leadership dot #2999: melt

In most cases, using a truck to deliver goods is efficient but there are times when we need to stop and reassess that go-to method of transport. Such was the case on a 90-degree day when a truck loaded with bags of ice was waiting outside a store while the passenger ran in to do an errand. This ice was covered in nothing but a strap and I can’t believe that it remained tight for very long under those weather conditions.

Trucks are very handy, but if we always rely on using them, we may find ourselves in situations like this where they make no sense.

What is the equivalent of a truck in your organization – something that you default to no matter the logic or rationale behind it? Maybe you always use a particular vendor instead of doing occasional bids. Perhaps you give the prime assignments to one person instead of mentoring someone else. Or it could be that you automatically turn to one technology instead of implementing something more effective.

The next time you are tempted to do something on auto-pilot pause to consider whether it is the best response. Don’t let your rote method of execution cause your end results to melt away.

leadership dot 2998: jargon

This was the actual script of an online training I was required to take in preparation to work for the Census:

Keep in mind that this is orientation training so none of the acronyms, forms or abbreviations mean anything to the person working their way through this module. And, obviously, making a personal property claim isn’t something that is applicable before working (if ever), so going into this much detail at this point in the process makes no sense at all.

It’s tempting to want to cram everything an employee may need to know into the early days of training, but don’t do it. If you make the first days positive, relevant, and engaging, you’ll reap the dividends throughout the whole term of employment.

leadership dot #2997: accounting

When I was in high school and even college, all of the career aptitude tests I took said that I should be an accountant. I didn’t really know what was involved with the profession – except math which I did not like – so I dismissed the notion repeatedly without any further investigation.

Today, I can look back and see that this was a very reasonable suggestion. I know now that accounting is much more than just math and my detail orientation would have probably allowed me to be a very good accountant. While I don’t regret my actual career path, maybe I should have listened to the test results.

If you are given advice repeatedly, even if it sounds outlandish at the time, perhaps give it a bit more credence instead of instantly ignoring it. If you hear that you’re good at something or could improve at a portion of the task, pause to consider what is motivating the suggestion. Ask some clarifying questions to understand what’s at the root of the feedback and ponder whether the core idea has any merit.

Even if you don’t follow the advice you are given, there’s no accounting for what you can learn to enhance your work along the path you do choose.

leadership dot #2996: harder

I’ve noticed that the commercials in the gaming app on my phone are all boasting that the game they are advertising is “harder than it looks.” There are many variations on this theme: “I’ve tried 3333 times and still can’t get it” or “You won’t be able to do this,” as if the temptation is enough for me to want to prove them wrong.

That brand of motivation may work on the competitive spirits, but it turns me off. Why would I want to spend my time on a trivial task that you are telling me up-front is nearly impossible? No thanks. I would be much more inspired to try something that made a difference or that provided a few moments of mindless bliss or could improve my cognitive functioning, etc.

With games, as with everything else, you’ll be much more successful if you understand the different motivations that your people bring to the table. Who is fueled by recognition? Which person needs competition? Who will thrive on a challenge? When do meaning and purpose become the motivators?

Invest the time to know what drives those with whom you work closely – employees, colleagues, partners, vendors or other collaborators. It’s more than ascertaining whether to use the carrot or the stick; it’s refining your message and your incentives to align with deeply personal values to inspire internal motivation as well.

leadership dot #2995: elbow grease

In preparation for my sister’s visit, I scrubbed and sanitized my floors Cinderella-style, down on all fours with the bucket and sponge. I usually use a Swiffer which appeared to satisfactorily do the job but when I saw the floors from a new perspective, I could tell that I had just been hitting the surface instead of achieving a deep-clean.

I wonder what the equivalent is in your organization that could use more intensive scrutiny. Maybe a cursory update of your policies suffices in the short-term, but an in-depth review may be warranted. Perhaps your website remains adequate while only receiving sporadic attention but may be due for an overhaul to actually become an asset. Or maybe you only skim the surface with your employee engagement efforts instead of anchoring your strategy with a deep and meaningful plan.

It’s tempting to take the easy road and achieve some improvement with minimal effort, but for your work to truly shine you occasionally need to use the elbow grease.

leadership dot #2994: bacon

My brother is known in the family as the master breakfast maker in large part because he grills bacon to perfection. While I was watching his craft last weekend, I asked him what he attributes these skills to.

“I do the bacon one thing at a time,” he said. “I know that some people would have the bacon frying while the sausages are browning while the eggs are cooking, but then none of them get the attention they deserve.” The way he does it allows him to focus on the bacon item separately and ensure that it isn’t over or undercooked while he attends to the other dishes. The bacon consumes all of his consciousness until he moves on.

