leadership dot #2237: left side

I often draw a line down the page in my notebook that allows me to create two sections upon which to take notes. In the right column (approximately two-thirds of the page), I take traditional notes about the content of the workshop or meeting that I am attending. But in the left column, I make notes about the process of what is occurring. For example, if it is a training program, I may make notes about exercises to use in the future or training techniques that were utilized; at a meeting, I may note related ideas that the content sparks such as following up with someone about a comment they made or a dot idea that the discussion inspired.

This note-taking method has served me especially well at times when my mind is not stimulated by the content at hand. It causes me to pay more attention and to push myself to consider other implications about what I am hearing – even if that means theorizing about why the gathering is not going well.

I think this method can also be applied to the interview and hiring process. The traditional job description will outline things for the “right side” of the page – whether or not the candidate has the skills to accomplish the basic responsibilities. But a truly great employee needs to contribute on the “left side” of the page as well – providing unexpected insights, making connections and showing a fit with the culture of the institution. The two-column method can heighten your listening and make you more aware of whether the candidate does or does not possess the intangible traits that will distinguish them as an employee.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are taking notes, push yourself to do more than write down an abbreviated transcript of what is spoken. Use your second column to critically reflect and make meaning of the time you are spending in the session.

leadership dot #2236: wiring

The electricity was working just fine and no one knew there was an issue – until the homeowner went to install a new ceiling fan. That action, which should be a simple one, involved opening up an electrical box and finding a quagmire. The wires were every which way and even an electrician couldn’t easily make sense of it.

Staring at the tangle of wires, it was difficult to assess what had been done in the past – thereby making it challenging to know how to move forward in the future.

While the specifics revolve around electricity and a fan, I think the general principle applies to many situations in an organization. No one notices that the accounting practices are shady – until there is an audit. Leaders don’t sense that morale is declining – until the mass exodus begins. Organizations let their policies entropy – until there is a harassment claim or lawsuit.

It’s nice when the infrastructure is humming along without intervention but make it part of your routine to keep current with the equivalent of your electrical wiring. Don’t wait until it hits the proverbial fan to peek inside the box.

leadership dot #2235: surprise and delight

My sister purchased several packages of meat at the co-op and joked with the clerk that she was almost leaving her whole paycheck at the butcher counter. He subsequently handed her an additional package of four brats – with a special sticker indicating that she would receive them for free.

“It’s our Surprise and Delight Program,” the butcher said.

Surprise and delight it did! The brats were priced at $11.64 and it was a treat to receive them without cost.

Handing over a valuable package of meat may not fit within your organization’s service or budget range, but what can you do that emulates that concept? Whether through a formal program, by empowering your staff to initiate it when warranted or just through an occasional burst of serendipity, surprise and delight is a worthy aim for every provider.

leadership dot #2234: branded

Why is it acceptable for car dealerships to place their logo on your car?

I think that cars are the only items that are clearly marked where they are purchased. I can’t imagine buying a television and having a big Best Buy sticker slapped on it, wearing a coat that has a Nordstrom or TJ Maxx patch on the sleeve or having the cornerstone of my house clearly show “built by Lansing Construction.”

Yet, everywhere you look, cars are emblazoned with the conspicuous logo of the dealership. Most people would not place a temporary bumper sticker on their vehicle, but they allow these advertisements to be mounted without a second thought.

The practice is so prevalent that most people don’t even notice them, but once you start paying attention you will see not only the logos but the appalling way they are applied. It gives a whole new meaning to sticker shock.

On your next vehicle purchase, just say no.

leadership dot #2233: birds

If only life operated like a bird feeder – where all you have to do is put goodness out there and others will flock to it.

I filled the container with seed and within minutes several birds were enjoying their bounty. No advertising, no social media, no signs – I provided, and they came.

But in most matters, just putting something out there is not enough. I can write daily leadership dots, but if I don’t encourage subscribers no one will read them. Companies can have a great product, but without effective marketing, it will not sell. People can have important new ideas, but they require more than an announcement to champion them into reality.

Don’t get seduced into thinking that success will come as easily as the birds do. It requires much more on your part to feed creativity than it does to attract the sparrows.

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leadership dot #2232: vacation eyes

For the past several weeks, leadership dots have been generated by perspectives that I gleaned while traveling to New York City. I filtered my experiences through my own lens and tried to relate them to something that would be of value to my readers, but I wonder what would have stood out from the trip if my travel companions were blog writers. What did they see that I didn’t? How did they make connections that I failed to make?

It reminds me of the artist statement from the 9-11 Museum’s “blue wall” display (see dot 2222). Artist Spencer Finch wrote that the wall of 2,983 blue squares centered on the idea of memory. “What one person perceives as blue might not be the same as what another person sees. Yet, our memories, just like our perception of color, share a common reference.”

Travel – like all new experiences – helps to give context and perspective to that which you may not otherwise see. You don’t know what you don’t know until you see something contrasted with what you have taken for granted: living in a community where everyone speaks English vs. being immersed in the multi-lingual world of NYC, the presumed prevalence of cash until you find yourself in an almost cash-free city, the grandeur of a Broadway show compared to what seemed like a really good community theatre and the pervasiveness of video instead of your customary reliance on print advertising.

Vacation eyes let you see yourself and your environment in ways that staying in your routine cannot. Even if you aren’t able to venture to New York City or an exotic destination, broaden your perspective by getting out of your normal world so you can see what is behind the mirror, not just in front of it.