All of the informal conversation this week has been about the Thanksgiving holiday and what people did over the weekend. I usually have a mental health retreat instead of partaking in the Thanksgiving festivities, but not this year. In addition to traveling over the river and through the woods for a feast, I ventured out on Black Friday.
Black Friday is an exercise in prioritization. You need to have a plan and know specifically what you want. You need to determine what item/bargain is most important to you, and head to that department in that store first. You may have to forego other treasures to get your top item, but chances are you will succeed in obtaining your #1 pick.
Or you can prioritize sleep over bargain hunting, or sanity over crowds, and not participate at all.
I found most stores were offering “Black Friday sales” that resembled normal sales and were nothing to lose sleep over. But some shoppers were decked out in Christmas sweaters with antler headbands and had been part of the frenzy for hours. They prioritized the experience, regardless of the savings or lost time standing in lines.
Use Black Friday as a metaphor for your upcoming holiday experience. Prioritize what is most important to you and intentionally go after it — but let the rest go without regret.
In her book Lean In, executive Sheryl Sandberg offers observations and advice on many topics, but her thoughts on feedback really resonated with me.
Sandberg writes: “Feedback is not truth. It is an observation grounded in impressions and observations. There is rarely one absolute truth. It is not the truth. It is my truth and your truth, but feedback allows us to know the impression we make on others.”
Sandberg suggests that people seek out feedback more than praise by asking:
> How can I do better?
> What I am doing that I don’t know?
> What could I be doing that I don’t see?
I think that often people take feedback as a declaration rather than an opinion, and often deliver feedback in that manner as well. Instead she suggests:
> Opinions should not be brutally honest, rather delicately honest
> When communicating hard feedback, less is more
> Communicate with appropriate authenticity
All of us are making impressions every day, and it is often in our best interest to learn how we are being perceived. Take Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts to heart, and lean in to grow from what you hear.
I recently attended a party and a woman complimented me on the scarf I was wearing. “I really like scarves,” she said. “But I don’t know how to fold them to wear them the right way.”
Since when did there get to be a “right way” to wear a scarf?
I wear a scarf most days during the winter, and there is no folding involved. I scrunch it up, wrap it around my neck and stuff the excess into my shirt. It never looks the same twice, but that is irrelevant.
I think people feel about many things the way the woman felt about scarves: they don’t try for fear of failing or doing something ‘wrong.’
When there is a “right way” or “wrong way” it implies that someone else is deciding what is acceptable and what is not. Don’t give away your power, even on the inconsequential things. As often as you can, put yourself out there and be the one to decide your own version of right.
It is a gift to be able to explain something complex in simple terms.
Mayo Clinic is attempting to do just that through a series of Health Highlights. These full-page ads provide specific information (eg: To lose 1 lb. of fat per week, burn 500 calories per day more than you consume) in a visual and understandable way. The average person could look at this ad and determine ways that they could achieve calorie-burning.
I am sure the hardest part of developing these ads is determining what to leave out.
Look at the latest informational material that your organization has produced. What could you cut? How could you make your message more clear? Is it obvious as to the key point you are trying to communicate?
Mayo’s ad says “time to burn.” While they meant calories, maybe it’s time for you to burn some copy in your next publication.
A man and his girlfriend were shopping at Sam’s Club and stopped by the jewelry counter. They looked through the case at engagement rings, and the clerk asked if they would like to see one. “Yes,” the man replied.
Soon he had the ring in his hand, was down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend – right there in Sam’s Club! (She said yes.)
It reminded me of the dot I wrote on Monday about proposals not needing to be lofty. Marriage proposals don’t need to be fancy either.
Yes, people spend hundreds of dollars and an inordinate amount of hours creating the right atmosphere and perfect moment to pop the question. Or they do it in Sam’s. Either way, there is still an engagement.
Focus your time on the marriage, not the wedding. Spend your time on the work, not the proposal. Fancy is highly overrated.
Today, instead of joining the crowds on Black Friday or spending more time in front of the television, why not opt to make something instead? A growing number of communities are making that possible by providing a Makerspace, a place that allows people access to equipment and resources to make something tangible.
“To describe them simply, makerspaces are community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.”
Makerspaces have often been appearing in libraries; quite the contrast from the traditional quiet racks of books. The new Makerspace in our library has a 3D printer that can print plastic, metal and wood filament objects, a Go-Pro camera, an Ozobot and Makey Makey for coding, button machine, die-cutter, sewing machine, and many other tools and technology. We saw a demonstration and it was like being in a candy store: you just wanted to touch things.
