Monday, July 31, 2017

leadership dot #1886: circumstances

Everyone knows that the Cubs won the World Series last year and led the division for all but one day of the season. But the road wasn't as easy as last year's team made it look. In Tom Verducci's wonderful book The Cubs Way, he pulls back the curtain to share a perspective that would have given Cubs fans even more anxiety than they already had going into the World Series:

"So this is how [Manager Joe] Maddon would begin the World Series for the Cubs, their first World Series game in 71 years: with a rightfielder making only his 19th start at that position all year, his $184 million left-handed-hitting rightfielder benched against a right-handed pitcher, not talking to a pitcher who has a mental block throwing to bases facing a team that led the American League in stolen bases, and a designated hitter who was seeing major league pitching for the first time in 201 days. What could possibly go wrong?" (p. 72)

It would have been easy for Maddon to make excuses or to become pessimistic after their first loss in the Series.  After all, look at the circumstances he was facing. But of course he did not give up and made the most of the talent he had and the culture he had created all season long.

The next time the environment seems stacked against you, re-read the above paragraph and take heart. It is not the external that creates a win or loss, but rather the internal. Victory comes from within.

The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci, 2017.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

leadership dot #1885: fresh

I recently had occasion to contact the consumer products office at the Clorox Company. Everyone knows that Clorox makes bleach, but I did not realize that their portfolio extended to PineSol, Tilex, Liquid Plumr, Glad, 409, SOS and Kingsford Charcoal.

If you take a look at that list, you would be hard pressed to find a more stodgy set of products. I think all of them were around in my childhood and are pretty much the same today: the bag of charcoal is the one I remember from campfires as a kid and I think that Clorox is the same formula grandma dumped into the manual washing machine.

So I was surprised to learn that the Clorox Company spends 2% of its annual sales (about $100 million/year) on research and development. It may look like the same product on the outside, but the cleaning effectiveness has actually been enhanced, the bacteria-fighting formulas updated and modifications made to ensure that the products remain market leaders.

Clorox has been #1 in providing professional cleaning and sanitizing products since 1913, but they don't rest on their laurels. Take a lesson from them and continually invest in improvement to keep yourself fresh.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

leadership dot #1884: forest

Many people think of creativity as creating something entirely new, but being creative can also mean seeing a new use for something or making a slight alteration that results in something different. 

Such was the case at Little Debbie -- the maker of pre-packaged bakery treats. You may be familiar with the classic Christmas Trees -- the delicious white treats in a tree-shape that are available every year only around the holidays and have become a family tradition in many homes.

Imagine the glee when someone got creative and realized that they could use their "tree" production line beyond the Christmas holidays. Little Debbie now produces Happy Camper treats -- green trees, but otherwise identical to their holiday counterpart. Genius!

What new market is right under your nose but you can't see the forest for the trees? Step back like someone at Little Debbie did and see if you can repurpose an existing system for a new use. It just might make you and your boss a Happy Camper!

Thanks bg!

Friday, July 28, 2017

leadership dot #1883: cloverleaf

Have you ever known -- or been -- someone who keeps mulling over an issue in their mind -- going back and forth about pros and cons, options, possibilities, worries, etc.? This is a continual quest for certainty that never arrives, but often comes at the expense of sleep, health or general peace of mind. I think everyone has been guilty of such endless mental debate about one thing or another.

One way to end the internal banter is to think about your mind as a cerebral cloverleaf. You would never drive around incessantly on an interstate cloverleaf -- after a round or two you would make a decision as to where to exit, even if you did not know exactly which road was the right one. Why persist in staying on the cloverleaf in your brain?

The next time you are tempted to go round and round about an issue, think about being in a car instead. Spend about as much time going in circles in your head as you would in a vehicle on a highway exchange -- in other words, make a decision and get off the cloverleaf!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

leadership dot #1882: example

"You are setting an example -- whether you want to or not" read the marquee outside a local church. The quote gave me pause for both is magnitude and simplicity, as well as for the accuracy of its message. People truly are watching.

