My friend recently purchased a truck and suddenly I see hundreds of white pickups on the road. They used to all look the same but I quickly learned to train my eye to the Ford logo on the grill. If it wasn’t there, then it wasn’t him. If the white truck was a Ford, then I could scan for the half-door instead of a full four-door back seat, and if it met that layer of distinction then I moved on to other features until I could tell at a glance if it was “the” white pickup that I should wave at. The trucks all looked the same – until they didn’t.

Did you know that zebras are the same way? Each individual animal has a different pattern and the more you look at them the more their uniqueness stands out. As a herd or contrasted with giraffes, a dozen zebras look identical but up close, you could pick “your” zebra out of the savannah. A zebra isn’t black with white stripes or white with black stripes – it’s both, and neither – as it is a collection of characteristics that are true only to it.

If appreciating the differences by recognizing individual nuances works for trucks and animals, think of how powerful it is with people. Work to move from “all” to “this one.”


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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