leadership dot #3949: keep notes

I just concluded a professional development contract with a client I have been coaching for an extended period. At the start of our work, one of my recommendations was to get a notebook just for our sessions — lessons from our time together, reflections that occurred afterward, and prompts to remember scenarios that she wanted to discuss in the future. I did likewise, and in preparation for our last call, we both reviewed our notebooks. They provided tangible evidence of the progress that was made — reminders of things that used to be a struggle but now were not, enhancements that had resulted from some of the techniques she tried, and increased confidence overall.

Keeping such a record is a useful tool for almost any project. You may not think you are making progress on something, especially if it’s an intangible like professional development, onboarding, coaching, or parenting, but having something written down in a discrete format allows you to see the path your learning has taken. Just making a few notes about the issues of the day or your joys and challenges can go far in capturing a snapshot in time that can be compared with future moments.

It’s difficult to have a meaningful sense of time without everything blurring together. If something is important to you, dedicate a notebook to it. It doesn’t have to be lofty (I stock up on cheap spiral versions during the back-to-school sales), but keeping notes will become an invaluable tool for reflection and validation of your progress.

leadership dot #3948: the box

I am childless, so it was with great irony that I shared a list of local activities for kids with a mom of four. She knew I had such a list because each summer I host “Aunt Camp” for my niece but it still struck me as an unlikely request. When I laughed about it, she said “You think outside the box a bit better than me.”

The funny thing is that I have never felt that way about myself. Yes, I am an innovator and have led many change efforts in my day but most of the out-of-the-box aspect of that work comes from surrounding myself with others who have bold and crazy ideas and by creating a safe space that frees them to share those thoughts. My contribution is being able to pitch those ideas at the right time, breaking through barriers, and creating conditions for “out-of-the-boxness” to thrive. Like with the list of summer activities for kids, I’m also an expert curator who saves ideas in an ongoing and organized way so I have ideas to build on and don’t have to start from scratch when I’m trying to stimulate a new thought.

I’ve written about Patrick Lencioni’s new book Working Genius before (dot #3726) and this is another scenario that validates his premise. You don’t need to master all phases of the process. Keeping a box (or 20) of ideas can help others use them as stepping stones to begin their own out-of-the-box thinking. Both have their place in achieving creative outcomes.

leadership dot #3947: remembered

It’s Memorial Day — a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the military.

There will be parades, tributes to the fallen, and other forms of acknowledgment that unfortunately will fade once the holiday is over. In the Boston area, they have found a more lasting way to recognize those who have served and fallen in the line of duty: permanent plaques on many of their street corners. The posts include the name in raised lettering and a red, white, and blue wreath with color that draws your attention to the sign which hangs year-round. You can’t help but notice them.

As you attempt to create a recognition program for those who have left a legacy in your organization, consider something more lasting than just a going-away party. Those special few you are appreciating are an important part of your organization’s story. Tributes shouldn’t be fleeting.

In Jamaica Plain, MA

leadership dot #3946: distribution

Yesterday, I wrote (dot #3945) about vending machines that are being repurposed to dispense public health items. Another less-traditional item being distributed in this way is women’s menstrual hygiene products.

One study showed that nearly one in five women is unable to afford the tampons or sanitary pads they need on a regular basis. To address this “period poverty,” nonprofit organizations such as the Red Basket Project work to raise funds and place feminine hygiene products in public restrooms. These supplies are placed, fittingly, in a red basket and are free for those in need to take. Other public entities distribute the products through free vending machines.

While the results are the same, the two methods have a markedly different feel — one is of hospitality and a caring community while the machine dispenser feels institutional and less of a gift. It’s a minor distinction to be sure, and if you were in need of supplies you may not notice or care how you obtained them, but somewhere along the line organizations made an intentional choice of how to provide this service.

When you are putting something out into the world — whether it be a product, service, giveaway, or idea — think not only of the distribution method but how you want your audience to feel about receiving it. Never discount the emotional aspect of what you offer.

leadership dot #3945: accessible

While many products can help low-income people address health concerns, there are often barriers to the distribution system. In addition to cost, there is a stigma attached to buying certain products, stores aren’t easily accessible or may not be open during the hours of need.

To eliminate these hurdles and get public health items into neighborhoods, Shaffer Distributing Co. is modifying ordinary vending machines to dispense a variety of “harm-reduction” products including fentanyl testing strips, HIV testing kits, safe sex kits, and prescription drug disposal bags. Once they receive government approval, they will also distribute Narcan and Naxalone, the opioid overdose treatment drugs.

These modified machines are currently located in places with round-the-clock access such as public libraries, post offices, college campuses, police stations, and city halls. This affords the user privacy and the ability to access free products that prevent a health issue from worsening or could even save lives.

If you feel like your organization is facing barriers that prevent you from reaching your audience, take a fresh look at your dilemma through the lens of Shaffer Distributing, a traditional arcade game equipment supplier that morphed some of its inventory into health-supply vending. Instead of being thwarted by tradition, maybe there is an adaptation of another method that will allow you to reach your targets and provide what they need in a different manner.

Source: Life-saving drugs in a vending machine by Marty Turner, Director of Vending Sales, Shaffer Distributing in Insider Q & A in the Telegraph Herald, May 14, 2023, p. 22A

leadership dot #3944: don’t settle

“We’re entitled to and capable of much more joy than we have settled for.”

