leadership dot #1978: too far

It used to be that every house on the block offered candy to trick-or-treaters, but then allergies and health consciousness kicked in and the candy bars were no longer standard. I am all for offering a variety of Halloween treats to avoid overloading children with excess sugar, and for offering non-candy treats as an option. (See the dot from last year about the teal pumpkin project)

But Dole has taken the healthy-holiday idea too far by offering mini-salads as an option for those who come to your door. I doubt that most would see it as a trick instead of a treat!

What’s next? Pumpkin Spice Lettuce? There is a limit to how much nutrition you should promote on a holiday centered around sweetness.

Keep the context and your audience in mind when planning advertising or product launches. You don’t need to insert yourself into every holiday or fad.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #1977: discussion

A quote on the radio said: “arguments find out who is right; discussions find out what is right.” I like the distinction.

Too often, a conversation devolves into an argument and the focus changes from learning to winning. In a conversation, there is banter, but with civility and empathy; the focus remains on the content rather than the person.

The distinction reminded me of lessons from the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. Ed is the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. In his book, he describes “Dailies” where the animators show their in-process work to others each day in order to receive feedback on the details of their work. Ed writes: “By making the struggles to solve the problems safe to discuss, then everyone learns from – and inspires – one another. The whole activity becomes socially rewarding and productive. To participate fully each morning requires empathy, clarity, generosity and the ability to listen.”

Pixar has demonstrated how good discussions can work to make people more creative as they work together to improve the product. Keep your focus today on what is right, not who.

Radio source: Direct from Hollywood with Ryan Seacrest
Quote from Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, 2014, p. 195.

leadership dot #1976: freaky

Most stores are decorating for Halloween using pumpkins or gourds, but one grocery store got creative with their display. Their produce department went all out to acquire some of the lesser-known fruits and present them in a “freaky fruits” display.

Ever heard of rambutan, red cactus pears, dragon fruit, kiwano melon or jackfruits? I had not, but their display made them look intriguing. The store also took care to give nutritional and taste information as well as instructions on how to eat them. It was an authentic link to their products and brand – as well as making for an eye-catching display.

We often default to the known and easy – like decorating for Fall with pumpkins – but how can you use the holidays as an opportunity for creativity and experimentation? Challenge yourself to add something new to your celebration mix – maybe even something from the produce department!

leadership dot #1975: sweetener

One of the most delightful gifts I have received came via email last week when a friend sent me a Sugarwish. I had not heard of this before, but the giver pre-pays for a treat box for you, Sugarwish sends you an email, then the recipient has the envious/difficult task of picking out their treats from a selection of about 50 different types. Once you make the selection, it arrives via mail in a fancy package with a message card – and is so much fun!

Trying to pick out the candies was like a virtual trip to an old-fashioned candy store – many old brands like Mary Janes and Runts as well as some I had not heard of like grapefruit gummies. It was such a wonderful way to say “I Miss You!” across the miles.

We often think of others and intend to send them a greeting, but frequently it doesn’t get acted upon or ends up as a quick email or Facebook message. If you truly want to make an impression, think about virtual gifts like Sugarwish, Starbucks virtual e-gift cards or other ways to enhance your greeting or thank you. Sending along a treat that the recipient is sure to enjoy – and likely would never purchase for themselves – is a sure way to create a memorable sweet spot in your communication.






leadership dot #1974: things I believe

In a fortuitous sequence of events, I watched a Pinkcast with Dan Pink and Bob Sutton that led me to an article Sutton wrote entitled “13 Things I Believe.” Sutton said that he used his list as an ending ritual in the organizational behavior class that he taught – and, since I am teaching that course this term, I decided to make my own list and do the same.

I, too, ended up with 13 things on my list, but more because that is all that nicely fit on one page than because of any definitive reason. I could have created many more words of wisdom I would like my students to know, but since my review of the list was all that was standing between them and freedom, I suspected that less would be more.

As with many things that come from being a teacher, I learned something from doing this exercise myself. I would recommend it to everyone as a way to pause for a few moments (see item #12!) and ponder what undergirds your behaviors and choices.

Here are the 13 Things I Believe, in a slightly different format than Sutton’s, but with the same reflective spirit nonetheless. I hope you enjoy them as much as my students seemed to have done.





leadership dot #1973: run

For some marathon runners, it’s all about their time, while other runners have a goal focused on completing the race. Either way, I think that most who sign up for such a strenuous run are expecting the route to be 26.1 miles.

This wasn’t the case at the PNC Milwaukee Marathon – and the route wasn’t off by a small amount, it was .8 miles or 4,224 feet shy of the standard distance. So the runners who thought they had a spectacular time, in reality, did not, and those who believe they qualified for the Boston Marathon did not do that either. The year before, someone set up the cones incorrectly making this same marathon too long by almost a mile. Yikes!