Think about the example you are setting for others around you. Do your colleagues see you delivering the stellar service that you would hope to receive? Are your children observing you make sacrifices to support causes you admire? Have you committed the time to your friends that will sustain a relationship or does work always come first?

You may think that people aren't paying attention, but when you consider how much you observe about others you'll realize that someone is learning from you. It is through the small actions more than the big ones that our legacy is communicated. Live like someone is watching.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

leadership dot #1881: mix

One of the traits of Generation Z (those born between 1995-2012) is their desire to customize almost everything. The book Gen Z @ Work labels it as Hyper-Custom and it has become an expectation for those in the younger generation to want to have a choice in places where none was offered before.

I thought about Gen Z when I was at O'Hare Airport and saw the Garrett's popcorn stand.  Garrett's has been a Chicago staple since 1949. At first, they offered plain, caramel corn and cheese corn. Then they combined caramel and cheese and became famous for their mix. Later versions with nuts were added, but it still meant about six choices on the menu.

But six isn't enough for today's consumers. Wisely, Garrett's has taken the mix concept further and is trying to respond to demand. The company now features "Which Mix is Your Fix?" and encourages customized combinations in any format that you desire. Combine caramel and butter for the Buttery Goodness Mix or cheese and butter for the Gold Standard Mix. Or any flavors you wish shook together in the bag for a delicious snack.

It is no longer enough to offer just your famous mix that has been popular for half a century. Gen Z wants to create its own mix. Just like they want to create their drink from one of the thousands of combinations in the new Coke fountain machines or read only from a media feed of sources they chose.

Burger King has been saying "have it your way" for years. It's time that your organization began embracing their slogan as your own. Gen Z wants to mix it up -- in more ways than one.

Gen Z @ Work by David Stillman and Jonah Stillman, 2017.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

leadership dot #1880: pain

After a recent medical procedure, I received a booklet about pain management to assist me after I arrived at home. In this flyer there were several aids to help the patient describe the pain to their caregiver.

One section suggested a list of consequences because of the pain: unable to sleep, difficulty in climbing stairs, pain when moving shoulder, etc. Another section provided a list of adjectives to use to describe the pain: burning, cutting, pressing, radiating, shooting, throbbing, etc. The booklet also had a numerical rating scale as well as a set of faces that illustrated various stages of grimacing to help doctors know the degree of discomfort.

While my "number 4" may be different than your "number 4", the information helps set a scale as to the direction your pain is moving and how it compares to previous visits. The list of words also provide much greater specificity than a general "it hurts," significantly increasing the likelihood that the caregiver will be able to provide relief.

What is the equivalent to "pain" in your organization? Do you need to help your customers find language to articulate their satisfaction/dissatisfaction in a more in depth way than just a Likert scale on a survey? Is there a way to give your employees a range of descriptors to gauge their morale and likely retention? Can you provide your board with a comprehensive array of words/drawings to communicate their feelings about the upper management or the direction the organization is heading?

The more specific you can become in the description, the more targeted you can become with the solution. Prescribe a framework to cure the vagueness in your pain points.

Monday, July 24, 2017

leadership dot #1879: describe

A billboard advertising a realtor promoted their work by declaring that they would help the prospective homebuyer do three things: Investigate, Negotiate and Celebrate. I was impressed with how they boiled down the essence of realtor work into these three verbs...

...and, of course, it got me thinking about what words I would use to describe other professions, and my own work.

For me: Evaluate, Educate and Empower might describe how I help assess organizational or leadership issues, provide the tools and then empower others to become great supervisors and to create a healthy climate. My contractor friend meets with prospective clients and helps them to Dream, Decide and then Design before beginning work. Retail workers may Stock, Smile and Sell. Teachers may dispense Inspiration, Education and Application of their lessons. Managers spend their time Supervising, Improvising and Mobilizing. A human trafficking prevention organization promotes their work as Educate, Advocate and Eliminate.

