leadership dot #2620: hiding

Ever since I waterproofed my boots on the patio I have been left with an intermittent reminder of the task – every time it rains, the silhouette reappears only to disappear when it dries. I have always thought that this concept was an untapped marketing opportunity – why not do art or graffiti or advertising in waterproof spray – leaving a seemingly pristine surface in dry weather and an unexpected message when it is wet.

This could be used to point people into stores: “Umbrellas sold here” or “Come in out of the rain and check out our clothes” or “Hot coffee to take away the damp chill”. Art could be ducks enjoying the puddles or other weather-appropriate designs, etc.

I just learned that I wasn’t the only one with this idea. The Rainworks organization has been doing street art using Superhydrophobic coatings and have achieved the same effect – providing hopscotch grids and messages on sidewalks and leaving a bit of joy during otherwise dreariness.

What message could you hide until it rains? Surprise someone by putting a can of waterproofing spray to a new use.

When wet
Same space when dry

leadership dot #2619: elevator

Trying to do too much sometimes works like an elevator. You think that you’ll make just a quick stop on a floor – only to discover that when you come back the elevator is gone and you have to wait for another to arrive. It ends up not being quick at all and you would have been better off heading directly to your original destination and finishing the first task at hand.

Think about your to-do list like an elevator and try to do all the things on one floor before heading to another. The less time you spend riding in the elevator, the more time you’ll have to actually accomplish tasks.

leadership dot #2618: scavenger hunt

The thrill of shopping for new school supplies has turned into the stress of shopping for new school supplies. Why do we even bother?

While I was at Staples, I began reading the school supply lists. I have written before (dot #1192) about how the lists have expanded to incorporate general classroom supplies like plastic bags, dry erase markers and tissues. Now the supply lists have become so specific that I can’t imagine being a parent trying to find all the items that meet these specifications. It’s like a giant scavenger hunt only you have to pay to do it!

Some examples (with emphasis as written on the lists):

  • 8 2-pocket folders (without metal parts), preferably plastic, 1 each of: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and 2 others
  • 2 boxes CRAYOLA CRAYONS (regular, not fat ones) (boxes of 16 or 24)
  • 1 child’s Fiskar scissors, 5”, blunt tip
  • Vinyl, 3-prong bottom pocket folders, solid colors: red, yellow & blue
  • 2 dozen #2 TICONDEROGA brand pencils (no plastic wrapped pencils)
  • 1 one-inch WHITE 3-ring binder with clear plastic insert on the front
  • 8 book covers (non-adhesive or brown paper bags) If cloth – NOT red or magenta
  • Feathers (blue, yellow, brown, black)
  • 24 wooden #2 pencils (sharpened) NO MECHANICAL OR DECORATIVE PENCILS
  • One box C&H Sugar Cubes

I believe there is a rationale for the specifications but it seems to me there is less of a reason to send parents on the great shopping hunt to find the items. I know some stores and online retailers will pre-package the supplies but why not eliminate the middleman? Instead, students could be charged $X for supplies and be done with it. Rather than school supply drives – where inevitably well-meaning donors will contribute variations from the list – funds could be donated to provide “scholarships” to offset the fees of those who are in need.

What’s not in short supply is stress. Look at the amount of it you cause your clients and see if you can’t remove some of the steps in the process to meet your needs in a less burdensome way.

leadership dot #2617: runway

Planes may use runways in the literal sense but I have come to embrace the concept for many other aspects in life. A runway is a way of initially moving toward your destination – being in motion when you’re not quite ready or able to fly. By intentionally incorporating a runway phase to a project or idea, you can accelerate progress in the early stages.

Some examples:

  • The dreaded icebreakers at a workshop can be reframed as “runways” – allowing participants to get focused and mentally prepared to dive into the main content
  • An internship can provide a runway for a new hire or career
  • Short-term financial and housing assistance provided to a new graduate can serve as a runway to launch them until they are established
  • A side hustle can serve as a runway to test out a full-fledged entrepreneurial venture
  • A pilot or beta-testing acts as a runway to a product launch
  • Dog-sitting can be a runway to personal ownership of an animal
  • Writing a blog could serve as a runway to authoring a book

Planes do not go from the gate directly into the air – they travel from stopped to airborne via the runway. The bigger the plane (aka: idea), the longer the runway that is required, but no plane takes flight without the initial path of acceleration. Your ideas can benefit from a similarly planned ramp-up of energy.


leadership dot #2616: mile marker 1

Musician Lzzy Hale bought her house because it had a mantle to display her prized trophies: one, a Grammy that her band Halestorm won in 2012, and her “other favorite trophy”, the Schukill County Fair 3rd place trophy that the band won in 1997. She describes that as “equally monumental – mile marker 1.”

Halestorm has been performing over 20 years with another Grammy nomination and many other mile markers along their path, but Lzzy stays grounded by remembering the band’s humble beginnings and the roots that got the group started.

We often focus on the end goal but sometimes forget the importance of mile marker 1. It’s easy to diminish the importance of that initial landmark – when someone actually pays you for what you do, when you are quoted for the first time, when you receive that initial recognition – but it can be that early beacon of hope that keeps you going forward.

Starting on a long journey is tough. By the time you have slogged through hundreds of steps to get to the first mile, you need a marker to acknowledge that even though there are many steps to go, those initial ones have meant something. So, even if it’s a third-place trophy from a county fair, cherish the markers that indicate all those incremental steps are getting you somewhere.

Thanks, Mike!

leadership dot #2615: climb

The arduous climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro may be easier in the coming years as the government of Tanzania is planning to install a cable car on the route. By assisting tourists in reaching the top faster, it hopes to increase tourism by 50% and provide access to physically disabled, elderly and children.

When I heard this, John F. Kennedy’s quote came to mind: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” Climbing to the summit becomes a personal challenge for those who attempt it – something that isn’t done for the views, but for the symbolism and accomplishment that it represents. They do it because it is hard.

There are many things easily done today that were once hard to do and I’m all for progress. I’m glad I can fly across the ocean instead of needing to go by ship. I couldn’t do the daily dots on a typewriter or by quill and ink. Thank goodness I don’t have to hunt and kill my own food.

But there is great value in doing something that is hard to do – for the sheer value of doing it. Completing a triathlon. Writing a book. Earning a Black Belt. Finishing a doctorate. And climbing a mountain.

Sometimes the benefits come from the process as much as from the outcome. Don’t cheat yourself by taking the cable car.

leadership dot #2614: porters

I listened with fascination as a person I know recounted her journey to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa. It was an arduous journey but she made it all the way to the summit – thanks in large measure to those who accompanied her. The Tanzanian government recognized that the journey is difficult and dangerous so required each climber to be assigned five porters to help them.

What a beautiful model to follow when you are working on a difficult project on the ground. No one would consider climbing without a team –why do we assume that people will be able to achieve their goal alone instead of providing them with ample support? If you are the supervisor, you can instill it as a norm that challenging projects receive extra person-power to aid in completion. The mountain climbers would have never made it to the top without the assistance of the porters. Don’t leave your staff to navigate the heavy-lift without the resources to get there.