#272 this or that

A fun exercise that can illustrate the importance of knowing criteria in advance is called Pins and Straws.

Groups are each given 200 plastic straws, 100 straight pins and instructions.  They are allotted about 20 minutes to build something using just the supplies that were provided.

What groups don’t know is that the instructions are different for the groups.  One group is told to build a structure that will be judged on its height.  Another learns that they will be judged on its beauty.  A different group believes they will be judged on their structure’s strength.  

When the time is concluded, groups share their construction with the whole room and proudly show off their designs.  The differences in instruction are still not shared, so people look on with puzzlement and giggles.  For example, the “tall” structures often reach to the ceiling, but are most fragile and precarious in doing so.  People in the “strong” group have a hard time giving any credence to such an obvious flaw, and the “tall” builders fail to see how a small structure matters even if it could be thrown across the room and survive.

Finally, when the true purpose of the exercise is revealed, light bulbs tend to go on in participants’ heads about the elementary lesson that they failed to see.  We use this to set up groups to do a more substantial project later in the workshop, and almost all spend time clarifying their goal before just jumping in to start.

In most cases, there is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to which option is more closely aligned with what you value.  Try to be as clear about what that is before you start making decisions and choices.

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


#271 criteria

The Wall Street Journal reported that for the past 22 years, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the United States.  Yet, in all 136 years of the Westminster Dog Show, it has never won Best in Show.

It appears that the criteria for judging a winner and picking a pet are different.  Judges look for adherence to a standard (e.g.: “a clean-cut head with broad back skull”), etc.  Dogs compete against that standard rather than against each other in the category.  

Contrast that with families picking out a pooch to call their own.  In this case, dogs are absolutely vying for attention vs. their siblings, kennel mates or other breeds.  Families are looking for a sweet temperament, loving eyes and wagging tail.  I doubt any family pet has been picked because of its broad back skull.

The lesson in all of this is to know what the criteria are before assessing a value judgment and making a choice.  If you need a candidate that is good with detail work, don’t be swayed by someone who is gregarious in the interview but can’t sit still.  If you need a durable car, don’t fall for the one that is a great bargain.  If you value innovation, don’t set standards that rigidly monitor resources.

For the thousands of families who have a Lab as a pet, on most days, their dog is a true winner.  Those who want a trophy instead of a big, sloppy kiss will have to wait for their reward!

It is important to know what is important before working toward that criteria.  Tomorrow, I will share an exercise that can be used to illustrate this concept. 

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

Source:  Wall Street Journal, “Everybody loves Labradors, so why are they underdogs?” by Ben Cohen, 2/11/13 
Thanks to Colleen for the idea!

#270 big business

I receive a newsletter from the Independent Educational Consultants Association (consultants who help coach families on selective college admission.) This month’s newsletter included a full-page ad touting the Girl Scouts Gold Award and how “Girl Scouts add Gold to a college campus.”

I doubt you would ever see such an advertisement for the Boy Scouts.  The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement in scouting, yet it does not have the anywhere near the status or recognition that the parallel award has for the boys.

When I say “Boy Scout”, many people think “Eagle Scout”, but when I say “Girl Scout”, most people think “cookies”.  What is unfortunate is that they think “cookies” as in home economics, rather than as in big business.  The Girl Scout Cookie Sale markets, sells and delivers nearly 200 million boxes of cookies each year and has net proceeds of about $700 million. Girls are involved in developing incentive programs, financial management, resource allocation strategies and planning.  Each year in a Council, girls gain experience and growing levels of leadership in managing a complex business operation.

The Girl Scout organization calls the Cookie Program “America’s leading business and economic literacy activity run for and by girls.”  But they don’t sell it that way.  Personally, I think it is time that the girls stop wearing cute little cookie costumes outside the grocery store and start sharing the seriousness of their enterprise along with the Thin Mints.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your employees is to help them articulate their value.  Take a moment to help people reflect on what they are adding to your organization and how they are growing because of it.  The intrinsic feeling of learning valuable skills is delicious.

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

Source:  www.girlscouts.org/news/news_releases/2007/2007_cookie_report.pdf


#269 restoration

Last week I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that was given a tour of a warehouse that is being renovated into living and community spaces.  This is a block-long building that was built in 1860, served as a factory for doors, sat vacant for 40 years and is now one of the most desirable places in town.

