Thursday, August 31, 2017

leadership dot #1917: process

The final concept from Trevor Ragan’s Train Ugly presentation that I will share is the role of feedback in cultivating a learner focus (see dot #1916).

If people receive feedback on their performance, it reinforces the importance placed on outcomes and thus highlights the value in looking good. If you say to someone: “You are so great at X”, their mind has the propensity to translate that to “you get praise if you are good at X” so they take the easy road to remain good in this area, or negative feedback gets translated into “that is bad so I must be bad.” Bottom line: the focus stays on looking good vs. learning.

However, if you provide process focused feedback, you help them see the learning process and the focus remains on getting better. Saying: “You did a great job on X, how did you get so good at it?” helps acknowledge the process that can be repeated to do other great things. “You did a great job on X, you must have worked hard,” or “X didn’t go so well, what did you learn from it?” are all ways of helping the focus remain on the process.

I think about this as so many students are recently back to school. What will you say to your children when they bring home report cards or when your child texts you from college? How can you intentionally adjust your feedback to help them focus on “getting better” – even if they are great – vs. trying to look good in the future?

The same applies to organizations and supervisory feedback. Saying “that project went well” and leaving it at that fails to provide the process focus that will free your staff to experiment and take risks in the future.

The old adage is: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Change that mantra in your head to: “if you can’t say something about process (with both positive or negative feedback), don’t give feedback at all.”

To learn more, see

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

leadership dot #1916: getting better

Another concept from Trevor Ragan’s Train Ugly workshop centered around the learning opportunities that occur depending upon where we put our focus.

Choice one is to focus on outcomes – which results in an emphasis on looking good. People who choose this path often take the easy road because failure does not make them look good and that is the goal. Challenges are seen as threats and people with an outcomes focus go to great length to avoid them. If something has the potential to make you look bad, they avoid it, and thus miss out on great learning opportunities.

Choice two is to have a learner focus – which results in an emphasis on getting better. People who choose this path see challenges and failure as an opportunity to learn, so they seek more difficult experiences and learn more from them. Trevor called this “thinking like a scientist” – trying something and learning from the process more than the outcome. Failure is one more repetition in building your learner muscle.

Depending on which focus we choose, how we experience things and what we learn totally changes.

I thought about how this concept relates to the growth in STEM education. There has been a great push in STEM-related activities for children – everything from robotics teams to new Girl Scout badges – all in the quest to encourage more people to go into science or technology as careers. We certainly need that, but maybe a better outcome is that we are teaching more children how to think like a scientist. By pushing experimentation and a focus on process, we are helping people in all fields embrace learning and personal growth.

Maybe you work outside the STEM fields, but choose to think like a scientist. Work hard to create a culture in your organization that values getting better more than it does the initial outcome. By placing your focus on getting better, you inherently will get better, even if some of your attempts blow up along the way.

To learn more, see

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

leadership dot #1915: tigers

At Trevor Ragan’s Train Ugly workshop, he teaches about learning using the analogy of a tiger. Ragan maintains that people have the choice to be either a “Zoo Tiger” or a “Jungle Tiger” and which version they choose determines their capacity for learning.

A Zoo Tiger has an easy life and lives safely in a cage, but because of his comforts and limited struggles, the Zoo Tiger does not have the ability to hunt and has not developed the skills to survive in the wild. Ragan contrasts this with the Jungle Tiger whose life is comparatively quite hard, but because of his struggles has developed many skills that serve him well.

Ragan believes that our comfort zone is the human equivalent of a cage, and by choosing to remain within this safe space we are effectively keeping ourselves in a cage and not fully learning. (He illustrates this concept in a quirky 5-minute video here.)  “People learn best when they are challenged to the edge of their ability and stressed just outside their comfort zone,” he says.

Think about the kind of tiger you are. Have you unintentionally remained in the safe limitations of the zoo? Pledge to overcome your fears and resistance to see challenges as opportunities to learn and set yourself free.

Monday, August 28, 2017

leadership dot #1914: civil

Imagine that you are a filmmaker and someone asks you to make a short film on the topic of your choice. How would you narrow it down?

When the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture asked Ava DuVernay this question, she made a film about August 28th. It seems that this day is a notable one in the civil rights movement, including:

> African American Emmett Till was murdered on this date in 1955 and the white men accused of the crime were acquitted. Chicagoan Till was in Mississippi visiting relatives when he reportedly flirted with a white woman, and the subsequent trial drew national attention to racial tensions in the South.

