leadership dot #4065: ride

While shopping on vacation, I saw a sign asking: “Need a ride to the train station?” I did not think the town had a rail service so I was intrigued enough to read further. Instead of a ride offer, it was a warning not to shoplift!

It read: “Bad news is there’s no train station in Saugatuck. Good news is we DO have a police station. We’ll happily take you THERE if you decide to shoplift HERE. Smiling for our cameras HERE will be so much better than a mugshot THERE. Shoplifting is a crime. We take it seriously.”

They could have hung signs saying “NO SHOPLIFTING,” or “CAMERAS IN USE,” but this sign communicated the same thing in a more clever manner. They still got their point across but added personality as well. You’d be wise to follow their lead. If you need to make a sign, don’t make it generic.

leadership dot #4064: delegating

I’m working on a volunteer committee with a few core team members responsible for a very large task. The group is great and willing to jump in and do whatever it takes…

…but too often, they take care of things right away instead of engaging one of our volunteers to help. I get it — often, it’s so much easier to do something yourself instead of deploying a stranger, explaining things to them, etc., but in the long run, it’s not sustainable.

The same is true in organizations with staff. Instead of sharing the context, training employees on the process, and empowering them to do something new, we keep doing things ourselves. While it IS easier to do things on your own initially, that strategy only works for the short term. Long term, it’s almost always better to have the assistance of someone else.

Commit to preparing someone for future delegation. You don’t want to just hand off a task and run, but the time you spend developing someone now will pay dividends over and over in the future.

leadership dot #4063: gradually

When does summer become fall? I think about this as I watch the season I love slowly slip away and autumn take her place.

There are some transitions that have a clear demarcation — you start a new job, receive a degree, get married, etc. But like in nature, other transitions happen through a slow evolution — your relationship becomes serious, your work on a project morphs into your whole job, or one day your anger becomes advocacy.

There are usually celebrations for the distinct transitions but those without a clear demarcation warrant acknowledgment, too. Even if we slide into something, it’s important to have a moment of recognition that we are entering a new phase.

For example, consider an independent contractor who accepts fewer gigs and one day finds themselves retired. There would be no gold watch or cake in the break room — their job calendar would just be blank, but their retirement is just as significant as someone who punches out for the final time.

Raise your consciousness of the gradual transitions you — and others in your circle — are making. When norms don’t lend themselves to a public affirmation of the change, be the one who notices it.

leadership dot #4062: remembrance

The board room of our credit union headquarters includes a wall of photos featuring past board members. The pictures are arranged in an artistic way, minimizing the impact of some images in black and white, some in color, and even some cut out of a printed piece. I like how they have made the wall more randomized and visually appealing instead of a staid and linear display of faces.

Mostly, I like how they have found a way to honor past board members. Too often, people serve and are forgotten, even those who held leadership positions in the organization.

How can you adapt the credit union’s idea to recognize key people from your past? You could do so for your family tree as well as for your organization’s history — merging art with remembrance, and the past with the present.

Dupaco Community Credit Union Headquarters, Dubuque, Iowa

leadership dot #4061: coach

I attended the launch party for a colleague’s new book (yeah!). One of the heartiest thanks he gave was to his writing coach. “I’d still be on Chapter 1 if it wasn’t for her,” he said. Instead, he has a finished book that is on the market now.

Kudos to him for not only knowing that he needed help but for actually seeking it out — and then using it. Too many times people struggle on their own, sometimes successfully but oftentimes spending far more energy than would be required with help.

Whether it is to write a book, lose weight, learn new computer systems, improve your supervisory skills, or do a DIY project, don’t go it alone. Seeing out assistance can help you achieve your goal with more speed and less anguish. Remember, even the pros have coaches.

leadership dot #4060: time horizon

I have been crazy busy this fall, so last week when I wasn’t, the temptation was to coast a bit and maybe even take a half-day off. It’s the wrong strategy though, as going slow on a slow week just makes a busy week busier. Instead, I tried to even things out — using gaps in presentations as the opportunity to prepare for the next round so that everything doesn’t pile up at once.

The best way I know to achieve this is through the use of a desk calendar that helps me see what is coming. If I look at my Outlook or weekly schedule, it may seem as if I have time to spare. If I look at my monthly calendar, my mind knows that it better shift into gear now.

As you rise in the organizational hierarchy, your time horizon needs to expand commensurately. While front-line staff may focus on the customer in front of them or the work they have to do today, those in leadership roles need to think months, years, or even a decade into the future when planning their work. Figure out your appropriate time window and ensure it remains visible to you when scheduling. Just looking at what is on your calendar “today” is deceiving.

leadership dot #4059: adapted

When was the last time you had to wait in line to use a store’s fitting room? I wouldn’t be surprised if your answer was “never.”

Rather than have the rooms sit perpetually empty, our Target store converted one of the stalls into a Nursing Room. It is essentially a dressing room with a cozy chair and small table — no other adaptation required — but it provides a functional and welcoming space for those who need it.

Not all changes have to be lofty. A little forethought plus some simple repurposing can have a positive outcome. Think of what better use you can make of space that is currently designated but unused.

leadership dot #4058: exit sign

I recently stayed at an Airbnb and this was the sign above the stairway — the word EXIT on a paper plate:

This is how building codes get developed — because someone thought it was acceptable to mark the exit with a paper plate.

If you notice similar sloppy transgressions in your organization, it behooves you to stop the practice as soon as you see it. It’s much better to regulate your own policies than to have them officially imposed on you.

leadership dot #4057: replaceable

It’s a paradox that those who help make themselves replaceable at work actually become more valuable instead of irrelevant. People who can train and delegate to others multiply their impact instead of diminishing it. I’d welcome someone who worked themselves out of a job and gladly find other challenges for them to conquer.

I think it’s important to explicitly communicate the value that delegators and innovators provide. You want people who expand their roles and empower others instead of hoarding information, resisting technological improvements, or insisting on doing things “the way they’ve always been done.”

Celebrate those who find a better way — especially if it means that their role changes along with it. Those are the people who can help you move forward.

leadership dot #4056: Georgia

Quick — what’s your answer to this question: “What is the #1 fruit grown in Georgia?”

Or how about this: “What state grows more peaches: South Carolina, New Jersey, or Georgia?”

If you’re like most people — and if you didn’t change your instinctive answer because you thought it was a trick question — you would have answered “Peaches and Georgia.” You would be wrong on both counts — by a lot.

It turns out that blueberries are the number one fruit crop in, um, the Peach State. Last year, blueberries accounted for $350 million of economic activity while their signature fruit was responsible for just under $85 million. California (due in part to its size) is the leader with 500,000+ tons of peach production, while South Carolina and New Jersey are next. South Carolina produced more than twice as many peaches as Georgia and has been ahead of Georgia since 1984.

All this is to say that it’s important to verify information and to question our assumptions. At one point, peaches and Georgia were synonymous, but that was decades ago. Circumstances and outcomes change. Our ability to change our beliefs needs to change as well.