leadership dot #2329: mask

I love asking kids what they are going to be for Halloween. Hearing whether they have chosen to be a princess, warrior, video game avatar, scary monster, nurse, cartoon icon, animal or Harry Potter character gives you a peek into their interests and how they see themselves in a way that is hard to decipher at other times in the year.

When it comes to adults, oftentimes the costume is influenced by external rather than internal factors: what can I wear to work? What can I make out of what exists in my closet? What is a costume that doesn’t really look like a costume?

For kids and adults alike, Halloween is a day to take on another persona and be someone that you don’t normally get to be. What if adults did that today – sans costume. If you’re usually the quiet one, for today, be the one to raise your hands first. If you’re seen as independent or private, for today, ask someone else to lunch or to work with you on a project. If you’re prone to be talkative, make it your pledge today to focus on listening.

You don’t need a mask or costume to express a different part of your personality. We can all treat others today by sharing another side of who we authentically are.

leadership dot #2328: you

My mom had a cartoon hanging by her mirror for decades that showed a mutt looking into the mirror and seeing a beautiful collie. I was always drawn to the image because I think for so many people the reality is the reverse: they are collies but see themselves as average mutts.

I thought of this cartoon when I read a Twitter post by Oogimauskii:* “A different version of you exists in the minds of everyone who knows you…the person you think of as “yourself” exists only for you, and even you don’t really know who that is. Every person you meet, have a relationship with or make eye contact on the street with, creates a version of “you” in their heads. You’re not the same person to your mom, your dad, your siblings, than you are to your coworkers, your neighours or your friends. There are a thousand different versions of yourself out there, in people’s minds. A “you” exists in each version, and yet your “you”, “yourself” isn’t really a “someone” at all.”

 You can’t control how others view you or what those multiple different versions of “you” are in the minds of others, but you can choose how you talk about yourself and picture yourself in your own mind. Believe yourself to be that beautiful collie!

*Concept from Uno, Nessuno, Centomila by Luigi

Illustration by Jerry Van Amerongen, 1985

leadership dot #2327: defying stereotypes

If you’re like many people, you grew up singing Old Mac Donald Had A Farm and that tune formed an impression for you of what farming was like. The Land O’Lakes cooperative wants to shake that up a bit and has rewritten the song to suggest that Old MacDonald had a daughter, too. Women now comprise one-third of all U.S. farmers and the cooperative’s Female Farmer Project aims to highlight women’s role in the food chain.

Land O’Lakes has worked with Grammy-winning artist Maggie Rose to “rewrite the song for women rewriting the rules.” The campaign features several videos, one She-I-O: “Old MacDonald had a daughter, Look what she does with what he taught her, She-I-E-I-O…” Another has visuals of women working the farm while the voiceover reads a poem about what once was thought of as their traditional role in raising kids and putting food on the table. The commercial concludes with “keep defying stereotypes in every field”. Both ads are full of powerful images and shake up the impression many non-farmers have of who is running the agricultural industry today.

Do your clients understand who works for your organization? Maybe you are multi-generational, from a wide span of geographies, attended a wide range of colleges or have some other demographic characteristic that could defy some of the stereotypes people hold. Don’t let Land O’Lakes be the only ones doing some myth-busting about their workforce.

image from She-I-O commercial

leadership dot #2326: someone

When I think of a warehouse retailer like Costco or Sam’s Club, I think of buying paper products and food essentials in bulk. I don’t think of purchasing high-end luxury products, but apparently, they think that some people do. On display was a selection of nine types of liquor – all over $100/bottle. There was even a bottle of cognac for $745.

Maybe those who are willing to pay nearly a thousand dollars for one bottle of alcohol just toss it in their cart with the giant package of toilet paper, but somehow it seems to be sending mixed messages about who the warehouse really serves.

If you define your audience as “everyone” you might do a better job by serving “someone” instead.

leadership dots #2325: differences

Our town has two primary banks that have been in the community for decades. One was recently sold to another company, headquartered about two hours away. I don’t think the ink was dry on the purchase agreement before the remaining bank had banners and signs at all of its locations proclaiming: “BANK LOCAL.”

Previously, local had not been an advantage since the bank that was sold had been family-owned and operating here since 1911, but kudos to the marketing person who immediately recognized that “local” had suddenly become a distinction and jumped all over it.

When is the last time that your organization assessed what its advantages and unique selling points were? The competition changes all the time – adding products and services that now overlap with yours, or, as in this case, deleting a characteristic that formerly was on par with what you offered. An updated benefit review may lead you to rethink your messaging in order to highlight the differences that make your organization special.

leadership dot #2324: be informed

Before I head to the ballot box, I wanted to make sure that I was prepared to make my choices. Millions of dollars have been spent on this mid-term election and I feel like I have been inundated with ads for all of the major positions (x 3 since I live at the intersection of three states). But when I printed a sample ballot, I discovered an entire page of positions that I have heard absolutely nothing about.

We are voting for two county Soil and Water District commissioners and five county Agricultural Extension Council members as well as whether or not to retain seven judges. I had never heard of these people, so I Googled them, looked on LinkedIn and checked Facebook – only to find surprisingly little. Finally, I found a Facebook group an environmentally-forward state representative had created to post statements from the conservation candidates and the university that hosts the extension collected paragraphs about the council elections. I still know next to nothing about the judges.

Why should this be so hard?

I would guess that the vast majority of voters go to cast their ballot thinking that they know the names and positions that will be on it. Many are likely not informed about even those candidates, beyond whether they are Republican or Democrat, but they can’t even rely on that distinction on page 2 of the ballot. It becomes either a total guessing game or they forfeit their vote and leave the back side blank.

With the importance of elections, why isn’t there a standard system whereby everyone can easily check an interactive ballot that allows you to click on the names of all the candidates to read a statement about them? It may be self-written and pure propaganda, but at least the voters would know something about those they are endorsing or de facto voting out. The big push to get everyone to vote is meaningless if people don’t know who they are voting for.

It’s likely that your election officials aren’t going to make it easy for you to be an informed voter. Make the effort to be one anyway.

leadership dot #2323: separation

When I went to get in my car from the parking lot, I took a moment to appreciate the prairie that abutted the lot. I was struck by the deliberate line that someone had chosen of where to mow — and where not to mow. The manicured area had no natural definition; it wasn’t someone’s yard or along a sidewalk, rather someone had arbitrarily decided to mow to one spot and to leave the grass next to it to grow naturally.

We could all be so intentional with the decisions that we make in our lives. Say yes to this but say no to that. Leave work at work and focus on home at home. Put this much into savings and what is left goes into checking.

It’s up to you where to draw the line, but once you do, make it a clean separation. Mow just the grasses that are to be mowed and allow the others to go free.