and budget for the eventual repair. Systems are only invisible when they are functioning well.
 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

leadership dot #1787: microfibers

For my organizational behavior class, I am always on the lookout for examples of real life systems that illustrate the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated things. I recently found an example that relates the growing popularity of leisure clothes to an increase in marine debris and pollution.
"Yoga pants, fleece jackets, sweat-wicking athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials shed microscopic plastic fibers -- called microfibers -- when laundered. Wastewater systems flush the microfibers into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea," reports University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire.
There are many efforts underway to address this complex system, including work with washing machine manufacturers to enhance filters and impressive work by clothing manufacturer Patagonia to provide outreach to consumers and additional research to minimize the impact.
You don't always make the connection between what you wear and what sea animals eat, but the link is there. Think about how you can play a responsible role in the ecosystem.
Source:  Cozy clothes may be a key source of sea pollution by Jennifer Kay for the Associated Press, March 19, 2017 in the Telegraph Herald.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

leadership dot #1786: stalled

It's no secret that people are pressed for time and, as a result, often are challenged in finding time for professional development or reading. Several places have capitalized on the fleeting moments people spend in a restroom and added informational material to the stall doors.
At Kaneland Middle School, the teacher's lounge contains In-STALL-ments offering quick tips on how to add technology to lesson plans:
Many college campuses utilize restroom doors for promotional flyers, but Luther College went one step further by providing a frame for such advertising:
Attention is a valuable commodity. If you can capture even a moment of it, think about how you can utilize it wisely.

Friday, April 21, 2017

leadership dot #1785: incentive

I was given a gift card for Christmas that provided for monthly specials at a restaurant. Last month, the offer was a free bowl of soup. I have been to this restaurant many times, but never once thought about having the soup until it was free.
I have ordered soup on every visit since. It was fantastic!
Grocery stores and warehouse clubs do a variation of the same idea with their free tasting stations and free samples of products. I know I have tried things I would have never risked purchasing outright, but confidently bought it after enjoying a sample.
Think about how you can offer one of your products or services to your clients in a way that gets them to try something that they may not have otherwise used. Can you provide a free class session as an incentive to sign up for the whole program? Or perhaps a free use of your product for the weekend to allow the client to try it at home? Maybe a free 1:1 session to allow them to receive a sample of your coaching? Or an upgrade in membership for a trial period?
Free is an irresistible word. Use it wisely and give your client confidence to venture into new territory.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

leadership dot #1784: there's nothing

Today is one of those days when I feel like I have "nothing" to write about -- yet I have an entire basket filled with articles I have clipped for future dot ideas.
People often look in their closet and believe they have "nothing" to wear -- even though the hangars are filled with perfectly good clothing.
Children complain that there is "nothing" to do or adults say there is "nothing" on television -- despite the fact that the world abounds with entertainment and recreational options, many available with the click of a mouse or a step outside.
Teenagers stare into the refrigerator, lamenting that there is "nothing" to eat -- even though fruit, cheese and shelves of food are plentiful.
I think that oftentimes when we say "nothing" what we really mean is "too many choices." Our brains become paralyzed by the over abundance of options and become numb to action. If there was only one thing on television -- as in an airport lounge -- we would watch it. If we only had one outfit to wear -- such as the one thing we packed in our overnight bag -- we would wear it without complaint. If one meal was served to us in someone's home, we would sit down at the table and eat.
The next time your brain is telling you there is "nothing", narrow your choice set to the first one you see and act on that.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

leadership dot #1783: the hunt

I am fascinated with how discounters choose to display their low-cost movies: often tossed randomly in a bin for people to rummage through instead of being neatly displayed on a shelf. It is the same method of presenting things in clearance aisles or at garage sales -- hit and miss in a seemingly disheveled way.
But, of course, while this method may appear haphazard, there is intentionality behind the madness. I would bet that most people who dig through the bin did not enter the store planning to buy a movie. But the bargain price entices them to shuffle through, and, then when they find one they actually recognize, it seems like a prize and they are compelled to take it home. I know I have been a victim to the marketing draw.
The grab bag idea has been around since marketing began, but the modern twist is that people can see what they are grabbing. Think about how your organization offers its products and whether there is something that you should offer in a more random way. Put all your conference swag in a bin for participants to choose one? Serve snacks or fruit in an unorganized basket rather than in neat rows on display? Distribute incentives or prizes through random selection rather than prescription? 
The thrill of the hunt doubles the joy of the find.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