As you try to succinctly describe what you do, it helps you to really think about the core elements of your job. Next you can spend your time enhancing these essential components instead of just listing them with alliteration and rhyme!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

leadership dot #1878: undercover

A colleague recounted a story of when she met a new person and he talked all around the question when she asked him what he did for a living. She heard about volunteer pursuits, community involvement and hobbies, but nothing about his job.

His wife finally intervened and said: "Tell her what you do." With all the secrecy and build up, you may expect an answer like "spy" or "FBI agent" or something undercover. No, the man is an oral surgeon! He has chosen not to share his profession because when he does, invariably everyone has a bad story to share about their oral surgery experience.

How sad that a man with an admirable profession and a substantial amount of training has gone silent about his accomplishments. I think about airline employees or police officers or others who also may become quiet rather than risk the wrath of disgruntled customers who have a story they want to tell.

The next time you want to relay a horror story about a procedure or a profession, remember that there is a person behind those tales. Tell the good stories in addition to the bad.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

leadership dot #1877: cast away

There is a buzz about how Artificial Intelligence is going to change the landscape, but I think the true game-changer is going to be 3D printing. The magic of 3D is becoming more accessible to the masses and transforming things on a daily basis.

The latest example of 3D in action replaces medical casts with plastic ones: custom fit, waterproof, lighter, more airy and even fun with personalized words and messages. No more signing of the cast: now yours comes with motivational sayings printed in. How much more fun is that than the traditional plaster versions?

In the 1967 movie Mrs. Robinson, Dustin Hoffman's character was told "there's a great future in plastics." And with 3D printing, it is even more true today. It's hard to wrap your mind around all the things 3D printing can do, but once you have that vision, implementing it is only a matter of time. 

Think about what you could cast away that is currently done in a clunky or generic manner and head to your local library Makerspace to see if you can't take your idea to a new dimension in 3D plastic.

Friday, July 21, 2017

leadership dot #1876: calculating

My nephew is going to college to study actuarial science -- the art of calculating risk -- and I wish I could deploy him to give me some odds on some personal decisions instead of just having him calculate insurance rates or credit worthiness.

Lately I have been weighing the merits of several decisions that involve a host of unknowns. Should I buy that $500 generator or take the chance that the power won't go out again and risk flooding my basement without a sump pump? Is it worth it to go through the discomfort of a colonoscopy on the chance that they will find something but risk the possibility that in the process they will tear my colon or do one of the other nasty possibilities the doctor listed in his pre-op exam? Will a business loan propel me into an exciting new venture or just rack up debt? Should I buy a $250 CUJO firewall or hope hackers don't bother me? There is no way to have a definitive answer for any of these questions, and yet I must choose one of the options. 

As you face risk questions in your own life or organization, consider not only the pros and cons of each choice, but also the implications from procrastinating or just letting fate decide. It's also helpful to have a self-awareness of your overall tolerance for risk -- if you know you are adverse, you can consciously push yourself a bit past the comfort zone, but if you tend to fly on the aggressive side, perhaps a bit of caution is warranted if you are feeling some doubt. I'm afraid that until someone starts a personal actuary service you're on your own to determine whether to roll the dice or not.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

leadership dot #1875: understanding

A carpenter friend of mine has a set of colleagues that call him to do work when the occasion warrants: putting up siding, doing a drywall project that requires heavy lifting, framing a house, etc. When a two (or more) person crew is needed, they give him a call. Curt also has "a guy" that he hires when needed, otherwise, he works solo. 

The on-demand labor pool described above is pretty small, so they all use each other repeatedly. This gives everyone enough knowledge and familiarity to become immediate contributors -- they know the work and each other, thus the learning curve is minimal before they can jump in and do something meaningful. Their history together makes them exponentially more valuable to each other than just any random rented laborer.

