leadership dot #1764: abatement

I recently drove by a house that was gutted down to the studs. The contractors had torn off all of the shingles and you could see through the structure from one end to the other. I inquired as to why there was such a radical reconstruction and I got my answer in one word: asbestos.

There are many advantages to asbestos. It’s a naturally occurring mineral. It has great strength and insulating properties. It resists heat and buffers sound. Thus, it was used extensively in building: ships, homes and commercial buildings. Asbestos was used in virtually all aspects of construction until the 1980s. Shingles, insulation, pipe covering, flooring, appliances, cement, roofing — it was everywhere.

Until it wasn’t allowed to be anywhere anymore.

The dangers of asbestos were known almost since its initial use, but it took decades until the courts were convinced that the fibers that give the mineral its strength also give its handlers cancer at a significantly higher rate than those who are not exposed. The delay allowed for the proliferation of its use, and now causes significant residual effects and costs.

What is the asbestos in your organization — something that has many positives, but has a downside that should outweigh the strengths? Is there a practice or policy that should be stopped, sooner rather than later? Do you know of a hidden negative in one of your products or services that you have chosen to ignore? Take a moment today to consider what is below the surface and take steps to abate it.

leadership dot #1763: dear world

Until the moment I participated in a Dear World photo shoot, I had never heard of them, but predict that their presence and impact will be increasing rapidly. Dear World is a national effort to capture the photographs and stories of people around the world. What makes them distinctive is that people tell a story through a message written on their skin.

I admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but found surprising power in the exercise of reflecting on what story I would share. We were asked to consider a message that only I could tell vs. something generic: what was heartfelt and meaningful to me?

I was at a convention where the past chair of the board was one of my former students (also pictured) and I was surrounded by young professionals. I chose: Love Young Grasshoppers — a name of affection given to proteges as they are in their impatient stages of development. I do love young grasshoppers — with all the enthusiasm, energy and wide-eyed optimism they bring as they find their footing as professionals — and wanted to share the message that everyone should Love Young Grasshoppers as a way to help create a brighter future. I believe that time dedicated to this group now pays huge dividends in the future.

Whether or not you are fortunate enough to have your message captured by Dear World, think of what you would want to say. What is the story that only you can tell? What is your message to the world that helps others know what you value? Even if you can’t share it on your skin for a moment, hopefully you can display it through your actions for a lifetime.

See additional Dear World photos here.
More about the origin of the Grasshopper term here.




leadership dot #1762: reserved

One of Jay Leno’s recurring bits was to focus on the ridiculous things posted on signs. If one of today’s late night talk show hosts is looking for their own variation of this, may I suggest that they focus on reserved parking spots.

Not too long ago, the only spots specifically designated for people were those reserved for handicapped drivers. But today, it seems like there are special spots for many more categories. On my recent errands, I saw parking spots saved for:

  • Combat wounded
  • New and expecting mothers
  • 10 minute express shoppers
  • Starbucks customers
  • Rapid pick up of to-go orders
  • Veterans
  • Low-emitting, fuel efficient vehicles
  • Buy on-line, pick up in store
  • Employee of the month

Each one of those spots is in a prime location, of course, diverting access from others who are in the general population. And often these spaces are empty, including the handicapped spots, making it even more frustrating for drivers who need to pass up open spaces because they don’t fit the bill.

I wish we lived in a world where you could just have one sign: “saved for those who need to be close to the door”, but of course it doesn’t work that way. But before you create a set-aside for any sub-group, think about the implications — both real and perceived — on those whom you are excluding.

leadership dot #1761: water

On the same webinar I referenced yesterday, a speaker* advocated for nonprofit leaders to be discriminating in which grants to pursue or what gifts to accept. Through a rigorous method of understanding true costs of the grant, including staff resources, direct costs, indirect costs and administrative time, her non-profit came to realize that they were actually losing money on some grants and would be better off without them.

“Not all resources are equal,” she said. “Grants are like water. Fresh water refreshes you, but salt water dries you out. We are fighting over salt water and need to stop.”