I’ve had this quote by Laurie Santos rattling around in my brain since I heard it. Where Santos’ quote is the kicker: “…and capable of” — pointing out that we need to work at it and that joy won’t just come calling.

It reminds me of the opening line in Jim Collins’ masterpiece Good to Great: “Good is the enemy of great.” We settle for “good” with so many things in life, joy included, because it’s less effort than seeking out greatness. We become complacent — about where we live, our friends, our job, our health, and our happiness — going through life without questioning our circumstances unless they become truly awful.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Think about what truly makes you happy. What brings you joy? And how much do you work to infuse this into your life? Don’t settle for less bliss than you deserve.

watermelon — one of the things that brings me great joy!

leadership dot #3943: be significant

There are over 3 million podcasts offering a total of 48 million episodes to a half-billion listeners. And one of those episodes features — me! I was invited by a former colleague to be a guest on his show and reluctantly accepted. I’m usually not a fan of thinking on my feet and being interviewed without preparation, but it was actually just a conversation about my leadership journey and lessons I have learned along the way. Who doesn’t like to talk about that?

The podcast came at a fortuitous time as I have recently been reflecting on my path (see dot #3908). As I said in the episode, we don’t make enough time to reflect and thus often miss out on the insights we can gain from looking at the themes of our lives. I’ve learned that I am hesitant about saying yes, but often when I do, I actually enjoy the experience and reap good things from it (just like with doing a podcast!)

The opportunity also reawakened my consciousness that people have different ways of learning and consuming information. I’m not a big podcast listener and much prefer the written word, but having varied or multiple means of communicating your message is a good thing. Don’t look for me to start a podcast anytime soon, but I do mix up the ways I share lessons in my classes and workshops and will be more cognizant of doing so.

I invite you to listen to the episode and see if it inspires you to reflect on the lessons from your journey. Whether you use a podcast or blog to share your insights with others, just thinking about your path is a valuable use of your time to help you craft your future.

Be Significant podcast with Beth Cook and Matt Rogers, May 22, 2023: Dr. beth triplett: All roads lead to Indianapolis

leadership dot #3942: holding out

Yesterday, I was contacted by someone looking to hire me to present a workshop on four different days in June. The organization had set dates and times and was not only unwilling to alter any of them, but they insisted on having the same facilitator for all four days, even though it was for different audiences.

The intermediary who called me was available for three of the four dates; ditto for me, although with a different conflict. We could easily have made it work for them and provided a great experience, but their inflexibility has left them without a presenter two weeks from when it is necessary.

I am all for holding out to get what you truly want — while it’s reasonable — but at some point, you need to become a bit more pragmatic and adjust your expectations to align with more realistic options. This principle applies not only to this booking but to many other situations. Being rigid with your parameters or holding out too long for the ideal may leave you with a sub-par result if luck isn’t on your side. The sooner you can be flexible, the more alternatives you’ll have.

leadership dot #3941: failure rate

How often have you heard “practice makes perfect” — as if perfection were the goal. It seems like a lofty aim but a recent book shares research that puts a new spin on what really makes a difference.

Author Adam Alter shares neuroscience research that suggests the optimum rate of failure is not zero, rather it is about 16%. If you’re failing less than that, chances are that you’re not risking enough or trying new things that will stretch your capacity. If you’re failing more than that, maybe you’re pushing too hard or trying something too advanced and would be more successful backing up a bit. Like with so many things, there is what researchers call the “Goldilocks zone” where your failure is leading to productive results instead of demoralization.

Alter’s book seeks to do two things: 1) give people permission, even encouragement, to fail and 2) provide a benchmark to allow people to gauge whether they are failing too often or too little. Treat it as a permission slip to try things you’re not (yet) good at.

Anyone who has studied innovation knows that failure is inherent in any creative pursuit, whether that be the arts, business, relationships, or learning something new just for fun. Embrace Alter’s research to see failure as progress on your path rather than a setback.

Source: Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to get unstuck when it matters most by Adam Alter, 2023

Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #3940: supervise first

A fallacy I see too often with new supervisors is that they inherit a staff and think “Whew, I’ll now have less to do because I’ve got these other people to do things.” While others may take certain tasks off the supervisor’s plate, to be effective, it means replacing those tasks with the very intentional duty of supervision.

To be an effective supervisor takes time. Lots of time. It takes time to hold weekly one-to-one meetings with each of your direct reports (but I believe they are oh-so-important to do). It takes time to cultivate relationships and learn the strengths of those on your team, whether they are direct reports or not. It takes time to build and foster a culture that promotes psychological safety and belonging. It takes time to cultivate relationships outside your area of purview that will prove beneficial for your team. It takes time to be visible and aware enough of what is going on so that you are able to provide both meaningful feedback and recognize extra effort.

People are challenged when they forget their job is supervision and fail to allocate time in their load to attend to it thoroughly. Managers get caught up with other meetings, budgets, external demands, planning, etc., and aren’t intentional about the people aspect of their role. I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes they can make.

You are only as strong as your staff. Short-changing supervision on your list of priorities may save you a few hours in the short term but it’s never a good strategy overall. Supervise first and you’ll have created a team that can help you accomplish the rest.