> The March on Washington was held on August 28, 1963 where a rally of 250,000 heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a Dream speech.

> Senator Barak Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, making him the first African American to be a party’s nominee.

Add your behavior to the list of things that happened on August 28 to advance civil discourse and human rights in this country. Take some action that embraces diversity instead of derides it, and use your free speech to promote acceptance instead of hate.

If you need ideas, click here.

Partial source: The World According to Gayle, O Magazine, August, 2017, p. 32

Sunday, August 27, 2017

leadership dot #1913: untagged

A rough estimate suggests that over 40 million people attend a convention or conference in the United States each year.

Of course, conferences are great for economics and vendors – not to mention tourism and travel industries. But they are a nightmare for the environment.
I think of all the lanyards and plastic nametags that have made their way into landfills as a direct result of meetings. It seems that every conference gives a new badge to each participant.

Couldn’t there be an effective way for the nametags to be returned at the end of the event? We have check IN for everything; how about establishing a standard practice to also check OUT? Aldi supermarkets offer a quarter to return the cart from the parking lot; perhaps conventions could offer a monetary reward or hold a deposit? Conventions could have people stationed at the last event to collect the badges – or exchange them for a departing gift. People could be encouraged to wear their ID badges or permanent nametags instead of continually receiving new conference ones. Attendees bring their own computers, notebooks or pens to the meeting – add lanyards to the list.

I know that event planners and marketers like to think that the conference-specific branded lanyard will be a treasured souvenir. It won’t. What it will be is another item in the landfill. May the next nametag you make say Mother Nature.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

leadership dot #1912: dual purpose

For one of those high school projects where you have to invent a new product, I created rolls of toilet paper with fun factoids printed on them. I harkened back to our spare bathroom at home that was wallpapered in maps of the world. We spent a lot of time learning geography while sitting in that space, so why couldn’t a manufacturer provide learning opportunities in more restrooms by printing on the tissues?

I thought of this the other day when I purchased a package of napkins that came printed with questions on them. Instead of educational facts, these wipes were designed to stimulate conversation, posing questions such as: “What’s the most ridiculous thing you heard today?”, “You get to make the rules, what are they?” and “You’re a world traveler. What’s your next stop?”

Why don’t more paper products take advantage of their ubiquity and add some value to their functionality? Think of how you could use conversational napkins with refreshments at a meeting or reception. Maybe they serve as the icebreaker at your next function or just create some laughs in the lunchroom. Or perhaps you could you tailor questions to a specific event or have simulations that relate to your company (eg: “How have you implemented _____ core value today?”).

Whether you use packaged (Mardi Gras brand) products or create your own, don’t overlook the opportunity for napkins to do more than wipe.

Friday, August 25, 2017

leadership dot #1911: intention

At the event I wrote about yesterday, the balcony in the auditorium was roped off to compel participants to sit in the front section. By the time we arrived, the front appeared to be filling up rapidly, but the balcony remained closed. No one seemed to be taking any action to remedy this until someone finally stepped up and made the decision to open it. The person that opened the balcony wasn’t in charge of the program, but he saw a line full of people backed up into the lobby waiting to get in so he acted. It was a good thing that he did, as the balcony also became full before the program began.

I think about the many situations we have all been in where we could have done something, but instead waited for others to take the lead in doing so. We become too afraid of “getting in trouble” or doing the wrong thing, that instead, we do nothing.

We see a problem with a project or policy, but remain silent for fear of being reprimanded for speaking against authority. We observe a colleague struggling, but fail to offer help because we are not their boss. We know someone is not achieving the results they desire, but we don’t want to get involved to offer a suggestion to them.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper said that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission. Cultivate that type of culture where intention outweighs hierarchy and let your people feel free to do what they think is best, whether they are in charge or not.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

leadership dot #1910: wallop

As I was walking into an auditorium for a workshop, several people were walking out. Participants were grumbling about how they were not allowed to take any beverages inside with them, so they were returning mugs and water bottles to their cars. In the lobby, the discontent was more evident as staff at the theater door told those entering that they needed to leave all beverages on the hallway table.

