#425 babysitting

I had a conversation with a friend who has recently been promoted to chair of an academic department.  “My job is now 10% teaching and 90% babysitting,” he said.  “And I have no managerial training.”

Most of us in management positions could say the same thing — at least about the lack of training.  It would be ideal to think ahead to the job skills required for the job you eventually want and do more to prepare before they are needed.  It doesn’t always work that way so we start out feeling like babysitters instead of managers.  What can you learn from those who tend to toddlers?

Think about the good babysitters you had when growing up.  You may have cried when your parents left, but they ignored that and you got over it.  They gave you some options about what to eat or what to do.  They played games with you for awhile, but eventually they let you watch movies or do things on your own.  They may have told your parents about some of your behaviors, but they let you get away with a few things too.  They made you do some chores and didn’t do everything for you.  They made you some popcorn when you were good.  There are lessons from babysitting that don’t involve chasing screaming kids around the room all evening!

If you find yourself supervising people for the first time, you may feel like a babysitter, but try to move toward being a coach.  Provide clear expectations and some training up front.  Keep your staff informed as much as you can; knowledge and feeling as if their voice is heard is more motivating than money.  Be fair.  Empower them to make choices, changes, mistakes and grow.  Listen.  Share the context for decisions.  Say “good job”.  Let them play at different positions.  Provide some different strategies after you lose.

We all grow out of the need for a babysitter. Work toward helping your staff outgrow their need for a monitor by becoming a coach.  Even the pros need one of those.

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

Thanks to the one who will stay anonymous for the idea — hope you’re feeling better!

#424 rock or hard place

There are often times when people are faced with choosing between two less than desirable options.  I believe people cope with the negative outcome much better when they are the ones to make the choice.

Examples:  
> If you are the one who picks between a crack ‘o dawn flight or a long layover, you’ll be much more tolerant of it than if a travel agent imposed such a bad schedule on you.

> Students who have to choose between an 8am class or a Friday afternoon class will be more understanding of the option if they make the decision instead of an advisor.

> I believe people will tolerate pain better if they are the ones deciding to live with it vs. having surgery — rather than a doctor mandating one way or the other.

> Budget cuts that individual departments make seem to be more palatable than those imposed by the CFO.

The list could go on and on.  Keep this in mind when you are faced with a negative situation for your staff or organization, and try to give those impacted as much decision power as they can have in the matter.  

In the play Another Antigone, one of the characters says: “If you can choose, it’s not tragic.”  Try to allow your people that choice.

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


#423 clean slate

I spent most of yesterday deep cleaning my kitchen.  The pull-stuff-out-of the cupboards, take the shelves out of the refrigerator, clean-under-the-stove kind of cleaning.  It was hard work!

There was no one spot that was particularly dirty, but when I was finished, the whole place just felt better.  I wish I had time to do the rest of the house like that.  

It was a classic case — again! — of little things adding up to make a real difference.  One clean baseboard here, one pantry scrubbed there, one dust bunny (rabbit!) removed from under the refrigerator and it all adds up to a more pleasing environment.

What can you do today to clear away some of the clutter and start your week with (literally) a clean slate?  It may do your soul wonders.

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

#422 legendary

Many of the ideas for my blog entries first are written down in a Moleskine notebook.  Moleskins are small notebooks, about the size of a half pack of index cards.  They traditionally came in just black, but like everything else, they are now available in a spectrum of colors, page rulings and sizes.  The front page has a space for name and address in case it is lost, plus the amount of reward you are willing to offer for its return.  For me, a book of ideas is priceless.

Moleskins are crazy expensive for their size ($12.95), but worth every cent.  There are numerous knock-offs for a third of the price that look identical from the outside, but, as I have sadly learned from experience, just aren’t the same once you write in them.  The “real” notebooks are handmade, and each comes with an identification number in the back pocket (another of its wonderful features).

