leadership dot #2449: decency

As a way to learn more about a topic I know little about, I attended a presentation about human trafficking where they showed the documentary I am Jane Doe. The film highlighted many of the issues surrounding this “modern-day slavery” but in particular focused on the website that serves as a clearinghouse for children to be bought and sold.

I was struck by the seeming legal imperviousness of this site – as they have won or had dismissed all of the cases against them (except for one that is in limbo). The crux of their argument comes down to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) which protects sites from liability for what third parties post on their platform. It makes sense that Facebook wouldn’t be sued directly if someone posted something negative about another – but does that broad interpretation extend to a site that helps others post cryptic descriptions of sex traffic? Currently, the courts say yes.

The CDA is an act that made good sense when it was established in the early days of the internet but needs to at least be revisited in light of contemporary conditions. Does Free Speech extend to protecting illegal activities? Should a website that provides patrons advice on how to disguise the true intent of their posting be covered by the CDA? Or should the CDA stay as it stands and protect all third-party postings as it has been interpreted to do?

The documentary serves to highlight the unintended consequences of the CDA but the principles apply to many issues beyond human trafficking. What rules or policies has your organization had in place for years that preceded the internet era and should be revisited? (Iowa just encountered one when the post office bar code was invalid to determine the mail date of a paper ballot because the law said “postmark”.) Have you re-read your policies lately to see if the intent still matches practice?

The time to review your policies is before you are faced with defending them.

Image by geralt on Pixabay

leadership dot #2448: critical mass

My mom’s belief was that you should never have enough chairs at a party. If everyone could sit, her thinking went, then they stay statically in one place whereas if some were forced to stand they would move around and mingle. She was aiming for enough “mixing” that created a lively blend of conversations and fun.

The same principle applies to most events where more than a few gather. If you have a critical mass of participants, and an environment that packs them in rather than spreads them out, you will generate much more energy than in situations where you have ample or excess space.

The workshop you hold where every seat is taken will have greater participation than one with the same number of people in an oversized room. Consolidating four church services into three will provide a different experience than if the worshipers were spread out among empty pews. Hosting workshops, open houses or classes in venues that put everyone in close proximity to everyone else will stimulate more interaction than if each person had room to spread out.

Critical is the operative word in critical mass – it’s critical that you take mass into account in your program planning and space allocation. Condense your physical environment and the number of offerings you provide until you reach a point where there are enough people to generate exponential energy through forced contact with others. If you offer options for isolation, people will remain in their own bubble and you’ll lose the energy that they could have contributed.

Image by vivienviv0 on Pixabay



leadership dot #2447: challenging

The puzzle I wrote about yesterday was the perfect balance of being challenging without being frustrating. It took some concentration to put the individual balloons together but, if you worked at it, it was doable and the end result was enjoyable. I have made puzzles before that apparently were designed to be difficult – odd shaped pieces and aggravating cuts – and it was no fun at all.

I think that your job or another project can be judged from a similar perspective: you want to be learning, but not drowning. You need to have enough challenges to keep you stimulated, but not too many where you feel that you aren’t making any progress at all. With proportionate effort, you need at least a few of the pieces to connect.

Yet, if the pieces are too big or the puzzle is too easy, it’s no fun either – you need it to engross you in the effort but reward you when you reach the end and to do so in a reasonable amount of time.

If you are considering a new job or new project, look at it as if you were assessing whether or not to buy the puzzle. One of all solid colors or without any distinguishing features may be more difficult than is worth it, but one from the children’s section may not stretch you enough. Find a fit that looks challenging but excites you and makes you want to jump in and figure out how the pieces go together.

leadership dot #2446: jigsaw

I worked on a jigsaw puzzle and was struck at all the parallels to organizational change:

  • Even when you have a vision (the box) and know all the pieces are there, it is still sometimes difficult to believe that it will all come together.
  • It is challenging to know what to do next after finishing the frame – you often believe there is a “right” answer when really the next thing to do is just to begin somewhere.
  • There are many pieces required to realize the vision (in this case, 1000 of them) and all are equally important.
  • When you get stuck –as you will – it’s best to move on to another piece of the puzzle and keep making progress elsewhere. I didn’t work on all the sections simultaneously, rather finished one image at a time.
  • Oftentimes, moving around to view the pieces from a different perspective helps immensely, as does walking away from it and coming back later. I was able to easily find several pieces in the morning that eluded me the night before.
  • Small details often seem insignificant at first but then later prove to be just what you needed to make a connection.
  • I was convinced that a piece was missing – which it wasn’t – but, like change, it sometimes seems like the task is impossible.
  • Change takes time. Even with the vision set and all the pieces assembled – which of course never happens in real life – it took several days to finish.

Putting together a jigsaw puzzle can be a good change exercise for your staff. Leave a puzzle out on in a common space and then ask people to reflect on the lessons learned after it is assembled. The fact that a simple exercise is challenging could give them some perspective on how to persevere and give you shared language to use in your change journey.

Anyone find the piece with blue sky and a red tab on top?

Just begin!
The missing piece — that wasn’t missing
Keep making progress where you can
The end is in sight!


leadership dot #2445: good morning

According to Walgreens, more people forget to take their daily medication as prescribed than read People magazine! That is a staggering statistic – and a problem that they are taking steps to address.

Walgreens now offers a JoinRx program where you can sign up to receive a daily reminder by text. It’s another way that the company is leading the way with the application of technology toward its goal of being convenient.

