leadership dot #2590: feel the love

Today is the much-anticipated release of the live-action Lion King movie, the story that is a gem in the Disney empire. It’s the highest-grossing entertainment property in history, bringing in $8.1 billion in revenue from the Broadway version alone. Add in the original movie (and soundtrack), Broadway soundtrack, spin-offs and merchandising – well, there are more dollar signs than hyenas.

Part of what made the story magical was the music, specifically the Can You Feel the Love Tonight ballad sung by Elton John. And while hindsight would make it obvious that the song would be a mega-hit – winning a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, plus earning Sir Elton a Grammy – it wasn’t always so clear to the folks at Disney.

The producers originally slated the song to be sung by the comic sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa but Elton John vetoed that plan, stating “it was meant to follow Disney’s tradition of great love songs and that it could express the lions’ feelings for each other better than the dialogue could.”  Modifications were made to have the song in the background during the “love scene” and to be fully featured during the credits. John exerted his influence again when the song was cut from one of the final screenings and insisted that it be returned to the movie, a wise move considering it went Platinum and sold over 1 million copies.

If you’re one of the many to see the new version of the movie or to hear the song again after a hiatus, remember that what in retrospect what seems like a sure hit had a rough road to greatness. If not for the persistence of its champion the ballad would have never been heard outside of the studio.

Even Disney can get some things wrong – until they have the wisdom to listen to others in order to get them right. You, too, can feel the love if you don’t dig in and let greatness pass you by — and if you don’t give up when you believe in something so strongly. Hakuna Matata!

leadership dot #2589: de-preciation

Yesterday was Customer Appreciation Day at my local bank – advertised with a big spread in their newsletter inviting me to come and enjoy ice cream at my branch. I had business to transact and it was 90+ degrees so it seemed like a good opportunity to partake in the festivities.

It turned out that “Appreciation Day” was an ice cream machine stuck in the corner that you would only find if you were looking for it. No signs. No balloons. No giveaways. And not even any staff to tend to the table which had gotten quite full of crumbs by the time I arrived.

Businesses have the option as to whether or not to provide an “appreciation day” so it boggles my mind as to why someone would choose to do it but do it so poorly. They would have been far better off either a) doing nothing or b) saying nothing and just having it be a happy accident that a few of today’s customers would stumble upon the ice cream machine. But to make something sound like a big deal and deliver far below is not a good strategy.

If you decide to provide recognition – to your customers, employees, volunteers or any group – think deeply about it before you do it halfway. ‘Tis better to do nothing than to underwhelm.

leadership dot #2588: share

Writer Anne Lamott was asked by someone if they could use one of Anne’s lessons in a blog they were writing. I love Anne’s generous response: “Yes, help yourself – everyone, to anything I’ve written.” I feel the same way (with attribution, of course!)

Not sharing your writing is akin to those who hoard their recipes without divulging the “secret ingredient”, or presenters who won’t make their PowerPoints accessible to others or people who hesitate in revealing where they purchased that fabulous outfit/accessory/décor. Why wouldn’t you share?

There is essentially nothing new in this world. Anything creative is a different twist on something that already existed, so even the inquirer uses Anne’s lessons, it will be in a new context that will enrich Anne’s thoughts, not diminish them.

I am reminded of the adage from John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”

And a great way to do that is to be generous in sharing your “stuff” in whatever form that may be.

leadership dot #2587: ratios revisited

One of the most powerful ways to impact the environment without inconveniencing people is to change the municipal regulations regarding parking lots. Currently, retailers must provide a set number of parking spaces, plus additional handicapped spaces, for each square foot of built space. As a result, parking lots for retail are huge and have an excessive capacity for the majority of the time.

This point was brought home during resurfacing of a local strip mall lot: literally, half of the parking area was closed off, yet there were still empty spaces at a peak time on the weekend. Why did that whole area of fertile Iowa farmland need to be paved over just to sit empty?

