leadership dot #4131: helpful

I attempted to get a gift receipt at the Walmart self-service checkout. I hit the gift receipt button, checked the item I wanted the receipt for — and nothing printed. When I asked the clerk, she sent me to the service desk to wait in another line to retrieve what I needed.

While I was there, the clerk told me that “she’s been getting a lot of these requests from customers” and that my problem was that I did not hit the “apply” button after making my suggestions. I asked her how I would know that. “I’m just trying to be helpful,” she said.

No, helpful would be putting a sign on the registers letting people know that before they had to wait in line to learn about it. Helpful would be to automatically print gift receipts for every item over $X during December. Helpful would be to have an actual human working the checkout line.

I hear from my clients that customers are crabbier than ever. Perhaps it is because there is less service and more reliance on the customer to figure it out themselves. You can have a true competitive advantage if you operate your organization from your customer’s perspective and become proactively helpful instead of pointing out where they failed after the fact.

leadership dot #4130: tailor

In a world of information overload, one way to capture attention is to personalize products or at least make them seem like they are tailored for a specific audience. Heinz went all out in this area by creating individual packets of mayonnaise and mustard that feature dishes specific to each state. It may give you a boost of nostalgia, ideas for a new recipe, or educate you on the cultural delicacies in different areas.

Think about how you can tailor your offerings to make what you offer feel personal to different audiences. Have a cover slide on your PowerPoint that utilizes your audience’s logo. Make a cover page that references the user, not just you. Put the names of your visitors on signs.

You can make a big difference through a little tweak to your “packaging.” Don’t forfeit the opportunity to make an impact by being generic.

leadership dot #4129: downward dog

Jay Leno was known for his interest in funny and unusual signs. I appreciate the ones that communicate messages firmly but kindly — phrasing things in such a way that gets the message across without the use of “don’t” or other shaming words.

Here is a recent example of a town’s sign that advocates for good dog ownership in a positive way. Use Birmingham as a model the next time you must communicate instructions and make your point with humor and intention.

leadership dot #4128: generously

I don’t understand when people are stingy with their knowledge. I believe you should give credit when you share someone else’s work, but refusing to share is selfish.

For example, I just finished teaching a class where I gave them multiple handouts and information as part of the course content. I also provided several students with additional resources outside of class and would be happy to supply former students with the same information. All my workshop sessions include links to the electronic copy of the handout and the PowerPoint. I send coaching clients articles of interest and continue to keep in touch with them after my contract ends. Oh yeah — I publish dots every day.

I don’t see any of these actions as benevolent, but rather they align with my core purpose of helping people learn. The real value comes in applying these resources or ideas; they mean nothing by just having them. Nor does equipping others with knowledge lessen what I know; rather it adds to mine.

Make it your practice to generously share your talents, in whatever form they take. You truly do gain by giving.

leadership dot #4127: not wrong

“When we set up a scenario where one side is clearly wrong, we lose perspective on a possible solution.”

It was a casual comment made by a colleague on a Zoom meeting, but the sentiment should be posted in every meeting room in the land. Her point was that we need to keep the conversation in play to allow the possibility of coming to a synergistic solution and once we delineate with right/wrong, the door to that option closes.

Even more importantly, we need to remember this when we least see it — in the heat of the moment, during passionate arguments, and when we are infuriated by those on the “wrong” side. To prevent elevated emotions from creating unnecessary barriers, put this mantra in your notebooks and your brain as a reminder before you enter potentially polarizing conversations. Your goal is to continue pursuing common ground for as long as possible without prematurely ending the dialogue before you reach that space.

Thanks to Isabel.

leadership dot #4126: execute

My timing has been off this holiday season. I purchased a gift card for regular price, only to have it discounted by 10% the week after. I waited to buy a gift online until after I browsed locally first, but then the item was sold out when I returned to the site. It used to be that Black Friday was the day for deals but I’ve found greater bargains since then. It makes me unsure as to when the right time is to finish my list.

