#60 permanent ink

There seems to be a proliferation of tattoos and tattoo parlors these days.  It wasn’t so long ago that only the toughest of men had tattoos, but recently they have become almost mainstream.  Now having just one tattoo is almost tame; many have a whole appendage or shoulder covered with a design.

There are more ways than ever before to express your personality: piercings, nail polish in every hue, a rainbow of hair colors, customized messages on attire, bracelets or belt buckles or jewels that proclaim loyalty to a cause — why do people have the sudden craving to politicize themselves permanently?  Perhaps it is because an unadorned piece of flesh is one of the few places that isn’t already covered with messages screaming for attention.

Tattoos used to represent something that would be valued permanently — a love of mom, country or a special someone.  Will the art that is embedded today stand the test of time and have that same endurance?  I suspect that there will be a robust business opportunity for tattoo removal services to reflect the ebb and flow of personal taste that changes over time.  Is there really any fashion statement I made in college that I wish was still with me today?  I think not!

However, I do like the optimism that tattoos represent — the idea that something is enough of a treasure that you (usually!) want the world to know of your bond and are willing to endure pain to permanently commit to that proclamation.  

One of my favorite icebreakers asks participants “if you could get a tattoo for free, would you do so, and what would it be?”.  A better question for leaders is to ask yourself “if your organization had a tattoo, what would it be?”.  What does your organization treasure enough that it would endure pain to put it out there for everyone to see forever?  Work to metaphorically tattoo that on the hearts and minds of your stakeholders.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#59 do it for love

I went to a big band concert last night and heard the 14-member orchestra perform music from the 20s, 30s and 40s.  Everyone, including the leader, has “a day job”, but they come together occasionally to play music from a bygone era.  What makes this group special is that they are playing authentic reproductions of the music, not just generic renditions that have been modified to accommodate today’s smaller ensembles. It’s not as easy to do as it sounds.  The original sheet music isn’t available, so the leader listens to the music on 78 rpm records; writes down the music by hand, then sends it off to California to be transcribed for the various instruments.  And this is his hobby!

It would be so much easier to “settle” and use the music that is available.  But to him, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.  He doesn’t need to go the extra mile; actually, he doesn’t need the band gigs at all, but he does it for love.  He does it to honor the music to be played the way that it was designed to be played.

I wonder if 75 years from now some hobbyist will find anything of such value that it is worth her time to replicate so closely.  Are we producing any work of wonder that will live on and be enjoyed as much by future generations as it is today?  What from this era will become valued in 2087?  Maybe if we put the love in what we are creating, there will be something people will want to re-create long after we are gone.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com




#58 blue ribbon

Last week I took off on a beautiful afternoon and went to the County Fair.  It was the 59th annual fair, and I suspect that it is very similar to the first offering in 1953.  There are the requisite cows, goats, chickens and pigs on display in the agricultural buildings; the quilts, pies and crafts on display in the “cultural arts” building; freshly-squeezed lemonade, funnel cakes, cotton candy and sno-cones being hawked by the vendors; plus a ferris wheel, oversized teddy bear prizes and motion-sickness inducing rides in the arcade.  Part of the appeal is its familiarity — just with a new generation of 4-H enthusiasts and smiling fair queen.


What I would guess is different from the first fair experience is that everyone who displayed in the cultural arts exhibits received a ribbon — and I would bet that the ribbon color wasn’t a coincidence.  A blue ribbon at the county fair used to be the pinnacle to strive toward, but not so much any more.  Now the meaning is diluted because there were a hundred blue ribbons given out in our county.  The Best in Show winners in each category got a bigger blue ribbon with the round center and fancy trim on the top, but is the impact still the same?

Those who lead members of the younger generations are going to inherit a workforce that is accustomed to getting blue ribbons for entering the fair and trophies for being a member of the soccer team.  It will challenge all of us as to how to provide recognition for meaningful achievements instead of just for participation.  I’ll give the top prize to the supervisor who helps their staff get gratification from internal satisfaction instead of from an artificial reward.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#57 pebbles

A friend of mine recently left his position to take another.  To many, it seemed like a sudden move so people were asking “why?” and speculating on reasons for his departure.