Parking lot regulations are formula-driven and that calculation has served builders well for many years. But as more people opt for online purchasing or on-site pickup instead of parking, it’s time to revisit the requirements for how much land must become asphalt, yet be destined to sit idle the majority of the time.

Standard parking lot regulations usually translate to about 10 parking spots for every 1000 feet of retail space. (A small Target averages 40,000 sq ft = 400 parking spots vs. a large Target at 130,000 sq ft = 1300 parking spots). Not only do the parking lots have a negative environmental impact to make them, as asphalt and concrete production is energy-intensive, but they continue to cause issues when the water that drains off of them picks up contaminants instead of allowing rain to directly permeate the earth.

What is the equivalent of a parking lot ratio in your organization – something that you have not reconsidered for years but maybe could use a recalculation to reflect more contemporary times? It’s worth a look to avoid ongoing investments in something that is just wasted because no one bothered to do an update.


leadership dot #2586: corps

As I watched a drum and bugle corps competition, I could barely follow all the moving parts. There were hundreds of members spread across the full field with flags flying in one direction, “guns” being thrown in another, horns swaying one way and the drums marching at their side, all while the front ensemble added in their own music and entertainment. It seemed that each component had its own separate act, yet it was clearly orchestrated as part of the whole.

In addition to the performance, all of the corps members contributed to the set-up and tear-down of the props, conductor stand, electrical cords, flags, etc. It, too, was a well-choreographed production where everyone knew their role and carried it out efficiently.

The program booklet highlighted that the delegation of duties occurred behind the scenes as well, thanking volunteers who “cook, sew, drive, teach, fix or construct instruments, work on props, serve on the board, wash cars, stir the Squencher, fix kids’ ailing limbs, build or clean stuff, take in stranded members stuck in the airport, help with recruiting, work on fundraising or find all of these great volunteers mentioned above.”

Organizations would be well-served to take a field trip to a drum and bugle corps competition and to apply lessons from there to their own organization. It should be the goal of all organizations to work with such efficiency, artistry and coordination – as a unit, but ultimately as a whole.


leadership dot #2585: black hairy tongue

In a recent Zits comic strip, Jeremy was caught looking through his dad’s old dental school yearbooks. Dad got all excited and said: “Doing some career shopping?” Jeremy replied: “No, looking for band names. ‘Black Hairy Tongue’ – that’s a definite maybe.”

While it seems absurd out of context, band names tend to skew toward the crazy: Smashing Pumpkins, Bare Naked Ladies, Lonely Goats, Hootie & the Blowfish, Matchbox 20, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Echo & the Bunnymen, and, appallingly, the Child Molesters. Even bands that have become iconic – so we have become accustomed to their name – don’t really make sense when taken in isolation: the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, the Who, and the Grateful Dead just to name a few.

When assembling a group together in a workshop or for a team project, instead of encouraging them to provide a team name – which tends to conjure sports teams or common nouns – require your group to name themselves as a band. (You can also use it as an individual icebreaker: “If you were going to start a band, what would you name it?”) The exercise automatically gives them license to be crazy and stimulates thinking outside of the box – music to the ears of a facilitator.

leadership dot #2584: sensitive

It’s one thing to have the resources that your clientele needs but another thing to be proactive in making the resources easily accessible. The librarians in Brookline, MA understood that some customers may feel awkward asking for books on sensitive subjects so they compiled a reference list and placed it in library bathrooms.

Topics included birth control, depression, domestic violence, eating disorders, grieving, pregnancy and suicide and were listed on a flyer that read: “We are here to help, but we know some things are hard to ask about. We’ve created these signs to help you navigate whatever you’re going through.” This thoughtful tool may be just what is needed to get a person the help that they need.

Think about what sensitive subjects exist in your organization – either for your customers or employees – and then anticipate how you could approach them in a compassionate and private manner. Aim to make the hard stuff as easy to address as you can.

Thanks to Father Nathan Monk for the post.