#578 beginning

Martha Stewart started her career with a simple catering business out of her basement.  As she told Oprah, “And then I realized the business had better be documented somehow, because if I ever was to have grandchildren, they would not know what Grandma had been doing in that kitchen.  So I documented it in a book called Entertaining, and that totally turned the tide for me, because then I became a real expert.”

Think about things that you do which could benefit from documentation.  Maybe it’s not a book (yet), but do you need the recipe for “Mom’s famous dish” that you had over the holidays?  Can your sister show you how to tie those magnificent bows?  Maybe you need directions to that great little restaurant or the name of that fabulous wine you shared?  

At work, we could all benefit from having a “If-I’m-Hit-By-a-Bus” procedures manual, but we can also document things for special projects, strategy sessions, orientation processes and more.

Martha’s Entertaining started her empire.  What talents do you have that could (should?) be documented and shared with others?  There’s nothing like a new year to resolve to start writing.

— beth triplett

Source:  Oprah interview of Martha Stewart, September 2000 “O” Magazine, p. 302

#577 the buzzer

Over the holidays I was able to watch my nephew play in a high school basketball tournament.  The game was engaging, partially because we were ahead for the entire contest — until the 2 minute mark.  At that juncture we were up by 10 points, but suddenly the team made some turnovers and allowed a few three-point shots to be scored against them — and to overtime we went. 

And then to double overtime — and our guy scored a free throw with seconds remaining — but the ref said that his foot was on the line.  So the bucket did not count and we headed into triple overtime.

After all that, unfortunately we lost the hard-fought contest.  The players were physically exhausted; the fans were emotionally exhausted and it was a sad way to end the afternoon.

I thought back to the final two minutes — oh, if we could replay them again.  Take a lesson from this game and resolve to keep up the intensity until the very end — even if it appears that such an expenditure of energy is not necessary.  The game isn’t over until the final buzzer sounds.

— beth triplett

#576 two rules

A Guest Services Coordinator shared two rules that she lives by:

1.  The best idea wins (no matter who has it)

2.  Everything affects everything else.

Based on this alone, I am sure she is fantastic in her job.  How can you adopt her wisdom an apply it in your own world?

— beth triplett

Source:  Furman University 2008

#575 a minute

In days gone by, people wrote long letters to each other to keep up on thoughts and news. Today, our contacts have become much shorter.  Even an email seems long as compared to a “Like” on Facebook, a quick text, a SnapChat or other modern forms of communication.

On one hand, this makes it much easier to keep connected with people.  No need for a large block of time to write or call; you can say “I’m thinking of you” in a few seconds.  I liken it to sending a postcard instead of a letter.

On the other hand, the speed at which we can communicate elevates expectations about frequency.  Clients, family and friends all have so many contacts coming to them, that if we are out of touch, for many we likely are also out of mind.

How do you incorporate a system to keep in touch with those who are important to you? Instead of being daunted by the prospect, think of it as spending one of your 1,440 minutes each day letting someone else know that they’re on your mind.

— beth triplett

#574 hostas

“Gift bags are the hostas of gift wrapping.”

My sister said that when we were at the wrapping party (described in blog #569).  What she meant by her saying was that when you don’t really want to garden, you plant hostas.  When you don’t really want to wrap, you use gift bags.

But I took it to mean that gift bags, like hostas, never seem to go away.  I split my plants and try to reduce their number, but somehow I always have huge plants in the garden anyway.  I occasionally use gift bags, but invariably I am given more gifts in bags and my inventory seems to grow instead of diminish.

Is there something in your organization that seems to linger, despite your best attempts to rid yourself of it?  A tradition that won’t die?  A problem client that never leaves you?  An unresolved sticky situation that keeps rearing its ugly head?

There are things in every organization that are like hostas — nearly impossible to kill.  Treat your hosta situation the same way you treat those plants — with minimal energy and attention.  They will live on without any effort from you.

— beth triplett

#573 steps

Sometimes it feels like we are walking on a long journey with nothing to show for our steps. We could take a lesson from artist Simon Beck who journeys through the snow and creates intentional patterns for the enjoyment of others. 