This system works well in construction, but think about how you can you adapt it to a knowledge setting as well. Office workers or entrepreneurs can hire out specific jobs, but envision crafting a way to get a pool that you can use regularly to think with you. Is there a way to create a recurring group of people that have enough of a context to make relevant contributions without spending too much time understanding your goals? Can you cultivate a pool you can call when you want to brainstorm or talk something through? How can you develop a small group of thought leaders that are available when needed to help you advance your work?

Networking events and freelancers are wonderful additions and are great for initial connections or specific tasks. But focus your energy on building those relationships that go deeper and can provide you with recurring value. Having someone who understands how you work is gold.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

leadership dot #1874: essential

When visiting the office of a colleague who works in public relations, I noticed an extra sport coat, dress shirt and tie on the back of his door. I know from my previous time in working with him that this is an ubiquitous feature in his office -- always at the ready to be filmed on television even if he happened to be dressing casual that day. 

For Mike, a press-conference-worthy professional outfit (from the waist up which is all that is shown from behind a podium) is an essential tool for the job. He can't take the chance that he will be in a polo if thrust into the media spotlight as a spokesperson for his organization, so the suit-on-the-door is standard.

Have you considered what tool may be essential in your position under certain circumstances and taken steps to provide duplicates that are always accessible? Maybe your necessity is a flashlight so you can immediately act if the power goes out. Maybe you require a list of codes or passwords for off-site access in an emergency. Perhaps you need a change of clothes out of your professional attire so you can become hands-on if disaster strikes. Or you may need to carry around extra batteries for your equipment or phone so that you are ready to capture that unexpected big moment. Maybe it involves having an extra blog entry "in the cloud" to access remotely if the power or computer fails.

No matter what your role, take a few moments to anticipate the "what if". What is the most likely scenario that disrupts your normal -- and then how can you take one step toward preparation for the unlikely? The answer may suit you well in unfortunate circumstances.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

leadership dot #1873: circuitous path

Yesterday I wrote about my insect bite and related it to the need for organizational Benadryl. As far as the bite goes, Benadryl performed so well and so instantaneously that it got me wondering about the drug itself. Where did this miracle come from?

While I expected that it was invented by a man named Ben, its originator is actually George Rieveschal. While he was conducting academic research on muscle relaxants (not allergy inhibitors), he realized that his formula blocked Histamines and thus lessened the impact of itching and inflammation. Rieveschal pursued his research at Parke-Davis drug manufacturing, and Benadryl became available with a prescription in 1946. For his invention, he received a 5% royalty during the initial 17-year patent period, but not any income after the product became over-the-counter and reached $180 million in sales.

You might expect that Rieveschal was a medical doctor or at least had medical training. Actually, his initial degree was from the Ohio Mechanics Institute of Technology and he sought his first job in commercial art. Fortunately for those with allergies or itches, it was the Great Depression and no art jobs were to be found, so he went back to school and pursued chemistry. He was a chemical engineering professor when he made his initial discovery. 

Those in higher education speak to students all the time about how a choosing a major should not be the major decision than it is made out to be. Rieveschal is a great example of a circuitous path that led to great things, and I am sure the diversity in his education aided in his research.

Regardless of what you studied or what your current career is, pursue your interests with a passion. The next miracle creation could be yours.

To learn more: George Rieveschal, 91, Allergy Reliever, Dies by Dennis Hevesi, The New York Times, September 29, 2007.

P.S. The name Benadryl comes from the technical name of the formula: beta-dimethylaminoethylbenzhydryl ether hydrochloride.

Monday, July 17, 2017

leadership dot #1872: inflamed

While outside reading, I was bitten by an insect. It was so small and fast that I did not even see it -- until a spot on my hand became red. When I woke up, the whole area was inflamed, and by mid-morning I was heading to the store for Benadryl. I could concentrate on nothing else -- all because of something I did not even notice initially.

