#213 moments

The world lost many souls this year, one of the most notable being Neil Armstrong.  When I mention the name, most Americans instantly think of “walking on the moon”.  How strange it must be to have your life defined by something that occurred in a matter of minutes.  An enormous amount of preparation, and 151 minutes in Armstrong’s case.

Jesse Owens, the decorated runner, once described the experience of an Olympian as ” a lifetime of training for just 10 seconds.”  So many people are remembered by something that happened in a relatively short amount of time.  Ben Stein has impressive credentials and a lifetime of achievement, but he has remarked that he knows his obituary will read “Bueller, Bueller” in recognition of the 10 minutes he spent as the boring teacher in the classic film.

Your whole lifetime doesn’t have to be memorable.  The whole year doesn’t have to be stellar.  The whole project doesn’t have to be perfect.  Tonight as we bring the year to a close, take a moment to reflect on the moments/deeds/memories/loves that stood out.  The pieces can define the whole if they are powerful enough.

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




#212 towering achievement

As one of my staff members reflected on the year, she described it as “gray”.  “Nothing really big happened,” she said.  

But when I looked at her year, I saw a collection of little wins: process improvements, staff training gains, outreach efforts, a record of accuracy and service, etc.  I feared that if she did not take satisfaction in these achievements her staff would not see their significance either, setting everyone up for a “gray” year next year.

The analogy I used to describe this to her was that she had a bunch of little boxes.  Her job as a manager was to tie a ribbon around them and make them into an impressive tower of gifts.  Big wins don’t need to come in big chunks or be a silver bullet.  Small, continuous improvements can add up to produce significant benefits as well.

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


#210 take stock

Think about yourself or your institution and how you operate.

Are you like a money market: slow and steady growth, with little risk and little return.

Or are you like a blue chip stock: relying more on your reputation than on your current performance.

Or perhaps you are more of a high risk stock:  taking big gambles, but having high return.

Two thoughts about this:
1) It helps to have your personal comfort level aligned with that of your organization.  If you’re not comfortable taking big risks in your own life, it will likely make you nervous if you work at a place that rolls the dice could risk losing it all.

2) If you work in a money market type institution, you may be doing well in literal terms — balancing the budget, making progress, etc. — but with the economy and inflation, it is likely that you are actually falling behind if you are only incrementally growing.

Whatever your path — personal and professional — be intentional about being on it.

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


#209 lighter than air

When I first heard this I thought it was a joke, but apparently it is true: helium is going to become hard to come by. Not only does this impact the balloon enthusiast, but it has far more serious implications. Helium is used in MRI machines, welding, nuclear reactors and space shuttle fuel tanks.

Helium is the second-most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen), but a combination of factors has led to the shortage.  Believe it or not, last year’s warmer-than-usual winter is a contributor; natural gas production and prices were down so the helium by-product was reduced as well.  Demand for helium is growing and global production cannot keep up; thus the shortage.  And the government is involved as well; nearly all of the world’s helium supply is found within a 250-mile radius of Amarillo, Texas and the U.S. Federal Helium Reserve there controls much of the supply.

So who is at the end of the production food chain: the casual balloon consumer.  Soon the days of bouquets of balloons from the party store will be gone; either helium won’t be available for that use at all or it will be priced beyond what someone will pay.  Forget about balloon arches at prom, release of hundreds of balloons at football games or use of the latex decorations for countless events.  It is doubtful that the next generation will be able to conceive how frivolously helium was used as it is now.

I mourn the pending loss of plentiful helium balloons.  It only takes one to cheer up a person or add sunshine to a room.  And I wonder what whole new industry will replace it.  Will there be gizmos to easily allow balloons to float down from the ceiling? Will clowns instead hand out stickers, candy or removable tattoos?  Will Macy’s again fill their floats with air and suspend them from trucks (as they did in 1958 during another shortage)?  Will party stores go out of business without the lucrative sideline of balloon bundles?

Whether you’re six or 60, the next time you see a helium balloon, pause and soak it in.  It is one more aspect of today that may not exist in the future.

