leadership dot #2115: blue moon

You may have heard the old saying: “Once in a blue moon”, but, if you’re like me, you did not really know what that meant. A blue moon occurs when there are two full moons in the same month, and tonight is that blue moon – something that usually only occurs every two-and-a-half years.

Many people painstakingly plan each week or calendar goals over months or quarters but think about the things that you should do once in a blue moon. Should you schedule a full-garage organization in that interval? Is it a good time to have all the office upholstery sent out for cleaning? Maybe a blue moon can be a good reminder to have a full read-and-review of the employee manual?

Or think about making the next blue moon your target for your next big goal: learn another language, save enough to travel on a safari, or enter that marathon.

Once in a blue moon will come whether you make it a milestone or not. Take advantage of nature’s reminder to do those occasional tasks or start that long-term project.

(Next blue moon = October 31, 2020)

leadership dot #2114: salon

So many things that are old are new again, and the concept of a Salon is no exception. I’m not talking about a hair salon, which is the image I conjure up when I hear the word, rather a salon as a forum for discussion and debate.

A succinct description from my friends at Wikipedia: salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host. They are generally defined as a cultural event linked to literature, art or discussion. Historically, salons are associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 21st-century the tradition continues, with the modern-day cultural salon thriving in cities around the world.”

In London, salons are formatted similar to a live TED talk – with a 20-minute guest speaker to kick off the evening – with the goal of stimulating discussion afterward. Topics have included literary works, philosophy, science and art and salons are held at different venues throughout the city.

I have always been a believer in the power of “live” events, and it appears that it holds true today for intellectual pursuits as well as entertainment. We would all be better off if we participated in civil, in-person dialogue instead of hiding behind impersonal social media. A good discussion coupled with rational humans and a good glass of wine could make for quite the stimulating evening!

Think about the role you could play as an inspiring host. Can you convene a meeting of the minds who would revel in a good discussion about art or literature or other ideas? You could be the one to create a salon environment to entertain your mind as well as your friends.

Thanks, Meg!




leadership dot #2113: prototype

In the Human-Centered Design process, once you answer the How Might We question (see dot #2112), one of the next steps is to create a prototype of your idea. I will admit that when I first heard the word, I envisioned a fully-formed working model of something, but the rapid iteration of prototypes in this design process relies more on clay, construction paper and ingenuity. The goal is to make one aspect of the idea tangible so that you can share it – with the goal of learning from the feedback you receive.

As with the How Might We question, I was surprised at the impact of this technique. Initially, it felt like more of a crafts class than a helpful tool, but after putting prototyping into practice, I have become a believer in its power. Even a “mobile market” that was little more than paper fruits and vegetables taped to paper plates elicited design-changing feedback from the guests we recruited to role play a purchase.

In a real and more serious scenario, animal scientists from around the world have been using the design process to create an artificial nest to prevent African penguin extinction. An international effort and prototyping have reduced the field to two designs that hold promise as a substitute habitat. While the designs may look similar, their nuances are distinct enough to matter to the penguins – something the scientists would not have known if not for prototypes and testing.

The next time you have an idea, set aside your hesitations and create a concrete version that allows you to learn about a key component of your plan. Even a rudimentary and seemingly amateur model can unlock lessons that will make your idea much stronger in the end.

leadership dot #2112: how might we

A team of colleagues and I are enrolled in our second Human-Centered Design class to learn more about the problem-solving process that seeks to have the end user as the core component of all the design elements. There are many aspects to this process but one concept that you can apply in your work today is asking the question: “How Might We…?”

I have been astonished at the breadth and depth of ideas that come from asking this simple question. How Might We improve health in our community? How Might We reduce absenteeism in our schools? How Might We make fresh food accessible to senior citizens? How Might We provide clean water to impoverished communities in Kenya?

Asking this question at the onset causes you to focus on what you could do rather than being limited by what may be difficult to achieve. It inspires a bit of crazy – we could improve health by building a biodome park to allow activity during inclement weather or we could redesign refrigerators for pullout vegetable drawers or we could offer American Ninja Warrior programs at all elementary schools, etc. How Might We (lovingly abbreviated as HMW since it is used so frequently) places the emphasis on possible solutions and action.

The next time you are faced with a problem at work or home, start generating solutions by asking the HMW question. It is only one small aspect of the overall Human-Centered Design process, but one that packs a mighty punch on its own.

leadership dot #2111: connection

There is much written about the importance of belonging and the positive impact it has on well-being, but I have always been hesitant to fully embrace the concept as an organizational goal. Belonging is not something that can be easily facilitated or practiced every day. Belonging can also be seen as an extroverted concept and conjures up images of being part of a large group or team, something that is not comfortable for everyone.

I am much more in favor of the concept of “mattering” as described by Nancy Schlossberg and discussed in dot #416. Schlossberg’s research showed that people needed to feel that they mattered to someone else – a more personal concept than belonging – and something more easily accomplished one-to-one and in short-term situations. Mattering is the feeling that you matter to someone else and you would be missed if you were not there.

Another concept that resonated with me is that of “responsiveness”, written about in Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (see more about their book in dot #2107). The Heaths describe responsiveness as the core tenant of successful relationships. To achieve it, partners must provide: understanding, validation and caring – in other words, “attunement” to how we see ourselves, respect of who we are and what we want, then the taking of supportive steps to help meet those needs. Responsiveness makes relationships stronger and more secure, whether they be of personal or professional nature.

