leadership dot #1623: abstentions

I was heartbroken over the election results, even more so because more people actually voted for Hillary than Trump, yet the glass ceiling remains unbroken.

With Arizona and Michigan still up in the air, the tally was Clinton: 59,794,934 vs. Trump: 59,588,434 — a difference of 206,500 — a quarter of a million votes in Hillary’s favor.

Once again, the third fourth and fifth party candidates diverted enough votes that could have swung the election; those candidates received over 6 million votes. Former President George W. Bush publicly admitted that he left his ballot blank for president, and I am sure he is not the only one to do the same. If you didn’t vote for Hillary, you de facto voted against her and the world is left with the results.

I think about the parallels in this election to many things that happen in work life. People focus on the wrong results and end up with “more,” but if it isn’t the “right more,” it doesn’t have an impact. Winning the popular vote doesn’t win you the election. What are the “electoral college votes” in your organization that deserve disproportionate attention? Or should you revise the system so popular votes are what matter?

And for those who abstain in meetings or don’t speak up — or contribute efforts to the “third party” — you may think you are remaining neutral, but you really aren’t. You need to lend your voice to the work that will have results instead of taking the detour and claiming you are still on the road.

After every major event at work, we conducted a “lessons learned.” I hope you take a moment to reflect on how you contributed to the good or ill in this election cycle. Click here for a good place to start.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1622: better angels

I hope we awake this morning with a new president-elect, and that the election night was as uneventful as the campaign was eventful.

No matter who is chosen, the hard work lies ahead. She or he will be assuming office at a time similar to Abraham Lincoln, with the country philosophically divided and tensions running high.

I doubt that either Clinton or Trump’s speechwriters are as eloquent as Lincoln, so I leave you with a few of his words to ponder on this historic day:

Lincoln ended his first Inaugural Address with this impassioned plea:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

I wish for the better angels of our nature to be called forth in the coming term.

beth triplett

Source: Wikipedia, Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

leadership dot #1621: left out

Some of the most upset employees to have ever come in my office were worked up because a decision was made that affected them and they were not included in the process. They were blinded to whether the decision itself was a good one or not; all that mattered was that they were asked about it beforehand.

I, myself, have been in that position and the burn of exclusion is hot and deep. “Why didn’t they ask me?” ferments in your darkness over and over, and leads to feelings of being undervalued, unimportant or worse. I think we all know the pain.

Today is the day Americans can have their voice. You are being asked your opinion. You are being asked to participate in the process. You are being included.

Take advantage of your freedom to be an educated voter and make a commitment to cast your ballot today.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1620: one word

It seems that many of the top “self-help” gurus these days have come to describe the essence of their work in one word:

Brene Brown = Vulnerability
Susan Cain = Quiet (the Quiet Revolution of introverts)
Angela Duckworth = Grit
Seth Godin = Tribes

It becomes a de facto marketing tool, but I think it gives them an anchor upon which to link all of their other work. It is very easy to go wide instead of deep; in fact I think momentum pulls you in a multitude of directions and it is actually harder to stay narrow.

As I write this, my office is scattered from one end to another with documents and articles to assemble into a major grant. I need to keep going back to my goal statement to narrow the focus of writing and to keep the scope within reason. It would be easier to put everything in, but I think it is more effective to keep much of it out.

The same is true for strategic planning. In my opinion, the most effective plans are those that have a laser focus — a short list vs. a long one — and that say no more than they say yes.

Stu McLaren gives a similar admonition to all aspiring entrepreneurs: “Become known for something specific.” He followed his own advice and is now THE guru for establishing on-line membership sites. It is a fairly narrow niche, but one that has netted him millions.

And author Dan Pink has put it another way: “Figure out the 1%.” He says that distilling the essence of an idea or an argument goes a long way in figuring out the other 99%.

It all leads to the same conclusion: having a core focus is critical for success. You can’t become an expert in everything, but if you define it succinctly, you can become the expert in your something.

What word will you own? (sorry, but “dots” is already taken!)

beth triplett

leadership dot #1619: stockpiling fear

When I went into Sam’s Club this week, they handed me a flyer outlining some of their pre-Black Friday specials. It contained many of the items you would suspect, and also one that caught me by surprise.

Sam’s is now selling an Emergency Food Kit — a one-year supply of food that can sustain one person for a full year or a family of four for three months. This Ultimate Kit contains 22 cartons of food: 7,690 servings and a bonus wheat grinder. It all can be yours for the special holiday pricing of $1298.

I find it depressing that Sam’s thinks this item is mainstream enough to feature in a small holiday booklet. Are people anticipating that global warming and the intense weather patterns will continue to cause destruction? Or are post-election extremists planning to reek havoc on life as we know it? Maybe Sam’s knows more than I do about the dangers that lie ahead.

I have a few items of food and an extra case of water in my house should a blizzard come or the summer winds knock out power, but never in my wildest planning would I consider stockpiling food for a year. It is a sad thought to imagine a world where I would need it.

The little things in life plant seeds that grow into a culture. I don’t like this seed. While innocuous by itself, one idea can create a pattern and spur on others. Pay attention to whether you are sowing hope or fear in the messages you send.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1618: fly the flag

Cubs mania — as in M.A.N.I.A. — is sweeping the Midwest if not the whole country. Yesterday I watched some of the parade and rally on television and was amazed by the throngs of people. The television commentators estimated (how, I have no idea) that six million people lined the parade route. Metra (the public transportation) expected it to be its busiest day ever and pressed all of its trains and buses into service.

