leadership dot #2480: keep it

How do you extend your customer’s experience after they leave your retail store? Ensure that the bag emblazoned with your logo has a second life.

Stores in the Mall of America have done just that and capitalized on the fact that people do not want to carry items through the mall’s 96 acres. A hands-free shopper is a happy shopper, so several stores at the mall package their purchases in bags with shoulder straps. It allows for immediate ease of transport as well as an extended use for the bag after the shopping trip is over. Brilliant!

Are you providing your customers with something disposable that could become marketing material for you with a small additional investment? Replace those conference notepads with your organization’s branded pieces instead of the venue’s. Encourage people to take your restaurant-branded pen when they sign the tab. Provide to-go items that people will actually want to keep and reuse instead of toss into the landfill.

Take a critical look at all that your organization distributes. How can you infuse additional quality so more of your users actually keep what you give them?

Thanks, Mike!

leadership dot #2479: segment

In a nod to truly understanding their audience, Starbucks has opened up a new store in Washington, DC that caters to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. It’s located near Gallaudet University, an institution for deaf students, and features 24 employees who are proficient in American Sign Language.

Starbucks seeks not only to serve the deaf community but to provide employment opportunities for them. Through the use of ASL as well as technology, deaf employees are able to interact with customers and hold supervisory roles – something that Starbucks hopes will set an example for other businesses.

It’s a niche that may not work everywhere but given its location, it makes perfect sense. Is there a segment of your audience that you could serve more effectively? Maybe you could print some materials in another language to serve your ethnic neighbors. Offer more accommodating hours to meet the needs of those working third shift. Provide larger waiting rooms with child-friendly areas for those who must obtain your services with children in tow.

One size does not have to fit all. Thrive by being cognizant of what your individual customers need and then specialize your offerings to fulfill it.


leadership dot #2478: compartmentalize

One of the signs of maturity is the ability to compartmentalize your emotions.

If you come out of a bad meeting, you can put it away and walk into the next meeting neutralized. If it’s a bad day at work, you leave it in the car before you head into the house. If you have a great moment, you don’t let it prevent you from tackling the tough conversation with appropriate seriousness.

Cesare Pavese said: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” Pay attention to the emotions of your moments and ensure that they align with the present and don’t allow the negativity to carry over from the past.

Thanks, Mike!

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay


leadership dot #2477: choices

When you are in any type of relationship that isn’t going well, Adam Grant writes that you have four choices on how to respond. Your choice varies based on the control you possess and the commitment you have to preserve the relationship itself, whether that be a personal or professional one.

Your choices are:

  • Exit: You leave the relationship
  • Voice: You speak up and actively try to improve the situation
  • Persistence: Gritting your teeth and bearing the situation as it is without trying to change it
  • Neglect: You stay in the relationship but do just enough to get by

If you find interest in a relationship waning, evaluate the amount of control you have and the degree you wish to invest in improving the situation. Depending upon the situation, any of the four strategies may be valid choices but the key is to choose your path with intentionality.

Source: Originals by Adam Grant, 2017              


leadership dot #2476: tasks

When I have an idea for a dot topic, it becomes a task to be done but requires little thinking time. I can usually sit down and write a dot in a matter of a few minutes. But if I’m not clear on a subject and corresponding lesson, I can think about it for hours without ever putting a word on the page. The identification of the content moves writing a blog from a thinking exercise to a task to be accomplished and allows all my energy to be dedicated toward getting it done.

I think everyone is far more productive when working on tasks instead of nebulous thought projects. Instead of ruminating about what I could incorporate into a syllabus, I turn thinking-into-task by putting my short list of options on paper to make it easier to choose what I use. I keep running lists of many things: dot ideas, things to do, gift suggestions, books to read – so that I can select one when warranted (task) instead of generating ideas from scratch (thinking). I try to start on a big project – the hardest part for me – so that what remains is more of a task to finish instead of a more daunting requirement to think about all of its component parts.

Consider strategies that you can incorporate to turn your thinking into tasks. Set up a weekly menu, so the object becomes making dinner instead of spending time wondering what to have for your next meal. Keep a cheat sheet of the clothes you pack for a trip so you know which outfit to wear for the day (task) instead of staring into your suitcase trying to remember what you brought (thinking). Develop a checklist for onboarding of new employees so you can focus your attention on making the experience special instead of spending brain power trying to remember all of the steps.

Yes, there is great value in thinking and allocating time to allow your mind to roam free – and it requires more time and mental capacity than most of us have for routine projects and daily responsibilities. Create systems to minimize the time spent thinking about inconsequential matters so that your brain and calendar are free to ruminate about the really important choices.

leadership dot #2475: find a partner

In workshops or classes, it is often desirable to mix people up into small groups apart from those in their immediate proximity. Too many times the presenter says: “find someone” or does the dreadful counting off by 1, 2, 3, etc. With just a bit of forethought, you can infuse much more creativity.

One of my favorite ways to mix groups is by handing participants a playing card as they enter. This opens up a host of mixing options: by color, by suit, matching number, odds/evens, opposite color, face card and number, etc. You can hand out cards in the beginning and use a variety of sorting strategies throughout the session.

It’s also easy to get people to pair by similarities: the (approximate) number of letters in their name, birthday season, number of “feet” in their family (allowing them to decide whether to count just humans or to include animal feet), number of siblings, astrological sign, etc.