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



*www.wired.com/archive/8.08/helium.html
Also: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20 and http://www.popularmechanics.com 6/25/12


#208 good tidings

One of my favorite, funniest memories occurred when visiting friends many years ago.  I only saw them at Christmastime, and my memory of where they lived was sketchy due to just annual visits.  This was in the pre-cell phone, pre-GPS, pre-navigation systems on your phone era — and I got lost.  Really lost.  So lost that I had to stop at a store, call them, describe where I was, and then write down the directions to follow in order to get there.  

Once I turned onto their circle, I saw the whole family outside — with flashlights — guiding me into their driveway like it was an airplane landing strip.  We still laugh about it all these years later.

I will visit them again this holiday; no batteries required.  Just tell Siri that I want navigation to their address and, wa-la, she will guide me there.  It will be infinitely more efficient, and undoubtedly less fun.

High tech is wonderful, but so is high touch.  Now that the madness of Christmas Day is over, try to add some low key time with friends into your schedule.  The annual get-together can make enough memories to last for the year.

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




#207 appreciation

I recently heard the parable about a dog with a bone.  The dog was given a big bone.  He began wagging and was quite happy with his feast.  He then trotted off with it and came upon a pond.  While holding his bone, he looked in the water and saw another dog with a bone.  Not realizing it was his reflection, he grabbed for it, and as a result lost the bone he had.

This Christmas, wag your tail and appreciate the bones that you are given.  Merry day!

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




#206 greetings

As this Christmas season comes to a close, I wonder if Christmas cards are becoming another lost art.  I was struck by the limited selection to purchase at Hallmark this year; instead of shelves with boxes to fit every personality style, I had a hard time finding one that seemed like “me”.  Apparently others had a similar struggle and gave up, or maybe they did not even try.  

I received fewer cards than ever this year, and of those I did about 75% of them were photo greeting cards.  It strikes me as a bit ironic that in this era where more photos are shared than ever — via  blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Shutterfly, Snapfish and the like — more people are opting to share just photos for their holiday greeting.  

I contrast this with my Millennial admissions staff, who was adamant about hand-signing and hand-addressing nearly 800 cards to their prospective students.  I would have guessed that they would have been the first to opt for an electronic message, but apparently they recognize the rarity of the handwritten greeting and wanted to make an impression on those we are trying to court.

Whether you sent your greetings via Tweet, photo card, traditional Hallmark-esque card, Facebook or in person, I hope that you take some time before the season ends to wish those who are important to you all the best in the coming new year.

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


#205 pyramids or batons

The topic of collaboration came up at our recent Cave Day meeting.  As we probed more deeply into what individuals meant by this term, it became clear to me that there are (at least) two distinct styles of collaboration.  One is like a Cirque du Soleil acrobatic pyramid–everyone is working together and they are all doing a similar function simultaneously.  The other is more like a relay race, where people are working more or less independently, but all rely on each other to complete the race (project).  

If you have a different expectation as to which kind of collaboration will occur, you may be disappointed in the teamwork and effort of others.  If you forget that you are in a relay race and only focus on your portion of the laps, you may fail to pay attention to the baton hand-off and set the team behind.

Collaboration takes many forms and people play different roles as part of a team.  Spend some time clarifying how you expect your team to function before you climb on the back of someone who is trying to run a relay race.

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



#204 count on it

I had dinner last night in a place that prominently displays a chalkboard boasting they have served 2,217,936 burgers since April, 1977.  This is not a big fancy chain, rather little restaurant with a total of 28 tables plus a bar.  Yet, they have somehow managed to sell about 175 burgers a day, every day, for the past 35 years.

More notably, what they have done is make the intangible tangible by quantifying it.  They could say we’ve sold “a lot” of burgers, but that is far less impressive than putting out there for every patron to see that they have sold more than two million.  If they have served that many burgers, then your subconscious thinks “it must be good”.

Organizations could take a lesson from this little eatery.  Most enterprises are not especially good at keeping track of their volume/results/inputs and thereby lose an opportunity to quantify impact in an impressive way.  Just like numbering your blogs, it helps to put a number on how far you have come.

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