leadership dot #1552: bronze

Last week, I came as close as I will ever come to being an Olympian…and did so by holding a genuine Olympic medal in my hand.

Kayla Banwarth, the libero for the USA Women’s Volleyball team, is from our town. It’s a big deal to have an Olympic medalist in our midst, so there was a reception to congratulate her. I, along with about 1000 of my ‘friends’, showed up to acknowledge her accomplishment.

She was quite gracious, and spent several hours signing newspaper articles, volleyballs and jerseys, as well as posing for countless photos. While she kept the medal firmly around her neck, she did allow us to hold it in our hands and personally discover how incredibly heavy it is.

What stuck with me most of all from the evening were Kayla’s comments. “The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is that medals don’t define me. Medals, awards — they don’t define anyone,” she said. “We are worth so much more than a gold medal, and that’s true for everyone in this room.”

And her advice to the young girls aspiring for their own moment of fame: “Find what you are passionate about — whether that be a sport, piano, painting — and practice, practice, practice.” 

Kayla and her teammates may not have won a gold in Rio, but her words of advice are golden for all of us.

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



leadership dot #1551: areas doing well

I recently spoke with someone who just received a resignation from a key staff member. He was discussing with me whether to have someone fill the position on an interim basis, or to appoint multiple people to assume responsibilities during the vacancy.  

“Area A is doing very well,” he said. “So we can just have someone internal handle that. Whereas Area B is a mess, so we will need to bring in someone from the outside to lead it, plus I am thinking of hiring another person to handle some duties in an off-site location and we could really use a consultant to help us know how to best structure the area.” 

I was struck at how freely resources flowed to solve a problem, rather than to enhance the area that has strength. A well-run area will languish if left to less than optimal oversight and  support, while it is less likely that a problem will be solved by throwing copious amounts of money at it. Yet, it is a natural tendency and people do it all the time.

“…Managing your problems can only make you good,” writes Jim Collins, “whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.”

The whole StrengthsFinder and strength movement developed because research shows that playing up your strong points will take you further than working on weaknesses. Expanding on that A in English will prove more fruitful that trying to bring the D in Math up to a B. Forcing someone to become a “detail person” will backfire if their real gift is in extemporaneous public speaking. Asking a staff member to be less blunt may not get you as far as embracing their role as a truth teller for improvement of the organization.

You should not assume well run areas will continue to be strong without on-going attention. I believe within your “areas doing well” lies your greatest opportunity to grow, develop excellence and make a significant difference. You’d be wise to put your resources there instead taking success for granted.

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

[Several people reading this blog may think that they know the identity of this real speaker/example, but rest assured they do not.]

Good to Great by Jim Collins, 2001, p. 58-59

leadership dot #1550: pin hole

Even though my house is fairly new, the air conditioner stopped running last week. The repairman came, had to come back in a day because the unit was frozen up, had to order a part, and then came back four days later to replace a major component of my system. Let’s just say it was not cheap.

I now have a new aluminum coil, to replace the one made of copper. The technician explained to me that several houses of my age have had this problem. When the houses were built copper was at a premium price; therefore, the coil manufacturer decided to devise a way to use a bit less copper. In doing so, they make the coil thinner — which made it more susceptible to pin holes. Eight years later, coolant leaked out of one such hole and left me with my problem.

I would guess that at the time, some engineer was rewarded for finding a way to save money and make the coil using less resources. I doubt they intentionally made a flawed product, but it seems they produced one nonetheless. 

Think about this in your organization when you are on a quest to save money. Have you thought about the long term implications of your frugality? Are you prepared to risk your reputation for short term gain? 

We say not to sweat the small stuff, but it only takes a pin hole to render a product worthless. 

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

leadership dot #1549: turning green

Earlier this summer, I attended a festival that was so negligent in its (lack of) recycling efforts that I went before the city council to express my dismay. How delightful it was then to attend not one, but two, events in total contrast to the environmental disregard.

I went to a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field and was astounded to find that “the Twins are working hard to be completely green.” The ballpark recycles just about everything — including organics — and makes it easy to do so. In fact, I had to search out a trash can because they are hidden off to the side, whereas the organics/recycle containers are prevalent. The Twins even recycle the paper towels from the restrooms!

