leadership dot #1794: double duty

The Baltimore Hilton has done a great job of combining design with functionality in its meeting room signage. Rather than have rooms with names that have no meaning and generic art lining the hallways, the Hilton has utilized its art to tell the story of the person for whom the room is named.                       

Not only does it provide aesthetic enhancement, it also adds some knowledge and local flavor to an otherwise institutional space. In addition, when the room is not in use, instead of remaining blank, the electronic signs feature a Baltimore trivia fact (eg: Baltimore’s Fort McHenry defended Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812 and is the birthplace of the American National Anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key.)

Kudos to the Hilton staff for intentionally thinking about how the signs could serve double (triple?) duty for its visitors. How can your signage do more for you than just show the way?

leadership dot #1793: slime

I wonder what suddenly makes something a “hot item” among kids. I wrote before about rainbow loom bracelets, now they are quite passe’.  The newest trend for the younger set is homemade Slime. Elmer’s Glue, the trusty classroom staple that has been around since 1947, is now flying off the shelves. There have even been glue shortages if you can believe that.

When I was in Michael’s, they featured an entire display of Slime-making materials: Elmer’s Glue by the gallon, glitter and small plastic animals to put into the concoction. The display provides directions: for how to make Glitter Slime, Jumbo Colored Slime and Extra-Large Custom Glitter Slime. It is a craft store’s dream.

Slime is just one more fad that will be short lived and then irrelevant, but for today, it’s the hot item. Up your cool factor and make some Slime of your own to use instead of the usual office stress balls. Have some fun with the kids in your life and whip up a batch. Make it a group team builder or creativity contest. There is so much negative slime circulated in the news media today; get out the glue and put a positive spin on slime instead.



leadership dot #1792: live interaction

A webinar about Generation Z (those born since 1996) pointed out how communication styles are different for those who are Z’s than even for Millennials or other recent generations. The speaker pointed out that Generation Z prefers to communicate on-line rather than in-person, and that when they do share “live” that their grammar and communication skills can be “frightening.”

I thought of this when I heard from a colleague that he had just visited an “all i-Pad bar” at the Minneapolis airport. While there is still a human to prepare the food and beverages, all ordering and paying is done via a technology-only interface. My colleague recounts: “There was a bartender and only two people at the bar. I asked him if I could get a Coke and something to eat. He said yes and directed me to one of the 500 iPads they had all over the place. I said, ‘Can’t I just tell you what I want?’ and he said: ‘No, you have to order all things through the iPad and pay there as well.’ Another older lady sitting at the bar just looked at me and rolled her eyes.”

Ordering food is one more learning lab for conversation that has gone by the wayside. No wonder younger people prefer technology; they have far more practice with it!  Think about the skills you can develop from chatting with a bank teller, a server, clerks in retail stores, cashiers (instead of self-checkouts), travel agents and dozens of other professionals with whom you make small talk during your transactions. Those opportunities are lost to automation, and while it has made life far easier, it has also made communication skills far worse.

While the younger travelers will enjoy ordering their food in the human-less method to which they have become accustomed, there is something lost in the process. A bartender app can’t replace the ambiance of “shooting the crap” or cheering together over a sporting event. An iPad can’t teach people how to develop conversational skills or to learn interpersonal confidence. Only a human can do that. 

Before you trade off engagement for efficiency and swap talk for tablets, think twice. A live interaction is a gift not to be wasted.

Thanks Toby!





leadership dot #1791: maturity

“We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice — that is, until we have stopped saying “It got lost” and say “I lost it.”  Sydney J. Harris

How many times have you found yourself referring to “they” or someone else as a reason for your shortcomings? It a symbol of maturity when you own up to your own mistakes or delays, even though it may be tempting to blame the nebulous “other” for our failure to produce.

Take a pledge to use your active voice today and take clear responsibility for your actions. Admit “I was late” vs. “Traffic was bad.” Or “I can’t figure it out” vs. “This computer is acting up.” The more your language speaks of maturity, the more your actions will follow.

leadership dot #1790: slow slide

There was an article in the newspaper describing how credit-score calculations are being overhauled in a significant way, impacting both those with high and low scores. The most substantial change in how the scores are calculated involves the inclusion of trended data. Instead of just looking at whether a person paid on time or not, the credit bureaus will not assess whether the overall debt is growing or declining. Trended data is intended to give early warning signs to the credit bureau that a consumer may be headed in the wrong direction before they actually start having late payments or debt trouble.

It reminded me of the question a reader asked about addressing the “slow slide” that happens with weight gain. This is how the financial industry is addressing that exact phenomenon. It is not enough to look at one point in time, but it is much more effective and preventative to utilize trended data to give early triggers as to where there is a problem. (As in stepping on the scale weekly or using debt totals to calculate credit scores instead of payment history.)

