leadership dot #1582: big magic

I recently read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a treatise about the creative process and living a creative life. I found it to be one of the most realistic accounts of the ups and downs of “making art”, and simultaneously one of the most inspirational. I think I will keep it handy for when I have one of those days where I am ready to throw in the blogging towel!

One of the key concepts that I learned in the book is from the chapter “An Idea Goes Away.” Gilbert writes that she often has ideas, but if they are unaddressed, the idea will vanish. “If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you,” she writes.

Don’t I know it! I have a whole list of blog ideas that sounded good at the time: a comment from a friend, an article in the paper, an observation while out wandering — that are now just sitting there — on a list. The words are there, but the inspiration is not, or as Gilbert would put it, the soul of the idea is gone. 

It causes unnecessary angst for me — the paradox that I have a list full of ideas, yet nothing to write about. It reminds me that I need to act quickly on turning the notion into a dot, or the idea will go away, even if the topic remains in my consciousness.

What ideas do you have that have taken up residence with someone else because you did not give them attention in a timely manner? Have you missed out on chances to create your art (whether that be in business, hobbies or fine arts pursuits) because you ignored the window when the idea had life? Did the delay in acting on a notion turn it into work instead of play when you finally did give it attention?

When the next idea comes calling, be ready. You don’t want it to let the magic get away.

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

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, 2015

leadership dot #1581: unscheduled time

When you come across someone with a set of letters after their name, it shouldn’t automatically lead you to believe that the person is smart. What the letters actually signify is that they are persistent, and even more, that they have found a way to conquer the demons of unscheduled time.

Children go to grade school and their day is programmed for them from the moment they arrive until they are picked up at the conclusion. No choice in scheduling, no free periods with which to wander. In high school, there is more choice and more freedom, but the assignments all have due dates and the classes are all offered in the same time periods. 

Students who go to college often struggle with the “free time” they suddenly find themselves having. There isn’t a rigid “must-do-this-today” mentality or a severe penalty for skipping classes. Those who succeed are those who figure out a way to discipline themselves to do the small steps that accumulate to complete the big projects that are due in the end.

Graduate school is even more unstructured. Many students never complete that elusive dissertation, not because of a lack of ability or brains, rather simply because they did not create a way to accomplish that which did not have a deadline. Something more appealing or urgent always took precedence, and the paper remained unwritten.

I have found myself relying on those skills from my dissertation days as I transition to work as a consultant. In the office, my calendar was chock-full and I went from one meeting to the next. But now the important things I need to do don’t make it to the calendar unless I put them there. I have whole days with nothing “scheduled,” so need to create my own urgency that there is still plenty of work that needs to be done.

And so it is the case with everyone in some aspects of their life. The really important things don’t come with a deadline or to-do list. No one says that you have to be in touch with friends by 2pm Tuesday or puts healthy eating on your to-do list. The community college doesn’t send you a meeting request for that personal development class and no one tells you that the home inventory video must be submitted by 5pm. There isn’t a deadline to write a proposal for your new idea or to create that piece of art. 

Only you can add structure to the important, unscheduled aspects of your life. It’s a skill that schooling doesn’t teach, yet success doesn’t happen without.

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




leadership dot #1580: life of the party

Who was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Business Week magazine? 

It was 1954, and the first female to be showcased in a cover story was Brownie Wise. Now can you name the company?

The answer is Tupperware, the famous polyethylene containers with the “burp” as a seal. Developed by Earl Tupper, the product and its highly successful home sales distribution network was made a household name by Brownie. But because of a falling out with the founder, her name was banished for 50 years from even the company’s history, and she did not receive the legacy she deserved.

In many ways, Brownie Wise was ahead of her time, not only because she recruited and empowered a large female work force and provided opportunities for women to have significant incomes at a time when few did, but because she saw the gains that could be realized when a company took care of its people. “If we build the people, they’ll build the business” was her mantra.

Under her leadership as head of the Tupperware Home Parties division, the company grew to over 10,000 dealers and $25 million in retail sales (in 1954!). She was a precursor to Oprah: giving away trips around the world and cars, granting wishes for her top dealers, writing a book and providing inspiration through regular newsletters and training films. Brownie was also known for her handwritten notes to people and for the lavish jubilee celebrations she held each year to inspire top dealers. 

Brownie was one of the early dealers herself, and then rose through the ranks and eventually became head of the sales division. She perfected the home party network, which gained such acclaim that Brownie’s celebrity and her sales prowess overshadowed Earl Tupper and he fired her. 

A new book about Brownie Wise, Life of the Party, may revive interest in her story and give her the recognition she is due, but regardless, we can all learn from Brownie’s dedication to her dealers. I just listened to a webinar by Simon Sinek who is preaching the same advice Brownie shared. “We are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results,” he said. 

Take a lesson from Brownie Wise’s playbook and shower love, personal concern and recognition on those who do the work. The results will follow.