Is one of your organization's employees like that insect -- stealthily spreading toxicity throughout your organization? Maybe they are not loudly protesting or causing a scene, but if they are buzzing from person to person leaving a negative reaction behind the effect is even more powerful. Others may not even realize what is causing their itch, but it is distracting them nonetheless.

As the leader, you are responsible for administering the equivalent of organizational Benadryl or deploying the swatter. Don't let size fool you. Something so small can have a disproportionately big impact if you don't stop it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

leadership dot #1871: repurposed

Many newly married women save their wedding dress to become a keepsake for future daughters, but in reality the dress never leaves the box. An organization has found a much better use for the beautiful garments by turning wedding dresses into Angel Gowns for babies who don't survive their short life in the NICU. (Many other individual volunteers across the country also create memory gowns and are currently accepting donations.)

photo credit Justi Underwood Bates on Facebook

Angel dresses honor the magnitude of the moment and allow grieving parents to have a special garment for photos or funerals. Through the work of many, these babies are physically wrapped in love.

Kudos to those who saw a way to make this match by meeting a need for both parents and those who divorce or do not want to keep their dresses forever. Can you make a similar match? Think of something that you have at home or in your organization that just "sits around" and could be repurposed for a much greater value. If you look at your possessions with new eyes maybe you can see a way to give something new life in a different form.

To make a donation of a gown or funds to mail them to hospitals also see: Ansel Morris Trisha Hamor on Facebook or Jessica Heffiner at

Thanks Meg for sharing!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

leadership dot #1870: informed

It's going to get a lot harder to use the old "check's in the mail" excuse. The United States Post Office is launching "Informed Delivery" which provides a scan of the envelopes of all the mail I am receiving later that day. I can go to my USPS account on line and check to see what will be in the box when the carrier arrives. 

Do I really need to know this? I assume that the post office is trying to accommodate the mobile lifestyles of people who can't conveniently check their mail or who want to see if it is "worth it" to head to the box. But knowing a letter or bill or check is there does little to facilitate its processing, and heaven knows I don't want anyone opening my mail and scanning that too. All it seems to do for me is remove the element of surprise and delight when a true handwritten letter greets me after I turn the key.

Where is that line between helpful information and overload? Think about what you provide to your customers and watch that you don't cross it like the post office did.

Friday, July 14, 2017

leadership dot #1869: equity

Analogies and pictures can go a long way in making a complex topic understandable. I recently came across a picture that illustrates the difference between equality versus equity in a simple three-frame drawing:

Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself how you can apply this concept. What image represents how you are you personally acting as a supervisor or a parent? Which frame best describes efforts in your organization? Is your compensation and promotion program equal or equitable? Do you focus your time on addressing the first, second or third frame?

Reality is definitely not as simple as this illustration, but picturing the goal may help your actions and your organization move closer toward attaining it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

leadership dot #1868: generator

I wrote yesterday about Farmer Herman needing help in moving his barn. I was about to solicit 344 people to help me move my house as our area was deluged with over 5 inches of rain and 75 mph winds -- all in the dark as the power was out for 14 hours.

In the morning, I was one of the many at Lowes looking at generators and back up plans for a non-functioning sump pump. I asked my contractor friend why he did not already have one. His answer: “They just sit around.” The Lowes manager replied: “Yes, they sit around, until they don’t.” Like now.

What is the equivalent (or maybe even literally) the generator for your organization? Think of the report, client access information, equipment or data that is essential for your operation and how you might have a back up plan if your usual way of obtaining it is not available.

Maybe you could you print out a copy of your staff contacts instead of relying on your phone to obtain them, or send your customer database to the cloud. Another idea is to print out key data on occasion or have a copy of your key data points at home. Perhaps you could purchase a flashlight for each desk in your office or pick up an extra supply of batteries and a radio.

