leadership dot #2565: less

When my niece was in town, we visited an organic pig farm – combining her love of (all) animals and my desire to do activities that she couldn’t do at home in the big city. We learned from the farmer that he has a sustainable and profitable operation with 100 sows – one-fourth of the number he had a few years ago.

This contraction was done on purpose as he determined that he could meet the demand of his best customers with far fewer pigs – thus reducing his expenses and greatly increasing his quality of life. As a result, he cut out direct-to-consumer sales, focused on his key clients, sold some of his land and is doing quite well with a far more manageable number of animals.

It is the natural inclination of people to “add” in the quest to achieve “more”. We reflexively make additions to our to-do list, our product offerings, our calendar and our strategic plan. But, as was confirmed on the farm, the real magic comes when we subtract the right things.

leadership dot #2564: boo-boos

How do you command a premium price for an ordinary product? One way is through packaging. The Welly Company has done just that with a new line of bandages that come in colorful containers labeled with clever names.

There is a whole series of colorful first-aid items: Bumper Stickers (for knee and elbow injuries), Blister Blasters (for fingers and toes) and Kicker Stickers (that protect from heel rubs). Creams are called Bravery Balm and Calm Balm (to relieve itching). Other supplies include Comfy Covers, Oops Equipment, a Human Repair Kit and Dressings for Distress.

The items cost about twice what the standard first aid supplies do, but it may be worth it to parents. Instead of begging a child to tend to their wound, it would be a lot more enticing for him to wear a Bravery Badge, to utilize Superhero Supplies or to select a Handie Bandie from the polka dotted box.

A rose by any other name may still be a rose, but a boo-boo salved with Bravery Balm and Hero Tape is designed to provide quicker relief than Neosporin and a bandage. How can you repackage the ordinary and make it “all better” for your organization?

 

leadership dot #2563: dimension

Instead of placing a typical advertisement in the home airport of its world headquarters, John Deere took a creative approach to remind passengers that they were in Deere territory. Throughout the terminal are banks of seats that are replicas of those used in Deere tractors and construction equipment, providing not only a reminder of the area’s premier business but also providing much greater comfort than the standard seats surrounding them.

It may have been impractical to put an actual tractor or bulldozer on the concourse but the seats convey the same brand identity in an instant. Is there a piece of your product or a tangible aspect of your service that could be repurposed for advertising or brand awareness? A nursery could create planters in a mall or place of worship. A potter could provide ceramic mugs for a coffee shop. A discount store could provide shopping carts to use at an outdoor festival or fair.

Signs, social media posts and other 2-D advertisements are passe. Find a way to bring some dimension into your awareness campaign.

leadership dot #2562: indigo

Blue jeans are, well, blue in my mind but I recently learned that there is a lot more color that goes into making a pair of indigo denim.

Denim is made through a diagonal weaving process that utilizes three strands of blue thread on top of one strand of white thread. This method creates a whiter underside of the material but is also responsible for the signature fading quality of denim.

And the synthetic dye that is used to transform the cotton into that indigo blue: it is bright yellow until it encounters oxygen.

So, without the yellow dye and white threads, denim wouldn’t be blue.

I think jeans can be a metaphor for the power of diversity. We sometimes only see blue but it comes from the amalgamation of two other hues. None would be in existence without the other. Take some time to look more deeply, not just at your jeans, but at your organization and community. How can you learn to appreciate the contributions that all the colors are making?

leadership dot #2561: word choice

I am continually struck by the power of language and how nuances in word choice can change the meaning of an entire concept. I especially wonder about this with the notion of climate change. So many of the early warnings centered around “global warming” and, while I personally believe the scientists, not everyone is directly experiencing warming. In the midst of the polar vortex when it was -55 degrees, global warming seemed to be a foreign concept and gave fuel to the doubters. I wonder if there would have been greater acceptance if scientists had initially framed the issue as “climate change” from the start – a concept that seems irrefutable given the havoc that weather is creating around the globe. If more people could agree that the climate is certainly changing, it may be a starting point for discussions regarding what to do about it.

A similar shift is occurring in the mental health arena, with many advocating for the use of “brain health” vs. “mental illness” in an attempt to reduce the stigma that the latter often creates. If we treated an unhealthy brain with the same compassion and access as we provide to unhealthy bodies it could create a world of opportunity for many.

In the social sector, language is changing away from “foster care” which sounds nurturing to “stranger care” which is the reality of what occurs in many out-of-home placements. The more accurate descriptor creates an urgency to focus on prevention rather than on additional facilities.

Language is also being reframed around gender identity, expanding beyond the binary “male or female” to a multitude of choices, a personal preference for pronouns and a movement toward neutral language that precludes labels altogether.

A change of language can become a euphemism, designed to sugar coat the real issue at hand, such as calling lies “misunderstandings” or disguising unpaid grunt workers as “interns”, but language can also serve to create an opening for understanding and action. Take care to describe that which is important to you with words that others are able to hear.

leadership dot #2560: 2-1/2 years

Today is Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the freeing of the last enslaved people in the United States on June 19, 1885 in Galveston, Texas. If you’re an astute student of history you will note that this is two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation that, in theory, gave slaves their freedom.

Juneteenth is a perfect illustration that just because a leader says there is to be a change does not mean that those who are to enact it actually do so. Proclaiming a change and implementing it are two very different things, carried out by two distinct functions within an organization.

In this case, the Texans were not about to relinquish their “property” until they were forced to do so. It took two years for Major General Granger to provide the might necessary to mandate that change occur, needing to wait until the war concluded and enough Union troops became available to make their way to southern Texas for law enforcement instead of civil war combat.

In addition to spending time developing bold proclamations about the change you want to occur, dedicate resources toward creating an implementation plan to ensure that things actually change. Leaders – and all political candidates – would be wise to take lessons from Juneteenth. Good intentions – and even good laws – don’t become a reality overnight.

 

leadership dot #2559: finished

A local restaurant just did an extensive remodel. As we walked in you could notice the changes immediately: new carpet, new serving areas, new paint, new tables, and new décor. It was impressive – until we went to sit down. It was then that we encountered the seats in the booth that needed more than a cosmetic upgrade; they needed to be tossed. In one instant, all the enhancements were negated.

The last mile can often make or break the entire outcome. A restaurant that remodels but leaves the torn benches invalidates the whole upgrade. The road project that fails to smooth out the transition points still leaves drivers frustrated. The grant with an improper table of contents or budgets that don’t add up casts doubt on the entire document.

Think of the projects that you have been involved with – have you persisted until the very end or left similar loose ends hanging? It’s easy to say that you ran out of time or money or that you are “going” to get to the final details, but releasing something as finished before it truly is done distracts from the overall outcome. Something is only “new” once. If your new comes with flaws, you’ve lost out on the positive reaction that newness should have earned you. Make sure that you’re truly done before you claim to be finished.