In that back pocket is also a brief history of the product, letting you know that these notebooks were used by “artists and thinkers over the past two centuries”, including Van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway.  Then they make it relevant in the present, by claiming that Moleskin notebooks provide “an indispensable complement to the new and portable technology of today.”

What a brilliant idea to include the story with every product, and then invite the owner to “join the story” at moleskine.com.  It makes owning a Moleskine an experience; well worth the $12.95 to channel into the creativity of the “legendary notebook”.

What can your organization do to set a context and connect your product or service with the past, present and future?  How can you help the client see where they fit in to the on-going experience of what you’re about?  How do you use your space to share a story, instead of just product features?

Maybe you can use your Moleskine to capture ideas on how to do just that.

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

#421 shot of passion

A colleague recently had a day off to go to Adventureland — an amusement park/waterpark place of fun.  When she went to ride the Space Shot, she saw an elderly woman race ahead to get on the ride.  

Turns out that this spry, 78-year old had made it her goal to ride the Space Shot 120 times that day!!  It was nearing the closing hour, so she had to do some creative “line jumping” to garner another seat on her favorite ride.

What are you going to be doing this summer Saturday?  Hopefully you partake in some activity that activates your passion and gives you a thrill.  Take a lesson from this amusement-park-loving granny and give it all you’ve got!

Enjoy!

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


Thanks to Jamie for sharing the joy!

#420 fair fare

Yesterday was a picture perfect afternoon — a great day to take vacation and go to the county fair.  Mother Nature’s cooperation seemed to make the fair more popular than ever, so people-watching added to the fun of the livestock barns, a trapeze show, 4-H exhibits and of course the fast-talking salesman hawking pots and pans.

For most people, the fair experience would be incomplete without experiencing some of the signature foods that are offered.  Most popular at this fair is the homemade lemonade.  It is the first stand that you see when you walk in, and it always has a line.  For $2.50/glass, you get a bunch of ice, a healthy dose of sugar water, and a small amount of the actual lemon juice.  But they throw in a few pieces of the real lemon (to demonstrate authenticity?) and sell crazy amounts of the stuff.  The newspaper estimated that the Community Y (the squeezers) purchased 6,440 lemons to make 12,500 glasses of lemonade during the course of the six day fair.  

So what did I do when I got to the fair?  Stood in line and got the lemonade, of course.  I could live without the also-popular funnel cake (600 sold on the first day), the Fair Fries, ice cream from the Dairy Barn or any of the other county fair treats, but the lemonade is one of the main reasons I go.  I wouldn’t buy it if I could have it every day, but it has become that once-a-year treat — a summer ritual.

What does your organization do that is equivalent to homemade lemonade?  Do you offer a limited product or service that has become your signature? Or is there something that you could do on special occasions? Maybe your holiday party is known for its over-the-top desserts.  Maybe your holiday card is eagerly anticipated for its creativity and cleverness.  Maybe you give major clients/donors an appreciation gift that is in demand.  Or perhaps you have window displays that draw crowds.  I am sure there is something that is worth the extra effort to make it special for that once-a-year reason.

If the Community Y can create a frenzy over a paper cup of lemonade, think of what you can do!

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

Source:  Telegraph Herald, July 25, 2013






#419 forever learning

When I started this blog, I was feeling good that I could get the first words published.  The whole concept was new to me, and I needed some assistance to get a template framed and to set up the process.  Soon, it became second nature.

A few months ago, I received a question as to whether I had intentionally chosen not to include photos with my entries.  I had not even thought about visuals, but my friend made a good point.  So I signed up for gmail+ and figured out how to import pictures into these entries.  Regular readers will note that there are more pictures included to (hopefully) enhance the point.

And now I am learning the next phase — Twitter.  Thanks to the miracles of join.me.com and a patient friend on the other end, I have signed up for HootSuite and have a new Twitter address to share nuggets of blog wisdom and other thoughts in 140 characters or less.  You are invited to follow me @leadershipdots.*

Where are you continuously learning in your personal life or organization?   I was at the dentist yesterday and he mentioned that our college just hired the piano teacher who gives him lessons.  I have heard the doctor play in public and he is quite accomplished, but apparently he feels he can keep improving as a pianist.  