Think about what you say “yes” to, either in your personal life or in your organization. Are you involved with things that deplete you rather than add energy? Do you say “yes” without consideration as to what is involved in fulfilling this obligation? Are you adding activity after activity without regard to the cost of your time or the return from it?

You’ll never quench your thirst if all you are drinking is salt water.

*Dominique Bernardo, CEO Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Philadelphia on Conversation #3: How nonprofit practitioners are helping evolve the nonprofit conversation, March 23, 2017.

leadership dot #1760: the choir

A recent webinar about non-profit overhead attracted nearly 1000 participants. The CEO* of the sponsoring organization opened the program with a pitch about the importance of this topic in the non-profit world.

“I know I am speaking to the choir,” he said. “But sometimes it is valuable to speak to the choir to align messages.”

I couldn’t agree more. Often we focus all of our communication efforts on the external audience while neglecting to provide our internal ambassadors with information. Regrettably, it is common for people to learn something about their organization from reading about it in the news or hearing it from someone else.  We fail to equip those closest to us with resources and understanding that could pay exponential benefits as it is shared.

Take a moment to review what you have been preaching to your choir recently. If there aren’t sheets of shared music, who knows what tune they are singing about you.

*Jacob Harold, President and CEO of GuideStar on Conversation #3: How nonprofit practitioners are helping evolve the nonprofit conversation, March 23, 2017.



leadership dot #1759: sane

One of the biggest complaints I hear with my coaching clients is that they can’t get their email inbox under control. Apparently this is a wide-spread issue — the downside of all the benefits electronic communication provides.

A new company has adapted Artificial Intelligence in an aim to tackle this issue. Sane Box has offers a service that “learns what is important to you” and filters the rest out of your inbox. They predict that this will save 12 hours/month — a huge chunk of time if their estimate is anywhere close to accurate.

I have not used this service, but was intrigued at how they went about it. Sane Box is affiliated with Amazon — thus your credit card is only through Amazon, as is service and promotion. You trust Amazon, right — so why wouldn’t you trust Sane Box? It leverages a huge brand for an unknown.

Do you have a solution to a problem that would benefit from an alliance with another partner? Is there a problem you hear about repeatedly that you could attempt to solve? Can you adapt the growing field of Artificial Intelligence to make something you offer even more tailored for your clients? There is no need for people to continue to go in-sane with tools like Sane Box at their disposal. How can you create some sanity in your organization?

P. S. If you’re interested, Sane Box offers a 14 day free trial (then is $100/year). If it really works, 12 hrs/month recouped for $100 is a steal.

leadership dot #1758: home sweet home

For reasons that I don’t understand, I was invited to attend the Home Delivery World conference in Atlanta. This event — which sounds like should be a new phenomenon — is actually in its fifth year. Over 65 exhibitors participate, including:

1stdibs.com, AIT Worldwide Logistics, Amazon.comAnheuser-Busch Inbev, Anthony’s Goods, Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Atlanta Electronic Commerce Forum, B&H Photo Video, Birchbox, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Boxberry, Boxed, Brick Meets Click, Bristol Seafood, BuildDirect, Bush Industries, Business Builders, Carter’s, Cheetah Software Systems, Click n Collect Pty Ltd, Convey, Delivery Center, Descartes, Design Within Reach, DHL eCommerce, Dillard’s, DispatchTrack, Dollar Shave Club, ENJOY, Farmbox Direct, FedEx, Fun.com, Genesco, Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, Green Chef, Green Mountain Technology, Greenbriar Equity Group, GS1 Nederland, Gwynnie Bee, H.Y. Louie Co., Harry and David, Havertys Furniture, Hermes, Hilti, Holland & Knight, I.B.M., Imperfect Produce, Intelligent Audit, Interroll, Ipsy, J.W. Logistics, LaserShip, LE TOTE, LG Electronics, Lowes Foods, Luxer One, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, MXD Group, Naked Wines, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Neesvig’s, Nespresso, Newgistics, Nuvizz, OnTrac, Oriflame Cosmetics, Original Unverpackt, Ortlieb Waterproof, Otter Products, Overstock.com, Peloton Cycle, PerfectPost, Pup Box, Purchasing Power, Raw Spice Bar, Restoration Hardware, RR Donnelley, Sealed Air Corporation, SEKO Logistics, SENE, Sonoco ThermoSafe, SSA Marine, Stamps.com, SupplyChainBrain, Tailored Brands, The Home Depot, The Kroger Co, The Neiman Marcus Group, Tiffany and Co, TrueNorth Companies, Unilever, UPS, Urban Outfitters, USPS, Verizon Wireless, Wakefern Food Corporation, Walmart, Worldpay, XPO Logistics, Yummy.com

