leadership dot #2541: artist

“One day, people who don’t believe in you will tell everyone how well they know you.”  — Kent Youngstrom

Kent is an artist — and an inspiration for others who aspire to be. He shares lessons about his journey toward claiming the identity of being an artist, the self-doubt that preceded his embracing of the title, and some of the inner glory that came once he owned it.

I have his quote in my office and think of the many times that I have faced doubters who have later claimed proximity to success. It’s a tough job to forge a new path, to strike out on your own or to do something out of the ordinary. It is most certainly lonely.

But hopefully, the work you create or the difference you make will lead to personal satisfaction, regardless of what others believe. Keep making your art.




leadership dot #2540: generes

I’ve always thought that the difference in temperaments could be described as by comparing them to journalism vs. creative writing. Pure reporters are trained to just put it out there – just the facts Ma’am – concisely, prioritized and without embellishment. Authors, on the other hand, have liberties to create and fantasize and to be much more eloquent in their thinking. It’s like someone who is direct vs. someone who is more nuanced. Both have their place; they are just different.


But the more I think about this analogy, the more layers it has. There are different types of journalists: news reporters who follow the pure model and stick to facts; feature writers who are akin to creative writers with more flourish; sports reporters who are focused on the action and columnists or opinion writers who offer analysis and insights. The different parts of the newspaper seem to parallel the True Colors temperaments or personality types.

Creative writers, too, parallel the temperaments with their genres: fact-based stories that parallel real events, romance novels, thrillers and science fiction.

I wonder if we gravitate toward one type of writing – or one type of reading – depending upon our innate preferences. It sounds like a dissertation study!

Pay attention to the reading you do – online, in books or in the newspaper – and conduct your own mini-study. If you find yourself focused on one area, take the advice I give my temperament session participants and branch out. An artist with only one color on their palette is limited in what they can create, just as a reader with only one perspective is missing what the other perspectives have to offer.


leadership dot #2539: visitors

I collect pin-back buttons, so when I heard about a Button Museum I had to go. I wasn’t expecting anything elaborate but I did think there would be more than a wall of display cases literally lining a wall in the button-manufacturer’s office area.

It was a case of where the back of the house did not consider the front of the house experience. The office employees were pleasant but we were clearly an interruption to their work. No one really knew any stories or history of the artifacts. Their prized possessions, campaign buttons from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were kept elsewhere for safe-keeping! (Isn’t that why you go to a museum – to see things you can’t see elsewhere?)

Most of all, it was a lost opportunity to create an experience. All you did was walk by display frames of random buttons and leave. They are a button manufacturer yet did not have an area where you could make your own button on site. There was no guest book or map where visitors could leave their mark to show from where they came or anything to make the visit special. No one asked whether I was a collector or why I came. There was a box of their castaways that you could choose a button from, but it could have been so much more.

If you want to keep your products and office environment to yourself, by all means, do so. But if you open them up to visitors and encourage them to visit your “museum”, consider your purpose for doing it. Presumably, it is to extend your brand, draw in new clients and increase awareness of your operation. If so, as much care should go into your visitor experience as to your manufacturing. If you invite visitors, treat them as guests. See the area from your customer’s view and think about ways that you can “wow” them and treat them like royalty for stopping by.


leadership dot #2538: outlining

I spent my three-day weekend writing an 80-page federal grant. The hardest part? Creating an outline of what I was going to write.

We had been talking about this project for weeks and I had input from numerous collaborators on what content should be included. The government provides a proposal outline of course, but my challenge was synthesizing all the ideas into a cohesive outline to follow when writing. It took four sheets of flip chart paper with two columns each and a full day to compile but in the end, it made the writing process so much easier.

By outlining, I don’t mean a rigid sequence or the use of Roman numerals, rather a bullet list of points to make in the anticipated or approximate order. It becomes liberating instead of restrictive.

When faced with a large project, it’s often tempting to jump right in. That may work for some people, but my time is better spent investing in the front end. Once you have an outline, it’s like punching in the GPS coordinates to your destination – much faster to follow a route than to get lost on the way.

leadership dot #2537: flags

This weekend may be the start of summer for some, but in my town, it’s known as the start of flag season. The local Eagles Club provides a service project whereby members place American flags outside businesses for each patriotic holiday this summer: Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The companies pay for the flags, but the Eagles do all the work: setting them up a few days before and taking them down on Monday after the designated event.

Many businesses participate in this project and so the flags become very noticeable. With the benefit of a little breeze as was the case this weekend, Old Glory is even more glorious.