I estimate that at least half of the participants brought something to drink. It was a 7 a.m. start and many had coffee or other forms of caffeine, plus others brought bottles of water in preparation for the 3.5-hour event. Now they began their day earlier than usual, without their typical fix of caffeine or hydration, and their first encounter at the event was to be told "no" before they sat through a workshop for the morning.

Most event organizers know how important the first few minutes are to set the tone for the entire event, and this did not start the day as one would have hoped.

My question is why did it have to be this way? Why would organizers waste an opportunity to say "yes" to something so simple that added to the comfort and convenience of their guests?

Because it appeared that the big picture and overall experience of the program wasn't taken into account.

The committee attended to the speaker and his needs, but it seemed that no one designed it to be a memorable event. Did anyone picture the participants walking in at 7 a.m. with Starbucks or Camelbacks in their hands and consider what their first impression would be like? The policy says no beverages in the auditorium and no one had the forethought to rescind it for the day, or to go one step further and actually provide beverages or other forms of comfort for those in attendance. 

The content was fantastic and by the end the initial inconvenience may have been forgotten. But the "speaker" could have had greater impact as "an event" if planned effectively. The next time you provide some personal development, add some personal touches to your program. Look at the logistics of the whole from the perspective of the participants and see if you can't "wow" instead of "wallop" right from the very start.

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observations with others.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

leadership dot #1909: get out more

I recently had a networking conversation with someone who is just starting out on their own as an independent consultant. A mutual friend connected us, and we shared stories about life-working-on-our-own and the kind of work we're doing.

While we were connected because of our similarities, just in this brief encounter, differences among us became apparent. He was astonished by my 1900 blogs ("what I would give to have that kind of content") and I expressed the same envy over his network and local connections. We talked about the desire to work from home vs. traveling and varying degrees of our application of technology and marketing techniques. Even though we were doing essentially the same thing in the same city, chatting with him helped me see the distinctions I have to offer and the audiences I could serve better than he could (and vice versa).

We often only see the obvious when it comes up against something new. It is hard to realize your own gifts if you don't compare to someone else. It is difficult to appreciate the richness of your location if you never travel outside of it. Those who work for extended periods at the same organization forfeit exposure to different processes or cultures unless they interact with others outside their company. If you stay within the same social circles, it is harder to widen your viewpoints or perspective.

Make it a goal to get out a little bit more and to embrace both the differences and discomfort that expanding your world creates.

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observation with others.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

leadership dot #1908: service call

I upgraded my internet service last week, thinking that since I had the same provider it would just be a matter of some off-site programming somewhere to provide the enhancements. Oh, was I wrong. 

My technician, Jonathan, was at my home for five hours, then called me again in the evening and came back in the morning. To say that there were complications is an understatement, and I was without any internet during all the time he was working.

If I had known in advance this was going to happen, I would have been livid. But instead of being angry, I ended up contacting Jonathan's boss to tell him what a great job Jonathan did in providing service. He kept me apprised of the process, called after hours as he promised, was back promptly in the morning, stayed to ensure I was fully connected and functional, and gave me his cell phone number in case I needed it later. I became a fan of a company of which I had not really been a fan. 

For those who do not believe in investing to keep the best people, please take the Jonathan story to heart. I stopped my service with the cable company because of one person, and I will stay with my internet provider precisely for the same reason. People are not only your most valuable assets, they hold the future of your organization in their hands. 

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observations with others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

leadership dot #1907: eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon aligns with the sun and Earth and blocks the sun's light. We now know that it will result in approximately two and a half minutes of total darkness in the middle of the day, but think of the fear this would cause in people who did not understand what was happening. The uninformed could believe that the world was coming to an end.

Do you have a "total eclipse" in your organization -- where a rare event occurs and not everyone knows that it is coming? Does your leadership do something that seems to cause total darkness without cause and that incites fear in those observing it?

To watch the eclipse today, it is recommended that you are equipped with glasses or a pinhole projector. If you are preparing to launch a historic event of your own -- whether that be a merger, major restructuring or change in focus, help your employees have the equipment they will need to be safe when the light returns.

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observation with others.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

leadership dot #1906: old school

There are some days when I wish I had a warehouse to store everything I have ever owned so that I could cash in on things when they come into vogue the second time around. Such was my feeling when I saw the display of "decorative felt boards" at the craft store.