You can also have people line up in order and then pair with the person who ends up next to them. Order could include: number of years with the organization, by height, by the last 4 digits of their phone number or by house number. Having people line up alphabetically also works: alpha by first or middle name, by their boss’ name, by hometown, favorite cartoon character or last television show they watched.

If you know the approximate number of participants in advance you can write names on strips of paper to distribute as people arrive – later having them find the other members of their set to form a group. Examples include: Fred, Barney, Wilma and Betty (the Flintstones); George, Elaine, Kramer and Jerry (Seinfeld); or Amy, Beto, Kamala and Bernie (presidential hopefuls). The same principle applies for categories instead of names: Pacers, Bulls, Lakers, Spurs (NBA teams) or Aquaman, Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Thor (superhero movies).

And, as a last resort, if you find yourself in a pinch to do a quick count-off, please at least do it in another language (uno, dos, tres…) or with some aspect of creativity (Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My…). You’ll achieve the same end result, but your participants will pair off with a smile.

leadership dot #2474: red or green

At a recent lecture, the speakers asked us to look around the room and find something that was red. Then we were asked to close our eyes and think of something in the room that was green. Most couldn’t do it. It was a quick, yet powerful exercise to illustrate that we see what we focus on — and often unintentionally ignore what is outside of that narrow view.

Of course, it’s one of the reasons that writing down goals is productive – it elevates our ambitions to top-of-mind and puts them in the front of our consciousness. Focusing on a topic also works for creativity if we allow the time for ideas to “incubate” in our mind. For example, I facilitated a strategic plan for a group that works with generational poverty and as soon as the date was set, I began seeing articles and news items related to that topic. I know that they were always there, but once I began to focus on the subject it was seemingly everywhere.

Our minds are too inundated with information to simultaneously focus in many directions with equal depth. Be conscious about whether you will look for “red” or “green” today and hone in on just one. It is better to bring vibrancy to one color than to mute them all in the background.

Marc and Angel Chernoff lecture “Getting Back to Happy!”, March 21, 2019, Hotel Julien Dubuque

leadership dot #2473: full service

I’ve been at Cell Phone Lots at several different airports and most of them are nothing but asphalt in a remote area of the terminal complex. Not in Austin, TX.

Someone there had the brilliant idea to treat the Cell Phone Lot like a rest stop – complete with a gas station, convenience store, fast food, public restrooms and picnic tables. They even have a large screen that displays flight information in case you need it.

The lot is still in a remote area so only services people who have some connection to the airport, but that includes those who are waiting to pick up passengers, airport employees and rental car returns – it was buzzing.

How can you reimagine a service that you provide and expand it to truly serve?

leadership dot #2472: chicken and egg

One of our grocery stores has recently added a bank of eight electric car charging stations to its parking lot. According to a 2018 government report, there are only 800 battery electric vehicles and an additional 1900 plug-in hybrids in the entire state – making the decision to dedicate eight prime parking spaces to this purpose seem to be a bit excessive at the moment.

I think that charging stations and electric cars suffer from some of the chicken and egg dilemma – which comes first? People are hesitant to buy electric cars if there are no places to charge them yet incurring the expense and forfeiture of space seems premature if no one is using them.

This same store has recently posted signs everywhere that “park and ride” cars will be towed. If their lot is reaching capacity to the extent that they tow vehicles, it surprises me even more that they took a row off-line for a low-use purpose – aggravating many current customers in the process.

One of the challenges of leadership is to determine a balance between addressing the needs of the present and preparing for the needs of the future. Don’t become so focused on the customers you hope to have that you forget about those you actually have today.






leadership dot #2471: vicious cycle

Shopping malls often get a bad rap for causing the demise of downtowns, but they were started with a more noble purpose beyond pure commercialism.

Architect Victor Gruen, known as the Father of The Suburban Shopping Mall, promoted the concept of malls because he believed that suburbs were missing the gathering space that was previously provided by downtowns. As families moved to the ‘burbs, there was no common area for them to meet neighbors, to walk or to interact as they shopped so Gruen created the indoor mall as a way to bring downtown to the suburbs. He included skylights, atriums, open areas and space for community events as a way to provide not just commerce, but a third-space for gathering.

As his concept became replicated across America, the malls resulted in additional urban decay and decline of downtown shopping districts. Gruen stopped building suburban malls and switched his attention to urban planning – creating “pedestrian malls” and greenways in many downtown areas. His influence is still seen today in many cities.

Through his work, Gruen sought to reverse the effects of what he called “the Vicious Cycle.” The growth of the suburbs initially occurred when planners decided it would be best to have “separation of urban functions.” Previously, everyone lived near where they worked and shopped but planners had the idea that living away from commercial and industrial areas was more desirable, so residential neighborhoods moved away from downtown. This led to a need for more road surfaces, which created urban sprawl, which increased the use of cars and decreased the use of public transportation which further increased the separation of functions.

If you put yourself in the mindset of the people at the time, you realize that those who created suburban neighborhoods and shopping malls did so with the good intentions but obviously had unintended consequences that shaped how we live and work. Ask yourself what we are doing now that future historians will look back on and wonder about our motivation.

Duane Hagerty, ArchiTREK Lunch & Learn: Dubuque’s Urban Renewal, 3/21/19