leadership dot #1782: extension

Since 1955, the traditional Tax Day (when federal income tax returns are due) has fallen on April 15. This year, due to the weekend and then Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia, taxes are not due until today (April 18).
Yet, even with an additional 3 days (72 hours) to file, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that 13 million people will miss the deadline and need to file an extension.*
People are deadline driven, but wait until very close to that deadline to take action on many things. A quarter of the tax returns will come in during the final week or later.** The week before Christmas is a shopping frenzy. The night before a play/conference/event is always a whirlwind. Many proposals, grants and homework assignments are submitted within hours of the due date.
As the bewitching hour approaches, a three day extension sounds like a magical thing. But when the gift of extra time is built into the deadline -- like with today's Tax Day -- it means nothing. People will use every last second up until the deadline. Acknowledge this fact instead of fighting it. Building in cushion time after the deadline instead of as part of it will make your final minutes less taxing.
Sources:
*Extensions requested: WHIO.com
** Number of late filers:  Deadline for filing taxes pushed back to Tuesday by the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, April 15, 2017, p. 5B

Monday, April 17, 2017

leadership dot #1781: four ways

Since 1932, service organization Rotary International has promoted the Rotary Four Way Test for Rotarians to use in both personal and professional situations. I recently received an email from a colleague that contained the elegant four-question guide as part of his on-going signature panel, and was struck by the power of using this as a guidepost.
The Rotary Four Way Test
Of the things we think, say and do...
  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Think of how much better our world would be if everyone asked themselves these questions before taking action or engaging with others. You don't have to be a Rotarian to follow these principles. Let the power of these 24 words guide your behavior today and all the days ahead.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

leadership dot #1780: life

While most people have Easter as top of mind today, for 32 special families, today means something else. April 16 is the tenth anniversary of the shootings on the Virginia Tech campus where 32 members of the community were killed and an additional 17 injured.
For many people, Virginia Tech meant that the Columbine High School massacre wasn't an anomaly; instead it was possible to be a victim of a mass shooting while going about ordinary business in a place perceived to be safe. It was daylight on a campus, not a protest march like at Kent State, a showdown with the FBI or in a war zone. Now people have been gunned down en masse at a movie theater, shopping mall, night club, church, holiday party and elementary school, but when Virginia Tech happened, it was big news.
Maybe this event had more of an impact on me because I was working on a campus at the time. We sent cards to the student life staff and wore maroon and gold ribbons for days. The higher education was in solidarity trying to cope together, because we realized that at any instant, this could have been us.
Unfortunately, mass shootings have become almost commonplace these days. We hear about them in the news, but don't feel them in our hearts. As many of you celebrate life today at your Easter services, vow to take action beyond the holiday to preserve life through curbing gun violence in our country.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

leadership dot #1779: civility

I was given a great little book "Return to Civility" by John Sweeny & The Brave New Workshop. This gem has 365 suggestions on small actions people can take to make the world a more civil place. 
Suggestions cover a wide range of situations and include:
  • Learn and practice the art of waiting patiently.
  • Don't wear headphones in public.
  • If you have to curse, choose silly words over offensive ones.
  • When trying on clothes in a store's dressing room, hang the items you don't want back on their hangers.
  • Gather information before you vote.
  • Find a way to vent your frustrations other than by complaining to loved ones (journaling, yoga, working out, hobbies, etc.)
  • When eating out with a group of people, throw in an extra buck or two.
  • If someone you know is extremely ill, share laughter with them in addition to tears.
  • Get your method of payment ready when you're in line at checkout counters.
The genesis for this book was when the author's wife said "Remember, they're not trying to be rude, they're just forgetting to be civil."  Try not to forget today!

Friday, April 14, 2017

leadership dot #1778: five questions

I recently watched the excerpt of a Harvard University Graduate School of Education graduation address by Dean James Ryan. The speech outlines five essential questions -- questions Ryan believes you should regularly ask yourself to become both successful and happy in life.
Ryan's five questions are:
  1. Wait, what? -- asking for clarification before drawing conclusions -- this is at the root of all understanding
  2. I wonder... -- I wonder if as a way to improve the world or I wonder why as a way to remain curious -- this question is at the heart of all curiosity
  3. Couldn't we at least... -- as a way to get started on consensus -- it is at the beginning of all progress
  4. How can I help?  -- acknowledging that others may have a better idea than you do on the method of assistance but still volunteering to assist -- this question is at the base of all good relationships
  5. What truly matters? -- focusing on the important things and what you value -- this question gets at the heart of life
Ryan advocates habitually asking these questions throughout life, and I agree that they would make your world a better place if you did. Pick one of Ryan's questions and be sure that you ask it today (and then another one tomorrow, of course!) Once again, the question may be more powerful than the answer.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