The skills you have gained are not static.  You can always expand your talent base and continue learning more about your field, or about an entirely new one.  Don’t rest on your laurels — learn!

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

*For novices, this means http://www.twitter.com/leadershipdots

#418 teachable

When IBM opened a new service center here a few years ago, one of the things they talked about was hiring “T” people.  They used “T” as a way to describe people that had breadth in a lot of general areas (like the bar across the T) to be trained with depth in just one narrow area.  IBM felt that if someone had the general skills, they could be taught the intricate nuances of a particular aspect of IBM’s business.

Without knowing that terminology, I have been hiring “T” people for years.  The ability to be trained is far more important than coming in with a certain skill set.  In fact, if your knowledge is too deep in one area, it can often be hard to admit that you need to learn new things about that part of the operation.

I think that the breadth of the “T” is developed in two areas that are often seen as the periphery in college:  general education courses and out-of-class (co-curricular) experiences.  There is so much focus on the major, but students who have enriching educational experiences outside the classroom gain valuable skills in teamwork, time management, advocacy, communication and a host of other areas.  Through general education, students learn critical thinking, breadth of knowledge to create a historical context, writing skills and more.

When you are hiring, look for employees with that “T” characteristic.  “T” could stand for terrific, but I think it mainly represents TEACHABLE.  It’s the wide base of learning that will serve you well when you need to teach them to go deep.

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

#417 it’s a boy!

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Royal Baby was born yesterday. I am sure that some are amazed at how many people in the United States care about such an event, but based upon the buzz created on social media, many do.

One good thing about babies is that marketers have nine months to prepare.  Instead of ignoring the royal birth and pretending that it has no relevance in the States, several national advertisers have capitalized on the event to get an ad in front of their viewers.  

Some of the best may be found at popwatch.ew.com/2013/07/22/royal-baby-best-tweets/  If you scroll down, you’ll see ads that were designed especially for this event from Playdough, Charmin, Oreo, Pampers, Burger King, Pizza Hut and many more.

Examples:  @Burger King:  For all of you asking about the #RoyalBabyBoy, as far as we know, there’s no relation.

Or:

Prepare the royal bottle service! pic.twitter.com/Nlks2kT7Sw

View image on Twitter


This strategy is similar to the one I advocated on Blog #405 (7-11-13) where you use the date to capitalize on a special day or to gain transference of the warm feelings about one event to your promotion.  

You missed the opportunity to tie into this piece of breaking news.  Think ahead now as to how you can take advantage of the next water cooler topic to link your product to the buzz.

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

(and thanks to Emily for sharing the site)

#416 mattering

As part of her research on adult students in higher education, professor Nancy Schlossberg developed the theory that adult learners will persist if they believe that they “matter” to someone at the institution. This could be a professor, a classmate, advisor, learning resource specialist — the “who” was less important than the fact that the student believed someone would notice (and care) if they were not there.

I think her concept of “mattering” has far broader implications than adult students.  I think it applies to any organizational context in which we find ourselves.  We want to know that our presence makes a difference and that our work is valued.

When you notice someone’s absence, do you always acknowledge it the next time you see the person? When co-workers are out on vacation or maternity leave, do you explicitly welcome them back and show them that they were missed? If someone misses a meeting, do you try to get them caught up and let them know their absence mattered?

We aren’t always quick to show acknowledgment and appreciation to those who do show up either.  I was at a wedding of a colleague this weekend, and I was very glad to see so many of my other colleagues in attendance, but I didn’t tell them all that it mattered to me that they were there.

Try to be intentional this week in letting others know that their presence and contributions do matter to you and the organization.  It will feel good for both of you!

— beth triplett