Intentionally connecting the dots in life and in organizations
Author: leadership dots by dr. beth triplett
I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action.
I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.
Yesterday, I wrote about Plano High School’s impressive display to encourage athletes to aspire to the next level of play (dot 3493). Something else caught my eye when I was there: all of their windows are clearly labeled from the outside. Unfortunately, I suspect this is a proactive measure in case of an active shooter or another catastrophe.
Setting aside the sadness that this is necessary, kudos to them for acknowledging the potential need and taking action on their crisis management efforts. It would be more comfortable to pretend that tragedy could never happen in their rural setting but perhaps their nod to reality could mitigate some harm should the occasion occur.
Many organizations have a crisis plan — often on a shelf or hard drive and long forgotten. Maybe it’s time to take yours out and actually do something to help you be as ready as possible for the emergency you can foresee.
As a way to inspire students to pursue sports at a higher level — or more importantly, to help them believe that they can — Plano (IL) High School has a prominent display of athletes who are competing at the “next level.” Their gym hallway features two displays: a board listing the names, college, and sport of all recent collegiate athletes, and larger photos showing the same information for those who received a Division 1 scholarship to play.
It’s an impressive list, especially for a school of only about 700 students, and I’m sure it serves as an aspirational goal for many who would otherwise think their small-town background made D1 sports unattainable. And, of course, the quest to add one’s name to that recognition makes them better at their sport while at Plano — a win-win for all.
It’s one thing to say that people in your organization move up the ladder or go on to do amazing things but it helps others fulfill that aspiration when you make it real for everyone. Think of how you can visually acknowledge the achievements of people who are doing the kind of “next level” work that you desire. A plaque of front-line workers who became team leads? A display of all the interns who accepted full-time positions? Former volunteers who later joined the staff? Assistant managers who went on to run their own store elsewhere? Your sous chefs who earned their own kitchen?
Employees are inherently thinking of their next move; help inspire them to think in the direction you desire by subliminally creating a vision to shape their aspirations.
A friend shared his experience of attending a Minnesota Timberwolves game where the lineup consisted mostly of second-string players due to injuries and COVID exposure. It would have been easy for the bench players to expect defeat as they played against other starters but that was not the case. The Timberwolves stayed in the hunt, almost overcoming the Knicks several times before losing by only a few points. The next game, the same substitute players did rally and claimed a victory.
Think about how you can increase the commitment and contribution of your whole team, not just those who usually are your high performers. Do you have middle management or front-line staff with potential that you have not realized? Can you provide someone with the opportunity to step up and assume greater responsibility in the new year? What about offering an intern or new employee a chance to “have the ball” and participate in a meaningful project?
Quality can be found in many places within an organization. Your organization would benefit from capitalizing on its bench strength instead of always relying on the high profile “starters.”
One of America’s favorite game shows, Wheel of Fortune, received a black eye for its recent treatment of a contestant. In the bonus round, Charlene Rubush had a 5-second gap as she was sounding out the final clue. She got it right but because she did not continuously read the whole phrase, she was deemed ineligible to win the Audi Q3 prize!
Why would the show deny a prize to someone based on such a minor technicality? It seems pointless to me – what is really to be gained by being such a stickler – and it’s clearly not worth the negative press the show received.
The winner in all this is Audi, which heard about the fumble and on their own granted Rubush the car she should have won. It’s not an insignificant gesture as the car is valued at $36K but Audi has gained that and more in goodwill and free promotion.
Rules are important but so is the intent behind them. Follow the spirit instead of the letter whenever you’re able. Being technically right usually gets you nothing but ill will.
Dean Willis Tweeted about his leadership dilemma that many supervisors face as the new year begins:
Understanding that we have all been through a lot.
Pushing folks toward expectations.
Giving grace if those expectations are not met.
Driving home the importance of operating with a spirit of excellence – without pushing too hard.
As Willis articulates: It’s not easy!
Supervisors are faced with this juggling act every day, and the lingering pandemic just adds additional balls to be thrown into the act. How can you simultaneously challenge and support?