leadership dot #1777: symbols

A one-line obituary in People magazine caught my eye: "Gilbert Baker, 65, who created the iconic rainbow flag to represent gay pride and the LGBTQ community, died in New York City on March 31." Without the clause describing his enduring creation, I doubt you would have known who he was, and until his obituary, never knew the name behind the symbol.
I think about the thousands of other people who have contributed to our visual world in an anonymous way. Someone created the first emojis, all the state flags, the seal of the United States, graphics for Air Force One, the Peace Sign, the universal symbol for handicapped access and millions of other graphics that are so much a part of our world that we do not even notice them. There is a person behind the elephant and donkey symbols for the political parties, someone who standardized the first smiley face icon, laid out the mast head for the New York Times and Playbill and who sketched the first baseball team logos decades ago. 
The symbols created by Baker and thousands of others have the power to unify (and divide) us, to engender emotion, to convey our values and to aid in making the world function more efficiently. We may not have the artistic talent to leave our mark in this visible and lasting way, but we can do more to pay attention to all that graphically surrounds us. Even if it is through a silent tribute to an unknown creator, consciously pay attention to the symbols that have colored our world.
*People magazine, April 17, 2017, p. 30

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

leadership dot #1776: is anybody there

Today's dot number (1776) reminded me of the Broadway musical of the same name and one of my favorite soundtracks. The show is a musical depiction of the American Revolution, centered around the feisty John Adams and his push to persuade the Continental Congress to sign the Declaration of Independence. In this musical, Adams is often the lone voice pushing the colonies forward and he deflects considerable backlash from others who want to adjourn rather than listen to his oratory.
One of my favorite songs is a lament (Is Anybody There) sung by Adams when he wonders if all of his efforts are in vain. "Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?" sings Adams. He goes on to share: "I see fireworks! I hear the bells ringing out. I hear the cannons roar. I see Americans -- all Americans free forever more," before again becoming melancholy and wondering if anyone else shares his vision.
Anyone who has attempted to create change has felt like John Adams does in this musical. The change maker has seen in her/his mind's eye a clear picture of what the new order looks like and uses it to sustain themselves when it seems they are alone in the effort. All change agents have wondered if anyone is there and whether anyone cares or if they are the only ones who believe the vision is worth the toll it takes to persist. 
Use John Adams and his theme as your role model the next time you are in the painful phase of a change effort. "Through all the gloom, through all the gloom, I see the rays of ravishing light and glory!" sings Adams. It can be your mantra of persistence as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

leadership dot #1775: in the beginning

On the very first day at a job, I was in a meeting where people were complaining about the acoustics in the room. I got up, walked out into the hallway and brought the fake ficus tree into the corner of where we were gathered. It wasn't perfect, but it went a long way in doing two things: 1) it did help with the sound bounce and 2) it signaled to the staff that actions were valued more than complaints.
When you are new -- whether in a new job, in a new role or even on a new committee -- it is important to do things early in your tenure that result in visible changes. They don't have to be monumental, but a series of small improvements sends a loud and clear message that change is a good thing. During my first 100 days on the job, I compiled a list of the 100 things that we had done differently. It was a great way to step back and reflect over the first few months and show people that improvements were happening.  
Often it takes some time learning and strategizing for impact to be made on the really big projects that you face. That work is essential, but so is continuing the momentum that comes with a person in a new role. Don't let the initial energy fade while you are working behind the scenes. Instead, be sure you start with actions people can point to. The short-term visible changes will reassure you and others that good things are happening because of your presence.
[For an extensive resource in this area, see The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins]

Monday, April 10, 2017

leadership dot #1774: confidential

We've all had documents shared with us that were for "your eyes only" and not to be shared. Harvard Business Review adds a new twist to their articles that are available exclusively to registered educators. Instead of the usual "confidential" stamp in the corner, Harvard puts the full name of the recipient, their institution and an expiration date on every page of the document.
Maybe it is to allow them to trace back to offenders, or maybe it gives that extra level of personalization that signals to the user that "this means YOU." Either way, it is a more effective deterrent than just their "Do not copy or post" watermark that also is on each page.
Think of what you can do to add a level of definition to your products or downloads. How can you be clear on what is available for sharing and what is not. Do you need to take additional steps to label your financial documents or benchmark data that is shared with your board? Have you thought about ways to educate your internal users on what is public and what is proprietary information? Can you adopt some of Harvard's labeling and be ultra-specific about with whom this document was first given?
In this electronic age when sharing is as easy as a keystroke, it may be worth the extra effort to give someone pause before they hit "send" with your data.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

