#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

#415 roles

Last week on ESPN2, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni commented that some players say that they don’t know their role on the team, but in reality, they know their role but just don’t accept it.


While he was referring to one of the NBA’s All-Stars, the same mantra reminded me of someone much further down the food chain.  

I just had a conversation with a colleague who was recounting a chat he had with a new graduate.  She was hired about a month ago for an entry-level position, and as such was given entry-level work, but felt that she should have more challenging assignments.  My colleague asked if she had put any of her ideas in writing or taken the initiative to volunteer for other assignments or committees.  The answer was, of course, no.  She had an entry-level role and wasn’t acting with the maturity or ambition beyond it, yet was having difficulty in accepting her position as it is.  

It’s one thing not to accept your role, but it’s another thing to expect it to be different without earning that change.  Hard work, initiative and assuming more responsibilities have a way of changing the role that you were first placed in.  

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







#414 leveling

I wrote yesterday that I took my staff on tour at the Lock and Dam.  The lessons that we learned from the tour were unexpected.

The reason I took them originally was that I wanted them to consider how our division functions as sort of a lock and dam system for the university:

> Like the locks, we align expectations with reality for our prospective students.  We help them know what to expect before coming so that it is easier to navigate the waters once they get here.

> We also serve as a leveling agent regarding affordability.  Through our financial aid processes, we are able to help families come to a balanced level of what they owe in conjunction with what they can pay — even though the gap may have seemed too big to traverse in the beginning.

> We also serve to balance perceptions and reality vs. our messaging.  Our communication efforts function like the dam system to control the flow of messaging, and act like the locks to help align various levels of perceptions into a balanced state instead of undercurrents and rapids.

The lock and dam system is an intentional set of systems and structures that make navigation possible.  The admission process also contains systems and structures that control the flow of qualified students into the university.

What functions in your organization parallel the locks and dams?  Are you allowing your “river” to flow freely, or do you have sophisticated, intentional systems in place to balance disparate entities?  Help the navigation of your information and products flow more smoothly with processes that control the flow.

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

#413 channels

As part of our staff retreat on Wednesday, we took a tour of Lock and Dam #11 on the Mississippi River.  Our tour guide, Ranger Brian, was a perfect combination of business, history and humor.  

He set out the ground rules before we began: we were entering a government restricted area; there were cables and danger everywhere, and one misstep could land you in the mighty river just feet from a powerful undertow sucking you under the dam.  There would be no messing around.

But once he saw we would follow the rules, then he became a wealth of history about the lock and dam system.  The 27 locks on the Upper Mississippi were established in the 1930s as part of Roosevelt’s Public Works projects in order to allow commerce to occur on the river.  The Lower Mississippi (St. Louis and South) didn’t need the locks because that portion of the river remained deep enough due to the flow from substantial tributaries like the Missouri, Illinois and Ohio.  Today, the Corps of Engineers takes on continuous dredging and water flow control to keep the river at the prescribed 9-ft channel depth (to accommodate the level a barge submerges when fully loaded).

Ranger Brian interspersed his history lesson with jokes about what Lock Masters do when there isn’t a boat going through the locks and warnings about pelicans flying overhead.  He was a great PR representative for the Corps.

As we were set to leave, he said that we would have to do the whole tour over again if we failed to get his last question right: “What is the purpose of the lock and dam system?”  The answer:  Navigation.  Before the tour, I think we would have given answers like flood control, power sources and recreation, but everyone knew the right answer because Ranger Brian had repeated it over and over during our stay. 

Think about the core message that you are trying to get across about your organization.  Can you distill your core purpose to a one-word answer as to what you are all about?  And if so, can you find an engaging and yet informative way to communicate it to your visitors in a way that is memorable and crystal clear? 

Customer service lessons can come from the most unlikely of places.  I would not have guessed that a Corps of Engineers Park Ranger could teach our student ambassadors and tour guides lessons about how to host a memorable visit, but he certainly could.  Take some time this summer to go on an organized tour — and see what lessons you can learn for your organization.

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



#412 thinking

I held my all-staff retreat yesterday — always one of my favorite gatherings.  There is always so much energy in the room, even when the room was a non-air conditioned park shelter during a heat advisory as it was yesterday!

We spent the day “thinking about thinking” — implementing some of the strategies in Paid to Think by David Goldsmith; doing exercises to help train our brains to see “what isn’t” instead of the literal, and discussing the process below.

I believe that a three step process can help people become more effective thinkers:
1.  Experiences — people need to have new experiences (aka: “dots”) in order to have the basis with which to form new ideas.  This phase is being attentive to “what is”.

2.  Connections — The experiences need to be connected to other experiences — forming a new concept or idea.  This is “what isn’t”.

3.  Communication — Having experiences and new thoughts doesn’t produce anything new unless people share the idea and get buy-in to make something new happen.  This represents “what could be”.

The above process doesn’t have to be lofty: I could see something in a magazine I was reading (experiences); think about how it could apply to a project someone else is working on (connections) and cut out the article to send it to her (communication).  But failing to do any of those three steps short circuits the thinking process and precludes anything from happening.

Spend some time today thinking about your thinking.  Which of the above three steps are you best at?  Which could use some intentionality and focus to improve?  Just being aware of the process should help you see things in a new light — and hopefully do something with those thoughts.

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