Someone once said that the more you value something, the more precisely you measure it. The example given: you account for lettuce using a general term of “heads”, yet you weigh diamonds to the precise carat. I think about measuring when it comes to time. Apparently the staff at a local elementary school value time a great deal as they sent out this email to parents: “I am writing to let you know that we have recently had our school building clocks reset to match the U.S. Official Time. Our clocks were running 3-4 minutes slow. The school bells were ringing 3-4 minutes late. The kids were dismissing 3-4 minutes late. Please allow a few extra minutes to get to school safely on time.” Contrast that with this display in the Florida Visitor’s Center:
Not only are there two time zones to contend with, but one (erroneously) is only 50 minutes ahead of the other instead of an hour. Apparently “vacation time” is much more lax! Whether you follow U.S. Official Time or approximate like Florida does, time is your most valuable resource. Try to ensure that your whole organization is synced to one method of calculating it. Those 3-4 (or 10) lost minutes can really add up over time.
A colleague told me about a college president who went to a post-graduation party with students and got so drunk that he was dancing on the tables. You know the rest: people took pictures and posted them on Facebook and his credibility, if not his job, is lost forever. What was he thinking? He was about as smart as the bookstore manager in Missouri who was caught with $80,000 cash in his desk — discovered by someone when they opened a drawer to borrow a pencil. His total embezzlement turned out to be much greater. Locally, we just heard tales of the city librarian who stole more than $70,000 in fines that were paid in cash. Fines are twenty cents/day — so it would take 250,000 fines to pilfer that much. That is a long time of tossing the coins in a pocket instead of a cash drawer. And last week’s gem — a Connecticut student called in a bomb threat in an attempt to cancel her college graduation — rather than face her mother and confess that she had been using the tuition money from her for other pursuits besides attending class. She had gotten away with dropping out, that is until graduation came and her family wanted to attend the ceremony. Fortunately, most of us never attempt anything like these examples. We don’t dance on tables, steal money or phone in bomb threats. But many do smaller things that defy common sense and have the potential to tarnish a reputation. Your actions are archived, never deleted, especially in this era of cell phones and social media. Take care that your small actions don’t compound themselves or hound you in the long term.
A colleague just had a baby and so I sent the family my favorite baby gift: Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. Apparently I am not the only one who likes this gem as the book has been in print for over fifty years and sold over a half million copies. Amazon estimates that children all over the world have learned over a billion words through Scarry’s books. The Best Word Book Ever is really just that — no story, rather pages with critters and objects and shapes that Scarry labels. I spent hours and hours with the book and a sibling in my lap: “find a car”, “find an ear of corn”, “find a bottle of milk”. And on it went. Scarry’s formula is way outside the mold of the typical children’s book. There is no linear narrative, no page with one large illustration on it, no dumbed down words that children might not know. And it worked for him, as he has a whole series of books in the same style: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, What People Do All Day, A Day at the Airport and Busy, Busy Town. Think about the message that you want to express, and then think of how you can convey it in your unique way. As Scarry proved, there is no template for what works. Sometimes what people are craving is what isn’t there now, not more of what is.
I just read an article about University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s strategy of using special teams. Most football coaches focus on offense or defense, but Saban focuses on the men who come in to perform a specific task. Instead of filling teams with second string players, he puts some of his stars on these short-term units. All of the greats, including Alabama, have strong offense and defense. The special teams provide them the margin of success to gain advantage in the critical moments. In your organization, do you only focus on the offense and defense — paying attention to the usual suspects while neglecting to develop and motivate the occasional player? As a coach, do you provide attention and opportunities for all the members on your team? Do you think about ways to capitalize on the margins instead of competing head to head in the same ways that your competitors do? Think about your support staff, your night shift, the student employees or the people your guests meet on the way to meet you. Are they winning you points or detracting from your game? Saban sets a good example of where he invests his time and resources. For Alabama, the special teams are, well, indeed special. Try to make them important in your organization too.
There is a new issue of postage stamps out that feature reproductions of vintage circus posters from the 1900s. Marketers today could take a lesson from them. The posters have vivid colors and few words so they stood out when plastered about a town. The circus had to rely on these and word of mouth to generate a crowd in every town. No mass advertising. No social media. No web. So posters it was. In 1911, Ringling Brothers printed 123,000 posters to promote 143 shows — allowing them to cover entire walls with their announcements. The posters were big (usually 42 x 28 inches) and full of vibrant colors and beautiful sketches. The circus poster is credited with being the earliest form of outdoor advertising, eventually evolving into billboards as we know them today. Until I read the background description about the stamps, I had not thought of the evolution from poster to billboard, but it puts them in a new light. Promoters today would cringe at the idea of filling an arena using only posters. The fact that P. T. Barnum and Ringling Brothers did it night after night as they traversed the country may have been the greatest part of their show. Learn from them that pictures really do have more power than words.
