leadership dot #3180: redesign

A new emergency room is opening in Minnesota, specifically designed to stabilize patients with mental health needs. This environment has been crafted to be a “calming, living-room-style” setting.

Why aren’t all emergency rooms designed this way, not just to handle those with psychiatric issues but for everyone coming into the facility? There is no one out there who would prefer chaotic, institutional intake areas, opt for fluorescent lights instead of windows or choose molded chairs over couches.

Environmental design can transform the entire client (and employee) experience. Libraries have morphed from sterile, silent storage facilities for books into interactive and engaging gathering places. Banks have reduced the barriers between clients and the tellers with kiosks and approachable counters, and schools have foregone the rows of fixed desks in favor of pods and flexible furniture. All these changes have enhanced the value of what occurs in the space.

If your physical environment is the same as it was a decade ago, you need more than just new paint. It’s time for a wholesale redesign.

leadership dot #3179: bamboo

The bamboo plant is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth – but you would never know it for about five years. That’s the amount of time the plant remains underground, requiring daily watering and fertilizing without any visible sign of progress.

But that effort pays off! Once the plant sprouts through the ground, it can grow at an amazing 1.5 inches per hour – becoming over a yard tall in its first day.

I think of how many other systems function like the bamboo where the initial phase requires intensive attention with no apparent results. Growing a business is certainly like that, as is creating the infrastructure for system change, or even building a relationship where you are friends forever, until one day you’re more than that.

We give too much credit to what’s above the surface. Dedicate your energy to consistent nurturing of your project – whether you can see the results right away or not.

leadership dot #3178: allies

Author Paulo Coelho is best known for his fable The Alchemist which has been translated into a record-setting 82 languages! He shares another fable in his new book, The Archer.

As the title implies, The Archer uses shooting a bow as a metaphor for life. The bow is the source of energy; the arrow is the intention, the target is the objective you are trying to reach, and the posture provides the serenity that allows you to learn how to shoot.

But the key lesson that Tetsuya the master shares with his mentee is to seek out allies to help in his journey. Tetsuya broadens the definition of allies to go beyond those with whom you may cooperate and considers allies as “people who are interested in what you are doing.” It does not matter if they are doing the same kind of work, rather whether they are doing it with enthusiasm and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. He believes those are the type of people who can make the real difference and help you improve your skills.

Often, when we think of allies we think of others in our circle who can help us by partnering or by doing similar work. Take Coelho’s advice to heart and look for people who are not like you. “The best allies are those who do not think like everyone else,” he writes. “Stay away from those who affirm truths, who criticize those who do not think like them, people who have never once taken a step unless they were sure they would be respected for doing so, and who prefer certainties to doubts.”

Who in your orbit has shown interest in what you are doing – even if they don’t understand it or work in the same field? Those may be perfect people with whom to align and create energy so that you both may hit your target with the arrow.

Source:  The Archer by Paulo Coelho, Knopf Publishing, 2020

Beautiful business woman doing positive gesture with hand, thumbs up smiling and happy. cheerful expression and winner gesture.

leadership dot #3177: best shot

I’m a big fan of conducting post-event evaluations and reviewing the lessons learned in the process. It’s a good way to document both successes and missteps and can aid immensely in future planning.

It’s also kind of a crap shoot.

Who is to say what strategy was effective? While adding in a certain advertisement for a campaign or an event to raise funds may have produced results, it is difficult to know whether the same impact would have been achieved without that intervention. It seemed important or necessary to do, but it is difficult to assess whether doing something differently would have ultimately altered the outcome.

At the turn of the 20th century, marketing pioneer John Wanamaker said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Modern analytics have given us more data but there is still little clarity on what truly drives people to act – and whether they would have behaved the same way if you did everything or nothing in your strategy.

There is a small window between contentment and complacency; a balancing act between always improving and continually feeling regret for not doing enough. You need to heed the advice of 1980’s rocker Pat Benatar and “hit me with your best shot.” Do what seems valuable, reflect with the benefit of hindsight and your best judgment, and be satisfied with giving your best effort in the next round.

Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #3176: but first

A Pickles comic strip describes a conversation where Opal is afraid she has “But First Syndrome.” She tells Earl: “It’s where I decide to do the laundry, but first I see the dirty dishes so I decide to do them, so I reach for the dish soap, but first I notice the floor needs washing so I go to get the mop…” Earl’s sarcastic reply: “Ahh, I thought it meant you were always walking around backwards.”

If you suffer from “But First Syndrome,” it may feel like you are making as much progress as walking around backwards — you get somewhere, but not where you intended to go. It is easy to be tempted by “but first”, especially when the diversions are legitimate and necessary tasks. But more often than not, the digressions lead you down an unproductive rabbit hole and you never manage to get back to your original intention.