leadership dot #1773: artists at work

When people think about Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and the Work Projects Administration (WPA), what comes to mind is often dams, bridges and roadways or other concrete symbols of the American infrastructure that the WPA helped to create. All true, but in addition, the WPA also employed over 5000 artists to create posters to spread FDR's message and provide inspiration to a dispirited American public.
The WPA Federal Art Project was one of the first government sponsored programs to support the arts. During the 1930s and 1940s, these artists created over 2000 different posters and printed 2 million pieces before the WPA was disbanded to divert efforts toward World War II. Until then, posters promoted the arts, community activities, provided educational messages and shared progress on WPA projects. 
Think about how you can add a graphic component to your "work project". Do you need to deploy a team of artists to generate enthusiasm for what you are doing or to celebrate what you have done? Can you incorporate an artist onto your team to add an element of visual culture to your work? Are there other ways for you to support the arts in this era of reduced funding for something that contributes so much to our humanity? 
If nothing else, purchase the new release of WPA Poster Stamps from the Postal Service and commemorate the time when the government employed artists to benefit the common good.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

leadership dot #1772: observe

Since it's Saturday, many of us will be doing stuff-of-life errands that include a trip to Target. For most of us, the purchases are pretty routine and the transactions are forgettable. 
But one Target employee saw much more in his exchanges during his first week working at the retailer. In a humorous and reflective fashion, Tom Grennell shares his observations about some of the customers who came through his line:
> Children continue to handle their own transactions. This makes my day good. One girl had her own wallet and told me: "Thank you for your help, sir." This makes my day great.
> A very angry old man pulled two full carts through. He purchased a Twix bar, a bottle of Diet Pepsi, 36 pair of underwear and 262 adult diapers. I believe I have just had another glimpse of my future.
> A customer came through looking nervous. She leaned over the counter. She whispered to me. Someone had pooped in the baby supplies aisle. All evidence pointed to it not being a baby
Tom's reflections seemed similar to what I call having "blog eyes" -- intentionally reflecting on the small things that happen right before us and making connections to something bigger than ourselves. How can you really pay attention to life today? Try to see the world around you with an inquisitive perspective and think of what observations you would make if you were Tom or writing a blog. The world is much richer when you see the details.

Friday, April 7, 2017

leadership dot #1771: who

A friend had to replace a mini-fridge that was part of his cabinet layout in the downstairs bar. The new one was ever-so-slightly too big, so he asked a contractor friend to assess the situation and see if the cabinet opening could be expanded. The next thing you know, the contractor has power tools out and is sawing off a piece of the attached cabinetry. 
For him to do this was just another task -- all in a day's work. There was little risk that something disastrous would occur. For the homeowner to have done it, the chances that something could go wrong with the operation were much higher. There was definitely a risk that the cabinets would be irreparably harmed. If I would have done it, the risk would involve a loss of fingers, not just scarring the wood!
The risk level associated with a project is determined by the skill set of the person performing it. A pilot can smoothly land a jetliner, a sommelier can confidently uncork a $500 bottle of wine and a surgeon can effectively operate on a brain -- all with a reasonable and even routine level of risk. For others to take on those tasks would be foolhardy.
Before you answer "yes or no" as to whether something can be done, consider the skill level of the person who will be doing it. You risk having the wrong answer if you reply without competency in mind.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

leadership dot #1770: low battery

Often while using my phone, a warning comes on indicating that I am nearing the end of my battery life. I am then offered two options: continue as is, or continue in "low battery mode" that powers down some of my apps and optimizes features to conserve energy.
I think we all need a "low battery mode" indicator in our lives. There are times when we may not realize that we are reaching the end of our power, and should alter our behaviors to maximize the energy we have remaining. There are other times when operating on "low battery" is warranted and we should heed the call to relax and recharge. On select occasions, we can opt to continue at full power and eek out every last watt from the day.
When we reach 20% battery life on our phone, the dialogue box forces us to make an intentional choice on how we wish to proceed. Commit to the same level of intentionality to manage decisions about your personal power use.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