— beth triplett leadershipdots.blogspot.com
Sources: Circus poster stamps by Steven High, Executive Director, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, in USA Philatelic magazine, 2014/Volume 19/Quarter 2 and information from the back of the Vintage Circus Posters stamps, United States Post Office
When people first hear that my vacation this year was to Montgomery, Alabama and Tallahassee, Florida, they give me either a puzzled look or a nod that implies “I’m sorry.” Then they learn that the cities were chosen because I vacation with my sister and she is on a quest to see all the state capitals. These will make #47 and #48.* Suddenly, my odd selections for time away make sense and actually sound like a cool idea. If someone around you makes choices that are outside the norm, seize it as an opportunity to ask questions and discover a new way of thinking. In the end, it may not be for you, but it most likely will be for a reason you hadn’t thought about. That alone is a prize.
— beth triplett leadershipdots.blogspot.com
*Next year’s hot spots: Frankfurt, KY or Columbia, SC
I love to hear stories about how products or companies were named (like DAR Racing in Blog #703). The latest brand that caught my attention is Wild Pig wines. My friend bought the bottle of chardonnay simply because the name intrigued her. (Later she discovered that it is actually very good!). I was looking at the bottle and the label tells the story of Gretta, the famous Wild Pig: “The shrewd and sneaky swine that descends from the Cevennes mountains to pillage the finest grapes of our vineyards! Such a smart and gluttonous pig deserved a special cuvee in her honor, a way for us to remind her: “You didn’t get all the best grapes!”. It directed me to learn more about the Gretta story on www.wildpigwines.com
There I read about their “piglosophy”, took a quiz to discover “what kind of wild pig wine are you?” and could download screensavers and wallpaper. Pigs and wines aren’t usually associated with each other, but this combination works. Take some lessons from Wild Pig: — turn a nemesis or distraction into a positive as they did with Gretta — inject some levity and even quirkiness into your branding — and be sure to share your story to give your brand a personality that extends far beyond the literal product. Cheers!
Is the handwritten thank you note another practice that is as outdated as film and flash cubes? For the last three weddings I have been at I have received: > a picture postcard that said thank you and was just hand-signed > a picture postcard with a pre-printed thank you message and even a pre-printed address that was bulk mailed (to Ms. E TH TRIPLETT & GUEST — how’s that for warm and fuzzy?) > a note that had fill in the blanks like MadLibs: We sincerely thank you and your _____ for sharing joy and ____ with us by ____ the thoughtful _____. I am sure it took more time to come up with the innovative words to write in the blanks than it would have taken to do a more traditional note. Beyond gifts, I have interviewed a dozen or so people in the past month and received only two follow up notes from anyone. Technology has certainly increased the acceptable level of informality in our society, but that only makes it easier to make a good impression by taking a little extra step. Pull out your pen and dig out some notecards. Appreciation is expressed more profoundly in cursive.
When I was in New York last week, I facilitated a session at the leadership retreat about responsibility. The audience was college student leaders, but I used the Target CEO as an example for discussion. Gregg Steinhafel, Target CEO since 2008, “resigned” in light of the data breach that has plagued Target since Thanksgiving. He had a 35-year career with the company and had overseen its expansion into fresh groceries and branded credit cards. He was the top dog, not the IT director or VP over that area. It led to an interesting discussion about where the buck stops. With increasing pressure on CEOs to be on top of operational situations, it would be easy for leaders to become micromanagers and insist on knowing all the details. The temptation is there for boards to do the same. This is a worrisome trend. I believe that leaders will be most effective if they devote their energy to thinking big instead of thinking small. The details can be handled by others whereas the vision is only left to them.
The web has brought a world of information to our fingertips. With a few taps, you can have access to almost anything. This was great in the beginning, only now there is so much information and so many sites that a few taps here and a few clicks there can devour hours if you are really searching for something.
Thus the trend of consolidation — a whole new range of sites and apps that bring together a variety of websites in a single category.
One of the newest examples is Overstock.com — first known for household good products and apparel, they have now launched a site to bring together a national pet adoption agency. Why search at the Humane Societies in your area when one stop will lead you to thousands of animals available for your love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj13_kqTU9g
Why go all around town looking for the right school supplies? Amazon modified their wish list technology and now encourages teachers to share their back-to-school lists on their website, making it easy for parents to complete their supply shopping in just a few clicks.
Kayak is an app that consolidates information for travel alerts, bookings, trip trackings and even packing lists all in one place instead of requiring travelers to have separate apps for each.
These are all examples of businesses who took one technology and applied it in other areas. What resource does your organization have that could be applied in new ways — even very different ways like Overstock’s involvement with pets. Think broadly of how to adapt your resources to provide a new service or to bring information about similar services together under your search engine.