Back in the day, these old school felt boards were called "spaghetti boards" because the rows of felt look like the pasta all laid out end to end. Organizations had cases of those little plastic letters that the unfortunate person using the board first had to locate, then stick into the 'spaghetti' one by one. The letters were never even, they often fell out and overall the boards were a pain in the neck to use. We were more than thrilled to toss all of it when computerized signs became an option. I can't believe they have returned!

But there they are -- in a glorious end cap display -- featuring the nasty pull-apart letters and the felt boards just waiting for those who want a low tech option for decorating. 
Retro is all the rage these days. Typewriters, turntables and now spaghetti boards are around again. What lurks in your attic or the bowels of your building that you could revitalize and give a second life? 

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observations with others.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

leadership dot #1905: protection

Leave it to America to jump on an event and commercialize it -- which is just what has happened with the solar eclipse. The rare total eclipse of the sun was last visible in the United States in 1979, but, unless you have been oblivious, you know that the next one happens on Monday (August 21). You may know this not because of any scientific interest, but because suddenly filtered glasses are available for sale everywhere!

For those of a more low-tech persuasion, you can make your own pinhole projector by creating a tube and putting aluminum foil with a pin prick on one end and white paper on the other. (Our library offered a workshop and here is a custom leadership dots version!)

This is the first time the total eclipse is visible only in the United States so it's a big deal. But whether you buy your glasses or make your own viewing tube, to enjoy the big event you'll need to be prepared (no direct viewing!). I think of all those who will do harm by looking without protection or who will miss the event due to lack of preparation. Don't let it be you!

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observation with others.

Friday, August 18, 2017

leadership dot #1904: right

Three of us asked our weather app to provide the forecast for the next day. My site indicated that there would be "heavy rain." Another person's app said "overcast" for the same day and location. Still a third person's app predicted "sunshine." Of what use is that information?

But it turned out that all three were right.

It poured rain in the early morning hours, then there were several hours of overcast before a long stretch of sunshine. This was followed by an afternoon of clouding over and another dose of heavy rain before it cleared up again.

It reminded me of the old story about the blind men and the elephant -- whether the elephant feels like a rope, a high wall, a fan or snake depends on what perspective you have and what part of the animal you are touching. And whether the forecast is correct or not depends upon what time of day you are looking at the sky.

Think about the weather forecast and the elephant the next time you are sure you are right. You might be totally correct -- and totally wrong -- depending on the context. Take the time to look at the bigger picture before declaring with certainty that your answer is the only right one.

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observation with others.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

leadership dot #1903: go deep

Today my oldest nephew leaves for college, the first in the family from this generation to head off. Two of my sisters and I do not have children of our own, so Daniel’s achievement of this milestone is a pretty big deal for his doting aunts.

I wrote him a melancholy note (that I will mail to him the old fashioned way once he lets us know his address -- boys!!). In it I offered a single piece of advice: to find one extra curricular activity that interests him and to go deep. “Don’t be casually involved in a dozen organizations: instead pick one and become a leader. You will learn valuable skills. You will gain career experience. You will develop relationships with people that know you well and can serve as friends, mentors or references. You will create connections and have experiences that last a lifetime instead of a semester.”

I think the advice works for anyone starting a new phase in their life. New employees can dabble in many projects, but will become more successful if they go deep in one area. Those who move to a new city can make connections through volunteering or becoming substantially involved in one aspect of the community. Politicians can make a difference if they chose one area to focus their efforts.

Think about how you are allocating your time and see if you can make a greater impact if you go deep. Breadth is overrated.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

leadership dot #1902: evidence

At the recent city council meeting, the police chief recommended the installation of additional traffic cameras in town. He said that the police don’t even take down the accident victims’ stories anymore: they look at the recording before arriving on the scene and already know what happened.

It seems that so much of life is recorded these days that it becomes harder and harder to believe something without “proof.” People pull up old Tweets to provide evidence of what someone has said months ago. Camera phones record everything from amusement ride accidents to tsunamis. Police officers wear body cameras and major league sports have video replays.

The more we rely on external validation, the less attention we pay in real time. Why bother to note the details or take notes when we can see it again?

The trouble is that even images are not “proof” nor do they provide a comprehensive picture of the entire scene or conversation. Cameras only have so many angles. A single social media post could be taken out of context. Even the tangible is subject to interpretation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

leadership dot #1901: out of ink

I was writing in my morning journal when the pen began to run out of ink. I did not have a spare pen handy, so I kept trying to write and extend its life until the end of my entry.

