leadership dot #2145: undaunted

The story of Lewis and Clark has always fascinated me – I wonder what it must have taken for these men and their crew to explore unknown territories with so little to guide them. People today set out on what they feel are “adventures” when they turn off the GPS, but Lewis and Clark knew nothing about the territory that they would face.

Can you even imagine setting out on a journey that you believed would be all on water, only to learn that most of your travels would be on land? And not just flat land; the explorers did not know that the Rocky Mountains existed. It would be daunting to cross the Rockies today, let alone 200 years ago on horseback, especially when you did not expect them to be there!

Lewis and Clark had every excuse to quit along their journey. The conditions were so much rougher, the mode of transport totally different and the time frame (two years and four months) significantly longer than they originally expected. And after surviving grueling conditions to reach the ocean, they then had to return – over the same rough terrain.

When you want to tell your boss that you are going to quit because you have hit a barrier, think of Lewis and Clark looking over that first peak and realizing that there were miles more mountains instead of the northwest water route that they were seeking. The obstacles you face at work are nothing.

leadership dot #2144: seeing

People see things differently when they are an expert.

A masterful knitter can tell at a glance when a line of stitches is off. A professional carpenter can tell from across the room whether a row of cabinets will fit in the kitchen or not. A major league baseball player can judge the trajectory of a ball far better than a little leaguer. I can tell from looking at a pile of items whether or not it will fit into a suitcase or the car. I can see potential blogs where others are just going about their business without noticing the lesson or impact.

Everyone has an area where they have super-vision to see things in ways a novice can’t. Think about the part of the world that you see where others do not. How can you use this to your advantage?


leadership dot #2143: shopping

The trend seems to be that people can order things online and pick them up in the store. In the past few weeks, Michaels, Target and Lowe’s have added prominent signage and pick-up areas for people who avail themselves of this service. Some will even bring it to your car.

Perhaps it is a strategy to get consumers into the brick and mortar stores – having them do additional shopping when they come in to pick up items. Maybe it is an incentive to have people shop more because they can do it more leisurely online. Maybe it is because we are getting lazy.

A few years ago, having groceries delivered to your home was a luxury for the rare few, and now it is commonplace. Will Target begin direct deliveries soon – not waiting a whole day to receive something via UPS or the Post Office, but having it arrive as quickly as a pizza? Will stores just become distribution centers instead of places to shop?

For whatever the reason, the buy online/pick up in store movement is gaining momentum. How will your organization be impacted by this? Think about the products or services you expect people to come in person to receive and consider whether there is an easier way to deliver them to your customers. Going shopping in person may soon be as antiquated as having to go in a bank to do your transaction with a teller or calling a travel agent to book your flights.

leadership dot #2142: microphone

With Barbara Bush’s passing, I was reminded of the work she did in the area of literacy. Barbara focused her influence in this area and raised over $100 million toward the cause. Obviously, as the wife of one president and mother of another, she had tremendous influence but not all those in that position utilize their chance to have a platform.

I think of others who are in a role that affords them access and a voice. Colin Kaepernick is only one of the hundreds of professional athletes. Unfortunately, David Hogg and Emma Gonzales are but two of a much larger group of mass shooting victims. Ali Raisman was but one of the Olympians and Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan two of many actresses who could have raised the issue of harassment. Sheryl Sandberg isn’t the only female executive and Al Gore isn’t the only politician, but they are the ones who spoke out.

While these may be some of the more well-known names, everyday people are in a position to use their voice. The department head can make policies or advocate for fair treatment of women. The student can raise issues of inclusion. The secretary can put out a recycle bin and start environmental efforts in her area. The teacher can introduce works from different cultures or case studies that feature non-white men in prominent roles. Grade school kids can advocate for friendship benches and the average citizen can promote literacy.

We all have opportunities to use our voice, but many remain silent. Don’t let fear compel you to walk past the microphone. Instead, have the courage to speak out for a cause that is important to you and drop the mic instead.

leadership dot #2141: departing

I just switched to a new veterinarian after a decade at the same clinic. When I asked for my records, they made copies and simply said: “Here you go.”

I have had four dogs in their care and have spent thousands of dollars on visits, tests, medicine, and doggie daycare. Yet never was there any attempt to understand why I am leaving or to suggest that I don’t.

I also just closed an account at a bank where my Mom had maintained a checking account for probably two decades or more. Even when I talked with the customer service rep about closing the account, no one tried to persuade me to stay with the institution.

I can understand the desire not to hassle consumers when they are leaving you, but businesses are losing an opportunity to learn something from the customers that know them best. Why not ask the simple question of “what could we have done better?” You would be getting feedback from customers who have enough experience with you to answer it and are in a position where they may be inclined to be candid.

It’s bad enough to lose a customer, but it is even a bigger shame to lose one without gaining insight in return. Don’t let your customers and all their knowledge just walk out the door.


leadership dot #2140: gauge

People often say: “I need gas.” Unless you are pulled over on the side of the road because you’re out of fuel, it’s a subjective assessment. How you make it reflects more than your need for gasoline.