Those of us who were privy to the behind-the-scenes happenings over the past few years saw that he faced numerous roadblocks, push back, hassles and questioning about his attempts to change.  There was no big incident; no rock that tilted the balance of his value scale in one act.  Instead it was a series of pebbles that were added to the frustration side with fewer pebbles added to the savor-the-victory side.  You can only fight the good fight for so long and then you tire of balancing the pebbles.His organization lost an amazing administrator, and sadly probably doesn’t even realize why. 

Keep in mind that the litany of “nos”, the sighs you hear and the unresolved issues are all adding weight to the wrong side of your valued employee’s scale.  You and your organization will benefit if you intentionally reduce the negative pebbles or consciously add them to the positive side.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#56 honor

A friend of mine recently told me about one of his colleagues who was tapped for the difficult assignment of heading up an organization that had experienced trauma with its previous leader.  He asked her about her strategy for rebuilding the culture and trust.


“I try to learn what I need to honor,” she answered.  This inspired leader started out by listening to others about what was important and what could be changed — and through this process learned what she needed to honor in the organization.  Honoring did not prohibit her from impacting the area/culture/practice, but it gave her guidelines as to what to preserve as well as what to delay for action later.  

My suspicion is that the organization will come to honor her as time goes by for her insightful method of leadership and for fostering what the organization values. 

What do you need to honor in your organization or relationship?

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

#55 strength

I have a far greater respect for physical therapists now that I have been through therapy myself.  My doctor’s order said little more than “left shoulder impingement” and it was up to my therapist to design an in-home exercise program and to lead therapy sessions with exercises tailored specifically to my pain management and rehabilitation needs.  Each time I went to see her, she changed up the specifics and equipment in a seemingly effortless way.  

When I asked how she knew what to do, she told me that there were four stages that she works through: reducing pain, increasing range of motion, abduction and then finally strength.  I was struck at the parallels to organizational healing.  When there is an institutional problem, the temptation is to immediately work toward regaining strength, but that can only be done after the pain is first healed.  I like thinking about strength being last. 

I also took comfort in knowing there was some framework for my treatment, a “method to the madness” as it were.  Sharing even a simple structure or game plan with your staff can help them to conceptualize where you are going and perhaps even give them patience along the journey to get there.  It aligns expectations and adjusts hopes to fit reality.

“Left shoulder impingement” is about the equivalent of the job description people are given when they take a newly-created position.  The organization counts on their inherent knowledge to know what to do first, to evaluate what is/isn’t working, and to course correct from there. I suspect that most people who start a new role bring with them a reservoir of experience and knowledge that they can draw from — even if it doesn’t seem that way at times.  Sharing with staff a simple framework of how you are working toward strength can give a reassuring context for their unknown.

Hopefully you will have the same success in your organization as my therapist did with my shoulder!

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#54 organizational therapy

I had the most amazing physical therapist who taught me many things over the past ten weeks — far beyond the mechanics of shoulder abduction and range of motion.  Here are some lessons learned from my PT:

— Therapy has an impact over time.  There is no silver bullet or one magic exercise that can cure you.
— It is what you do in between the therapy appointments that count.  Twice daily exercises mean that — even if it means taking the equipment on vacation, doing exercises in airports, staying up late, getting up early and doing it when it hurts.
— Others (ie: my therapist) push you harder than you push yourself. 
— Ditto for equipment and tools.  Who knew an exercise ball or 2# weight could be so heavy?
— It is most important to do the exercises that are the hardest to do.
— You can’t keep doing the same things over and over.  Each session added in a new motion or additional repetitions.
— You have to be brave!

It seems to me that these lessons can be applied in organizational settings as well.  Whatever you are trying to develop (trust, pride, branding, professionalism) can be strengthened in the same metaphorical way that you build muscle strength.

— Building trust takes time.  There is no magic bullet or one thing you can do to earn it.
— It is what you do when you are out of the meeting/spotlight that counts.  Building integrity doesn’t just happen when you are on stage.
— Mentors/colleagues/boards/bosses push you harder than you push yourself.
— Ditto for analytics, data, external research and facts.
— It is most important to develop the relationships that are hardest to cultivate.
— You can’t keep doing the same things over and over.
— You have to be brave!

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com