leadership dot #2663: diligence

At a workshop by Iowa Fraud Fighters, representatives from the Attorney General’s office shared warning signs of the different types of scams that target consumers. There are so many!

Everyone, but especially senior citizens are targeted by pyramid schemes, oil/gas/metal schemes, free dinner or vacation seminars, and promissory notes. Scammers prey on elderly who may not be as computer savvy and fool them into giving permission to allow the scammer to take over their computer and access all its data or they commit affinity group fraud by sending (false) messages to friends saying “I made this great investment, you should, too.” The presenters shared stories about “heartbreak schemes” where the caller knows enough information about loved ones to have you believe they are in trouble and need money now or callers that require a bank account number to deposit a “prize.”

Everyone in the room came with the thought: “Oh, I am smarter than that; I could never be conned,” but their stories and video of those who thought the same thing – yet still lost thousands or more – reinforced the sophisticated ways that “the bad guys” are using technology to make fake circumstances appear real — in person, via email, social media, calls or postal mail.

Their tips: never answer the phone of a number you don’t know; realize that paying by credit card offers more protection than gift cards, debit cards or cash; don’t rely on your Caller ID (scammers spoof the name and phone numbers); double-check all your bank and credit card statements and verify any charity or investment vehicle through the attorney general’s office before you donate. It sounds like common sense, but the only thing common about fraud these days is the frequency with which it happens to smart people.

leadership dot #2662: easy

While doing some purging, my sister found my childhood copy of Mother Goose in 5 Languages. It was a progressive concept back in the 1960s to have 45 rpm records with recitations of nursery rhymes in French, Spanish, Latin, German and English – probably the only place I heard a language other than English at that point in my life.

This book was trying to make the skills of language appreciation and cultural awareness easily accessible (and even fun) for children.

How can you adopt a similar approach and make things that are good for others become appealing? Having fruit cut up and on the counter instead of a tray of cookies. Making a company’s retirement savings plan opt-out instead of opt-in. Creating a neighborhood walking group that leaves from the bus stop every morning after dropping off the kids – when you’re up and out already.

In most cases, easy trumps good – you’ll do what is easy before you’ll do what is good for you. Take a lesson from Mother Goose and try to merge the two.


leadership dot #2661: spirit

This week I paid a premium price to see Shawshank Redemption in the theatre – even though I own it and practically have it memorized. It was the 25th Anniversary special showing and I thought I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to see it on the big screen for the first time.

I wasn’t interested in the film when it first came out, falsely believing that it was a film about prisons. It’s really a story about friendship – and about hope. I sometimes watch the movie when I’m feeling blue and need a dose of inspiration and renewed faith in the future.

As Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) says: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Everyone should have a go-to source of encouragement for those moments when doubt creeps in. Whether it’s a prayer, a song, a poem, or a movie — don’t hesitate to fuel hope with the words that speak to your spirit.

leadership dot #2660: contribution

When interviewing a potential employee, managers often look for a “cultural fit.” This makes sense as the new employee’s values need to align with those of the organization and they need to be comfortable operating within its environment; however, design firm IDEO’s founders encourage a different lens with which to view candidates: that of “cultural contribution.”

Instead of hiring people who are similar to everyone else, they suggest considering what differences a person can add to the organization and how they can make everyone uncomfortable in their thinking. Hiring someone with a varied background, nontraditional experience, or characteristic new to your organization can allow them to contribute creative perspectives, challenge assumptions and raise questions that others may not think to ask.

If you’re looking to stimulate thinking in your organization, hiring for cultural contribution instead of fit may be a good first step on this journey. Consider what you are missing and seek out candidates who bring you something new.


leadership dot #2659: improving

Karch Kiraly, the USA Women’s National Volleyball coach, always ends his conversations with players by asking: “How can I be better for you?”

I liked that question so much that last night I reprinted my end-of-course class evaluations to incorporate it: How could I have been better for you as a teacher? I can think of so many applications for this.

I love how the question not only invites feedback but creates an expectation that you’ll provide it. It serves as a welcoming space for someone to share comments and it models an attitude of continual improvement. Pretty powerful for seven little words.

Try incorporating the query in your conversations and meetings to create a culture where learning and feedback are natural behaviors. I’ll start: how could leadership dots be better for you? I’d love to hear your comments!

