leadership dot #3394: Gordon

I live on a fairly quiet residential street with a community mailbox at the corner. Gordon, one of my neighbors, is a mail hound like I am and closely monitors the comings and goings of the mailman as I do. We often share greetings and other banter en route to the mailbox. Yesterday, as he went to drive up the hill to get the mail, his car was hit by another vehicle. He suffered a heart attack in the collision and died. In his own front yard while getting the mail.

Consider this today’s reminder that life is so short. Take a moment to spread kindness to those you love — and all those with whom you share even a friendly connection. You never know when today’s mail call will be your last.

leadership dot #3393: belong

It seems that everyone is scrambling to hire employees. How would the focus be different if instead organizations placed their emphasis on retaining good staff?

In Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code, he describes an experiment at a call center in India that had turnover rates between 50-70% per year — embarrassingly normal for that industry. Attempts at raising salaries and adding benefits did not yield many results but a one-hour experiment did.

During employee onboarding, one group received an extra hour of orientation that focused on the employee rather than the company. Trainers sought to understand more about the people as individuals and what they brought to the organization. At the end of the session, instead of the company-branded shirt the other groups received, this experimental group received a shirt with the company name and their name. Those were the only differences in their initial intake process.

Seven months later, the group who received the personal emphasis was 250% more likely to be retained than those who only received company information and 157% more likely to stay than a control group. Wowza — that’s a difference from only one hour of intervention.

It wasn’t the hour — or the shirt. Coyle describes it as creating “psychological safety” — a culture-defining moment by the organization to engage people from the start and signal that they belonged. Keep scrambling to hire great people — but when you find them, put in the extra effort to connect them to your organization to make it more likely that they will stay.

Source: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, 2018

leadership dot #3392: auto-generated

I received an email asking me to provide feedback on a blouse that I ordered a few weeks ago — only I had returned it the same day I received it. My sister was sent a thank you email for participating in a webinar — that she did not attend. I was asked to write a review on a book I ordered online — the day after it arrived. (I’m a fast reader, but not that fast!)

Contrast those messages with another email my sister received, also from a webinar that she signed up for but did not attend live. Instead of the incorrect “Thank you for joining us!” it read: “Sorry we missed you! Couldn’t make it to today’s webinar. That’s okay. We’ll send you the recording soon. In the meantime, you can access the presentation and resources that were shared — Check it out.” How much more inspiring is that?

The first set of examples exemplify the non-personal nature of the communication — it’s obvious that it was sent automatically and it leads you to believe that no one will care if you ignore them. But the second email highlights that someone (even if it’s an algorithm) noticed that you weren’t there and they still want you to connect. People who receive that probably would feel much more compelled to interact with the recording or content.

Technology is a great tool that allows organizations to tailor messages to specific audiences — but failure to link the communication with other steps in the process is a waste of effort. If you think creating an email campaign is simple, you haven’t thought about it enough.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #3391: fire

A friend is in the midst of a crisis at his place of employment. Several people have resigned, leaving him to hold the bag and cover their responsibilities in addition to his own. It’s mid-stream in the work, a horrible time to try and find any help, let alone onboard them and have them actually contribute. He is drowning.

And what was the response of his senior manager? To recommend having a retreat to talk about the issues that have led to the resignations and consider a long-term plan.

Just no.

When the place is on fire, support looks like a bucket of water, not a lecture on fire safety. There is a time and place for debriefing and planning, but in the midst of the crisis is not it.

If you find yourself in a position where you should or want to offer to help someone, first ask them: “What do you need from me?” or as BrenĂ© Brown writes: “What does support look like for you?” Your aim should be to become part of the solution rather than an addition to the problem.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #3390: place

New Mexico has a lot in common with Disney World — in that seemingly every detail of the environment is intentionally designed. From crosswalks to bridges, signs, highway barriers, ceiling beams, and overall architecture, it all seamlessly blends together to create a profound sense of place. You know you’re in New Mexico when you’re there as even the McDonald’s or banks follow the zoning regulations and contribute, rather than detract, from the atmosphere.

Why can’t every state be like this — using bridges as art galleries rather than ugly concrete structures? Adding symbolism to decor instead of leaving things plain? Creating community standards that define an area instead of letting randomness run rampant?

It would be hard to retrofit a place to achieve the sense of continuity that New Mexico has fostered, but maybe you can achieve it in your own space. Think about every decision and every inch — does it tell a story in addition to serving an architectural function? Opportunity lies in every beam.

Ceiling beams inside the Albuquerque “Sunport” (aka airport)
Crosswalks in Taos
State’s Zia symbol on all their highway signs

leadership dot #3389: telepoem

In a creative use of an old phone booth, people can now visit our “Telepoem booth” and dial a designated number on the traditional rotary phone to hear a poem read to them. There is a directory of choices, fastened to the booth with a wire as phone books used to be, offering a whole selection of poems by Iowa artists. The directory gives you the poem category, length of the reading and the number to dial, just as it was in the dark ages of White Pages.