Think of the products or services your organization provides – is there a gap in how customers use it that you could fill with a new tech application? Walgreens’ ad proclaims “America’s wake up call” –and it doesn’t just apply to subscribers. JoinRx should be a wake up call to other organizations, too. Walgreens has just increased expectations everywhere for others to go another step further in providing service.

“Good morning – this is your pharmacy calling!”

To subscribe: Text JoinRx to 21525

leadership dot #2444: half full

It’s common to query whether people see the glass as half full or half empty, but a meme posted by Rajyavardhan Rathore posed this question in a new light.

Rathore pointed out that the glass is always full – it is just that sometimes it is half full of water and half full of air. Seeing the situation in this light can open up new possibilities: there is no longer obvious scarcity, rather a reframing.

Think about your “glass” from a new perspective. Instead of seeing it half empty, can you see it as half full of something else? Being alone might not be lonely, rather an opportunity to refresh. Having half the time may mean a chance to set priorities. Not getting a job may mean you are free to pursue other options.

You’ll be happier if you focus on what is in the glass instead of what isn’t.

Posted by @Ra_THORe, July 6, 2018

leadership dot #2443: life cycles

While we celebrated President’s Day on Monday, the anniversary of George Washington’s birth is actually today (born February 22, 1732). Washington is a man who understood the importance of stepping aside (see dot 2442) and did so with grace after two terms. He could have easily retained the position and power for many more years but realized the value of transitioning to another.

Washington also understood life cycles of organizations and knew himself well enough to realize that he was best suited to lead in the developmental stage of the country. Organizations all rotate through various stages – startup, growth, maturity, aging – and matching your leadership strengths with the appropriate time in the organization’s cycle allows for peak effectiveness.

Maybe you should become involved in a new venture where you would find much ambiguity and creation. Or perhaps you are better suited for an organization that comes with some structure but has a focus on change vs. an organization that is established and functions with a fair amount of policy and routine.

Life cycles may not be top of mind when you are selecting a committee assignment or new position, but alignment with them will greatly influence your happiness and success. Follow the lead of George Washington and reflect on when it is best to say “yes” and also when it’s time to say “no”.


leadership dot #2442: seasoned

When does experience become a liability instead of an asset? I wonder about that as I see people in positions for years or even decades, and in many cases, the weight of the past impedes their ability to focus on the future. They relive examples from years ago and give them the same importance as if they had just happened yesterday. When the Ghosts of Organization Past are allowed to flourish and have a voice, they push out new ideas or even the notion of change.

It happens in companies, political venues and nonprofit groups, in part because it is hard to leave an organization. People don’t want to give up the perks and status they have acquired, nor do they want to give up on the organization and seem as if they are jumping ship. It’s easier to keep on keepin’ on, even if their storied tenure gives disproportionate voice to history and drowns out timid new voices that seek to forge a new path toward the future.

A current leader may become oblivious or intentionally ignore the grips power has on their ego. To make a space for the new, make it easy for the old to leave. Utilize ad hoc groups with effective sunset clauses. Create chair-elect positions with defined terms and the expectation to assume the top leadership role. Set term limits for your board members. Keep leaders on short contracts and do deep, annual evaluations instead of automatic renewal. Rotate committee appointments regularly.

Like in a good stew, too much seasoning ruins the pot. Ensure that your seasoned leaders are contributing an appropriate amount of flavor to your organization, not overwhelming it.

leadership dot #2441: B-side

Queen’s song We Will Rock You is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and one of the Greatest Songs of All Time, but when it was first released in 1977 it was on the B-side of the single. In this age of digital music, B-sides no longer exist but the designation was once simultaneously a distinction and a demotion for vinyl-era artists. The B-side song was seen as good, but not good enough to be the one promoted to radio stations or to receive air time.

While I’m sure much debate went into deciding which song made the B-side, the artists and producers did not always choose the one audiences favored. In addition to We Will Rock You, other notable B-sides included Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers, Gloria by Van Morrison, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets and even Hound Dog by Elvis. All these songs went on to be hits of their own – and several were more popular than the songs on the A-side (Hung On You; Baby, Please Don’t Go; Thirteen Women).

Keep these songs in mind if you find yourself relegated to a B-side role in your organization. Just because you didn’t get the original lead doesn’t mean that you can’t end up as a winner. Capitalize on the reduced pressure and far exceed everyone’s expectations.

Hat tip to Brenda for the original idea!

leadership dot #2440: rock you

I can’t say that I am a big Queen fan, but, like most people, I can stomp my feet and clap in the appropriate places during the song We Will Rock You. What surprised me when I saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was that the addition of these participative elements was intentional – put there specifically to create a role in the song for audiences.

After noticing that fans were singing along at concerts, the band decided that they should write music to intentionally engage their audience and scripted music that called out for specific clapping or stomping at designated places. Queen was a pioneer in this area and their fan engagement helped to solidify their legacy and enduring presence on the music scene.

Think about whether there are moments in your organization’s programs that may now have spontaneous client involvement but could be strengthened with intentionality. Could you add targeted participation in a church service beyond the usual rote responses or songs? Is there an opportunity to allow clients to make something and have a tangible takeaway from a conference or workshop? Can you create places where clients interact with a mascot or photo booth in your establishment? Or maybe it’s something as simple as leaving out Post-its or a blank wall where those who pass by can add comments.

Try one thing today that invites someone else to rock with you.