leadership dot #3811: suitcase

In many Latin American countries, tradition has it that walking an empty suitcase around the block on New Year’s Eve is the way to ensure a travel-filled new year. Apparently, the faster you go, the more you travel!

So, as you read this today, perhaps you want to adopt the tradition for yourself — or use it to trigger another activity that sounds like more fun than dragging the Samsonite through the snow. Maybe sit with family and reminisce about all the places you have traveled. Perhaps use it as a conversation starter with friends to share all the places you would like to travel to if your suitcase tradition bears fruit, or maybe recall new year’s traditions of your own and pass them along to younger generations.

If travel is your desire, you can make it happen in 2023 — with or without the brisk evening run tonight. You can use tradition to trigger your motivation, but in the end, it’s up to you to create your own destiny.

Thanks, Alicia!

leadership dot #1528a: contact

The printing company I use provides little notepads as a bonus inside the box for each completed order. I am sure it is a low expense for them to repurpose extra paper, but it is a functional item for me that I always welcome.

I noticed on the pads that their email address is experts@printersplusdbq.com. What a simple addition to set themselves apart. The change of one word implants in your subconscious that you are corresponding with experts instead of just info@___ or service@___ or something equally as generic.

What minor tweak can you make to your contact information or materials to position yourself as you would like to be? How about leaders@___ or creatives@___ or fun.people@___ or any one of a million other descriptors?

Capitalize on a free opportunity to claim a position for yourself by changing one simple detail on your organizational contact information.

Originally published in modified form on August 7, 2016


leadership dot #483a: honk

I was backing out of a parking space at the grocery store and saw that a man in a pickup truck was waiting for my space so I backed out further. The woman across from me also saw that the pickup was waiting, but she did not see me (or vice versa). You can guess what happened next.

After the impact, we both pulled back into our spots and got out to assess the damage (which fortunately was minimal). Yet the man in the truck pulled by without so much as a second glance.

Another witness came up the aisle and was ranting about the man in the truck: “Why didn’t he honk? Why did he just sit there and watch you two hit each other?  What was he thinking?!” I wondered that myself.

In many ways, the man who watched and did nothing was as much at fault as the woman who backed into me. He had a bird’s eye view of impending trouble and did nothing. I guess he was thinking that it was not his problem.

Do you find yourself in situations where you act like the man in the truck — staying out of situations where you could be of assistance because you aren’t really involved? The thing is that you are involved because you are seeing the situation and you are a member of the community where it is happening. You have an obligation to “honk” — either literally or in a more formal or verbal way — when something wrong is taking place. Don’t just sit there and watch a wreck happen — in a parking lot or in your organization.

Originally published in modified form on September 27, 2013

leadership dot #380a: a name

I recently met someone who was in the process of legally changing their first name. Most people never have that opportunity so it got me wondering what name I would choose for myself if I had that option. It would certainly not be my given name, rather it would be a name that was the same as what I was actually called. (Given the choice, I think my favorite would be nickname/abbreviation-free Hannah — even spelled the same forwards and back.)

But instead of pondering the name that you would choose for yourself, take a minute to consider the name you would make for yourself. When people think of you, what characteristics come to mind? In what niche do you excel? Have you made a reputation for traits that you admire?

You may be able to legally change your name, but it’s a lot harder to change what that name stands for to other people.  

Originally published in modified form on June 16, 2013


leadership dot #386a: Kelly Girl

In my days of temporary office work — before, during, and just after college — I could run a mean IBM Selectric typewriter, making it sing with flawless corrections, lined up “just so” with the little plastic tab. Corrections were important in the pre-computer era where an imperfect change would mean retyping the whole page, so someone like me who could professionally correct had a very valuable talent. I was good with the Selectric, so much so that it gave me comfort to know that if college didn’t pan out, I would always have a career to fall back on as a secretary.

My, how things have changed. My secretary — oops, administrative professional — may as well have a degree in computer programming. Different assistants have been able to do things with Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Jing, and programs I have never heard of. I find my secretarial skills about as obsolete as the revered Selectric — good for the times, but irrelevant for today.