Clearly, those watching on television had a far superior view than anyone there in person. Even those lucky to make it into Grant Park couldn’t possibly see except by watching the large screens in the area, and those along the parade route were packed in so tightly that I doubt they saw much of anything.

And yet they came. Enduring delays in transportation, cramped conditions and remote views, these people can still say they were THERE. It was a communal experience.

It is the one thing that sports does best — bring people together. Cheering for the same team. Feeling a part of something larger than themselves. Experiencing emotion as a shared experience. Belonging.

Whether you are a Cubs fan always or just for today, take a moment to grasp how sports can transcend differences. The Republicans and Democrats were cheering next to each other at this rally. Old and young. White Sox fans who became Cubs fans at least for this week.

The Cubs showed people what six million people have in common. We need to do more to focus on those commonalities to unite as a nation beyond sports. Do your part to start flying the American flag, not just the W one.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1617: do your homework

As I was preparing to vote next week, I looked at the sample ballot to ensure I knew who I was voting for in all of the positions. I did not.

While my mailbox is inundated with propaganda for the federal and state positions, I have heard nothing about those running for the Soil and Water Conservation Board or the County Agricultural Extension Council, yet these contested races are on my ballot.

I wonder why some positions are elected and others are appointed and who determines it. Why do we elect the Ag Extension volunteers? Why are some positions partisan and some aren’t? Are we best served when the sheriff — a job with a very specific skill set — is elected instead of interviewed by people who know what it takes? Who decides all this?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions (including which three of the seven candidates deserve my vote on the Conservation Board), and I consider myself an informed voter. What happens when Rock the Vote or other voter turnout strategies send uninformed voters en masse into the booths?

The election is in four days. Don’t be surprised when you walk in to cast your ballot. Use your weekend to actually learn something about who running, even those in obscure positions. You would think in this day and age that candidate profiles for all the positions would be in one place for easy review, but they are not. You may have to dig, but voting without forethought is almost worse than not voting at all.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1616: underlying causes

A school that I am working with had low pass rates for its students who took the professional licensing exam after graduation. A degree in a specialized field isn’t of much use unless the credential comes with it, so this posed a real problem.

The faculty attempted several different strategies to address the issue, but nothing seemed to work. Then someone came to understand that a piece of the problem was not the content — students actually did know the material — rather the format of the test. Licensure exams are all computerized, and the timing, wording and environment were causing issues with the novice test takers.

As a result of this insight, the college acquired a computerized testing program that was integrated into all the subject matter courses. Now the majority of the tests the students took throughout their time at the school were in the same format as the one they would take for their state certification.

The result? A 100% pass rate this year.

We often look for big solutions instead of understanding the small nuances of a complex topic. It is easy to jump to an obvious conclusion, and often difficult to find the underlying factors that make a real difference.

When you are trying to solve a problem, don’t stop when you find a solution. Push yourself to discover multiple reasons why the undesirable is happening before you jump into problem solving. Maybe it is a pebble in your shoe instead of the shoe itself that needs attention.

beth triplett

leadership dot #1615: writing

I watched an interview with thought leader Seth Godin who has been writing a daily blog since 1990. Seth doesn’t number his blogs, but if he did, he would be on blog #9000+. It puts my 1615 in perspective!

Interviewer Marie Forleo asked him whether he ever gets writer’s block or has difficulty coming up with something to write about. “I write like I talk,” said Seth. “Nobody I know gets talker’s block. You haven’t run out of things to say yet, so you won’t run out of things to blog.”

Seth also said that he would write every day even if he knew that no one would read it. “If you know that tomorrow you have to say something about something you notice, about something that might help someone else, about an opinion you have that might stand the test of time, you will form those opinions. You will notice those things. You will invent that idea. And if day after day, week after week you leave this trail behind of thoughtful examination of your world, you can’t help but to get better at whatever it is you seek to do.”

He encourages everyone to write every day. I know it has changed the way I experience life.

Whether you follow his advice or not, the next time you are faced with a blank page — to write a proposal, to start a blog, to pen a letter, to draft a grant or to begin that novel — remember that no one gets talker’s block. Start writing as if you were talking and see where the thoughts lead.

beth triplett

To watch the 30 minute interview, click here.

leadership dot #1614: manager mindset

Think of how different baseball would be if the managers could have unlimited substitutions.

It sounds like a crazy idea, but it happens in most (all?) other team sports. Players in basketball are continually rotated. Football, soccer and volleyball have offensive and defensive teams. Why not baseball?

The lack of substitution options has a major influence on the game’s strategy.

I was thinking about this in a leadership context. I think the lack of substitutions has a big impact on supervision as well.

Managers (of employees, not baseball players) often must follow the baseball model. Leaders have their team and they must use them. Most do not have the luxury of different teams for different tasks; their staff must both score and defend. Most leaders are unable to make sweeping changes to their ‘lineup’ but instead must ‘trade’ for one or two new players when a vacancy occurs. Some organizations have the luxury of a ‘designated hitter’ who can perform one task in depth, but most rely on ‘utility infielders’ to bring a flexible portfolio of skills.

The mindset of a baseball manager must be different than that of a basketball coach in how to deploy talent. Think of the mindset you have regarding your staff and how you can more effectively ‘play ball’ with those on your team.

beth triplett