If I was not already in love with my two non-apartment-compatible golden retrievers, I would have signed a lease on the spot.  The owners have done a magnificent job of restoration; preserving the character of the original and enhancing it with efficiencies that were inconceivable when the structure was built.

This is no longer a dilapidated, empty shell in a blighted neighborhood; instead it is becoming a showcase and hub for the arts, community gatherings, and hip young people to call home.  In my opinion, it is far better than any new construction could hope to be at that site, and their early occupancy rates bear that out.  Preserving the past has added dimension and character in a way that provides a distinctiveness and individuality unavailable in standardized new buildings.

What element of restoration can you provide in your organization?  Everything does not have to be new.  How can you resurrect some of the grand elements of the past to bring your heritage to the modern times in a way that actually adds value to your work?  Are there traditions, facilities, stories or practices that you can claim as a bridge from the past to the present?  

In a world that has so many elements of sameness, remember to look to your past as you envision the future.  You may find a forgotten treasure there.

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


#268 batter up

Tee ball, the first level of organized baseball for kids, has rules that sound much like casual, schoolyard play, but Tee ball estimates 2.2 million players participate in an organized game.  

Examples include:

> The website lists “recommended” rules and typical modifications of them
> Even things as fundamental as what constitutes an inning can change (either three outs or a “bat around” where each player bats one time before sides switch)
> Rules can change with each inning or batter
> The inning can end with 3 outs or 5 runs
> The batter hits the ball off a stationery T, swinging as many times as necessary to make contact
> Teams may not keep score, but if they do, they can elect to end the game when “that’s enough”
> The final decision on rules is made at the local level


The group knows its purpose (teach primary baseball skills without fear) and adapts its practices to fit the needs of its community.  Participants and organizers go into the game with a sense of adaptability and change.  

There is a lot that organizations could learn about flexibility from Tee ball.  When the situation warrants creativity or new thought, think about playing by the Tee ball rules and see if the added freedom helps you score a home run.

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

Source:  www.teeballusa.org
Thanks to Scott D. for the idea

#267 nickel and dimed

According to Travelocity.com, consumers paid $3.6 billion in 2011 for baggage fees alone.  This statistic is even more staggering when you consider that bags all flew free until 2007.  But baggage fees were just the beginning.  Now airlines charge for pillows, snacks, movies, Wi-Fi, seat selection, booking changes and in-person ticket purchases.  

Never mind that airlines and fees are fodder for comedic ridicule and cartoons; in four short years the industry found a way to develop a large and lucrative revenue source that, for them, outweighs any consumer backlash.

I think that, in general, people hate fees.  They would rather have a comprehensive price up front so they can weigh the information and make an informed decision.  With all the on-line booking tools, I wonder how many consumers took their portion of the $3.6 billion into account when comparing prices.  Did they really get the best deal?

There are many other industries that are fee-laden.  Real estate with its myriad closing costs.  Hospitals, with a la carte pricing for each individual item used in complicated surgeries and emergency visits.  Rental cars, the base price of which can double with additional charges.  I work in higher education, an environment that is also known for its fee structure beyond the primary price.  It is tuition plus fees at every school in the land.

There are many reasons for industries to establish price structures as they do.  On one hand, it is a more fair system because those who use the extra services pay the increased cost.  But it does make true price comparisons difficult until very late in the process.  

Look at your pricing as if you were Jay Leno and see if there is material there for a laugh.  If there are hidden charges, nonsensical fees, unexplained surcharges or it is impossible for you to know the true cost, you flunk the transparency test and need to regroup.  On the other hand, if your charges are relevant, published and clear then you pass the Leno test and shouldn’t have your customers laughing at you.

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

Source:  Real Simple Moneywise, March 2013

#266 no grumbling allowed

Our mayor has declared today as Complaint Free Day for the city (seriously).  Even if you don’t live here, I think you should take on the challenge of going the entire day without lamenting about anything.  

No yelling at the person who almost cut you off.  Being nice to the person in the Express Lane with a basket full of groceries.  Accepting whatever Mother Nature delivers for the weather.  Smiling at yourself in the mirror.  Working cheerfully side-by-side with that colleague who drives you nuts.  Taking what the puppies destroy in stride.

I think that being complaint free will be harder than it seems.  It is part of our nature to focus on what isn’t working, rather than what is.  But for today, give it a try.  Take on the individual challenge of seeing the positive side of life.

If you make it 21 days without complaining, you can even receive a Certificate of Happiness at http://www.AComplaintFreeWorld.org

Here’s to the glass being half full.

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