leadership dot #1849: a word

We are all familiar with expiration dates printed on food products, and normally don’t pay much attention to them. But I recently had a new drink whose date stamp caught my eye.

Instead of the usual “expires on XX” or “use by XX” or even “best by XX”, this one read: “Enjoy by XX.”

Think of the subtle difference that one word makes. Instead of a negative message about expiring, it plants in your mind that this will be a pleasurable experience. It sets you up with anticipation instead of trepidation.

The next time you have to print a rote message, see if you can do it with a flourish like Naked Juice.

leadership dot #1848: vast

As I was driving across Kansas, I was struck by how incredibly vast our country is. With flat land and wide open spaces, you really can see for miles. It gave me a truer sense than what someone can gain from a plane as to how immense the plains are, and it shed a new appreciation for the scope and scale of the land we call home.

I wonder what can be done to bring that mega-perspective to organizations. People work in silos in part because they see only a small slice of the whole. How can you “put them in Kansas” in a metaphorical way to impress on them the size of the unit or the whole entity to which they belong? Think of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall that shows the magnitude of the number who died. Or the Women’s March on Washington to illustrate solidarity.

Move beyond the two-dimensional to create the emotional tie that comes from being connected to something much bigger than yourself.

leadership dot #1847: accommodation

It is human nature to want to give positive feedback and to avoid the negative, and the same principle has carried over to cause grade inflation in many classrooms. Nobody wants to give a D or an F or to risk the push-back that comes when having to justify a less than stellar ranking.

The editors of the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul series had guest readers who rated each of the submissions before they were included in a book. To accommodate for some of the poor ranking hesitation, they changed the scale. Readers could rate the story as a 7, 8, 9 or 10. Somehow giving an entry a “7” felt much better than giving it a “1” even though it accomplished the same end. And by eliminating a middle score, it forced reviewers to pick a side and make some sort of explicit judgment as to the merit of the piece.

Think about your rating scale and what barriers inherently come along with it. Can you modify your language to make the distinctions more palatable? Is there a way to shrink the options — or to expand them — to gain the measurements you are seeking? How can you create a ranking that makes the reviewers comfortable enough to place priority on some but not on others? There is no magic number.

Reported by Laura Brown in How to Write Anything

leadership dot #1846: piggy bank

A class I was set to teach this summer was just cancelled due to low enrollment. Had the class occurred, like with the one I am teaching now, my compensation would have been absorbed in the big pot of household funds and I would have barely noticed its impact. But because I am not receiving payment for the second contract, I have found myself acutely noticing the loss of those dollars.

I’m not thinking “I could have used the money to pay insurance,” rather: “I could have bought a new computer with that money,” or “I could have paid for vacation,” or “That money would have paid to remodel part of my basement.” When I think of the foregone paycheck as a discrete item rather than part of the whole, it takes on a whole new significance. It has become more like a bonus than part of my regular earnings. The next class I teach is going into a separate pot instead of the checkbook.

Think of how you can play mind games with your own budgeting or that of your organization. Is there a source of income that can be earmarked for something special rather than being lost in the general fund? Can you do something as a side gig to earn some extra cash that can be dedicated to a project? Is there a way to carve out a separate fund from your raise or interest that can serve as working capital for a new idea you have?

There is something powerful about a financial set-aside. Work to create a virtual piggy bank that allows you to do something outside of the norm with a small piece of your income.




leadership dot #1845: goodwill

In the business communication class I am teaching, last week we covered “goodwill messages” including notes for recognition, thanks or sympathy. The authors wrote: “finding the right words to express feelings is often more difficult than writing ordinary business documents. That is why writers tend to procrastinate when it comes to goodwill messages.”* The students in my class agreed. Hardly any of them shared their sentiments in writing, preferring to do so verbally, if at all.

But handwritten goodwill messages always mean so much more. In Jim Collins’ speech that I wrote about yesterday, he references a note his wife received from her high school cross country coach — and how she kept that note for four decades. Something so simple and handwritten had that much meaning that she preserved it for most of her adult life.

Even I hesitated before recently sending a note with a newspaper article to a former student. I wondered whether he would care to hear from me, but instead I received an instantaneous email saying: “It was absolutely wonderful to hear from you again! I appreciate your postcard so much; it made my entire week!” Why did I have any doubt?

The few moments it takes to put pen to paper to share your message has benefits that will far outlast the time it takes to share your goodwill. The next time you’re thinking about someone, let the words flow across the notecard rather than just crossing your mind.

*Business Communication Process and Product 8th edition by Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy


leadership dot #1844: influential

Anyone who knows me well knows that Good to Great by Jim Collins is the most influential book I have read. It changed the course of an entire university, stimulated relationships with some of the people who became my best colleagues and friends, and has been part of my vocabulary and thinking since I first picked it up in June, 2002.

So you can understand why I was delighted to come across a speech Jim Collins gave to the Global Leadership Summit. (His comments were made in 2015, but I just heard them). Collins focuses on his comments around seven questions that frame his learnings from his recent time teaching leadership at West Point.

I encourage you to read Good to Great, and, if you have already done so, to listen to the seven questions that Jim poses to young leaders (young being a relative term!).

  1. What cause do you serve with Level 5?
  2. Will you settle for bring a good leader, or will you grow to be a great leader?
  3. How can you reframe failure as growth in pursuit of a BHAG?
  4. How can you succeed by helping others succeed?
  5. Have you found your personal Hedgehog?
  6. Will you build your unit — your minibus — into a Pocket of Greatness?
  7. How will you change the lives of others?

As Collins writes in his book: “greatness is a conscious choice.”  Choose great over good today.

leadership dot #1843: humor

It is easy to put up a sign and convey your message, but to do so in a memorable way requires a bit more care and attention. One bar owner in the Wichita airport did just that as he attempted to attract passengers to stop in for a drink before their flight: Here = Nice Drinks.  Up ahead — Dunno. Maybe Bears?!  Wouldn’t Risk It!

It’s handwritten on a chalk board, but that only serves to help it stand out in the sea of commercialism that airports have become.

Your humor doesn’t have to be pervasive or lofty, but a dash of it can bring in a smile or two, even if it doesn’t bring in a customer. Think of how you can add some whimsy to your next communication.  Dunno, it might save you from the bears.