leadership dot #3417: palm oil

What’s the link between Halloween and orangutans? Palm oil.

Palm oil is the most widely used edible oil, grown in tropical forests that are also home to the orangutans. As the demand for palm oil grows, deforestation is having an impact on greenhouse gasses and the habitat of the orangutans, tigers, and rhinos.

To counteract this for Halloween buy your candy from companies that are members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (who knew there was such a group?). These goodies are made with oils that are harvested in sustainable ways — treating both your visitors and the planets well.

As you stock up for next weekend’s festivities, don’t get tricked into buying goodies that look sweet but have a sour impact on the forest.

Learn more about sustainable purchasing from the Cheyenne Zoo’s Sustainable Shopping Guide.

leadership dot #3416: deep

I watched a panel discussion with the members of Spotlight, the Boston Globe investigative unit that won a Pulitzer for their coverage of priest abuse in the Catholic Church. I was a journalism major and have a special affinity for those in the news, especially today when investigative journalism is more important than ever.

The panelists shared that one of the gifts of the unit is the luxury of having time to truly research a story, conduct follow up, file information requests, put pressure on people to get the story, and be persistent enough to “get the information from people that don’t want to give it to us.” Having extended time to research a story frees them from the pressures of a daily deadline and allows them to not only research the story and write it but also to add the interactive multimedia elements that allow their findings to resonate with a broader audience and have a greater impact.

A panelist commented that not all the work of Spotlight makes it to the front page, rather some of their most important work is the scandals that they prevent because people know Spotlight (and good reporters like them) will be looking over their shoulder.

While your organization likely doesn’t need an investigative research unit, consider whether it would benefit from a team that has the luxury of time. Could you dedicate a team (or person) to go deep on consumer feedback? Have a few people who are given time to pursue new partnerships? Allow selected staff members to have the time to reengineer high-impact processes?

The world operates on tight deadlines but surprising and significant work can happen when you allow the right people to work without them. Go deep to uncover insights you don’t see on the surface.

Source: Boston Globe Summit: Spotlight — an institution within an institution, September 24, 2021

leadership dot #3415: reason

If you were asked why domestic abuse victims delay leaving their homes, you may suppose that it is because of a lack of finances, no housing, or fear. All would be correct, but 48% of victims report that they don’t leave the abusive situation because they can’t take their pet with them.

Trying to address the need for pet-friendly shelters is a distinctly different strategy than addressing fear or finances. It’s an insight that is not obvious and only reveals itself after researchers acquired a deep understanding of the affected population.

What have you done lately to gain an inside view of your consumers? Through intense listening and first-hand observation, you may learn things that help you address the true issues they face instead of presupposing that you know the answers. Your solutions will only work if they address the real problem.

leadership dot #3414: tired

If you have a smartphone, the default setting will kick it into “low battery mode” when the power level reaches 20%. At this point, the phone is programmed to stop showing new emails, reduce background app refresh, stop uploading photos to the cloud and dim the screen brightness — all steps that preserve battery life and allow the key functions of the phone to continue.

Why do people have such a hard time admitting when they have hit the “low battery mode” setting in their life? Instead of taking steps to reduce output and maintain their energy level, too many ignore the signs of fatigue and power through as if they had a full charge or they see slowing down as a sign of weakness instead of a natural occurrence that impacts many, especially in these uncertain times.

The next time your internal battery starts to reach that red zone, listen to the indicators and take steps to conserve juice just as your phone would do automatically. Push to the side that which is not time-sensitive or essential. Forego social media and head to sleep instead. Cut back on a commitment or two. Take a few moments for yourself if possible.

Treat your personal battery with the same care you do your phone. Low battery is not a warning to be ignored.

leadership dot #3413: otherness

There is a sweet spot between hiring people who are different from the norm but not so different that the culture does not accept them. One clear example comes to mind where I hired someone who pushed the envelope — just what we needed — but was ultimately let go because his “otherness” was seen as a negative by the wrong people. Previous employees and professional association colleagues also have played a contrarian role or brought a perspective that was outside of the rest of the group but were dismissed because of this.

To ensure that the differences are an asset instead of a liability, it helps to be clear from the start what you are looking for in your hire. If the hiring team (and those above them) agree that the organization needs someone to shake the status quo, ask the tough questions, offer perspectives that will be uncomfortable to hear, it’s helpful to return to that agreement when the new hire actually does those things.

People often say that they value someone who is different than they are but in the end, many revert to someone like themselves as it is often easier to dismiss the “other” rather than to integrate them into the culture and learn from the view they bring. Be intentional that it’s not the case with your organization.

leadership dot #3412: it is

“It is what it is” continues to be a popular saying, gracing notebooks, memes, plaques, and more. I’ve said it myself hundreds of times.

