leadership dot #3241: sales

In this tight housing market, potential buyers are manipulating more than finances to persuade potential sellers to decide in their favor. Now, in addition to the standard offer — which is often at the asking price or higher — the buyer is including emotional letters, videos, or promises of a donation to charity as a method of enticement for the seller. It’s not enough to offer money; now buyers must get into the marketing game and engage both sides of the seller’s brain: emotions and logic.

While the newer tool of escalation clauses may win over the seller with cash, many more factors are coming into play. Appeal letters say things like “this is where we want to raise our family” or “we’re eager to grow our family and we need more space” or “we love your house and all the updates!” A recent buyer I know wrote an emotional appeal about why their family would be perfect for a house — and they are now living there. “We have that letter from that nice family who wants our house, let’s just let them buy it,” the seller said. Letters accompanied half the offers to another seller, and one tugged at her heartstrings — but not enough to overcome the financing challenges so that offer was not chosen.

In his book, To Sell is Human, Dan Pink argues that “we’re all in sales now. We’re persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got.” Honing your sales ability is a valuable skill in the work environment where we’re trying to influence others to cooperate with us or make a purchase — and apparently, it’s also now important if you are in the market for a home.

leadership dot #3240: modify

We’ve all heard the word “pivot” frequently during the pandemic but a webinar on pivot leadership has me rethinking the use of the term. Scott Robley reminded participants that the definition of pivot is actually “to modify while maintaining continuity with the previous direction” — it does not mean that you do a 180 degree turn and forget everything about where you were headed.

Too often, people treat pivoting as turning away from what was and instead seek to forge a new path without any regard to the old intentions. It’s a mistake. Yes, we need to alter the course based on changing conditions, but in an adaptive way that preserves the intent. Eric Ries explained it best when he said: “A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision.”

The next time circumstances create a need for you to modify your plans, seek to transition your behaviors rather than to start anew. Your vision should continue to guide you even when your path to achieve must be adjusted.

leadership dot #3239: protected

While crews were working on nearby sewer repair, one of the many pieces of equipment they used was a trench box. This contraption is designed to keep the dirt from caving in on the utility workers as they go into the ditch and it provides protection from an unexpected collapse. It’s usually just a precautionary device but could prove lifesaving in certain circumstances.

Supervisors need to provide the equivalent of trench boxes for other types of work, serving as a shield that assures their workers they will be protected and kept from the forces of politics caving in around them. If leaders want their teams to assume risk, they need to provide some support against the pressures of opposition that can be just as damaging to a career as a dirt collapse.

The utility crews know that proactive safety is always better than being reactive. All leaders should embrace that concept.

Photo credit: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

leadership dot #3238: research

I have been asked to teach a class on a topic which I have next to no experience. And it’s going to be great! Already, my mind is racing with people I can invite as guest speakers, new books I can read to learn about the topic myself, and suddenly, everything I see in the news relates to something I can use in class.

One of the first articles I wrote for publication was also on a topic of which I knew nothing. But unlike social media that sends you down an unproductive rabbit trail, doing research often sends you down a beneficial one. You read an article, then follow some of its references, which leads you to more articles. Or, you interview a person, who recommends that you talk with another person, and soon you have more material than you can actually use.

The next time you are interested in something, embrace the idea of learning about it in depth. Google and YouTube may provide a start, but going deeper can give you insights and context that you won’t find on the surface. You may find that you enjoy being the student as much as you do being the teacher or writer. Never underestimate the power of research and all that you can learn from actually doing it.

leadership dot #3237: script

When I saw a copy of The King’s Speech script at a garage sale, I grabbed it. The 2010 movie is one of my favorites, telling the story of King George VI and his unorthodox speech therapist with whom he develops a friendship while overcoming a stutter.

I remember waiting in line to see the movie and the audience clapping during the credits, but none of that enthusiasm comes through in the printed script. Obviously, screenwriter David Seidler had the right vision for the movie, and the screenplay provides literally word-for-word details about how to execute it, but seeing it solely in print is not inspiring,

Think about this gap if you find yourself having to communicate a vision to others. Just sending out a memo or writing a strategic plan is like having a copy of the script — and it’s not going to be enough to generate the type of energy required for change to occur or implementation to happen. You need to bring your ideas to life by adding another dimension to help people visualize your story and feel the emotion that surrounds it.

leadership dot #3236: peeled

People often think that creativity is reserved only for “artists” or those in the fine arts arena, but this caution cone at Six Flags proves otherwise.