Shopping is emblematic of other situations where we try to get it right in scenarios where there is no right. Having more information just makes us fret — of course, we focus on the missed opportunities rather than the selection or pricing we received.

It’s better to have forward motion — progress in completing tasks — rather than waiting for the perfect moment to act. Make that list, check it twice, then execute, knowing your actions will include some fortuitous wins and unfortunate setbacks due to the random timing of when you do them.

leadership dot #4125: yesses

When I was advocating for the school bond referendum, we were advised to “focus on the yesses.” This meant that our energy should be spent reaching those likely to vote favorably and encouraging them to actually get out and vote.

I think “focus on the yesses” can apply in most change situations — working with those who are open to change or at least curious and leaving the recalcitrant alone instead of wasting time trying to convince them. It has always been my strategy to work with the willing — empowering them to make progress that serves as a beacon to attract the neutral and rally them over to the cause.

It’s easier said than done though. If you’re passionate about the change you’re trying to enact, it’s hard to ignore the naysayers. You will be tempted to debate with them, share your arguments, and try to persuade them of your proposal’s merits. Remember, time is your most valuable resource. There will be people opposed to whatever you are rooting for — spend your energy on those most likely to join you in saying yes.

leadership dot #4124: starting

At 9:00 a.m. yesterday I started on a project that I have been putting off. I told myself that I would work on it for one hour and then move on to something else. I finished at 9:30 — p.m. Once I got started, I was on a roll and I completed the project and then some, not even realizing the time.

I have quoted Susan Power before who said: “The motivation is in the doing.” She is so right. The more you dread something, the sooner you should start. Play mind games with yourself and commit to doing just a short interval. Chances are that you will keep going.

Starting is the hardest part. That first step on a walk. The first sentence in a blog. The first holiday card that you address. The first drawer you clean. The first line on your spreadsheet. Take solace in the fact that it gets easier once you actually begin.

leadership dot #4123: we see

Currently, my favorite exercise to open a session involves utilizing the OuiSi photo cards. OuiSi (meaning yes-yes in French and Spanish and pronounced “we see” in English) is a box of 210 3″x3″ cardboard tiles, each with an image. I spread the pictures out across a table or two, then ask participants to find two cards that connect. No two cards are the same (this isn’t “Go Fish” matching) — so people need to think to find abstract connections.

For example, a dropped ice cream cone and a wind-damaged umbrella may connect because both are ruined. A pile of rubber bands and a jar of confetti may connect because both are multi-colored. A knot and a nail may connect as both are fasteners to hold things together. Licorice may connect with a half-eaten donut as both are food — or a pole as both are straight — or a ruined umbrella as both are red — or with train tracks that are both straight with patterns.

OuiSi comes with instructions for many ways to use the cards, but finding simple connections — then sharing your choices with another participant — has worked well to get conversations and creative juices flowing. Maybe I love it because its essence is making connections out of seemingly unconnected things — and isn’t that what leadership dots are all about?

(If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift, consider OuiSi. I have the original set, but there is also a nature set and art gallery version. http://www.ouisi.co.)

leadership dot #4122: crunch

It’s a natural pairing: eating chips while watching television, or snacking while playing computer games — but if you’re a gamer wearing a headset, those crunches can be annoying. Doritos recognized that the sound of their chips was a barrier to a key snack audience, so they set about to address it…

…but not by making “quieter” chips (as that would take away some of Doritos’ appeal), but rather by utilizing technology and creating a special crunch-cancelling software! “Doritos Silent” utilized AI to filter out the crunch sounds heard in headphones, allowing gamers to snack without annoying others.

The next time you have a problem, consider multiple ways to address it. We often turn to the obvious, but be like Doritos and look outside the bag for an innovative solution.

Source: The sound of crunching chips is annoying. Doritos has made a silencer. by Sydney Page, Washington Post, November 27, 2023