It occurred to me that the choices I was making about this pen could be a metaphor for how you live life. When do you quit – after one line as soon as the going gets rough or do you stretch it out 10 lines and get the most out of it? Do you push it or move on to Plan B when your original intention starts to fade? Does it have to be perfect to produce or do you press on despite less than ideal circumstances?

Think about how you are living – both when you feel like the pen barrel is full and when your energy begins to fade. Be intentional about how you write the story of your life.

Monday, August 14, 2017

leadership dot #1900: centered

In a conversation about leaders, a colleague and I were discussing how those in power were influenced during their tenure, and how their behavior often seemed to change over time. Unfortunately, we had many examples of people who started out strong but faded after years into the job, but we only had one stark example of someone who remained consistently strong throughout.

In trying to dissect what caused that difference, we concluded that his identity was never wrapped up in being the organization's leader. The power never went to his head so he wasn't tainted by it. Often a company's chief has that role as his or her key identity. S/He may travel, but never fully turn off the job. S/He may golf, but it is still as the CEO hobnobbing with others on the course. S/He could volunteer in the community, but in the context of their position more so than their passion. 

Such was not the case with our outlier example. He embraced many different roles that he played in life. When he was in waders up to his knees in a stream, he was a fly fisherman extraordinaire with a whole circle of friends that had nothing to do with his organization or community. He was a foodie and a wine connoisseur for the personal thrill of it, not to impress. He cherished his role as a husband and father and happily conceded any pretense of power to the women in his family.

We talk a lot about work-life balance, but the core issue isn't a time management one. The real prize is cultivating an identity and remaining centered around the parts of you that aren't reflected on a business card.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

leadership dot #1899: transparency

On a trip to the library, I came across the "Government Documents" section that was totally empty. There may have been a legitimate reason for this: they are in the process of rearranging stacks or the documents may have been converted to all-electronic access, but given the sensitive nature of government transparency, it seems that it would have been more prudent to post a sign with the rationale.


There are many instances when an innocent action without explanation turns into a bigger deal because there is no communication about it. Proactively share the truth before you have to reactively defend it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

leadership dot #1898: unless

At a recent doctor's visit, there were two signs prominently displayed in the exam room. One encouraged patients to contact their pharmacist first if a prescription refill was needed. The second clearly urged patients to call the clinic as the initial point of contact.

The confusion about people calling the "wrong" place is probably what prompted the signs in the first place, but no wonder patients can't keep things straight. One sign is telling them to do the exact opposite of the other. "Start with us first" unless it is a prescription refill. 

Does your messaging carry an explicit or implied "unless"? Once something has qualifiers, its memorability is lost.

Friday, August 11, 2017

leadership dot #1897: fake

In an episode of Law and Order, the key perpetrator was a musician who hid the passwords to his off shore accounts in his Fake Book. Until I watched this show, I had no idea what a Fake Book was, but apparently it is very real. Musicians use them to quickly learn the essence of a song -- the melody line, keys, chords -- so that they can play a larger variety of songs than they actually know. The Fake Book allows them to improvise -- or fake it -- when playing.

Is your organization in need of its own Fake Book for your staff? Does the receptionist or customer service agent need a resource with the basics so they can quickly serve guests without knowing every detail? Does a new employee need a Fake Book to learn enough to make it through the first challenging weeks? Perhaps you need a Fake Book to leave for the substitute teacher or temporary help when someone is away?

We don't always have the time to write everything out with the thoroughness that would make it complete. Instead of doing nothing, maybe you can fake your preparation by creating a Fake Book. It may not hold the passwords to the off shore accounts, but to an employee who needs it, the information could be just as valuable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

leadership dot #1896: rabbit hole

When I was doing some supervision training for student managers, we, of course, talked about how to hold their supervisees accountable. I provided some coaching language for them and they did some role plays. Inevitably, the person being coached had a litany of excuses as to why they did not perform well. 

The managers in the training struggled with how to respond to the rationale that the "employee" provided, and I watched as the conversation quickly became derailed. As soon as the manager started discussing or even acknowledging the excuse, the focus on accountability was lost.

If an employee is not performing, does it really matter what their reason is? Yes, if they do not have the knowledge or resources to do the job well, but otherwise the host of personal excuses is irrelevant. If you are late, it does not matter if it is because of traffic, your kids or no parking: you are still late and the responsibility is on you to leave early enough to accommodate such delays. 