It would have been easy to stick with the traditional orange cone, or even to make a wider base on a cone, but someone had the creative eye to think “hey, in yellow, this cone looks like a peeled banana — let’s make it actually look like that.” Peeled bananas are often used to represent slipping so the analogy is even more appropriate. A banana cone is not just fun, it’s a visual reminder of its function. Bravo!

Get the narrative out of your head that art and design are reserved only for lofty artisans. Everyone is creative — even the cone-designing safety officer.

Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #3235: recorded

People are aware that their actions may be recorded by the multitude of traffic monitors or security cameras, but I doubt they are really internalizing how many places they are captured on video. A growing source of footage: doorbell cameras that now are installed in an estimated 20 million homes.

The images captured by the doorbell cameras can be used formally or informally to help solve crimes, but we don’t think of them as recording us as we go about our life next door to a home that has one. But that is exactly what happened to country music star Morgan Wallen. He let out a rant of profanities and racial slurs at his own doorstep — but it was recorded by a neighbor’s doorbell camera — and shared. The implications for Wallen’s career are huge, including suspension by his record label, ineligibility for awards this year, and removal of his music from airplay.

When I worked in student affairs, we used to tell our new staff that they had to “behave all the time” because the field was small and everyone was connected to everyone else so word would get around if their behavior or performance was a problem. Apparently, the advice is even more true now but applies to everyone, not just those in my field.

Source: Fallout after Racial Slur by Brianne Tracy, People, February 22, 2021

leadership dot #3234: freely

Yesterday, I wrote about a pivotal decision made by the early Earth Day movement to switch their focus from college to K-12 students (dot 3233). They made another key move in that first year that likely contributed to the organization now leading the “planet’s largest civic event.”

Earth Day was fortuitous enough to have advertising legend Julien Koenig volunteer to design the initial name and logo. (He also created the Volkswagen “Think Small” campaign that won a zillion awards.) But the true stroke of genius came when the director, Denis Hays, elected not to trademark it. He wanted Earth Day to be used liberally to tie together the various activities that were happening.

It worked. Earth Day events this year involved over a billion people in 193 countries — all linked together with the Earth Day name. By being generous, Hayes was able to build momentum and give prominence to the movement in ways he could have never achieved on his own.

Think about the benefits you could attain from freely sharing your resources. Allowing others to connect with your efforts might be the best way to realize your goals.

leadership dot #3233: reevaluate

Early formal efforts to promote environmental sustainability began by encouraging teach-ins on college campuses. These lively events were popular programs to debate the Vietnam War, and after Senator Gaylord Nelson was moved by an oil slick large enough for him to see from an airplane, he proposed shifting the topic to the environment.

So, the infrastructure was created, a crew assembled and national efforts were made to promote environmental teach-ins on college campuses. It went nowhere. The war generated lots of emotions and diverse opinions, but no one was passionate about ruining the planet. The teach-in was the wrong format.

The advocacy could have ended there but the astute national director Denis Hays realized that college students were still intensely focused on war activism, so he turned instead to K-12 students. The organization shifted its focus, enlisted the help of the major education organizations, and for the first Earth Day in 1970, over 10,000 primary and secondary schools were involved. Today, over 95% of K-12 schools in the US will observe Earth Day, and educators in 149 countries participate in activities.

Keep the early Earth Day organizers in mind the next time your organization needs to pivot. The shift from college teach-ins to K-12 education was not an easy one, but it made all the difference. Be willing to reevaluate — even assumptions as fundamental as your target audience, format and focus — and remain focused on the ultimate goal rather than wed to the strategies to achieve it.

Source: Wikipedia and EarthDay.org

leadership dot #3232: vulnerable

Brené Brown may be one of the most influential people today: she has one of the top ten TED Talks with 60 million views, multiple best-selling books, 2.5 million Instagram followers, popular podcasts with high-profile guests, etc. Not only does she research vulnerability but she practices it by frequently sharing examples of where she has stumbled. I think it’s what makes people able to actually hear her teachings.

I thought of Brené when listening to writer/actor Dan Levy who shared his personal struggles. “We want to seem like we have our shit together,” he said. “But sometimes there is more power in admitting that we don’t have our shit together.”

Both Brown and Levy illustrate the surprising value that comes from authentically owning our foibles and flaws instead of pretending to be models of efficiency or effectiveness. Not only does the admission provide us with self-compassion, but it also allows others to see themselves in us and for them to provide us with assistance or grace.

It may be tempting to come across as calm, cool, and collected but vulnerability is the gateway to deep and trusting communication.