It would seem that for something as important as the route distance that someone would double check it after it had been set up. Both times, the error appears to have occurred in interpreting the route map, and especially after a debacle in 2016, you would think that having a correct distance would have been Job #1 for this year’s marathon.

I am sure that hosting a 26-mile race for 785 runners is a logistical challenge, just as your organization faces many complex issues to resolve. But take a lesson from Milwaukee and don’t get so caught up in the minor details that you fail to deliver the core element of your experience. Measure your route. Twice.

Source: Runners react to PNC Milwaukee Marathon distance blunder; Boston Marathon won’t accept times by Lori Nickel in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online, October 19, 2017.

 Thanks, Meg!


leadership dot #1972: circles

When you advance in an organization and gain additional responsibilities, often the scope of your job increases as well. You’re in for a tough time if you continually try to act in the same way instead of changing your behavior to reflect your expanded scope.

Think of your responsibilities as concentric circles. As your breadth increases, it behooves you to interact with those in the further circles differently than you did when you were closer to them, now often learning about them through those in circles closer to you.

A head banker may work through tellers or tellers’ supervisors to hear client feedback instead of receiving it directly as she did when she worked behind a counter in the branch, and instead spend more time with other department heads. A restaurant manager may work through shift leaders instead of spending time with individual employees so that he can devote more time to learning from peers or other franchisees.

I was coaching someone who works on a campus and was lamenting how the additional responsibilities took her further away from direct student contact. But the new role shifted her “circles” and made working with those above her demand more time and attention. She could work 14-hour days trying to do it all, or she could interact with the students through her direct reports instead.

As you rise to the top and have a broader scope, by necessity, the circles with whom you interact/influence naturally change. I encourage you to identify who occupies priority ranking in your circles (for example: boss = #1, peers = #2, direct reports = #3, other colleagues = #4, indirect reports = #5, etc.) and then consider the time you allocate to each. It may help you to loosely plot out a week’s time by circle — does it achieve the distribution (not balance) that you want?

Don’t spread yourself too thin and shortchange your inner circle by trying to do too much with your outer circle (even if they are more fun!)

leadership dot #1971: respect

I stopped at the Dollar Tree on my way to teach an organizational behavior class and I couldn’t believe the irony of what I saw. There, posted on the outer window of the office, in plain view for all the customers, was a handwritten sign that said: “Respect + Listen to your Managers!! Give Respect! Get Respect!”

This was bad enough, but right next to it was a sign that promoted open interviews/now hiring! I laughed out loud.

Who would want to work at a place like this? And how can the managers possibly believe that such a sign is going to do anything to help an already aggravated situation?

The sign implies that employees and managers can hand out respect like trick-or-treat candy. If only it were that simple. Respect is earned, not given. Respect takes time and repeated actions to build a foundation of trust from which respect can grow. Respect is humble and does not require handwritten signs with underlines and exclamation points.

If you are wanting your employees to “Give Respect!” YOU as the manager need to be the one to earn it first. Maybe their “open interviews” should be to hire someone else to lead the store!

leadership dot #1970: strengths

I read with interest an article about feral cats that are unadoptable, but become valuable as they help companies keep their mice away.

In Philadelphia, the animal shelter works with businesses to place cats that bite, scratch or are generally unsocial into barns, breweries, stables and factories. The cats are well cared for and perform a valuable service doing what they instinctively do. Everyone is happy!

This is an ingenious idea. It acknowledges the reality that the cats are not going to be adopted, but prevents them from being killed. The companies receive a necessary service for a low cost and it reduces expenses at the shelter instead of caring for the cats indefinitely.

The shelters capitalized on a disadvantage by taking advantage of the strength that accompanied it, thus rude cats + natural hunters = mousers in warehouses. How can you do the same? I have heard of people who have lost their sense of smell being paid large sums to do jobs that would repulse the olfactory-able. Those confined to a wheelchair could be placed in a job that requires long periods of sitting. Those who are blind could make better taste-testers as they are not influenced by packaging or appearance.

Strengths theory would say that you should focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Take a lesson from the working cat program and redefine what strengths you truly have.

Source: Ornery cats get 2nd chance with jobs chasing mice by Kristen DeGroot for The Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, October 22, 2017, p. 11A


leadership dot #1969: strip

While out walking, I came upon a strip mall with four businesses and the odd juxtaposition of the four seemed to represent mindsets that people adopt about the future.

The strip mall housed:

> Suntan City – with a focus on short-term gain without consideration to long-term impact

> Mississippi Valley Blood Center – where people realize short-term gain ($) but also provide long-term impact (to others)

> State Farm Insurance – for those with pessimism about the future who want to hedge their bets, spending thousands on something they hope they never need

> Edward Jones Investments – for those with optimism about the future, making them willing to risk to hopefully realize long-term gain

Think about which one is a metaphor for how you deal with the future. Maybe it’s time for you to check out another business on the strip.