The question is not “if” you will need a detour, it is a matter of “when.” The time to plan for a generator is before the storm, not during it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

leadership dot #1867: move the barn

If I told you that one solution to prevent flooding in a barn would be to have a group of people move it to a new location up the hill, you may think that I was crazy. But such a feat actually happened. 

In 1988, Herman and Donna Ostry's barn was moved 115 feet to the south, up 6 feet of elevation, turned 90 degrees and set back down! It required 344 people and 20 minutes to accomplish the task.

The story has been captured in a new children's book that is relevant to any organization trying to get a group of people together to solve a "big, big, big problem."  Farmer Herman and the Flooding Barn shares several silly scenarios -- including moving the barn up the hill -- but ultimately the impossible proves to be possible with enough help.

If your organization is facing a daunting task, Farmer Herman may prove to be a valuable story to share with your group. It is short, funny and best of all, true. If their community can move a barn up the hill, what is possible with your people working together? Don't laugh at the answer.

Farmer Herman and the Flooding Barn by Jason Weber, benefiting the National Foster Care Initiative

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

leadership dot #1866: cheese

The obituary for author Spencer Johnson was in the paper yesterday, outlining his death on July 3 and the success he had during his multiple careers. Johnson was best known for his Who Moved My Cheese book, an "A-mazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life." He also collaborated with Ken Blanchard on the classic One Minute Manager, but before that was a children's book author and a medical doctor!

Who Moved My Cheese is a fable -- a 94 page book, stretched with generous type and enhanced by a few illustrations. Who Moved My Cheese tells the tale of Sniff and Scurry the mice and Hem and Haw the people who must confront new circumstances when their source of cheese is moved. It was used widely in organizational change efforts across the world.

The book is not much more than a simple story -- one Johnson told at parties and in speeches before the book's publication -- but which sold 28 million copies and spawned an entire line of merchandise from it. Think of the stories that you are telling to your staff or to your family. Is there an underlying message that could be shared more widely -- through publication, a blog, a video or a podcast? Learning is enhanced through storytelling. Don't let Spencer Johnson be the only one who shares his tale and imparts valuable lessons through simple metaphors.

Source:  "Spencer Johnson dies at 78, found sweet smell of success in Who Moved My Cheese", by Matt Schudel, The Washington Post, July 8, 2017.

Monday, July 10, 2017

leadership dot #1865: settle in

Yesterday as I was folding my laundry, I thought about that elusive sweet spot when things are worn in, but not worn out: when sheets are no longer stiff, but are not tattered; the shoes fit comfortably, but aren't scuffed, or the pillow has that right consistency of not being too fluffy nor too flat. 

I wish I could buy things at this stage of their life cycle, but then, of course, their lifespan would be too short. Part of the natural course is to tolerate some imperfection in exchange for longevity. I have my hair cut a bit on the short side so it isn't shaggy before my next appointment. I know if I leave with a length that I like, I will regret it on the back end so my stylist and I make accommodations.

As a user, you need to align your expectations so that you don't abandon an initiative or a product too early in the process. You should expect some rough spots in the beginning -- whether that be of your new purchase or your foray into a new venture. It takes time to create comfort. Have patience and allow the sheets to soften or the change to settle before you make a switch at the start.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

leadership dot #1864: zentangle

Like many others, I acquired lots of supplies as part of the adult coloring craze, but never found time to use many of them. I have the books and the pencils -- and a multitude of unfinished coloring projects. They just became too big to complete in one sitting and thus were abandoned.

A new craze aims to take some of the therapeutic and relaxing elements of adult coloring and alter them to become something in a more manageable scope. Zentangle offers a platform to create an abstract drawing on a 3 inch x 3 inch "tile" (aka piece of paper). Through the use of repetitive patterns, Zentangle artists can create interesting and unique creations anywhere.

The Zentangle theory summarizes the drawing experience and outlines the parallels it has to life: no erasers are used -- "mistakes" just become new opportunities; you do not begin with a pre-defined outcome; and the marks you make are best when they are deliberate.