I think how you respond to your gas gauge is an indicator of the kind of margin that you allow for other things in your life. When my tank is at half, I begin to get itchy until I can fill it up again. Others don’t even consider stopping until the fuel indicator light has been on for days. Still others have different comfort levels, preferring to keep it as close to topped off as possible or being content to wait until the needle nears the “E”.

I would guess that those of us who fill up early do other things early as well. Those who wait until later push other aspects of their lives to the maximum. People who ignore the warning signs aren’t driven by the details of other things.

There are trade-offs to each style: the do-gooders waste time making multiple trips to the pump, and those who wait too long risk inconvenience when they have to get gas even if it isn’t the best time/weather/price for them to do so. But we all adapt to a style that works for us.

The next time you’re trying to get a quick indicator of how someone operates, ask them the gas gauge question. The answer will help align what you can expect from your ride with them.

leadership dot #2139: search

My sister was just unexpectedly in the hospital and I found myself continually looking at my phone as it could give me minute-to-minute updates like it does for a sporting event. Even if there were no changes in her condition, I would have had more comfort in knowing that as opposed to being in the dark. It made me realize that I have come to expect that my “magic phone” (as I dubbed it when I first got a smartphone) knows everything.

I want to reach for my phone all the time to ask questions which have answers, but are unknown by Google: “how many people are at this event,” “who is that person I know from somewhere but can’t place,” “what size shirt does my brother wear,” or “when do the eggs in the refrigerator expire?” [It can be a fun icebreaker to ask people to share a question that has an answer that Google does not know.]

But I also sometimes wish that I could look up answers to questions to which there are no answers, important questions like: “should I pursue this line of work or that one”, “what is the best course of action to complete this project” or “what investment plan is the most beneficial to pursue?” These are things I do not know, and the phone cannot help me.

There are so many questions to which the phone has no answers. Maybe those are the big questions we should spend our time asking.

leadership dot #2138: learning

The old television show ER started streaming on Hulu. I was riveted to the series when it originally came out in 1994 – planning my evenings around each weekly episode so I didn’t miss its singular airing. Now that the show is available again, I felt the tug of nostalgia to watch it for the second time.

What has been most prevalent for me is not the flirting between Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway – the main theme of the original airing – but the vast improvements that we have made in technology since the show was made. There were no cell phones or hand-held computers, and no camera was to be found even when Bulls star Scottie Pippen came in. Surgeons lived by their pagers which displayed no more than a number to call from the closest pay phone. The televisions were consoles. The phones were landlines, even rotary dial ones, and were attached to voicemail recorders that became full. There was no electronic social media. Patient records were kept by hand on paper charts while the surgical schedule was maintained on a whiteboard. Lab results were returned via dot matrix printer and ultrasound results were stored on VHS tapes. Thick phone books were the lifeblood of the admitting desk.

Think of all that we have learned since 1994. Most of us have a working proficiency on the new technology that has come our way – and we have done so without any formal classes. We have learned continually, through trial and error, through one-on-one tutorials and by general sharing of information.

Expand this behavior and don’t limit your learning to just the new gizmos and gadgets. Keep abreast of trends in your industry, of innovations in the world in general or just learn a new technique in your hobby. If you stop and look back at all the knowledge you have amassed since 1994, you will amaze yourself. Be able to say the same thing when you’re watching This is Us beamed onto your wall twenty years from now!

leadership dot #2137: final straw

Happy Earth Day!

Much of this year’s Earth Day focus is sure to be around plastics, especially efforts to eliminate use of the disposable plastic straw. I know that I find this challenging myself; while I always use the glass straws at home, they are inconvenient to take along for fast food and convenience store drinks.

Final Straw has solved the problem with a collapsible, reusable straw that is about the size of a car key. It comes in a handy plastic case that fits on your keychain so it is always with you. Final Straw is working on a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to fund a November 2018 release.

Celebrate Earth Day today by pledging to leave the plastic straws alone or by making a contribution to the Final Straw idea. Either will help keep some of the 500 million straws tossed away every day from adding to our landfills and pollution.



leadership dot #2136: queries

As soon as I ordered my computer, I sent a text to my “tech guy” asking him if he could transfer all my data when the new computer arrived. He said that he had not done that on a Mac before, but he would “Google it” and get back to me.

He ended up sending me a link to instructions on how to migrate data and they were enough for me to do it myself. I never once thought to “Google it” myself, but had I done so, I would have accomplished the same end.

It is not the first time that I have asked someone how to do something and they responded by checking the internet for instructions. I guess that Google can make you wise beyond your skill set, and I need to rely on it for my initial query rather than thinking I am incapable of a certain task.

Being an expert doesn’t mean that you know the answers; it just means that you know where to find them.