leadership dot #3685: simplifying

Nestled in among the surf shops and souvenir stands that line Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is a different kind of store — one that rents bridal gowns. It makes sense that many destination weddings occur on this piece of paradise, so Something Borrowed minimizes the bulk that brides-to-be need to carry.

Something Borrowed rents gowns ($300) and suits ($200) with their hassle-free “rent, wear, return” policy. While the low price may get you in the door, in addition to the rental boutique, they also offer wedding planning services where you may spend a far greater amount. Their coordination encompasses as much or as little as you are willing to pay for — everything from proposal planning to a photo tour to wedding week coordination ($4500). Their full-service plan will handle the smallest of details and orchestrate everything so you just have to show up.

Think about whether you can “borrow” part of the Something Borrowed business model and handle the details that could come easily to someone who does them all the time but may be overwhelming for one-time users (think funerals, a baby, or a new pet). If you simplify a complex transaction for someone, there are people out there who will accept your proposal and say “yes.”

leadership dot #3684: guide

One of the advantages of traveling as a family of twelve is that you become your own group for tours. As a result, we were assigned a personal guide to help us navigate through the Polynesian Cultural Center, a day-long experience that showcases the culture of several Polynesian countries.

Having a private guide meant that we could craft our own itinerary and then have someone to efficiently ensure we saw the parts of the park that were most meaningful to us. Before we started out, Lohan asked us several questions, such as:

  • Did we want to see a little bit about each country or go in-depth with one or two?
  • Would we rather see shows in each area or spend more time on activities?
  • Was there anything in particular that we wanted to be sure to do?

Lohan said that to become a guide he had to memorize a 72-page script and pass tests on the material. While the Cultural Center may have gone to lengths to standardize the witty comments and information the guides shared, allowing each group the ability to tailor their day helped our group have a positive experience and create lasting memories of the place.

Of course, we paid extra for the service, but having someone who could personalize our visit and expertly navigate us through the park without any waiting, map-reading, or getting lost was worth every cent. Disney and other places could take a lesson from the Cultural Center.

Think about whether there is a way for you to offer a guide for the experience you provide. Many hospitals have volunteers who escort incoming patients to their initial intake location, schools could provide escorts to help navigate the entry onto campus or on the first day in classroom buildings, or government centers and large complexes could also utilize guides to help minimize the confusion.

Don’t stop at providing signs or a map. Adding that personal touch makes all the difference.

Our guide, Lohan.

leadership dot #3683: shaka

Hawaiians know it as the shaka, meaning hello or symbol of okay. I know it as the Hang Ten gesture, used by surfers to communicate “hang loose.” It can convey good, how are you, or a host of other greetings — all through the hand gesture of a raised little finger and thumb.

Legend has many origin stories for the gesture, but the Polynesian Cultural Center attributes it to Hamana Kalili who lost three fingers of his hand in a sugar mill accident, leaving him only the thumb and pinky. He used his remaining digits to communicate when the sugar cane rail cars were cleared for departure and others copied his shorthand, much like using a thumbs-up sign.

Kalili could have seen his loss of fingers as a shortcoming but instead turned his accident into a distinctive greeting that is still used far beyond the islands. Do you have a liability that instead may become a unique calling card if you embraced it? Perhaps you could hang loose about your misfortune and turn it into a signature feature.

leadership dot #3682: pineapple

If I say “Dole,” it’s likely the first word that comes to mind is “pineapple” and that word likely conjures images of Hawaii. Thanks to entrepreneur James Dole, the brand Dole, pineapple, and Hawaii have been synonymous since the turn of the twentieth century.

Pineapple had been growing in the islands long before Dole arrived, but it was he who recognized that to create a sustainable market, distribution to the mainland was key. As a result, Dole opened massive canneries to package the fruit and conducted recipe contests to help New Englanders see possibilities for how to use this exotic new treat. (The pineapple upside-down cake was a winner!) His savvy paid off, and Dole became one of the largest distributors of pineapple for a century.

It wasn’t enough for Dole to grow the fruit or even package it. He had to champion it from plant to table, overcoming barriers at each step along the way.

Think about your idea and evaluate whether you have continued to nurture it far enough into the process. A great idea at one stage will flounder if you don’t provide the support to see it through to the ultimate user.

leadership dot #3681: toy

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, radar was available but its capabilities were unappreciated. The military thought radar was “just another toy” and only used it in a limited capacity, notably between 4 am and 7 am which was considered the most likely time for an invasion.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, radar picked up an unusual signal during that timeframe, but it was thought to be a flight of B17s that were due to arrive at 8 am, so the large mass of incoming planes was dismissed with tragic consequences during the 8 am bombing.

I’m sure there was a lot of second-guessing after the attack but one of the lessons learned certainly was that radar was far more than a superfluous gadget and could in fact provide critical intelligence about enemy operations.