leadership dot #1769: concession

In a recent class I taught, there were several students who were instructors with the university's ROTC program. In one of our discussions, we talked about the impact of Millennials on the military -- and whether their influence had permeated the traditional top-down culture of our country's armed forces.
The short answer -- not too much -- yet. Much of the Army's leadership is decidedly not Millennial age, so the impact may come in the future. But for now, the most visible change they identified came in the form of a "stress card." Should the exercise or training become too much for a solider, they can give their commander this card and be relieved from some of the exercises. I wonder how much it is used -- and the peer repercussions from doing so -- but it is an indication that things they are a changin'. 
Think of what your organization has done to acknowledge the Millennial workers on your staff. Have you allowed them to have a voice at the table and a choice as to how their time is allocated? Do you provide frequent feedback and consciously note opportunities for praise? Have you included them as members of a team and sought their commitment to the purpose of their work?
You don't have to provide a stress card, but you do need to find ways to engage everyone who works with you to get the most from their loyalty and performance. If the traditionally hierarchical military is adapting, certainly your organization can too.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

leadership dot #1768: burst bubble

With all the news about Neil Gorsuch's upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearing, it has caused me to think about Merrick Garland.
In case you don't recall, Garland was the candidate President Obama proposed as a Justice, but the Senate chose not to bring his nomination forward. I think about the thrill it must have been for him and his family -- a call from the President and a chance to be on the highest court of the land -- only for it to go nowhere, not even a hearing. But even knowing what he knows now, I'll bet that Garland would still be glad to have been nominated. It was a excitement that can't be taken away and something that he should cherish forever.
There are many moments in life that seem like they are the pinnacle, only to have the bubble burst later: a personal best time that still only earns second place, a nomination for a big award but not a win, an engagement that ends before the wedding or an upset win in the tournament that advances you only one more round. Keith Urban and the Mississippi State women's basketball team experienced it this week.
The trick to happiness is to savor the moment, no matter how fleeting it is. Don't let the let down overshadow the thrill. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

leadership dot #1767: onward

The offices at Starbucks headquarters will feel differently today as Howard Schultz is no longer in the CEO role. Yesterday, Schultz stepped down -- again -- a role he held for the second time since 2008.
I am not a coffee drinker so I don't have personal experience with the Starbucks product, but there is hardly anyone around who hasn't had interaction with the Starbucks brand. His contributions to defining the importance of a "third place" -- beyond home or office for gathering, socializing or work -- have reimagined the role of many "fast casual" restaurants and internet access points throughout the world.
His book Onward is one of the most candid assessments I have read from a business leader. Schultz outlines his triumphs as well as failures and reflects on them in a way that all of us can learn from. I think it should be required reading in MBA classes! (For a page of highlights, click here.)
Schultz used his mantra "Onward" not only to title his book, but to sign all of his correspondence. It is a fitting word for today as he moves on to the next chapter in his, and his company's, existence. Learn from his experience and take to heart some of what he recommends: "Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Never expect a silver bullet. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Be decisive in times of crisis. Believe."  (And, of course, read the book.)
Thanks to Tricia!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

leadership dot #1766: happy dance

Today is Opening Day in Major League Baseball -- a reason for many fans to do the happy dance as they celebrate the return of their beloved pastime. 
But the fans aren't the only ones who are dancing. A tradition has evolved in Boston whereby the outfielders do dances of their own after a victory.  The dancing has received much more attention than the outfielders originally anticipated, but now has become an established part of the game experience. "Win, Dance, Repeat" has been the basis of commercials, competitions, videos and even dance moves suggested by fans. 
More importantly, the dancing celebration serves as a great team building exercise for the players and an on-boarding ritual in spring training for the newest members of the roster. 
You couldn't mandate that MLB players add dancing skills to their responsibilities; that just evolved organically. But it happened in part because the culture was ripe for fun and then the organization fostered it through social media.
How can you take a lesson from Boston's playbook to encourage bonding and camaraderie with your "players"? Is there a small ritual that you can help cultivate into a tradition? Can you give permission for silliness to occur -- or model it yourself? There's more to playing ball than what happens during the game.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

leadership dot #1765: joke

I recently called a local steakhouse to be placed in their call-ahead seating cue and was told that the table should be ready in 30 minutes. When I arrived, I was told that it would be an additional 30 minute wait. I was not happy.
Nor were the others in the lobby full of people. While they tried to mitigate our hunger (and anger) by feeding us appetizer samples, it did little to improve the mood.
You may be amenable to someone playing a joke on you -- especially today -- but having a restaurant provide a seating time that was a joke wasn't funny.
I have said before that the cardinal rule of service is to align expectations with reality. If the wait is an hour, people are much more agreeable to it than saying a half hour and meaning an hour. If you say it is April Fool's Day, people are much more receptive to being pranked than on other days. 
You've got a free pass for exaggeration today...but it expires at midnight!