leadership dot #2730: sheets

I put a dark red sheet as the top layer of my bed to add some festive color for the holidays. Within one day, it was totally covered in dog hair and by the end of the second day, I had it in the washer and reverted back to my beige covering. I am under no illusion that there is less hair on the lighter sheet but I am unable to see it and that makes all the difference.

What is the sheet analogy for your organization? There are certain figures or facts that you want to stand out – places where you should utilize the “dark sheet” to highlight in real-time what is happening. There are other circumstances where knowing something is not worth your time or attention – you can allow those functions to occur in the background or on the “light sheet”.

Maybe the red sheet activities are your key dashboard metrics of intakes or sales – or for this blog, the number of entries published. Perhaps the beige sheet numbers are those which are trackable, but not as relevant, such as total transactions or packages – or the number of words written for this blog.

The ability to focus on relevant information and to ignore the rest is a key attribute of prioritization. Think about strategies you can apply to hide from your view that which does not merit your attention.

leadership dot #2729: lost marbles

You may have heard Brené Brown’s analogy about the marble jar – where trust is earned like marbles accumulating in a jar, one small act at a time, and where it can be lost through a series of small actions, with marbles being taken out for breaches of trust or transgressions.

What you may not have considered is that as a supervisor, your marble jar is inextricably linked to those you lead. When your staff does great things, you get marbles in your jar from the organization as a whole. When they mess up, you lose marbles and credibility.

If you have an employee who continually causes problems and you as the supervisor let it linger on without acting, you will continue to lose marbles when their behavior persists. Their marble jar may be empty – people have written them off and minimize contact – but you continue to pay the price for their poor performance.

I did not initially realize this but learned it the hard way when I did not fire an employee in a timely manner. Even though I was working one-on-one to improve their attitude, their failure to reform ultimately not only cost them their job, but I paid a personal price in my stature because of the delay. In other words, I lost a lot of marbles from my jar because of my inaction even though it was the employee’s actions that negatively impacted the organization’s culture.

If you are the supervisor of a problem employee, the window for resolving the performance issue is small. If you allow the toxic behavior to persist any length of time, it will leech out into the organization and tarnish your leadership credibility. Others will take marbles from your jar because you did not resolve the issue, irrespective of who or what caused it.

leadership dot #2728: nest

While out walking, I found a bird’s nest that was inexplicably laying in the middle of a parking lot. Since there was no nearby tree from which it may have fallen, I carried it home.

As I marveled at the sturdy construction, it occurred to me that this nest was made with no equipment or tools; nothing was purchased or new; there was no prefabrication or blueprint – and yet, I walked with the nest for a mile and never once did a piece of it fall off.

The nest can be a model for organizations. It’s the essence of creativity: taking what already exists and making something new out of it. It’s a lesson in ingenuity – utilizing mud and sticks and straw that by themselves have little value but pasted together form a functional container to safely warm eggs and ultimately house baby birds. And it’s an environmental wonder, doing all this through 100% repurposing of materials.

How can you emulate nest-making? Before you make your next purchase, act as if you don’t have the option to buy new. Apply some bird-like ingenuity and fashion what you already into your solution.

leadership dot #2727: ceiling fan

An Argyle Sweater comic featured two balloons trapped between the ceiling and the ceiling fan. One says: “You flipped the wrong switch again” and the other replies: “Why do we even own a ceiling fan?”

I think it’s an appropriate metaphor for so many situations. Instead of blaming others (or ourselves) for the outcome that is experienced, why don’t we ask why we continue to put up with what caused the problem in the first place?

Instead of stressing about what to get Uncle Joe for the holiday, question whether you should continue the tradition of exchanging gifts. Rather than have repeated angst over how a process is designed, propose a new way of doing things. An option to fretting about the time spent in meetings is to cancel some of them and use other ways of communicating.

The next time you find yourself complaining about what is, force yourself to step back and ask why you are in this situation at all. Instead of repeatedly trying to get the balloons unstuck, you may be far better off by removing the ceiling fan altogether.


leadership dot #2726: seem seamless

As I redeemed an iTunes gift card, I stopped for a moment to marvel at what I had just accomplished.

  • Purchased a card at a store not affiliated with Apple.
  • Paid without exchanging any cash.
  • Brought it home and held the code up to a camera on my computer.
  • Instantly, my account was credited with funds.
  • Immediately I could play new music purchased in the computer transaction.
  • And also automatically hear the new music played on my phone.

In reality, buying and redeeming an iTunes card has become old-school and soon will be replaced by 100% streaming, but I still am astonished at the technology that drives it. The thought of such a process was inconceivable when I first started buying music – there were not gift cards, computers, cameras built-in to computers, iTunes, iPhones or wireless (and I’m not that old!)

The next time you make a transaction that seems seamless, pause for a moment to consider all the components that went into making the system possible. Are there pieces of the journey that you could adapt for your organization? As in this example, could you utilize the camera function more than you are? Partner with outside entities to promote or sell your product? Utilize gift cards for services and not just products? Store balances to make future purchases seem “free” and therefore easier to make?

It is a paradox that the easier a system or process appears, it’s likely the more complex it actually is. You’ll know you’ve arrived when, like the iTunes card, your miraculous seems routine.


leadership dot #2725: survey

Lucky me – I was “chosen” to represent people who purchased a new car and asked by MaritzCX to complete a consumer survey that will help manufacturer decision-making for future models. The problem is that this form is more like an inquisition than a survey.

The booklet is 10-pages long. It contains 66 distinct questions, which understates the number of queries actually being asked. One question literally fills a page in a teeny-tiny font (see photo) – asking for a 5-point rating on 76 different items. Another question has 68 different parts and many are disguised as part a, b, c although they are really distinct.

I like doing surveys and value market research, but this one is over the top. For my time – which would be considerable if I gave it any thought – I receive nothing, except to be entered into a drawing for $10,000, which is the same as nothing.

If you truly value the opinion of those you are asking, you need to demonstrate it in your survey design. Court the person whose input you seek and share the importance of their input. Make your time demand reasonable. Provide some compensation or acknowledgment of the time investment. Prioritize your questions instead of asking literally hundreds as this survey did.

Otherwise, “Survey Says”: Into the recycle bin it goes.

leadership dot #2724: bow

I have purchased several new cars over the years and all of them include seemingly hours of dread before you actually get the keys to drive away. There is so much negotiation, angst, paperwork, choices, decisions, etc. and it takes forever. By the time I get my car, I am usually just ready to get out of there…

…but this last experience was different. Most of the pre-work was accomplished in advance and when my vehicle was ready, I was escorted to the “delivery area” where my car was waiting with a giant bow like in the commercials. How much fun is that?

In addition, I had a “technology specialist” that sat with me in the car and programmed all the myriad choices to meet my preferences: whether I wanted auto-lock, seat settings, radio stations, which doors unlocked with the remote, etc. etc. By the time I left the lot, it felt like “mine” instead of a generic vehicle.

Think about the ways that you can add some personalization and pizzazz to your purchasing experiences. They took a photo of me-and-the-bow (which they could have/should have posted to social media) – could you do the same? How can you add a tutor to explain some of the nuances that are so easy for someone who does it every day but frustrating for those new to the process? Can you put forms online and handle some of the routine aspects of your transaction before people dedicate their valuable time to do them at your office?

Think of your purchasing process as an experience instead of a transaction and put a beautiful bow on the package.