Our local arts organization worked with the state humanities group to bring the Telepoem installation here for a year and I found it to be great fun. It’s free to use, so I listened to several readings — but I’ll admit I received as much enjoyment just from using the rotary dial and hearing that long-ago sound of the wheel spinning around as I did from the poems. It’s a sound that is all but lost with today’s push-button or digital calling.

Vintage everything is so popular right now — and the Telepoem booth fits right into both the arts vibe of our downtown and the trend toward nostalgia. It’s a creative marrying of the two elements that provide a novel activity for people to enjoy.

What do you have from days gone by that you can repurpose into something appealing today?

leadership dot #3388: looking back

When you’re involved in any type of change effort it’s natural to focus on the future. But we often get so caught up in what we want to have happen or what we’re trying to make happen that we forget to take that moment and reflect on the change process itself. More specifically, we fail to look back and capture the decisions that we wrestled with, the inflection points that shaped what came after them, the struggles and steps just to get started, or the first glimmers of success.

By the time a project is over, all those memories are overshadowed by the present and we lose the opportunity to learn from them. In contrast, if we document some of the earliest stages of a change effort we can use the learning as a reminder the next time we’re fresh out of the gate and feel like we’re not making any progress at all. We can see that it took us a few months to align our human infrastructure and figure out a game plan. We can be reminded that some of those earliest choices are the most important ones as they shape everything else. We can reflect on where we need to move more quickly and where going slower is ultimately more prudent.

The next time you embark on a new initiative, set some reminders to pause and take stock of what you’ve been up to. Looking back at the early, small steps can be invaluable knowledge in the future.

leadership dot #3387: who luck

When most people think about being lucky, what comes to mind is an event or situation that proves to be beneficial. But in his book BE 2.0, master teacher Jim Collins describes another phenomenon that can have a greater impact on your outcomes — that of “who luck.” Collins describes this as finding that key person in your life whether it be a mentor, partner, colleague, boss, or friend — someone who alters your life by crossing your path.

Collins believes that his life is shaped more by the “whos” than the “whats” that brought him good fortune, and if you reflect on your own circumstances the same is probably true. The right people can bring us success at our joint pursuits, open up opportunities, or simply make our lives fun.

Think about the people who have been “who luck” for you. I know my former boss/now friend is on the top of the list, and as a result of his greatness, I have a host of colleagues who joined in working for him and creating most of my professional highlights. Earlier bosses served as mentors and changed the trajectory of my career. I also had “who luck” to land with the best bunch of siblings.

Take a moment to reflect on — and appreciate — those with whom you have been lucky to cross paths, and attempt to be the one who provides “who luck” to others who cross yours. It is the people that make the magic, not the events.

Source: BE 2.0 Turning your business into an enduring great company by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier, 2020

Keith Lovin — the best of the best. Everyone who ever met him had “Who Luck”

leadership dot #3386: clasp

I have written before (dot 2202 and dot 2672) about my pearl analogy — how small strengths, initiatives, or programs can be strung together to form a “necklace” or cohesive whole. The string that serves as the through-line is a critical element — if you aren’t sure what you’re trying to achieve, it’s hard to know which “pearls” should be included and which are distractions.

But I think the most important part of the necklace is the clasp. The clasp is the element that not only holds it together in the short term, it also ensures viability over time. The connector keeps the pearls from entropy — falling off when people are no longer paying attention to assembling them. In a project, the metaphorical “clasp” is often overlooked — people are so excited to have all the pearls strung that they rejoice in the moment and fail to take those extra steps to strengthen the work for the future.

A string with a bunch of pearls is not a necklace without a clasp. Don’t stop short of making that final connection that allows the work to be useful for years to come.

leadership dot #3385: no fanfare

A friend was sharing about his earlier years which included being a smoker. He recounted how he tried numerous methods to kick the habit: declaring his intentions publicly, tossing his supply, and giving himself incentives but none of them lasted. When I asked how he finally stopped, he said: “I ran out of cigarettes and just didn’t buy anymore.” He didn’t proclaim that he was quitting; he just made the choice and honored it.

What is the parallel action in your life where you can make an internal declaration without fanfare and stick to it? Maybe you start walking or running every day. You elect to make one healthy choice at every meal. Perhaps you give up soda. Do meditation each morning. Save $X from each paycheck. Publish a blog.

Sometimes the buildup or dread is worse than the action itself. If something is important for you to start or stop, make that your next move instead of all the ancillary acts around it. As Nike reminds us, “Just Do It.” Without a fuss.