My second environmentally friendly event was the Church of the Resurrection Festival, where the volunteer “Green Team” did all they could to make the event produce zero waste. There was a compost/recycling station on the “midway.” The dinner used biodegradable utensils and plates and composted the food scraps. Tickets from the games were recycled. There was not much that wouldn’t fit in one of the many bins in their station, and they staffed it with Green Team members to encourage participation.












I applaud the forethought it required to fully support the environmental actions, and the commitment to make it work on-site. Let’s hope some of my hometown festival planners attended these events and turned green with envy at how far others progressed in preserving the planet, and that your organization uses them as models for how large scale events can limit waste.
beth triplett
leadershipdots@blogspot.com
leadershipdots@gmail.com

leadership dot #1548: responsive

We’ve all heard about — and likely even experienced –the dreaded government bureaucracy. It seems like there is so much red tape, endless phone menus and a black hole where suggestions often go to die. Inaction is exacerbated in the current political climate, so my expectations for change are low.

Thus, imagine my surprise when I received an email from the Social Security Administration telling me that they listened to consumer concerns and rolled back a mandate! 

On July 30, the agency required a two-step authentication to log into Social Security accounts, thereby requiring a text message to be sent to a phone before accessing the site. Apparently the updated technology did not sit well with the clientele that most typically uses Social Security, and they complained — loudly. Believe it or not, on August 26, the agency went back to its original log in process.

It took less than a month for a major governmental agency to admit that it inconvenienced some of its users, revert back to a more simple practice, and even apologize for its actions!

If the Social Security Administration can pull this off, surely your organization can allow common sense to prevail as well.

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

leadership dot #1547: organizational yoga

I recently heard a speaker share stories about his four month old granddaughter. He was marveling at how she was a yoga expert, able to grab her toes and stick them in her mouth or pull her leg behind her head. Such exploits, he noted, would put him in the hospital in traction, but for his granddaughter it was the most natural movement.

I think it is a good metaphor for generational differences in the workplace.

The younger or less experienced people bring to the organization an agility that is hard to replicate. They are able to do things, with ease, that would throw more seasoned workers for a loop. They can maneuver — through social networks and technology, but also through many other thought processes — with inherent and instinctive grace. 

And yet, they have a hard time thriving on their own.

Like Phil’s granddaughter, the organizational infants need structure and guidance from their elders. The seasoned employees can keep the newer ones from putting their foot in their mouth when it wouldn’t be a charming kid thing to do. The young need a context and framework to anchor their thinking and some experience to point out the known food sources. 

People at all stages of the life cycle bring gifts and abilities that only occur in one phase of time. Embrace the generation you are in and all that it offers.

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

Comments by Phil Kramer at Dubuque Community Schools Opening Session 8/23/16

leadership dot #1546: reminders of children

In his book A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink theorized that we were moving from an economy that depended on left brain, sequential thinking to one that valued right brain creativity and synthesizing. To foster these right brain traits, he advocated doing more of six things, including play.

“Lightheartedness, humor, games and laughter are critical among the seriousness,” Pink wrote. 

A Harvard study takes this line of thinking a bit further and suggests that not only does play help us become more creative, it also contributes to people being more generous and ethical! And all it takes is “reminders of children, infant to age 8 or 9” to trigger this behavior.

This could include something as indirect as a child care center, nursery or kindergarten within a two-mile radius of the office. “It is not only the presence of a child;…it’s the idea of a child” that makes people behave differently.

Think about what you could do to create a climate that fosters play and reminders of children. Covering some meeting room tables in butcher paper and supplying crayons. Having “mind games” and toys available while people are waiting. Being intentional about the artwork that graces your walls. Encouraging pictures of family and perhaps your youngest clientele. Offering child care on-site. 

There are many simple ways to add a child-like element to your work space, and now you can add generosity and ethical behavior to the list of what you gain by doing so. Maybe you should take advantage of the back-to-school sales to stock up on bargain crayons and Play Dough to add to your meeting room!

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

Thanks to Jennifer Henry for sharing.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, 2005

leadership dot #1545: first seven jobs

Currently one of the hot topics on social media involves people sharing their First Seven Jobs. In my next life I’d like to be a career counselor, and I feel like this mini-movement should be required reading for all students. It can even be cathartic for adults who feel stuck in a current position.