Do you have a skill that is like that — it had value at one time, but is a non-factor today? Making professional typewriter corrections. Running the ditto machine. Utilizing a dictaphone machine. Taking down shorthand. Threading the microfiche machine. Running an adding machine. Filing in cabinets. And those are just a few things in the office. Think of all the obsolete skills in the greater workplace and at home.

To remain relevant, you need to be on a trajectory of continual learning. Don’t rely on your present skills to serve you in the future. They may become as desirable as the once-coveted Selectric.

Originally published in modified form on June 22, 2013


leadership dot #538a: illusion

There was a white blur moving around just outside my backyard fence.  The dogs were going nuts barking at it.  It would get closer, then move along the fence then back away.  The dogs were wild.

When I came out to see what was causing the ruckus, I realized that it was just a plastic grocery bag floating around in the wind.  I was able to eliminate the distraction with ease.

Sometimes, what has you upset is really only an illusion.  Look closely at what your perceived problem is before you get riled up about it.  Maybe it’s not at all what you think it is.

Originally published in modified form on November 21, 2013

leadership dot #3810: pure joy

I just love this video that was circulating on Reddit about the dogs at an animal shelter who were allowed to choose a toy for their Christmas present. Some choose right away while others evaluate their choices but all of them end up with a toy that is just for them. I think there are lessons to be learned from these pooches — even Fido has a preference and seems happier for the privilege of choosing. The same is true of humans.

But mostly, the video shows pure, uninhibited joy. I wish that for you and yours on this Christmas Day.

Take 2 minutes to watch it here.


Posted by u/onesnowcrow

leadership dot #527a: Santa economics

I asked a friend who has young children what the hot gift was for the kids this Christmas. He replied that his young daughter wants a special Lego kit — that costs $130! When she told him about it, she said: “I would never ask you and Mom to buy it because it costs so much, so I am asking Santa for it!”

Do you have things in your organization where it seems like people are asking Santa instead of Mom and Dad? Things that come out of a capital fund seem more like they are from Santa instead of operational expenses out of your budget. Leases or long-term contracts seem easier to swallow than paying a six-figure sum up front, but it still costs that much in the end. When building a home, it somehow is more palatable to add in a thousand-dollar enhancement, but if we paid $1000 out of our checking account it would be painful.

Economists have shown that the more direct link there is to the cash, the smarter people are with their expenditures. What steps can you take in your organization to help your employees understand that Mom and Dad are paying the bills and not Santa?

Originally published in modified form on November 10, 2013

leadership dot #577a: the buzzer

Over the holidays I was able to watch my nephew play in a high school basketball tournament. The game was engaging, partially because we were ahead for the entire contest — until the 2-minute mark. At that juncture, we were up by 10 points, but suddenly the team made some turnovers and allowed a few three-point shots to be scored against them — and to overtime we went. 

And then to double overtime — and our guy scored a free throw with seconds remaining — but the ref said that his foot was on the line. So the bucket did not count and we headed into triple overtime.

After all that, unfortunately, we lost the hard-fought contest. The players were physically exhausted; the fans were emotionally exhausted and it was a sad way to end the afternoon.

I thought back to the final two minutes — oh, if we could replay them again. Take a lesson from this game and resolve to keep up the intensity until the very end — even if it appears that such an expenditure of energy is not necessary. The game isn’t over until the final buzzer sounds.

Originally published in modified form on December 30, 2013


leadership dot #574a: hostas

“Gift bags are the hostas of gift wrapping.”

My sister said that when we were at the wrapping party (described in dot #569). What she meant by her saying was that when you don’t really want to garden, you plant hostas. When you don’t really want to wrap, you use gift bags.

But I took it to mean that gift bags, like hostas, never seem to go away. I split my plants and try to reduce their number, but somehow I always have huge plants in the garden anyway. I occasionally use gift bags, but invariably I am given more gifts in bags and my inventory seems to grow instead of diminish.

Is there something in your organization that seems to linger, despite your best attempts to rid yourself of it? A tradition that won’t die? A problem client that never leaves you?  An unresolved sticky situation that keeps rearing its ugly head?

There are things in every organization that are like hostas — nearly impossible to kill. Treat your hosta situation the same way you treat those plants — with minimal energy and attention. They will live on without any effort from you.

Originally published in modified form on December 27, 2013