Zentangle has been used for motivational training, creativity enhancement, problem solving and to aid in focus. Consider adding some intentionality to your random doodling and see if you (or your team) can create a Zentangle gallery of your own. The zen aspects of the rhythmic drawing may be just the thing to untangle your stress.

Thanks Joan!

Images: Pictured image from here; thousands of others on Pinterest

Saturday, July 8, 2017

leadership dot #1863: FAQs

In December, I purchased tickets for a concert that was held last night. I am a board member of the sponsoring organization so have talked about the date frequently, but I could understand how someone could forget about a their tickets from seven months ago.

But that wasn't going to happen with this show. All of the ticket holders received a detailed email a few days ago -- not only reminding people about the show, but anticipating and answering most questions people would have about it: where do I park? how long is it? do you sell snacks at intermission? where is my seat?  It was beautifully done and an impressive customer service surprise.

Think of ways you can put yourself in the place of your client and become proactive about meeting their needs. What information do they need -- and when do they need it? (This same email in December would have been long forgotten.) How can you anticipate questions and answer them in advance? What answers can you provide that your clients don't even know to ask (providing physical address not just mailing address).

You can simultaneously wow your clients and save yourself from repeatedly answering the basic questions if you think through your communication plan from the perspective of the user. FAQs that are pushed out in a well-timed manner become Fantastically Answered Questions for all involved.

Friday, July 7, 2017

leadership dot #1862: consequences

A new state law allowed for the purchase of fireworks, while leaving it up to each city to determine whether or not to permit the use of the devices. Consequently, we had fireworks for sale at most every big box retailer and countless tents in other parking lots -- selling rockets that could not legally be shot.

As you have already guessed, no one who bought the fireworks paid attention to the prohibition portion of the law. The police investigated 160 complaints -- but did not issue citations for any of them. What kind of message does that send for amateur pyrotechnicians next year?

I would guess that there are rules in your family or your organization that are on the books, but not adhered to. Children are told that you are going to "count to three -- or else," yet parents fail to follow through on the threat. Teachers proclaim "late assignments will not be accepted," but grade them anyway. Organizations say "no personal use of computers" but do nothing when employees check their social media feeds. Driving 5 mph over the speed limit is seen as within an acceptable range and not ticketed. 

Think about where you stand on proclaiming a stand that you do not follow. How do others know which boundaries to honor and which are flexible? What gives your word integrity if you do not always mean what you say? Having no consequences seems more detrimental in the long run than having no rules.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

leadership dot #1861: onboarding

Yesterday I suggested using Robert Roberts' House Servants Guide as a guide for your new staff on-boarding process; today I have a better model to share.

My colleague Brian Gardner has crafted a beautiful example of how to onboard a new staff member and help them to understand priorities, expectations and norms. He has generously given permission for me to share this with you, and I do so in an editable format so that you can create your own version for any of your future staff.

Even better, the essential responsibilities and priorities can be adapted to become a 6 month evaluation (done by the employee, the supervisor and any direct staff) to allow for conversation and course correction before any dysfunctions get out of hand.

When a new employee begins their position, their training and orientation often occur in an informal way. In addition, there is so much information for the employee to take in that it is often confusing for them to know where to start. Even more challenging is the process of prioritizing what is most important and what matters for long term success. This document addresses all of these issues.

As a supervisor, it is important to have clarity in your expectations and to ensure that your employee is aligned with them. What better time to do so than starting on Day 1? Whether you model the House Servants Guide or Brian's onboarding document, I hope that you take the time to begin your new working relationship with specificity and focus.

Thanks Brian!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

leadership dot #1860: at your service

In 1827, Robert Roberts published the House Servant's Guide, a comprehensive collection of how to be an exceptional butler. Written for two of his young friends just entering the profession, Roberts was the precursor to Hints from Heloise and provided instruction not just on etiquette, but on how to resolve all types of cleaning problems.