Try changing the meaning of “but first” to empower yourself to complete your primary task first. Rewire your self-talk to say something like: “I’ll take care of that email, but first I need to write today’s blog.” (Hypothetical example, of course!) Or “I’ll return that phone call, but first I’ll outline the proposal that is due.” Or maybe “I’ll check Facebook, but first I’ll read a few chapters in this book.”

Use but first to keep your priorities straight and you’ll be walking forward in no time.

Credit: Pickles comic strip by Brian Crane, 12-21-20 publication

leadership dot #3175: expression

Some people are in the metaphorical closet about their sexuality, and some people are fully out — like this trucker who proclaimed his orientation in vivid color.

More than the driver himself, I think about Hirschbach, the company he drives for, and the culture they are creating by allowing drivers such artistic license on their vehicles. It speaks to the psychological safety that exists where people can express their true selves and not hide their identity as in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” cultures that exist in other organizations. I wonder about the back story that approved this paint job and how broadly the freedom of expression extends.

It’s one thing to say that you value diversity or don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, and it’s another thing to proclaim it in larger-than-life color. Whether you allow such a public display of expression or not, your values should always be as clear as this trucker makes his.

leadership dot #3174: mechanics

Instead of amassing buttons as a hobby, the next collection I may curate is that of vending machines. I continue to be amazed at the ingenuity and variety of what businesses disburse through the humble dispensary: baby products, school supplies, acne medication, beer, library books, electronics, live bait, and regional artworks, just to name a few.

The latest addition: dispensing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Boston Logan Airport. In case the familiar Hudson store is closed, the PPE machine has got you covered for your flight. Through it, you are able to buy reusable and disposable masks, infrared or digital thermometers, Tylenol or Aleve, Vitamin C, sanitizer, wet wipes, gloves and even a PPE Daily Sani-kit. It’s a regular pandemic-proofer at the press of a button.

Vending machine mechanics remain the same for a large array of items, making it far easier to meet changing needs. It did not take long for some enterprising retailer to capitalize on the newest demand and provide products that a year ago would have sat idle, and when the desire for PPE fades the equipment can be restocked with products that appeal to different audiences.

Take a lesson from the vending machine world. Invest your time and resources on the fundamental infrastructure and create a solid foundation from which to continually adapt.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #3173: nostalgia

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile made a surprise visit in town and I just happened upon it while out running errands. Of course, I stopped! Nearly every car around me pulled into the parking lot and began taking photos. The crowd at the Wienermobile was half adults who came for the nostalgia and half was the kids of those adults. It’s a brilliant way to build product awareness and break through all the other marketing noise.

“Hotdoggers” (as the drivers are called) handed out baseball-type cards with their picture and favorite hotdog topping information, stickers, coupons, and, of course, the beloved Wieinerwhistles.

My favorite part was when the loud speaker system in the vehicle started playing just a few bars of the famous jingle – Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener… and, in unison, the crowd sang all the words. The company has not used it in ads since 2010 but its legacy lives on.

The Wienermobile has adapted by adding Hotdogger cards, creating Instagram handles for each Hotdogger, and providing stickers but the experience is essentially the same as it was when it began in 1968. There are times when it is prudent to modernize or create new a new image, and there are other times when consistency and nostalgia win the day. The next time you’re tempted to start anew, remember the Wienermobile and consider what you’d truly like to be.

leadership dot #3172: notecard

I should have known it was coming. The tried-and-true method of studying – using flashcards to aid in memorization – has now been digitized. With special Flash 2.0 index cards, students can scan their notecards and then share them with others electronically.

It’s billed as “the smart way to study” but I think that discounts all the research that says handwriting helps people to remember things. I also believe that writing your own notecards will be more effective than flipping through scans of the work someone else did! But I am old-school, so what do I know?

Technology is a wonderful thing and it has brought untold benefits to our work and lives — but not everything is better by being gamified or digitized. Before you deliver content electronically, ask yourself if a tactile approach would have a greater impact.

Sometimes, the handwritten note – or notecard – has more power.

leadership dot #3171: expansion

Everyone is talking about DEI efforts lately – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – but a recent article expanded that to DEAI, including Accessibility in the areas to receive special attention in the arts. I’ve noticed this trend before – a science-education focus grew into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and then into STEAM, adding in Art. Bring your Daughters to Work Day morphed into Bring Your Children to Work Day. Black Lives Matter inspired All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter counter-messaging.

While the intent of all the additions may be well-meaning and valuable, I believe that it is an oxymoron to focus on multiple things. Focus, by virtue of its definition, involves limiting the efforts and concentrating them on one point of attention.

Many times, other causes attempt to link themselves to the targeted efforts because it brings access, attention, and often funding but I would suggest that it also dilutes their uniqueness and positions them as an afterthought instead of the focal point. For example, think how wonderful an arts-only campaign could be instead of getting lost in the robotics-orientation of STEM.

It’s hard not to capitalize on the latest movement but ensure it is truly part of your core and not an add-on response. Letting the spotlight shine on others provides space for you to create your own light.

Which one of these is not like the other?