Take a moment to admire his amazing artistry:

Beck knows that the nature of his work is temporary and will either melt away or be covered with a new snowfall, yet he still produces his art.  Many things others work on will be more lasting, yet many stop short of giving it the commitment that Beck does.

The next time you are involved in a project that does not produce immediate results, think of these images.  If you have the forethought and planning to know what journey you are on, and the persistence to walk the equivalent of “all day”, you too can produce something majestic for your organization.  

— beth triplett

#571 on the shelf

Tonight is the last night for the Elf on the Shelf — and for many of the millions of parents participating in this new tradition, it is a huge relief.  

I know a parent who woke up in a panic one night fearing that she forgot to move the figurine.  Others have told me stories about how the elf fell off the counter and they had to walk around it for a day (since you can’t touch it).  Another elf landed on the doggie treat container, so a box from under the Christmas tree needed to be pressed into service for a day.  Another elf sat upon a light bulb in the bedroom chandelier and caught on fire!

But not all parents are stressed by the elf.  I heard a colleague tell of a mom who went over-the-top in embracing it.  Each day she created a new scenario for the elf.  Examples included:
> She put flour on the counter and the elf made snow angels in it
> The elf TP-ed the Christmas tree!
> The elf was found playing Scrabble with the other toys
> She purchased little red balls and made Rudolph noses on all the pictures in the house

It seems that, love it or hate it, the elf has added another layer of complexity to an already stressed season.  I remember no stories about advent calendars or setting cookies out for Santa.  

In our life and in our organizations, we should reevaluate whether something that requires a daily time commitment is truly worth it.  Maybe next year, the elf needs to stay on the shelf — in the back of the closet!

— beth triplett

#570 taste tested

Those of you who know me know that I don’t cook, so it was most unusual for me to be attracted to a “Holiday Baking” display at the local grocery.  But my eye was drawn to the packages of Hershey’s Cinnamon chips (like chocolate chips only cinnamon flavor instead).  I could smell them through the package, and was hooked.

So in a rare display of cooking bravery (for me), I purchased not only the chips, but all the ingredients to make the recipe that was listed on the package.  There was no special occasion where I needed to bring a dish and I was trying an untested recipe — neither happens with any regularity at my house!

It turns out that the Oatmeal Cinnamon bars are delicious.  Divine.  Addictive.  Fabulous.  I shared them with a friend, and sent some along with him to take to other friends and got a call for the recipe.  I have already made a second batch to share with my family — and I hope they make it there without being eaten first.

While this recipe was new to me, I am sure that the fine cooks at Hershey’s Kitchens taste-tested and tried hundreds of recipes before they selected the one to highlight.  In reality, the risk was very low, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the reward was high.

You can model this kind of behavior in your organization by trying new things that others have essentially pre-tested for you.  Utilize a software program in a way that others have used.  Try out an agency that comes with a trusted recommendation.  Hire a service that has done work in your industry.  

There are many ways to let others do the trial and error that minimize the risk you need to take.  Sometimes it works to trust the recipe on the package.

— beth triplett

Oatmeal Cinnamon Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 package Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips
3/4 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in bowl until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture, beating well.
Stir in oats, cinnamon chips and raisins.

Spread batter into lightly greased 13x9x2 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool; cut into bars.


leadership dot #569: that’s a wrap

I love to wrap presents!  More than shopping for them or even opening them, my favorite part is the wrapping.

I have learned that others do not share my joy!

My sister, who lives five hours away, happened to schedule a meeting near me last November, so it was convenient for her to bring a van full of presents for me to wrap while she was in town.  I jumped at the chance to do so.

This year we met at a hotel two hours from me while she was en route to another meeting, and again I spent the afternoon/evening turning her bags and boxes into treasures.  I think we have created a new tradition.

Tomorrow, I am wrapping all the gifts for a colleague who won my wrapping services in our staff holiday raffle.  He had to bring them here from three hours away, but for him, it was worth it to avoid the dreaded task.

Things I am wrapping are traveling more miles than I am this holiday season!  But it goes to show that one person’s gift is another person’s chore.  Try to find ways to align your talents with others’ needs and you will both be delighted with the result.