The slow slide happens not only with weight gain and borrowing limits, but with many other things in life. One dandelion doesn’t mean anything — except that dozens are soon to follow. One unanswered email in your inbox doesn’t cause clutter — but it signals the slide toward overload. One gray hair is not cause for alarm — but unless you color it soon, you whole head will be white. One late arrival by an employee isn’t earth shattering, but is worthy of closely monitoring to prevent a tardiness problem.

A graph usually depicts a gradual curve more frequently than it has sharp peaks and valleys. Your life happens like that, too. Find ways to incorporate trended data in what matters most to you to be able to intervene before the behavior has deviated too far from your desired norm.

Source: Credit-score calculations changing by Ken Sweet for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, April 23, 2017, p. 2D.

leadership dot #1789: never satisfied

Renee Elise Goldsberry originated the powerful role of Angelica Schuyler in the hit musical Hamilton. Not only did she have one of the leads in a mega-hit on Broadway, she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her standout number was “Satisfied”, which included the lyrics “you strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied.” This line becomes a recurring theme in the musical and “never satisfied” is one of the phrases from the show that made it into popular lexicon.

Goldsberry seems to have taken this “never satisfied” message to heart. I am sure when she was growing up, her perfect day would have been performing in the premier female part in the hottest show on Broadway, but priorities change. Now she tells People: “Jogging through Central Park and reading until I pick my kids up from school…that would be a perfect day!”

Think about your life. How can you keep growing and changing so that you are “never satisfied” with stagnation? Are there things you want to do, but are happy not to keep doing them forever? Are you open to change and new experiences, even though you may be in a good situation now?  Being “never satisfied” can open the window to a whole new script if you let it.

*”Renee Elise Goldsberry: Life after Hamilton” in People, May 1, 2017, p. 39

leadership dot #1788: pipelines

We don’t always think about the infrastructure that makes our communities function, but some local families got a stark reminder of what it takes to make a city work. As part of a storm water reconstruction process, the pipeline went through the middle of several properties — meaning that the yards were totally dug up in order to insert the giant sections.

There is probably a similar pipe running through my yard and many others, but we don’t think about it. It is invisible to the homeowner, but the public works staff needs to be well aware of what is there, how long it has been underground and its capacity. They need to schedule when and where to dig up yards.

Think about the infrastructure that runs your organization or family. Have you taken time to consider the condition of the systems you need to conduct your operations? You take many of them for granted, but as the CEO of your home and perhaps in your role in your organization, you need to assess, plan and budget for the eventual repair. Systems are only invisible when they are functioning well.

leadership dot #1787: microfibers

For my organizational behavior class, I am always on the lookout for examples of real life systems that illustrate the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated things. I recently found an example that relates the growing popularity of leisure clothes to an increase in marine debris and pollution.

“Yoga pants, fleece jackets, sweat-wicking athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials shed microscopic plastic fibers — called microfibers — when laundered. Wastewater systems flush the microfibers into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea,” reports University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire.

There are many efforts underway to address this complex system, including work with washing machine manufacturers to enhance filters and impressive work by clothing manufacturer Patagonia to provide outreach to consumers and additional research to minimize the impact.

You don’t always make the connection between what you wear and what sea animals eat, but the link is there. Think about how you can play a responsible role in the ecosystem.

Source:  Cozy clothes may be a key source of sea pollution by Jennifer Kay for the Associated Press, March 19, 2017 in the Telegraph Herald.

leadership dot #1786: stalled

It’s no secret that people are pressed for time and, as a result, often are challenged in finding time for professional development or reading. Several places have capitalized on the fleeting moments people spend in a restroom and added informational material to the stall doors.

At Kaneland Middle School, the teacher’s lounge contains In-STALL-ments offering quick tips on how to add technology to lesson plans:

Many college campuses utilize restroom doors for promotional flyers, but Luther College went one step further by providing a frame for such advertising:

Attention is a valuable commodity. If you can capture even a moment of it, think about how you can utilize it wisely.

leadership dot #1785: incentive

I was given a gift card for Christmas that provided for monthly specials at a restaurant. Last month, the offer was a free bowl of soup. I have been to this restaurant many times, but never once thought about having the soup until it was free.

I have ordered soup on every visit since. It was fantastic!

Grocery stores and warehouse clubs do a variation of the same idea with their free tasting stations and free samples of products. I know I have tried things I would have never risked purchasing outright, but confidently bought it after enjoying a sample.

Think about how you can offer one of your products or services to your clients in a way that gets them to try something that they may not have otherwise used. Can you provide a free class session as an incentive to sign up for the whole program? Or perhaps a free use of your product for the weekend to allow the client to try it at home? Maybe a free 1:1 session to allow them to receive a sample of your coaching? Or an upgrade in membership for a trial period?

Free is an irresistible word. Use it wisely and give your client confidence to venture into new territory.