Roberts offered tips on such items as how to prevent flies from settling on pictures, how to recover a person from intoxication, how to take ink spots out of mahogany, to restore carpets to their first bloom, to preserve apples for the year round and to make lemonade water of a most delicious flavour. In addition, he offered his proteges advice on the benefit of early rising, the order in which to attend to their work and regulations for the dinner table.

It may have been the first comprehensive orientation and job training manual for any position, and it happened to be written for African American butlers almost two centuries ago. 

The House Servant's Guide provides not only entertaining reading and a glimpse into the past, but also serves as a model for the detail that is helpful in modern day on-boarding. It contains a mixture of techniques and norms, as well as encouragement and advice on how to be successful. 

In 1827, it was a production to write such a guide -- you didn't just sit down at your laptop and then hit print -- but Roberts persisted in writing the book and getting it both published and promoted. Use him as a model as you onboard your new staff.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

leadership dot #1859: themed

It seems that the Fourth of July has taken on a life of its own and become a major commercial holiday. Since Easter, aisles have been filled with red, white and blue paraphernalia, featuring everything from themed bubbles to cups to yard decorations. The selection of patriotic attire has burgeoned too, and now you'll be in the minority if you're not wearing a Fourth of July t-shirt or jewelry today.

While I applaud the celebration, I think it has gone too far. There is one thing I definitely won't be wearing today: red, white and blue eyelashes. They seem more like a Halloween accessory instead of a patriotic one!

What will you be doing today to pay tribute to this great land? I hope that whether it is through something from a store or just from your heart that you find a way to show your love of our country. Be safe celebrating the independence that came at such great sacrifice.

Monday, July 3, 2017

leadership dot #1858: give 100%

We have all been encouraged to "give 100%" and often times this is sound advice. Investing your full effort into a project or a competition can often mean the difference between success and failure. 

But this little piece of humor reminded me that 100% is not always the right way to go: 

"Always give 100% -- unless you're donating blood." Sure, it is meant to be funny, but it also has a nugget of wisdom underneath. Sometimes, having an asterisk is the right way to operate.

Before you blindly give 100% toward anything, take that extra moment to think through the implications and decide if the full-out effort is the best course of action in the situation. 

Thanks Meg for sharing!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

leadership dot #1857: it's us

You always hear that classic line "it's not you, it's me" when it comes to trying to break off a relationship. I think the statement is meant to make the other party feel better, and it's also a way to end any discussion. If it's me, then there is nothing you can do to make things better.

LinkedIn recently used this familiar refrain to populate its error page. Instead of the boring and standard "the page you are seeking is not available", LinkedIn added some humor. "Oops! It's not you. It's us. Give it another try, please." Their message made me smile instead of scowl even though the page I was seeking was indeed not available.

Think of how you can add a twist on your messages to a) take ownership of the problem and b) to make your client just a bit less frustrated that it is not there. That's not for me to do, it's on you.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

leadership dot #1856: well suited

It used to be a given that young men would rent a tuxedo to go to prom. I remember having my date ask me what color I was wearing so that he could coordinate his bow tie and cummerbund to match my dress. How the times have changed!

Now, not only does the gentleman not need to rent a tux, he may instead buy a suit especially designed for the prom occasion. And his selection has as many colors as the girls' dresses: cool blue, purple prince, Mr. Pink, white knight and even stars and stripes. Who is going to need to coordinate with whom?

For $79.99 (before coupons!), the guy can pick up a suit-in-a-box at Kohl's and have fun wearing something special for the special occasion. It is a niche that has been overlooked and if they even remotely fit someone, it could be one that takes off.

Open your eyes to the possibilities: there is nothing that is set in stone. You would be well suited to consider where money is being spent and see if you can redirect those funds toward you in a creative and out-of-the-box (or, in this case, inside-the-box) kind of way.