I encouraged the managers, and would also suggest to you, to avoid discussing the reason behind a failure to meet expectations. Ensure that the employee knows what the standard is, ask them if they need help in meeting it, and hold them accountable from there. Anything further just leads you down the rabbit hole.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

leadership dot #1895: the county

There have been preparations underway for weeks for the road construction project on my street. We have all come to tune them out -- until the ROAD CLOSED signs appeared on the scene. While none of them have yet to be placed into position, it has caused quite a buzz amongst the neighbors. Many calls have been placed to City Hall and to Councilmen wanting to know the details of the impending detour.

The problem is that it is a county project, and no one at the city is apprised of the details.

But to many residents in this small community, "the city" isn't some nebulous or faceless entity; "the city" means talking to Doug or Sarah or Curt or Craig. To their neighbors, "the city" equates to a person, whereas "the county" is a nameless bureaucracy that cannot help them.

If you truly want to provide customer service, start by putting a name with the one providing the service. Don't hide behind "the administration", "the accounting department", "the C-suite", "the 4th floor" or other generic categories that allow for anonymity or escape. Provide a name and a contact person as early in the process as you are able to create the connection and accountability to make it real.

Departments don't provide service; people do.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

leadership dot #1894: structure

I recently updated an article that provides pragmatic tips for completing a dissertation. I had written the article when I received my degree, but wanted to post it on LinkedIn to help the next generation of doctoral students get the monkey off their back and finish that degree.

I was surprised at how much had changed in those 20 years. When I wrote my dissertation, there was no Excel at the time and my academic advisor did not accept documents via email! I initially encouraged students to put their latest draft on a disc (not a flash drive) and put it in their car each evening so all would not be lost in case of a house fire (as happened to a classmate!). You no longer need dimes to access microfiche, money orders for the copyright fee, or boxes to mail the binders with the latest draft.

Regardless of the mechanics to achieve it, the ultimate aim of a dissertation is still the same: to demonstrate to the committee that a student can synthesize existing research and advance it with original research that moves knowledge forward.

Whether you ever write a dissertation or not, following that framework will be of great help in structuring an argument or proposal for almost any topic. Summarize "what is", then share what you learned that supports or refutes that thinking, and what you recommend as a result.

The skill is in the discipline to actually do it, not in the doing itself.

Climbing the Dissertation Mountain: Pragmatic Tips on How to Finish, click here for a copy.

Monday, August 7, 2017

leadership dot #1893: anchor

I track all of my blog topics on a desk calendar and so it is daunting when I rip off a new month and stare at a blank page. Instead of seeing the 1800+ dots I have written, all I am focused on is the 30 more I have to do.

If you have just lost 10 pounds, but need to lose 10 more, you will be more motivated if you keep the starting point in mind rather than the goal. But if you are one sale away from making your quota, it may help you to focus on those few final calls that you have to make.

One of the tricks of effective leadership is knowing when to look forward and when to look back. Keep the right perspective in mind when looking for an anchor by which to measure your progress. The most motivating number may be the one you have already passed and can no longer see.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

leadership dot #1892: package

The Franklin Covey planners may seem a bit old-school, but their packaging is anything but. The calendars come in this wonderful box: embossed on the front in silver letters it proclaims: "Your World Is About to Change."  Once the box is empty, it supplies another message: "Your World Has Changed." What a great way to capitalize on space others often ignore.

Think about how your product could be used to share your brand's message beyond just your logo. Do you have a tagline or message imprinted on your envelopes or invoices? Can your materials be delivered in a binding that includes information about your organization or its vision? Do tangible products include intentional communication of the "why" behind them as well as the requisite logistical descriptions? Does your box "wow" like Covey's does?

The package you share provides a wonderful opportunity for either education or elation. Be sure to include more than your product in the next piece your organization distributes.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

leadership dot #1891: cacti

Those who are purchasers of tchotchkes or "cute" school supplies will know that woodland creatures have been a hit for several years. Raccoons, hedgehogs, foxes and owls have dominated the accessories market and everything in between: sheets, notecards, clothing, shower curtains, etc. But I have noticed on this year's back-to-school shopping journey that the creatures seem to have returned to the woods -- and in their place are cacti.

Maybe it was the mini-succulent craze that started this, but if you pay attention, you will see cactus-themed items are everywhere. The whole Southwestern theme and color palette is popular as well, but cacti are the king.