Hospitals that are more responsive to patient needs receive higher satisfaction scores. Employees who believe their supervisor is responsive to them as a person have greater engagement and productivity. Teachers who are more responsive to their students help them learn more effectively. Customer service representatives who are more responsive to their clients are perceived as serving them better.

While belonging to a tribe may be the long-term goal, an initial positive connection can be cultivated more quickly and frequently through one-on-one responsiveness and mattering. Whether you are on a client call, meeting with a colleague or supervising an employee, begin by learning what is important to them and then respond in a way that shows that it matters.

leadership dot #2110: sleep

Most organizations don’t go deep enough when articulating to their customers and employees what they truly offer, but one hotel succinctly and clearly articulated their core purpose. You may think that hotels offer beds or showers or shelter, but, as one Holiday Inn Express described it, what they really sell is sleep.

Being clear about this purpose allowed them to take steps to ensure that they could deliver it. Signs were posted in the lobby reminding others to keep the volume down. There were signs on each floor outside the elevator. Each guest had to sign an agreement acknowledging that they understood the “quiet hour” policy and would abide by it. The hotel staff reminded guests of the policies during check-in. They were serious about it, and you could tell.

Think about the core service that you deliver. For banks, it isn’t checking or savings, rather security. For colleges, it isn’t credits or degrees rather opportunity. For restaurants, it isn’t the food, rather the ambiance and dining experience that allows conversation and connection to occur.

The Holiday Inn Express staff were not the only ones delivering “sleep” to the guests. They created an environment and culture where everyone in the facility was working toward the same end. Isn’t that what we all dream of for our organizations?

leadership dot #2109: mindset

A colleague was asked to join an external committee that did not particularly interest him but since it was good for the organization, he agreed to serve.

“I’m going in with an open mind and a servant’s attitude,” he said.

What a beautiful sentiment. More could not have been asked of him, and I suspect that he was more conscious about his commitment than many others on the board.

The next time you are asked to do something that is worthy, but not especially exciting for you, approach it with the same openness. The right mindset may make it a positive experience in the end.

leadership dot #2108: earth hour

How can you be part of a global environmental movement tonight between 8:30-9:30pm? By participating in Earth Hour, a grassroots movement of the World Wildlife Foundation. Each year, one hour is chosen where it is encouraged to “go dark” to stimulate conversations and actions about long-term environmental issues. Tonight’s the night!

People in over 180 countries will participate by switching off their lights for one hour (local time). The Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and other landmarks will be dark. Earth Hour encourages you to turn off your lights as well: dine by candlelight, go stargazing, head to bed early, or sit around the fireplace.

There is always a tension between thinking BIG about long-term goals and thinking small in order to achieve those goals. Earth Hour is an attempt to straddle that line as it encourages small grassroots steps for a short period in an effort to create short-term awareness that leads to actions far beyond the Earth Hour.

You can participate directly in this environmental movement, and you can replicate the idea for other purposes. A specific action outside the norm can go a long way toward creating awareness. Being in the dark may shed the light that is necessary for change to occur.

leadership dot #2107: power of moments

“We tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest.” This is the main premise of the book The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, a fascinating account of how to intentionally orchestrate experiences to create moments that are memorable.

People have more opportunities to develop “defining moments” than they may first realize. The book cites examples of a high school that produced a “signing day” for college enrollment with all the pomp and circumstances of an athletic signing day, but for all students continuing their education. A resort created a binder of pictures showing what a child’s forgotten stuffed toy did on its “extended vacation.” A company created an intentional “First Day Experience” with messages from the chairman, a gift and group luncheon. Two high school teachers collaborated to create a mock trial in a real courtroom as a way to make an academic experience that was more memorable than prom.

It is in everyone’s best interest to create moments that matter. Not only do they provide a more satisfying experience for the customer, they distinguish the company from others that are likely providing the same service. A friend just recounted his round of college visits with his daughter and the sameness of all the presentations. What a lost opportunity to create a visit experience that was memorable, thus increasing the chances that someone will invest tens of thousands of dollars through their enrollment. McDonald’s is losing market share (in my opinion) not because of the food, but because the experience of eating there ranges between generic and poor. Their once innovative Playland has become passé and they have done little to intentionally consider the dining experience. Contrast that with an Eataly restaurant where you can watch staff making pasta by hand or even with Five Guys who provide free peanuts and display the name of the farmer who grew the potatoes used in their fries that day.

Author Cesare Pavese said: “We don’t remember days, we remember moments.” Utilize the Heath Brothers’ resource to help you unlock the power of moments through intentionality instead of leaving them to chance.

leadership dot #2106: located

Today’s dot provides an example of the flip side of the (lack of) service I wrote about yesterday. When it was apparent that no tailor was going to return my destroyed hat to normalcy, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to see if they still had the same item in stock.

The winter displays had been replaced with a mega-selection of baseball uniforms so I asked whether hats had been moved elsewhere or were gone. The clerk promptly radioed the “apparel manager” who returned moments later with hats from storage. They did not have the exact cap I wanted, so she brought the same style in youth sizes (in case it was not for me), and similar styles in two other brands. She even offered to price-match the more expensive one to the same price as the one I was seeking. When I hesitated, she went online and began searching there and successfully located it for me!

This staff member was a problem-solver – offering a multitude of alternatives and options in an attempt meet my needs as closely as she could. Note that she did not even have the product in stock that I wanted, but she still provided excellent service.

The experience at Dick’s was as good as the cleaners’ was bad. Remember my experiences when you train your staff. The reputation of your company resides in the front-line clerk.