It is quite the list!

What is said to me is that on-line is no longer enough; now on-line needs to be coupled with a repeat subscription service or regular home delivery option. As I can attest by the number of times the grocery delivery truck drives down my street, people are embracing the idea of having their orders brought right to their home.

“Conference streams” at this event include: the Final Mile, White Glove service & returns, technology & IT, supply chain, international and grocery. Is there a way for your organization to fit into this movement? Can you tailor your service to become a subscription model? Or perhaps you can offer a behind-the-scenes component for others in this business? Is there an aspect of your offering that can partner with others for home delivery (eg: cakes with kids games for parties-on-demand)?

As Dorothy said while she clicked her Ruby Slippers long ago: “There’s no place like home.” Try to find your sweet spot in this emerging market.


leadership dot #1757: rebate

If you listen to the commercials on the radio, it seems businesses anticipate that everyone in America is getting a tax refund this year. There are dozens of ads imploring consumers to spend their refund on a new car, mattress, eyeglasses, furniture or other big purchase. If you believe the advertising copy, the refund allows you to buy the product practically for free.

Only the thing is, the refund is already YOUR money. This sounds obvious and we know it intellectually, but we don’t always consciously think of refunds in this way. The gap between paying and receiving it makes it more difficult to see the linkage, just as the time separation between credit card charges and the bill sometimes results in surprises.

The delay is a factor with rebates too: we receive a check or pre-paid card in the mail and it feels like a gift, when, in fact, it is a return of funds we have already spent. This is not a bonus, rather payment of a loan we proffered with no interest charges.

Yet, despite the smoke and mirrors of the whole refund/rebate operation, there is something appealing about getting money back. Think about how you can use this to your advantage. Can you hold back a small portion of the salary pool and use it (plus the interest) to provide a bonus at the end of the year, or give another form of recognition after a particularly stressful quarter? Maybe you can offer a rebate to consumers — knowing that many of them will not apply for it or ultimately cash in on it even if they do — that allows you revenue to give additional funds in donations or sponsorships? Or offer a rebate only if they buy your product in multiples to share as an incentive to spread your message?

If people are happy to loan you their money without interest and are actually excited when you give it back, it’s worth considering as part of your marketing strategy.



leadership dot #1756: one thing

I was recently preparing for a workshop and included a concept I learned at Brand Camp — in 2007. I think it is the only thing I consciously remember from the multi-day conference, but it perfectly illustrated my point.

As I reflected on the fact I only had one takeaway from that event, it occurred to me that I have followed the same pattern for much of my career, but over the years have assembled quite an arsenal of tools, one concept at a time. I rip one page out of a magazine, take one lesson from each conference, remember an idea from a webinar and adopt a training technique from a speaker. By putting them together, I have amassed quite a repertoire of metaphors and exercises from which I can draw to make my teaching more powerful. Instead of being disappointed that I “only” remembered one concept, I should embrace the idea that one idea I repeatedly use is a valuable ROI for attendance.

How can you process your intakes and post-event reflection to capture that “one thing” you hope to take forward and apply? We often come away from a book, a sojourn on social media or a conference with a multitude of ideas that get lost in the background. Be intentional about pulling out the one concept that can add to your thinking, maybe for decades to come.