So what does this mean for you? Maybe it influences your marketing, your decor, your collecting, your gift-giving -- or just your consciousness. Staying attuned to what is trending should be part of your on-going development as a leader.

Friday, August 4, 2017

leadership dot #1890: linger

There is magic in doing something right away instead of putting it off -- even for a short while.

When I wait too long to get to a bigger project, I struggle to start vs. when I "take a few notes" and start in on it right away. I find that when I write blog entries soon after I get the idea that they are better; old ideas tend to linger and then feel forced. When I outline a session I am presenting right after talking to the client, I get further along with the new training than the one that has been sitting on my desk for a month.

If I take that first step before I have time to dread it, the second steps easily follow. But if I think about something too long, I am apt to talk myself out of it more times than I talk myself into something.

Don't let your energy dwindle as something lingers on your to-do list. Try to make it a habit to attend to something sooner rather than later. Later almost always equates to longer.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

leadership dot #1889: badge

Of the many influences on children and their careers, one of my favorites is involvement in outside clubs and organizations. From my years in admissions, I know that participation in the scouts or 4-H can have a positive impact on the person's development and skills.

I was excited to read that the Girl Scouts have added 23 new badges in the STEM and outdoor areas. Young girls' involvement in these programs now could lead to either a new career path or at least to personal awareness and care in different areas. 

The Girl Scouts have a wide variety of badges for girls to earn. You can see the whole list here, but it includes things like product designer, home scientist, philanthropist, business owner, digital movie maker, woodworker, game visionary, learning the science of style, public policy, mechanical engineering, netiquette and website designer -- many things that girls would not have exposure to if not for their involvement in Scouts.

Whether in a formal program like the badge-earning Girl Scouts or in a more informal way (such as allowances for any personal development or training class), your organization will benefit from encouraging your employees to explore new areas and to learn things beyond their normal job duties. How can you make it exciting to pick up new skills or to dabble in an adjacent field? Even if a peripheral understanding is the outcome and not interest or mastery, it still is a badge of honor to be a continual learner.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

leadership dot #1888: noise

The county is doing road construction at the intersection right by my house. As a result, I hear two noises throughout the day: 1) an intermittent loud banging as the backhoe smashes up new pieces of ground and 2) the continual whirring of a generator.

While both are part of the same project, these two machines produce a very different audible impact. For some people, the occasional loud noise would be most disruptive as it intrudes on concentration. For others, (me!) the infernal background hum is headache-inducing and perpetually distracting. I tune out the big bangs, but can't get the motor motions out of my consciousness.

Think about the "noise" in your organization that is causing distractions for your employees. What components of your work cause a loud clank that affects some of your staff -- such as a sudden change in personnel, a bold new initiative that alters direction or a move? What elements are more like the background buzz -- like an annoying policy, toxic employee or poor office layout? Either way, ignoring the impact is as futile as trying to tune out the noise itself.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

leadership dot #1887: redemption

I am not a Cubs fan, so it is ironic to me that I am writing about the Cubs two days in a row, but an incident warrants it. Yesterday I learned that the Cubs organization gave an authentic World Series Championship ring to someone not directly in the organization: Steve Bartman!

In case you don't know anything about the Cubs, fan Steve Bartman grabbed a foul ball in the 2003 National League Championship -- a ball some thought could have been caught for an out. As a result, he has been the butt of jokes and cause of scorn for more than a decade, and blamed by many as being personally responsible for the Cubs' demise that year.

But yesterday, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, and president of baseball operations,Theo Epstein, brought Bartman to Wrigley Field and presented him with a personalized championship ring just like the players'. Part of their statement said: "We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story...while no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization..." Talk about high class!

Do you have a "Steve Bartman" in your organization -- someone who has been ostracized or whose legacy casts a shadow on the current operations? Is there a person who was blamed for doing what he or she thought was right at the time, but has paid a heavy price in the folklore when things did not turn out as originally planned? Maybe they didn't catch a foul ball, but purchased a building or equipment, created a logo or implemented a practice that has long been ridiculed.

Take a page out of the Cubs' playbook and extend an olive branch to welcome your "Steve" back into the game. It is much easier to move forward when the ghosts of the past aren't in play. And much classier too!

Click here to see the full story on WGN.

Thanks Mike!