A colleague of mine recently brought in a collection of beloved children’s books to share with another co-worker. It was wisely suggested that I intercept The Mitten before the exchange was completed.
The Mitten, as retold by Jim Aylesworth, is a delightful tale of a young boy who loses a red mitten while out sledding. A squirrel comes upon it, and, because his “toes are as cold as ice,” decides to make the mitten his bed. Soon a rabbit appears on the scene, also with frozen toes, and the squirrel squeezes together to make room for two. Next a cold fox arrives, and soon they have stretched and wiggled enough to make room for all three to be warm inside the mitten. Just as they are getting comfortable, a bear begs to be allowed inside the mitten, and they squish together to accommodate all four. Finally a little mouse asks for space to warm his frozen toes, and they acquiesce. Only as the mouse climbs in, the mitten explodes and all are left without a cozy place to warm their toes.
I think The Mitten is an apt metaphor for the stress we can absorb in life. It is not really a problem to make accommodations for small stressors (a squirrel, rabbit and fox). We can also make enough adjustments in our life to persist after a major stress (the bear). But often it is the smaller stressors — the one more thing — that causes the eruption. Our tolerance, like the mitten, can only go so far before it bursts.
Think about the mitten the next time you take on another obligation or withhold another aggravation. After you make the squirrel, rabbit, fox and bear cozy, will there be any more room to handle the inevitable mouse when he comes along?
— beth triplett
The Mitten, retold by Jim Aylesworth, Scholastic Press, 2009
Thanks to Amy for sharing
The first thing I do when I get a magazine in the mail is throw out those annoying inserts that beckon me to subscribe. Why do subscribers get hounded to subscribe?
Maybe they are meant to inspire gift subscriptions; if so, then target the message that way. Maybe they are put in all the magazines; if so, then find a way to do two press runs and leave them out of subscribers’ issues.
As someone who sends a fair amount of direct mail through work, I know that all of these reply mechanisms are tracked, and I can’t believe that they are worth the price of the paper they are printed on. In this era of analytics, publishers should evaluate this practice on effectiveness, environmental consciousness and cost savings. I’d bet the inserts would lose the trifecta.
Maybe the idea peeves me because it is another example of treating everyone the same, even when you have ready accessible data to distinguish frequent customers from non. What does your organization do that is the equivalent of pesky little advertising flyers? Instead of appreciating your best users are you annoying them with one of your practices? Have you evaluated what works or do you just keep doing things because that is how you have always done them?
Take a moment to identify what is your insert and throw it away just as fast as I toss what falls out of my magazine.
— beth triplett
Last night I went to the “9/11 Never Forget” mobile exhibit that is in town for a week. I was in Manhattan just a few months after the terror attack and saw the site while it was still a mountain of mangled steel. This exhibit triggered all that emotion again.
I have seen artifacts before and even signed one of the recovered beams that was used in the new construction, but two key things made this exhibit different. First, they played the 911 recordings which allowed you to hear the escalating scope of the emergency. Secondly, the exhibit was staffed by volunteer retired New York City Fire Fighters. These men were actually involved in the rescue efforts and lost colleagues in the line of duty. They brought a human dimension to the disaster that pictures and pieces of burnt steel can not.
This exhibit was relatively small and limited because it was encased in a trailer, but there were still lessons to be learned from it. When trying to convey your message, utilize story instead of facts; pictures instead of words; and engage multiple senses. The exhibit had pictures and quotes from survivors, rescuers, heroes, bystanders and those who lost loved ones. A collage of front page media covers showed the magnitude of the attack and the outrage at it. It was all simple but potent.
Think about how you can tell your story in multiple dimensions. You don’t need a large space to convey giant emotions.
— beth triplett
For the most part, I really don’t like surprises, but there is one category of exception: when I receive an unexpected message of appreciation.
There is something powerful about a nod from someone else that says “you did good.”
This can take many forms:
> a student writes a note of thanks for a scholarship he received
> an employee addresses a note to me as “#1 boss”
> a faculty member says “I know you have worked hard to bring in the class”
> a former employee sends an email about what she learns from this blog
> a friend acknowledges what our friendship has meant to her
> a colleague hosts a dinner of thanks in his home
There are times when a message of appreciation is almost routine, but it is in the moments when you receive it unexpectedly that it truly delights.
Think of how good it felt the last time you had that inner sense that “hey, someone actually did notice,” then take a moment to provide the feeling to someone who deserves to hear it from you.
— beth triplett
On Tuesday morning, I emailed my veterinarian’s office with a question about my dog. I found it much easier to type out a few sentences about an on-going issue rather than to explain it from scratch to their receptionist, so I was happy to use the email they list on their materials.
As soon as I sent it, I received an auto-reply: “We have received your email and will respond if appropriate during our regular business hours of XX.” Great.
On Wednesday afternoon, I still had not heard back so I called them. Literally, the receptionist said: “We’re not the best at checking email.” What? Even if you aren’t, shouldn’t the first words out of your mouth be “I’m sorry.”
I adore my vet. The office: not so much. If I didn’t love, love, love my vet, the office would have annoyed me into finding a new provider long ago.
Never underestimate the power held by the person who answers your phone. Your brand is delivered by them every single time they pick up the line. Are the words coming across the line tarnishing or polishing your image?
— beth triplett
In a great book Leadership on the Line by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, they describe the difference between Adaptive Change and Technical Change.
If people have the know-how and procedures to solve a problem — a case where there is an answer, it is a technical problem.
Contrast that with situations where there are questions, not answers: challenges that require experiments, new discoveries and adjustments from many parts of the organization. Heifetz and Linsky call these adaptive changes.
At the beginning of adaptive change, there is no guarantee that the new situation will be any better than the current condition. People must change attitudes, values and behaviors and internalize the change — a high risk thing to do with an uncertain payoff.
What people see in an adaptive change setting is loss. People don’t resist change, per se, they resist loss.
If you frame your situation in this manner, it goes a long way in helping you know how you should address it. It is a very different environment when you are focusing on finding an answer vs. trying to raise the questions, but success only comes if you put your effort on the right end of the equation.
Think about the change that you are trying to make. Is it a technical issue or an adaptive one? Are you trying to find an answer or invent one? Framing the change you seek in the right context will help you distinguish how you can mobilize those you are leading to achieve the results you want.
— beth triplett
Source: Leadership on the Line by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Harvard Business Review Press, 2002
Over the weekend, I watched the movie Draft Day again. I think I was in the mood to do so after the harried week of last minute registrations, financial aid negotiations, scavenger hunts for transcripts and the general frenzy of The-Week-Before-Classes-Begin. It reminded me of the frenetic nature of the actual Draft Day where no one knows how things will end up until the day has ended.
In one scene, Cleveland GM Sonny Weaver (played by Kevin Costner) is talking to his scouts about a potential top pick. They claim to have vetted the player well and found no faults. “Everyone has a ‘something’,” said Sonny. “We need to find out what that ‘something’ is and determine if it matters.”
The same is true anytime you are making a choice, whether it be hiring a candidate, selecting someone for a committee assignment, voting for a politician, admitting a student or choosing a quarterback in the NFL draft. Everyone has ‘something’.
Your role is to determine what is a deal breaker for you and hold to it. Only you know where you can compromise and where you must hold firm.
It also pays to be aware of your own personal ‘something.’ What is a liability for you? Can you overcome it, compensate for it or avoid needing it on a regular basis?
Even the great ones come with quirks and flaws. What makes them great is that they are aware of their ‘something’ and turn it into an advantage. You can do the same.
— beth triplett