The flag project is a perfect intersection between service and visibility. So often, good deeds are done to individuals or behind-the-scenes in ways that not many can see: a donation, a scholarship or helping someone who has medical issues, but the flags bring a wave of patriotism to many.

This Memorial Day remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom and pay them tribute by serving in a way that brings joy to another.

leadership dot #2536: sorry day

In Australia, today is National Sorry Day, a holiday established in 1998 to make atonement for the separation of Aboriginal children from their native people. The removals occurred from 1910 to 1970, but the Sorry Day did not occur for nearly 30 years after the practice ended, and the public apology did not come until another decade after that.

Saying “I’m sorry” and admitting mistakes is hard for a country to do and it’s also challenging for an individual. It gets even harder when so much time has passed and relationships have been severed.

But take a lesson from Australia and do the right things by making amends. Who needs to hear “I’m sorry” from you today? Do the right thing and be the first one to extend your hand in reconciliation.


leadership dot #2535: while waiting

For many people, time spent waiting is time “wasted” — but not for the Gardner family. Every day, instead of being irritated by the time spent in the school drop off or pick-up lines, they would read books. The goal was to complete the A to Z Mystery Series this year and this week they accomplished it – with even a few days in the school year to spare!

Reading while in line is a great habit to instill in children (and yourself!). We all know that inevitable waits will occur yet we tend to treat them as unexpected. As a result, we fail to prepare for them – or to use the minutes to actually do something besides “wait”.

There is no one I know that doesn’t wish they had more time. Take a lesson from these children and be more effective in using the time you do have.

Thanks, Jeni!

leadership dot #2534: higher calling

Clif Bar believes so strongly in the value of going organic that they offered to share their expertise to help their largest competitor (Mars’ brand Kind Bars) transition to using more organic materials. In the New York Times, Clif challenged Kind to “make an investment in the future of the planet and our children’s children by going organic.” Clif offered to give away not just their knowledge about how to go organic but added in 10 tons of organic ingredients as an incentive. Talk about living your values!

Clif made this offer because they see their purpose as bigger than making energy bars. Their aim is higher than making any one product; their goal is to impact the food system and increase the use of organic throughout the country. As part of this effort, they are not only challenging Kind but also serve as the largest private funder of organic research in the country.

For Clif, the goal of organic is bigger than sales, and they have recognized that they need to inspire partners to work with them to achieve it. It reminded me of that old adage about the bricklayer not just laying bricks or even building a wall, but as someone who saw his job as helping to build a cathedral.

How high is your organization’s vision? Have you inspired people to work for a cause or are you mired down in making products? You may know the answer to that if you’re willing to share your knowledge with a competitor in order to achieve it.

leadership dot #2533: finance-phobia

I recently facilitated a workshop about finances that was part of a series for nonprofit leaders and board members. The guest speaker asked participants to raise their hand if they normally would avoid such a topic – and most of the hands went up!

I, too, once had finance-phobia and avoided any in-depth discussions that involved budgeting, income statements, balance sheets and the like. That is until I rose in the ranks and suddenly needed to know these things and more. I became responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets, working with lenders on bond issues for construction and serving as a leader on a board where I carried the fiduciary responsibility, even if it wasn’t accompanied by adequate knowledge. Suddenly, those Finance 101 workshops seemed relevant, but now I wanted them to go even deeper.

I shared this story with participants and let them know that I eventually spent a lot of time and money to earn an MBA (after my doctorate) because I had to have that level of knowledge on the subject to be successful at my job. I encouraged them – and now, you – to pay attention when exposed to financial matters, or even better, to seek them out through training, volunteer experiences or asking as many questions as you can when given the opportunity.

Money is the universal language through which business is conducted – no matter if that business is a booster club, lemonade stand, side hustle, nonprofit board or a major corporation. The more you can understand what to pay attention to and pitfalls to watch for, the better equipped you are to have power in this critical area.

Cure yourself of finance-phobia one line-item at a time. You don’t have to become an accountant, but ignorance will eventually limit you.

leadership dot #2532: reimagined

Even if you’re not an athlete, I’ll bet you have seen Nike shoes and Nike shoeboxes hundreds of times in your life. You’ll never look at them the same way again after seeing some of the art that Stephen Signa-Aviles created using just those items.

Signa-Aviles sculpted shoes and boxes into elaborate chickens and birds (and many other items seen here) thus turning an ordinary object into beautiful art – or at least that is how it appears to me. For him, it’s a deeper statement about hip-hop, consumerism and masculinity.

Think about the message that you’re trying to convey. Instead of traditional methods, is there a way to reimagine something that is around you every day? An art exhibit with creative sneakers is much more powerful than another tweet about consumerism. What is a novel way to share your story?