I wonder what tools you have available to your organization that you are dismissing as “just another toy.” Maybe you are ignoring the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence, smart controls, new software, Tik Tok reels, data mining, or cyber currency. While it’s easier to devalue something that you don’t understand rather than learn about it and integrate its complexities into your work, don’t ignore the long-term cost to keeping your head in the sand.

leadership dot #3680: sunk

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was a surprise more for how it happened than the fact that it happened at all. The United States knew that Japan, Germany, and most of Europe were at war so the US military took steps to protect its fleet in Hawaii. They trained soldiers to protect the beaches. Lined up battleships in a row so as not to block the channel exit. Kept all the fighter planes parked tightly next to each other in the middle of the airstrip to protect them from external sabotage. Limited their reconnaissance to preserve manpower and planes for when they had to fly out of Hawaii to engage.

Pretty much everything the military did made it easier for Japan to devastate the operation when it bombed Pearl Harbor. The US believed that years of history would repeat themselves and that it was “a well-established premise that any decisive battle would be fought at sea.” And in that area, we were superior — with nine mighty battleships at the base to dominate the Pacific and serve as “the mightiest weapons of war.”

Those in command operated sensibly based on their fundamental beliefs, but of course, we now know that their premise was flawed — and from that fateful day forward, the aircraft carrier, not the battleship, would dominate the military arsenal.

Japan surprised Pearl Harbor by using new types of weapons, traveling 4000 miles under radio silence, and developing a new platform from which to change the method of attack. Your competitors are busy doing the same. Are you acting like the Pearl Harbor officers and plowing forward without questioning your core tenants or assumptions? You might have visible symbols of power — your equivalent of battleships — but if your organization faces a new method of attack your plans could be sunk. Don’t plan tomorrow based only on yesterday.

leadership dot #3679: edits

One of the most memorable things I saw at Pearl Harbor was the annotated speech President Roosevelt gave to Congress. Today, most people know the line “a day that will live in infamy” but those words did not appear in the original draft. Initially, it read: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in world history, the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” It was wisely edited, with world history replaced by infamy and simultaneously replaced by suddenly. The speech itself became one that will live in infamy.

Think of what was happening when this address was written. There wasn’t an earlier draft on the shelf; there were no computers to make easy revisions, and the central government had to be in chaos trying to learn about the damage 5000 miles away. Yet, people took the time to ponder over word choices and make deliberate changes to maximize the impact of the communication.

You would be well served to follow Roosevelt’s example and take care with your messaging, especially when things around you are swirling. The less clear the situation, the more clear your communication needs to be.

leadership dot #3678: aloha

Throughout Hawaii, there were signs encouraging people to “Drive Aloha!” — a campaign to promote courteous and considerate driving in the state. We found ourselves practicing the Aloha spirit and allowed several drivers to pull out in front of us, gave large margins for merging, and overall drove with a more responsible and mellow temperament than usual.

Those on the mainland would be wise to Drive Aloha as well. You, and those around you, would benefit from your making this your mantra for the summer whereby in small, yet meaningful ways, you practice giving consideration to others on the road. It’s a modest action but every way we care for others brings us one step closer to creating a community. See if you can’t Drive Aloha today — no matter what state you’re in.

leadership dot #3677: waivers

One of the best things we did on vacation was to take a helicopter ride — with the doors off! In addition to savoring the incredible views, there was one other aspect that stuck with me from the experience: the casual nature of the operation.

We booked over the phone with no signature ever required. We signed no paperwork when we arrived. The company knew our first names and weight but did not even ask for last names before we took flight!

I don’t know if their lack of waivers was efficient or reckless but it did cause me to pause. This was Hawaii — part of the litigious States as opposed to an island nation with different laws and expectations. If we had crashed, you can bet there would have been a lawsuit. But someone decided that the waivers wouldn’t help them and pressed on in good faith.

Maybe before you kill a forest of trees with your next round of paperwork, you too can consider how much of the legalese is really required. There is a cost involved in producing, procuring, processing, and preserving records — maybe it’s time to reevaluate the benefit ratio of doing so.

I was assigned to be on the outside seat — with only a seatbelt between me and the sky!

leadership dot #3676: queue

In Hawaii, we visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation. When we arrived, we encountered a sign warning us that the wait for tours may be up to two hours, but when we went to the entrance booth we were told that the wait was just an hour long. So, we purchased tickets and set out to visit the gift store while someone held our spot in the queue.

Only the one hour turned into two hours plus, leaving everyone hot and cranky to start our day.

If we had known the delay was that long, we wouldn’t have purchased tickets. Or, we would have bought them, then used the time to tour the gardens instead of expecting to do that after the tour. Or, we would have continued exploring on our own instead of re-convening in the line and standing in the sun for another hour.

Dole is a busy enough place to warrant a two-hour delay warning sign. But beyond that, they have done little to make their visitor experience a pleasant one. No canopy or shade for the guests waiting in line. No benches. No reservations or buzzer systems as in restaurants so people can do something besides stand in the heat while they wait. No communication with their ticket window about realistic lines. You just buy tickets on faith and then are stuck when the reality turns out to be much different. Such a missed opportunity.

The problem wasn’t the two-hour wait; the issue came in with misaligned expectations. If you have a chronic situation that is less than desirable for your clients, the best thing you can do is to be upfront about it. Sugarcoated or ignored downsides create more negative feelings than problems that are addressed directly.