leadership dot #3020: peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, a United Nations-sanctioned holiday that is commemorated around the world. The day is designed to encourage people to pause and “for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences.”

The UN Resolution that established the day calls for 24-hours of nonviolence and ceasefire. While I doubt that many readers of the dots walk around with literal weapons or impose physical violence, I believe that all of us are guilty of disrupting the peace through making misspoken comments, causing unintentional hurts or allowing unresolved conflicts to fester in our relationships.

As the elections draw nearer, the pandemic tests our patience and the uncertainty that surrounds us takes its toll it becomes more frequent that our actions can cause discord more than they forge harmony. For today, make your own commitment to encourage peace – in your home, your community and in your heart.


leadership dot #3019: affirmations

It can be tough to be upbeat as the pandemic lingers on so we need to infuse positive self-talk and affirmations wherever we can. Such was the idea behind Notes to Self socks that come with positive messages sewn into the material.

Founder Laura Schmidt read that the subconscious mind is most open to new thoughts in the morning and evening and decided to leverage one of the activities people routinely perform at that time – getting dressed/undressed. Notes to Self socks are designed to provide a quick word of encouragement that will last throughout the day: I am strong, I am a great teacher, I am confident, I believe, etc.

Two lessons to take from this: 1) capitalize on existing habits to add some positivity and affirmations into your life and 2) pay attention to those fleeting ideas that you have, even if they seem a bit crazy. Sewing affirmations onto socks may be outside the mainstream, but they have sold “hundreds of thousands” of them as well as donating over 70,000 pair to homeless shelters.

Rather than just a Post-it note of kind words on your mirror, maybe times call for wearing your affirmations around with you all day!



leadership dot #3018: bingo

The nominees for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame were just announced and I was astonished to learn of two of the potential candidates: Bingo and Yahtzee. I would have thought they would have been enshrined many years ago.

Bingo has been a standardized game since 1929 and is the object of organized fundraising events in almost every city. It has been a staple at county fairs, church festivals and nursing home activity rooms for generations. Yahtzee, too, has a long history dating back to its inception in the 1940s and its owner Hasbro still sells 50 million games each year.

Whether or not Bingo and/or Yahtzee are among the three lucky inductees this year, they provide a lesson of persistence to all of us: do what you do best and keep doing it, year after year, decade after decade, whether or not you receive any official recognition for it. These games have brought countless hours of enjoyment to many. We should all be so lucky to have that as our legacy.

leadership dot #3017: rum

During a particularly stressful project at work, a colleague gave me a tiny bottle of rum for moral support. The joke was that if it got too bad, I could always pour the rum into my Diet Coke as stress relief. The bottle stayed (discretely) in my office for nearly a decade until I returned it to the giver during a particularly rough patch for him.

I never opened the rum but it was comforting to know that it was there. The same principle applied with pain medicine after my periodontist’s handiwork and with a friend’s pain pills after surgery. Neither of us used more than one pill but it was reassuring to know that we had relief available.

Was it ever so bad that I felt I needed the rum or more drugs? No, but I was glad that I was the one deciding that. People are able to accept hardship when they believe they are able to set the limits of what is tolerable for them.

Whenever possible, give your team a relief valve over which they have jurisdiction. Unlock the thermostat and allow people to regulate the temperature. Provide spontaneous flex days when a mental health break is needed. Create an emergency fund that your staff can borrow from. Let people opt out or leave early without question when they’ve reached a breaking point.

Most people won’t gulp down all the pills in the bottle but the pain will feel less just because the medicine is available to them. Trust your staff enough to give them that control.

leadership dot #3016: rap

Today is Constitution Day in recognition of the signing of our country’s most important document on September 17, 1787. The Constitution outlines the framework for the government, something we often take for granted unless it isn’t working!

Since many schools have eliminated “Civics” from their core curriculum, the government requires all colleges that receive federal aid (i.e., almost all of them) to conduct Constitution Day education to make people aware of these fundamental principles that guide our democracy. Even the adults could use a refresher and this rap video may be a way to provide it.

The rapper YelloPain merges a very contemporary storytelling method (rap) to share the importance of voting and to explain the three branches of government in an edgy way that makes it more relevant to young and diverse people. It’s worth your 4 minutes to take it all in.

YelloPain is right that all the attention, especially in this election cycle, is focused on the presidential race, but the real difference-makers can be the Congress, state legislators and even local public servants. Make it a priority to learn the background of all those on your ballot and, most importantly, to cast your vote to keep our Constitutional values alive.

leadership dot #3015: answer

A colleague was lamenting that her staff members continually turned to her for answers instead of resolving the problem or making decisions on their own. She provided an example of when an employee came to her with a situation and asked what to do about it. I asked her what reply she gave and she told me her response – followed by a silent moment of recognition.