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

Life of the Party by Bob Kealing, 2016

leadership dot #1579: interviewing

The interviewing process is inherently flawed as it requires an organization, within a matter of a few hours or less, to make a hiring decision that has long term consequences. The same is true on the other side of the table; the candidate has limited information on which to base a life-changing choice.

The best the supervisor can hope for is to ask compelling questions that reveal nuances and truths about the candidate, and to learn insights beyond the superficial and standard answers. Toward that end, I have compiled a list of 70 interview questions that I have used throughout my career. These are general questions from which you can pick and choose, and of course pair with questions that are job-specific. They can also provide some interesting answers when used as ice breakers at staff meetings or in conversation with mentees.

The questions may also help those who are preparing for interviews. While there is no way to formulate answers to everything, as a candidate, it does help to review sample questions in advance and consider potential answers. Even if you aren’t asked the exact question, the principle behind it will likely be raised.

These questions have been compiled over time, by making notes on good questions that others ask or that I have been asked. I’d encourage you to keep your own list and add to this one. The stakes are high in the hiring process, and it is always worth the extra effort to make the outcome the best it can be. 

What’s your favorite interview question? I’d love for you to share it and I’ll add it to my list!

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

leadership dot #1578: request

I recently had to request official transcripts before I could be hired for an adjunct teaching position. The process brought to light some interesting differences between the four schools from which I have degrees.

My (beloved) alma mater charged nothing. There was a simple form on the website; I printed it, mailed it and was finished. My first master’s institution charged me $7.45 and required a multi-step process from an outside vendor. My doctoral institution uses the same outsourcing, but charged me $12. 

My second master’s institution showed that the fee was $5, but then sent back my uncashed check with a note that “due to our new school policy, this fee has been dissolved.” I always welcome $5, but it seems that it would have taken less cost and effort to change the website rather than to mail back checks.

I was also surprised that in 2016, schools still require a hand-signed form to release transcripts. No faxes or emails. No use of electronic signatures. Even with the external vendors, you do everything electronically, but still have to print and mail a form with the signature. I know transcripts are valuable, but it seems very archaic and cumbersome in this day and age, and I can only imagine what the current graduates think. Use a stamp!?

With the cost of education as high as it is, it would seem that more institutions could include processing of a few official transcripts as a perk for at least their graduates if not for everyone. 

Think about what you do for those who may need services from you after their primary business is complete. Do you charge clients for copies of previous records (eg: taxes, medical files, blueprints, etc.)?  Have you reviewed the process to make it as easy as possible? Could you factor the costs into present-day charges and eliminate those pesky after-the-fact fees?

While some may be required to maintain relationships with you over time, good will and loyalty can never be mandated. Treat the on-going records requests as an opportunity to shine not as a nuisance.

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





leadership dot #1577: punt vs. bunt

While I was out shopping, I came across two displays full of party accessories with football themes. Among the dozens of items, you can buy a tray with 10-yard line markings, a football shaped chip dish, ketchup and mustard containers with footballs and cups with sayings like: “Hey Ref, check your phone; I think you missed a call.” My favorite was personal penalty flags that you could presumably throw at the television. 

These displays got me thinking about the difference in the culture of football vs. baseball. I have never seen a display for baseball party items, nor have I ever heard of the need for them. Who throws a baseball party except maybe for the World Series? Why hasn’t tailgating made its way into baseball? Why do friends gather to watch regular season football games, for both college and pro, when baseball doesn’t warrant group use of the Man Cave or sports bar until the post-season?

My theory is that the availability of football is limited. Teams only play one game per week. They only play on a few select days. The regular season is short. You only have a handful of opportunities to see your team live vs. 62 chances to go in baseball. There are no double headers.

So with football, less is more. The scarcity leads to greater demand and importance when the sport is in season. 

Think about your organization and whether it more closely resembles football or baseball. Do you have a limited offering or do you provide multiple services? Does your model spread out your involvement with clients or try to concentrate it into a select period? Can you engage customers in multiple ways (eg: watch parties or tailgating) vs. requiring them to attend the live event?

Football and baseball both have their benefits, and there isn’t one right way to structure your organization. Just don’t punt away your opportunity to be intentional about your choice.

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

 





leadership dot #1576: relevant and prolific

One last observation from my travels: I was struck by the uneven nature of social media promotion by the sites we visited. 

We were at many of the primary tourist locations in the region, and their encouragement for us to promote them on social media ranged from no hashtags available to an entire “Connect Zone” with free charging cords and staff to assist in photo sharing.

I tweeted about Newport Aquarium in KY and got almost an instantaneous retweet and reply. My tweets about other locations went unnoticed by the sites.

It caused me to think of the many dimensions of social media use: what you publish yourself, how you encourage others to share on your behalf, and as I have written about before, how you listen and respond. 

My former “alpha pup” copywriter Rob Lombardi once said: “Your social media strategy should be relevant and prolific or don’t bother. It’s the wrong vehicle for your message.” 

Add “how you engage others” to your strategic thinking and be relevant and prolific with this aspect of your social media plan as well.

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