I hear often from employees who are trying to fry the bacon while also cooking the sausages, eggs, toast, and about seven other entrees. They may get it all done, but their “bacon” is likely not achieving perfection because of the split attention.

Most people don’t have the capacity to dedicate single-focus on every item, but your whole output will be improved if you have one element that wows. Figure out what your “bacon” is – what would provide the greatest impact if done at the highest level – and carve out the ability to give your undivided attention to creating that signature piece.


leadership dot #2993: bypass

A new bypass highway just opened after decades of planning. It is surrounded by pristine countryside, void of all commercial development and even housing. I’m sure it won’t remain that way for long, but for now, it provides the prettiest drive in town.

The Economic Development folks are bragging that it will impact the city for decades, but they only expound the positives. I think about the farmhouses that used to be isolated which now find themselves on a major highway. I worry about all the businesses that will be hurt by the diverted traffic, as they find their once-prime location now off the beaten path. I wonder what tourism will be lost as vehicles zip around the city instead of through it, seeing the great River and downtown.

I’m also sure new opportunities will abound as subdivisions and shopping areas grow near the exits. The highway will save time and lessen congestion. People will stop using the “unofficial bypass” as they no longer cut through residential neighborhoods to get from one end of the city to the other. As with most things, there is an upside as well as a down.

As you contemplate major projects of your own, don’t get seduced by looking only at the benefits. You may decide that the price you pay is worth it, but remember that all good things come with a cost.


leadership dot #2992: remorse

Pantone, the color-matching service, just announced that they were introducing 315 new colors. It made my head hurt. I am not sure the world needs that many more choices with obviously so little distinction between the colors that already exist.

And apparently, I am not the only one who feels that way. In order to combat color-remorse, Lowe’s has introduced Paint Insurance. For less than four bucks, you can try your color at home but receive a replacement if it turns out not to be to your liking or if the color on your wall appears differently than it does on the tiny piece of sample paper. This is a blessing for those of us who can’t identify a warm color from a cool color or tell the difference between Delicious Mint and Peaceful Bay. We just know what we like on the wall and what we don’t!

Two thoughts to consider today: 1) before you expand your offerings – whether that be the number of color choices, the variety of services you offer, the options you provide or the ways in which you deliver something – pause to consider whether choice adds value or just dilutes it; and 2) if you do provide a multitude of alternatives, also include an escape hatch that allows users to alter their choices afterward. Many may not utilize your insurance, but it will provide peace of mind and help mitigate remorse just to know it’s there.

Choice is powerful on the front end – giving buyers the illusion that they are able to pick something perfectly suited to them – but it’s more powerful on the back end as it allows people to like something because they don’t feel forced into keeping it.

leadership dot #2991: revive

My neighbor’s yard looks terrible as most of the front yard is dead year-round, not just from the summer heat. It’s not from a lack of attention; she pays to have it chemically treated, but to no avail.

I know she is working on it because every month there is a sign from the fertilizer company stating that they have applied chemicals to the area. If I owned the franchise, I wouldn’t want my name associated with that lawn as it proclaims “abject failure” to anyone who knows it’s not the first treatment. No matter how many applications, the yard remains barren.

The sign reminds me that brands are built on little interactions that often go without notice to those crafting a brand strategy. Some corporate person thought it would be a good idea to leave behind little flags as a reminder that the service was performed, but never stopped to consider the harm those would cause in situations where the treatments failed. What if there were two different flags, including one that said: “we’re working on it…” and gave a phone number vs. just stating the name of the company?

It’s hard to think of all the scenarios while sitting in an office. To understand the true impact of your brand, get out into the field and see where you intersect with actual consumers. What you find may make you reconsider how to revive your efforts.

leadership dot #2990: broadband

Many have come to expect the internet to be available everywhere, much like electricity and running water, but the reality is that millions of Americans – between 21 million and 162 million depending upon who reports it – still lack access to regular broadband.

For most people, the internet has become a “necessity” rather than a luxury, especially during COVID. Schools have converted to online learning, putting those without connection at a disadvantage. The U.S. Census went to an online format for reporting, and even the Census training for those doing the follow-up counting was delivered through the internet. Those who have access rely on it for commerce, financial transactions, personal interaction and just about everything else.

It’s easy for those in offices with high-speed connections to put materials online and expect clients to conduct business with them remotely. But remember that nearly one-quarter of rural homes are still lacking stable connections and a portion of your client base may be unable to reach you if you rely exclusively on the internet for them to do so.

Go back to the mantra from John Naisbitt’s 1982 book Megatrends and provide high tech and high touch. Not one or the other.