The supervisor had given the employee the answer to the question and it finally dawned on her that it was no wonder people kept coming to her for answers – because she kept providing them! Instead of telling others what to do, a far more effective strategy in this situation is to reply with a question. Asking “What do you think you should do?” would be a good start.

It’s hard to develop independence and autonomous decision-making without practice. While it may be tempting – and likely much easier — in the short run to reply with the answer, you’ll never get out of that dependence loop if you keep doing so. The next time you’re asked a “how” question, utilize the moment to do some coaching instead of answering. Help your employee think through options and prioritize scenarios. Giving them confidence instead of prescribing responses is far better for everyone in the long term.

leadership dot #3014: gardener

I heard a nugget today that sounds simple but sums up much of what it takes to be an effective supervisor:  “Water your flowers and pull your weeds.”

New supervisors often struggle with one side of the equation. They either spend all of their time on their problem employees and assume their stars will succeed on their own, or they encourage their high-performing staff members and hope the low-performers will come around. Neither is a good solution.

To create a desirable culture and empower your staff, you need to nurture those who show promise and deal with those who don’t – either by coaching them to meet your standards or by letting them go. It’s never easy to fire someone, but if all other avenues have been exhausted, it’s the necessary action for the good of the team. The more you allow them to linger, the more they will choke off the energy of those who would otherwise flower.

Treat your role as a supervisor like that of a dedicated gardener. You’re responsible for tending to everything that grows in your plot.



leadership dot #3013: interim

In a true sign of accepting reality, our mall converted one of the prime retail spaces into a rest area/mini-library. It’s located at the crossroads of the mall’s two wings, in theory, the busiest spot in the mall. It was once the home of a jewelry chain and when that went out of business, instead of leaving it available for another tenant, the mall tore out all the walls and doors and made it into an open area.

It’s a great space to take a break – if there was anyone around who needed one. I’m not sure if it was designed for walkers, mall employees or the mythical harried shoppers but, like most of the stores around it, it sits vacant.

I think about all the unused space that surrounds us – bankrupt stores, unoccupied office buildings, restaurants that didn’t survive the pandemic, schools with reduced enrollments – there is a wealth of built-up infrastructure that is currently unused. If you’re the owner of such space, rather than allow it to sit vacant to entropy think about a creative new use for your real estate. Can you rent it as a temporary office for parents who need to do Zoom calls with some privacy? Convert it into a studio for those forced to shift from in-person to remote presentations? Offer it as a voting place? Give shelter to some in need?

Space that sits vacant depletes energy from all who see it. Capitalize on the opportunity to give something or someone a new home, even if it’s just for the interim.

Converted jewelry store at the mall

leadership dot #3012: generate

Whether you’re starting a side hustle, writing a case study for a class or just working on a creative project, there are many times when having a clever name for a business would come in handy. No need to expend brainpower to come up with one on your own: website host WordPress offers a nifty Business Name Generator that can be fun to use, even if you’re not seriously thinking of incorporating a company anytime soon.

By entering the key names for your business, the software will instantly show you a host of options. For example, “Bakery” yields Bakery Beautiful, Harmonic Bakery, Bakery Jet and Canopy Bakery among about 30 other options. You may not love any of them, but they could serve as a stepping stone to other options.

A friend once shared a brainstorming technique where you focus on one topic and write everything down that you can for 10 minutes. Then you do it again for 20 minutes more. In the second session, you’re more likely to get beyond the obvious and reach truly creative names. Let the Name Generator get you started and see where you go from there!

leadership dot #3011: cameo

With so many events moving to an online format, you may be struggling to find a way to make the occasion special. While being remote has its disadvantages, it also opens up new opportunities for creative recognition.

One such way is with cameo.com. Various entertainers are available to record personalized messages that can be incorporated into Zoom-type calls. These have been used to present the top awards at banquets, part of showers or wedding celebrations, at virtual graduations, for appreciation or really for any occasion. You could have Bret Favre, Mandy Moore, Dennis Rodman or Chef Rick Bayless as a guest for your next big event, or choose from one of 30,000 others in categories such as Game of Thrones, reality TV stars, comedians, impersonators, queers or musicians to target the celebrity to your audience.

It’s harder to “wow” participants online, but Cameo might provide a new twist that allows you to infuse some personality into your event. Whether you use them or one of the other similar services out there, don’t just try to replicate in-person via the online format. Take advantage of new modalities to create unexpected memories.