The library’s hope is that people will come together to work on projects and share ideas, now through technology instead of just through print. “The emphasis [of the library] remains on lifelong learning and literacy, but as with the variety of information formats, literacy has expanded to include technology literacy,” states their brochure.
Look around your community and see if there is a makerspace available for you to gain hands-on experience with a new set of tactile tools. You never know what you’ll be able to create.
I recently attended a meeting and found a piece of paper that someone had left behind. The sheet read:
10 Things that Require Zero Talent
1. Being on time
2. Work ethic
4. Body language
8. Being coachable
9. Doing extra
10. Being prepared
Today, as you gather with family and friends, you may have moments when it would be good to pull out this list and make some contributions to the Thanksgiving feast. It takes more than good cooking to make warm holiday memories.
Today is “Wrapfest,” the day each year that I get together with one of my sisters so I can wrap all of her Christmas presents.
Wrapfest is always early in the season so that I can also package all the boxes that need to be mailed and wrap the teacher gifts that need to be given early. And this year, as in many others, she will be finished and wrapped before I have even developed a list or started my shopping.
Author Michael Hyatt writes that “firm boundaries are easier to respect than flexible ones.” December 25 is a firm boundary; it may be in a flurry, but the presents will be under the tree by that morning. The trick is to make your own deadline a firm one: to say that everything will be delivered by November 23 as she did.
You have the power to make any of your deadlines firm ones: When you do your holiday preparations. Whether or not you write a blog every day. The date you choose to launch a business or prepare a proposal. The deadline you set to do that item on your bucket list. When you begin a fitness routine.
Decide what is important to you and then firmly set a date to wrap it up.
As a general rule, whether meetings are productive or a waste of time is determined by the facilitator. If you find yourself responsible for convening meetings, consider these points before you send out your invitation:
Have a purpose before you convene a meeting.
And be clear up front what the purpose is: to share information, make a decision, get input, evaluate a strategy, etc. And if you don’t have an explicit purpose, cancel the meeting. Just because something is scheduled for every week, doesn’t mean it needs to happen every week.
Time frames and membership aren’t set in stone.
To achieve some meeting goals, it requires extended time together. Other groups can meet briefly or less frequently. Adapt your meeting times to the purpose. The same is true with membership: add an unusual suspect for a new perspective, bring on new staff to help them learn, rotate people off regularly, or have people attend only as guests when needed and not regular members.
Effective meetings require preparation and follow up.
Have a written agenda and share it in advance.Outline expectations and what is needed to prepare or bring to the meeting. Keep a running list of agenda items that need to be discussed in the future. Take notes and indicate specific follow up actions/assignments that are necessary (assigned to a specific person). Use the notes to develop the topics for the next meeting.
Link your environment to your meeting purpose. A brainstorming session will be less effective around a formal board table. A large room does not work well for a small group. It is harder to engage in discussion at a long table vs. a round one. A one-to-one meeting is best at a small table instead of across a desk.
Many people spend much of their work day in meetings yet don’t give thought as to how to make them better. Dedicate some energy to the meeting format itself, and chances are that the content and outcome will be better for it.
There is no quicker way to move an idea into action than through writing a proposal.
The thought of writing a proposal often seems daunting or lofty, but many are one page or less. While there is no set length, a proposal is designed to clarify your thoughts and frame the question for those who are involved in the discussion and decision making. In other words, a proposal puts in writing what you would say to a person were you having an in-person conversation about what you want and why.
To make your proposal most effective, include these three components:
1. A context: Answer WHY
Anticipate questions and try to answer them in advance
> Why do you want a change?
> Why is this issue being raised?
> What is the policy or situation now?
> What problem are you trying to solve?
> Why should this change be made?
2. A specific recommendation: WHAT
> What change do you want?
> What specific action are you proposing?
> What specifically would the change cost (if anything)?
> When do you want the change to occur?
> Who have you talked to that supports the change?
3. The next steps that are required: HOW
> What will it take to make the change happen?
> What needs to happen next if the change is approved?
> Where will funding come from?
> Who is in charge of implementation and communication?
Add your name and date and presto — you have a proposal. In this age of electronic communication, it is so much easier to facilitate action when there is something in writing that can be shared. Don’t let intimidation of the process keep you from putting your ideas forward.
— beth triplett @leadershipdots firstname.lastname@example.org If you want to see some actual samples, I would be happy to share.