My takeaway from #FirstSevenJobs is that career paths are by no means linear. Hardly anyone (or at least anyone who shares) has gone from A to B to C. If you read the first seven jobs for most people, you would be hard pressed to guess what they are doing now.

For me, my list would be: babysitter, convenience store stock clerk, drug store cashier, drug store cosmetics clerk, temporary office assistant, college newspaper reporter and graduate assistant in student activities. I wouldn’t have predicted life as a consultant, presenter or enrollment manager.

Other examples: 
Stephen Cobert: construction, bus boy, cafeteria server, library data entry, futon frame maker, futon salesman, waiter

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Slushee machine at my aunt’s store, intern for WENET, McDonald’s register, data entry, Drawing 1 model, community paper writer, teacher

Sheryl Sandberg: babysitter, babysitter, office receptionist, clothing store salesperson, aerobics instructor, World Bank health team, Children’s Defense Fund

Christina Perri: babysitter, shampoo girl, waitress, bartender, music video producer, waitress, recording artist

Jim Cramer (host of Mad Money on CNBC): stuffed inserts in the Sunday paper, bus boy, sold Coca-Cola at Veteran’s Stadium, sold ice cream, proof reader, key operator for copy machines, sports reporter

There are thousands of answers to peruse and many of them leave me wondering what they are doing now. I wonder what came next, and mostly I’d like to hear the story of how they made the transition from one job to the next. How did @GregAndek go from camp counselor to solar power researcher, or what prompted @rishkumar83 to go from satellite engineer to fashion designer to patent scientist or @samtutterow to be a bank teller, then sports agent assistant, then music librarian before becoming a Fed economist?

Asking someone about their first seven jobs is a quick and easy conversation starter, but it also reaffirms that you can do anything, and in any order. Don’t let what you have done limit what you can do.

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






leadership dot #1544: two strikes

I needed to have a watch battery replaced so went to the jeweler in the mall. He could not remove the back piece to access the battery, and instead referred me to a clock repairman. This person took one look at it, reached for a special implement, and had the new battery replaced in a matter of minutes.

It is amazing what the right tool can do for the job. Part of what makes someone an expert is not only their proficiency with advanced tools, but just their access to them. Instead, amateurs (and fools!) attempt to do complicated jobs with rudimentary equipment. What happens is a lot of aggravation and wasted time. It’s not just the professional talent that is added to the mix, but the use of sophisticated tools in their experienced hands.

> Even a landscaper would struggle trying to prune hedges with a small clipper or compass saw instead of their electronic hedge trimmer

> A graphic designer would be frustrated trying to make a professional flyer in Word instead of InDesign or PhotoShop

> A seamstress would spend considerable time repairing a garment by hand instead of with a machine

> A painter would leave streaks and make a mess if she attempted to paint a wall with a brush instead of with a roller or spray

> A calligrapher’s work would not look nearly as beautiful with a Sharpie as with a nib pen expressly made for that purpose

Often we struggle and forge ahead, trying to accomplish a task on our own instead of relying on professionals to use their tools to do the magic. We expect our determination and effort to compensate for the lack of true skill or effective tools to use in the endeavor when really we have two strikes against us from the start. 

Yes, it costs money to call in the pros, but we always forget the price of our time and aggravation. 

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




leadership dot #1543: put in

As you look at your calendar and manage your to-do list, there is always something additional that could be done. Your whole day could be spent contributing to others — via meetings, projects, phone calls, etc. Most are worthwhile uses of time and need to be continued…

But as you look at your calendar and how you spend your productive hours, it is important to carve some time to fill your brain instead of utilizing what is already there. Examples include:

> reading at lunch one day/week instead of eating with others
> taking an art class instead of serving on a volunteer board this year
> watching a TED Talk rather than playing a game on your phone
> attending a lecture instead of going to a movie
> joining Toastmasters and foregoing the golf league
> listening to non-fiction instead of romance novels
> scheduling time to read your professional journal instead of scheduling another meeting
> meeting with someone in another field instead of lunching with colleagues
> signing up for a free webinar on a topic that is new to you

There are many ways to stimulate our thinking and to add new experiences that will help us gain a new perspective. To boost your brain power, be intentional about making time to put in rather than always putting out.

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