I think it’s essential that you keep the goal high and dedicate your best efforts to attain it. Excellence may look different in these times but producing a quality product/service should still be your aim. Where grace enters the picture is in understanding that your team may not be able to deliver at the same pace as “before” and how they achieve the end may be altered.
I’m reminded of my Indianapolis analogy (dot 29) – the leader’s job is to define what “Indianapolis” is for the organization – but allow people to choose the route to get there based upon their individual circumstances. Some may not be on the Interstate right now, and your compassionate side should accept that.
Good leaders are continually balancing their head and heart. Keep doing so and urging your team forward – at whatever speed you agree is acceptable right now.
Americans spent about $400 billion on gift cards this year! Continued growth in this market is expected which makes it a perfect forum for some creative partnerships. There is now a selection of gift cards that provide 3% of the card’s value to designated charities. Several retailers and restauranteurs joined together on selected cards for these good causes — making it a win-win for them as well as the philanthropy without additional cost to the consumer.
I’ll venture a guess that none of these businesses worked together before but the charitable gift card program could be a profitable relationship for all. For example, the Habitat for Humanity gift card is sponsored by Home Depot, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Company Store. The Wounded Warrior card features Lowe’s, P.F. Chang’s, and GameStop. Make-a-Wish is valid at Petco, Top Golf, and Macy’s.
As you return to work for the new year, think broadly about the ways you can work with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Your best partner may be the one that does not initially come to mind.
I saw a Tweet lauding the forethought of Mayo Clinic that had a disposable hijab available for a MRI patient. Of course, the women would feel more comfortable if their head could remain covered, even during a procedure, but not everyone would think of that in advance. Kudos to Mayo for understanding their audience and meeting their needs.
Think about what would best serve different segments of your audience — due to cultural norms, physical accommodations or temporary conditions like pregnancy or nursing. The hijab may have been temporary but feeling welcome will last.
Ah, the day of resolutions! In addition to pledging to lose weight, eat healthier, start to exercise, save money, or any of the other standard pledges, I implore you to make one more commitment and actually stick to it: get your estate plans in order.
As I’ve learned from managing the affairs of my dad, mom, and sister it’s a complicated process even if very little money or no property is involved. The more you can document your wishes, your passwords, your assets, and the stories behind your possessions, the easier it makes it. Take advantage of tools like Apple’s (new) Legacy Contact, Android, or Facebook’s permissions to give others access to your platforms upon your passing. Start with a basic will and both health and financial power of attorney and then build from there. Even if you have a do-it-yourself version, it’s far better than leaving it all up to the State.
Of the three million who died last year, I’ll bet most of them put this off until “later.” Don’t let that be you. Today when you’re full of resolve, pinky swear that you’ll take this task seriously in the coming year. It’s the best gift you can give to your loved ones.
A growing number of organizations are offering mental health days in addition to the vacation and sick time provided as benefits. This year, several colleges provided a serendipitous day off — canceling classes and closing offices to allow people time to rejuvenate. Some organizations provide a “wellness day” — closing business early on Fridays or pledging not to schedule meetings on a certain day of the week. One church I know offers staff “retreat days” once a quarter where they are able to take time to reflect and refresh.
Being proactive about your wellness is as important as prevention is to your physical health. Whether you are lucky enough to have mental health time provided or whether you need to find ways to squirrel away some time on your own, resolve to make time for this important aspect of your wellbeing in the coming year.
In a business model that takes into account the aging population, a local firm provides “transition” services for seniors. Translated, this means they come to your home and handle the removal of all of your possessions, either when you are downsizing or after you have passed on.
And then, once a month, the company holds an “estate sale” — a storefront full of everything you could imagine: mounted deer heads, furniture, tools, a vintage Coke machine, jewelry, and every kind of knick knack ever made. They leave out the clothes and the food, but anything else that someone owned is laid out on tables for purchase. And boy, the crowds it draws to buy it!
This firm is strictly the middleman — they clean out and sell, but have no product of their own. Maybe there is a middle role for you in the new year. How could you broker services or monetize your knowledge to the benefit of others? Serving as a bridge can be a lucrative way to benefit both parties.