leadership dot #2778: while you wait

I’ve been paying attention to the waiting experience lately – what organizations do or don’t do to attend to their clients before they actually receive a service.

Restaurants often address the wait because it is implicit in how the model works that you are going to have to wait while they prepare your food. As a result, they serve you peanuts, bread, or hot rolls to mollify your hunger. It seems that waiting is inevitable at doctors’ offices, so there are usually magazines to make the time seem to pass more quickly, and many businesses now offer wi-fi as a way for you to self-entertain while waiting.

But often the standard methods that attempt to satisfy or divert you apply only for the in-person wait. The dog-DNA-testing site Wisdom Health changed that by providing reassurance, information, fun while you wait for your results. Their email:

Good news! Joan’s DNA sample has arrived safe and sound at our lab and is ready to be processed and tested. The first thing we’ll do is extract and clean Joan’s DNA. Once we have the pure DNA, we’ll place it on a special laboratory chip so it can be genotyped. That’s when we’ll analyze the sample for the 1800+ genetic markers that are used in our tests. The whole process will take about 2-3 weeks from today.

In the meantime, for a little fun, you can head over to the Learning Lab and take our Mixed Breed Quiz. You’ll find out just how sharp your breed identification skills are and see how your score stacks up against others.

 Don’t wait to start providing excellent customer care. Pay attention to those who wait for you – in whatever form that may take. You may create a loyal customer by how well you treat them before you ever provide your service.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2777: digging out

It’s so much better to stay out of the proverbial hole than it is to dig out of one.

  • It is more manageable to stay on schedule than to catch up after falling behind.
  • It is easier to preserve your savings than to build the account.
  • It is more straightforward to maintain your weight than to lose the pounds.
  • It is easier to maintain your position as a market leader than to initially establish your brand.
  • It is a clearer path to earn trust than to regain it after it is lost.
  • It is far better to protect your reputation than to repair it.

All the efforts involved in the initial acts require effort and sacrifice so we don’t always do them, thus forcing ourselves into working harder to undo them on the back end. It reminds me of the quote: “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, why do you think you’ll have time to do it again?”

The more you are able to keep the long term in focus when making short term decisions, the better off you and your organization will be. It’s much slower when you have to go in reverse.

leadership dot #2776: autopilot

Ever since I was a kid and started taking daily showers, I shampooed my hair each time. That’s just what “you” did: Lather, Rinse, Repeat as it said on the bottle. It was as much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth; a habit I executed without thought or question.

Then my hairstylist suggested that “intermittent washing” may prolong the life of my coloring and suddenly, whether or not to shampoo became a conscious decision. I skipped a day here and there and found that I had better results. Who knew?

I think the principle applies to other aspects of life. Instead of having tasks or habits on autopilot, it is beneficial to occasionally stop and consider whether your current routine is for the best. Does that report really need to be produced weekly (is anyone looking at it?) or could quarterly suffice? Are you still changing your car oil according to the old guidelines or have you extended the interval based on new technology? Did you consider whether holiday cards are still relevant and worth sending in the era of social media where everyone now knows your day-by-day updates and may not need the annual recap?

It’s easy to “lather, rinse and repeat” without effort, but if you apply some intentionality to your routines you may find you have the capacity and resources to apply to something that really makes a difference.

leadership dot #2775: compelling

“One of the biggest differentiators between those who are skilled leaders and those who are unskilled leaders, between those who are really leading and those who are leaders in name only, is their effort and ability to craft a compelling vision of where they want to take their groups*.”

I have seen this phenomenon play out over and over – especially with new leaders who are more accustomed to being told the vision instead of having to craft one. I’ve also seen too many leaders who run into problems because they have a vision, but no one else knows what it is. A vision that is not shared does not inspire anyone.

One person who is synonymous with vision is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As you celebrate the holiday today, pause for a few moments to think about his vision for the county. In 1963, King spoke from the March on Washington: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

 How can your vision move your organization forward? What does your dream look like? Share that story with passion to give others a compelling reason to follow.

*Julie Straw, Mike Scullard, Susie Kukkonen, Barry Davis. Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead (Wiley, 2013), p. 18 as quoted by Terri Fairchild on LinkedIn.





leadership dot #2774: wonderland

I am struck by how different the attitude toward winter is between people. I can barely tolerate the season whereas others seem to embrace it. I was recently in Minnesota and saw several people who have dedicated their entire front lawn to create a temporary ice rink. My niece’s entire 6th grade class went on a 4-day overnight outdoor environmental education trip this week. Festivals carry on as if winter were just another season instead of a reason to cancel everything and stay indoors.

I live in the Midwest and while I know that I will have to deal with cold and snow, I spend a lot of energy dreading the end of autumn and hoping for the start of spring. How much better would it be if I had something to look forward to in the winter months.

While I have no plans to construct an ice rink, in the spirit of gratitude, I have made a mental list of things I appreciate about this season. My list includes items like pomegranates, being able to snuggle up in a huge pile of blankets, laughing at my crazy dog as she roots through the snow with her nose digging for balls and cranberry English muffins.

Tonight as you’re transitioning to sleep, consider the things that make this season wonderful for you. Changing your perspective may help you have a warm heart, even if the thermometer says otherwise.

leadership dot #2773: silverware

A novel way to sort people into groups during a workshop or class involves the use of silverware. I purchased a bag of plasticware that came in four colors which allowed me to quickly and easily break the group into several configurations:

  • By the same color
  • All forks, all knives, all spoons
  • One place setting per group (a fork, a knife, a spoon)
  • Paired with a different utensil
  • Light blue & dark blue together // reds & yellows together

I have written before about the power of utilizing different methods of group division (see dot 2475). By deploying such tools, it forces people to mix with others they may not have chosen, removes bias from the pairing process and facilitates speedy group formation.

Next time, try silverware – or one of the many other options – to interject some energy into your pairings.

leadership dot #2772: paint

A friend once said that “paint was the coolest invention.” That thought always stuck with me because when you think about it, it really is an amazing tool. Paint has the ability to transform a space – and with relative ease and reasonable cost.

Paint is that elusive item that can create a big impact but requires little effort to implement. Think about what the equivalent of paint is for your organization. What can you do to realize results in the short term without a significant investment? Perhaps it is allowing employees a day to work from home. Maybe it is rearranging your reception area. Or maybe it’s making that call to a partner and finally agreeing to work together on a project. Or it could be literally painting a wall – in your home or office – to make a statement with color.

Another benefit of paint is that it’s not permanent. It can last a long time if you want it to, or you can repaint tomorrow. And so it goes with change. Try something. Experiment. Start. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always apply another coat and try again.