Source: Trevor Ragan’s Learner Lab newsletter

leadership dot #2658: gratitude

People don’t express gratitude enough these days. Oh, they may say “thank you” and be polite, but showing real gratitude goes deeper than that.

Rabbi Michael Latz describes it in this way:

“Gratitude is more than the simple expression of thanks.  Authentic gratitude is the recognition on the part of the person offering thanks to the one receiving the gratitude that the task at hand is simply too great to be done alone; it is the celebration of human connection and relationship, the realization that the gift has been bestowed on both parties for the interaction has changed and transformed them both, into something cosmically greater than they were alone.” 

Expressing true gratitude takes more thought than a rote comment and requires you to celebrate the relationship beyond just showing appreciation for accomplishing a task.

Think about who deserves your gratitude today – maybe someone who has given you feedback that was hard to hear but necessary, done a heavy lift on your behalf or consistently been there when you needed a shoulder. Celebrate them today.

Thanks, Amy!


leadership dot #2657: access

I listened to the audiobook It’s Not What it Looks Like, by the vivacious, funny, positive (and oh yeah, blind) Molly Burke. She shared many things to laugh about, think through and be grateful for but one that has been rattling around in my brain was how much accommodations for disabilities end up benefitting many more people than just the disabled audience.

Examples she gave include curb cuts that benefit wheelchairs also assist people pushing strollers or carts; close captioning aids the deaf and also those who use it to learn a new language to read the words as they hear them; and voice activation benefits those with physical limitations as well as people with their hands full who can’t immediately dial a phone, etc.

The Social Model of Disability states that disabled people are hampered more by the barriers in society than by their physical limitations. Universal Access reduces those barriers and allows everyone to function equitably.

What can your organization do to provide usage enhancements for everyone? Examples could include alternate text for descriptions on your images, always using a microphone for presentations, or web versions of publications that allow for text enhancement or voiceovers.

Do your part to make your organization and its message accessible to all.

leadership dot #2656: trial and error

We need to destigmatize failure.

Everyone knows the saying of “trial and error” but somehow most overlook the “error” portion of the phrase. Too many times we try things and expect them to work, rather than going into the experiment with a mindset of learning – whether that be from success or failure. Most new things are learned from refining what doesn’t work. We need those lessons to be as valuable as the rest.

I have a paperweight on my desk that reads: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” For many people, the answer would be to do more than they are doing now.

Don’t let the fear of “errors” keep you from the trial portion of the equation. It’s by doing that we learn and only by learning that we can do new.

leadership dot #2655: reclamation

It is in the best interest of beverage producers to promote recycling – better to encourage it while it is voluntary than to have plastic bottles outlawed or significantly taxed.

Toward that end, Coca-Cola has created a new ad campaign (alas, only for Europe) that combines recognition of its brand with directions to the nearest recycling bin. At a recent music festival, the ads drove recycling rates to 85%!

Maybe it was the billboard or maybe the fact that a recycling bin was publicly available – either way, the combination should be used as a model for future festivals or in neighborhoods.

I hope that Coca-Cola brings its recycling campaign to the U.S. – and that other beverage makers contribute to the effort. Just think of what the Clydesdales could do with this!

Until they join in, make your own fun signs to direct the cans and bottles toward reclamation instead of the landfill. Art contest anyone?

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2654: enhanced

I’m listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Talking to Strangers and it’s a whole new experience in audiobooks. Instead of one narrator reading the verbatim copy from the print version, Gladwell produced this book more like a podcast: it has music, interludes, and audio clips from the source giving the quote instead of another reading it. It’s definitely not your grandmother’s book-on-tape!

I think a parallel example is if a book on Kindle came complete with videos, animations and hyperlinks. I know this occurs already with “e-features” in online versions of magazines and I imagine that books aren’t far behind.

All of this rich media serves to enhance the content and, in my opinion, also serves to diminish the imagination. I rely on books to take me to new lands – in my head. I don’t need literal pictures or audio to create characters if the author is competent in their craft.

It’s often said that movies aren’t as good as the book – in large measure because our own interpretation is different from what the director’s was. Let’s leave it that way by leaving it open for us to craft whole worlds in our imagination instead of being spoon-fed what was in someone else’s head.