But Paul, one of the participants in a session I was facilitating, changed how I feel about the catchphrase. He shared that it is one of his least favorite sayings, preferring instead to say: “It is what you make it.” Rather than passively accepting a bad situation, you have the choice in your reaction and response.

I think Paul is right. See if you can change your intention — and ideally, also your language — to reflect greater ownership and action going forward.

leadership dot #3411: notifications

Why, in 2021, are we still crouching in front of public restroom stalls to check if they are occupied? Or guessing whether the dishwasher is “dirty or clean”? Or interrupting meetings because we did not know someone was using the room? Or making unnecessary trips to the community mailbox on the corner only to discover the mail has not yet come?

It would seem that a mainstream notification solution for ordinary, frequent inquiries would have been developed by now — whether yet another app, an electronic monitor to display the status, or even the low-tech solution of “vacant/occupied” that some enlightened designers have incorporated. If the US Postal Service can email me a scan of the mail I’m getting, surely they can find a way to ping me when the mail is actually here.

If you are able to provide notification for a mundane but repetitive inquiry about the status of something in your organization, please do it. Rid us of the equivalent of checking for feet in the restroom stall. While we tolerate it, there has to be a better way.

leadership dot #3410: bosses

I recently presented a two-day workshop on supervision and the refrain I heard over and over was: “I wish I had known this earlier in my career.” As we acknowledge National Bosses Day today, I encourage you to provide supervision training to those who have that function as part of their role.

Far too often, we promote someone who is good at their job into a new position that involves supervision. But those responsibilities bring with it a need for a substantial mindset shift — from being an independent producer to succeeding through facilitation and the success of others. It’s not something that happens intuitively — or easily — and many times the new supervisor was without both formal training and even informal mentoring to use as an example. It’s a collision waiting to happen.

A solid supervision framework can provide the mental shift and functional structure to realign expectations and set the new supervisor up for success. If you’re a supervisor, become a great one by giving those who have people responsibilities under you the resources necessary to make it a happy day for bosses every day.

leadership dot #3409: Honeycrisp

We think that apples come from trees, but they also come from scientists. At the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center, they don’t just grow things, they develop them. Their star product is the Honeycrisp apple, but they also have engineered the Zestar and several other branded apples and grow 316 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.

In apple development, horticulturalists are striving for a winning combination of three factors: 1) the flavor (which includes color, crispness, sweet/tart, juicy, firmness, etc.); 2) the shelf life (where Honeycrisp shines), and the growing season. Scientists have been able to extend the harvest for apples in Minnesota from August to October, allowing farmers to maximize the use of the equipment and labor rather than having their entire crop condensed into a short window.

It reminded me of the metaphorical “three-legged stool” that we attempted to balance in college admissions: the number of students, their academic profile, and the net revenue that each contributed after scholarships. We could easily achieve two of the criteria, but achieving all three proved challenging. I imagine the same is true of apple grafting.

Organizations often focus on one or two metrics, but the secret is in the elusive blending of attributes. What is the flavorful combination of characteristics you are seeking to attain? Identify the trifecta your organization needs to create its own winning “Honeycrisp.”

leadership dot #3408: payment

I’ve recently seen the juxtaposition of old-fashioned payments and the innovative uses of modern ones.

A friend got a new car loan and received a paper coupon book in the mail, presumably to tear off a page to mail with a monthly payment. Other friends receive paper envelopes to make weekly donations to their church — even though they send an annual check. Residents of Hudson, Iowa are lamenting the purchase of their local utility in part because they “won’t be able to walk or bike down the road to pay in person.” All these situations are carryovers from a previous era when the paper check was the primary mode of payment.

Today, more and more vendors are taking advantage of Venmo or Square that allows almost everyone to accept credit. A church in New Mexico had an iPad anchored at the entrance to accept electronic contributions from tourists. Native Americans were selling their handmade crafts from a blanket, but you could pay with a credit card. A farmer with a pumpkin stand on the side of the road listed her Venmo account for payment. Even a man who was begging for money on the street corner had a Venmo address on his cardboard sign!

Consider the temperament and comfort level of your audience. Are you able to give people a choice of payment method (e.g. one church asks parishioners if they want the envelopes before automatically sending them)? Are you able to accommodate both paper and electronic technologies? Have you incorporated enough options to handle the multitude of options available today? As cash fades from everyday use, it may be time to revisit what is king in your payment system.

Thanks, Amy!