leadership dot #2362: symbol

There are many complex concepts that are represented with a single, widely recognized symbol. A heart means love. A red cross represents humanitarian effort. Green means go. A jack-o-lantern instantly says Halloween. Countries can be indicated by their flag. Christianity is conveyed with a cross and Judaism with the Star of David.

None of these symbols are literal representations of the concept behind them, yet they have come to communicate as much as words convey. The use of emojis is perpetuating the use of visual shorthand as now there is widespread use of one picture to transmit a larger meaning.

I began thinking about this when I was looking for an image to represent leadership. I came up empty. Leadership is a mainstream term, but I was unable to locate a universal symbol for it. There are many pictures of literal leaders: hierarchies and individuals on a pedestal or at the head of the table, but nothing that widely connotes the overarching concept of leadership in a single symbol as a pineapple is to hospitality.

Not only is there a need for stronger leaders today, but it seems that a universal leadership image is required as well. Any ideas?


leadership dot #2361: chop

Many retailers and service providers are trying to make their buying process into an experience, and for tree-buyers, it is no different. About one-fourth of the 27.4 million Americans who have a live tree will do their own choosing and cutting from a tree farm this year.

While it is far easier to pull up to the tree lot and tie a pine onto your car, the experience of hiking through rows of trees and selecting that “perfect one” is far more engaging and memorable. There is even a current television commercial with a mom and her daughter out in the woods with their ax saying “you have nothing to prove” but making it seem like a symbol of women’s empowerment to do the cutting yourself. Other families like the tradition while still others chop their own to capitalize on the freshness of the tree.

No matter your reason or your method of celebrating, infusing your holiday with experiences will create memories that last far after the last present has been open. Don’t make your family traditions all revolve around shopping and gifts. Venture out onto the farm and enjoy the fresh scent for the season.

Source: Tree farmers pine for tradition by Jeff Montgomery for the Telegraph Herald, November 30, 2018, p. 1A

 Thanks, Amy for the picture!

leadership dot #2360: requests

As the calendar turns to December, many people attend to their Christmas shopping in earnest. In addition to all the toys and tech for loved ones, it is also important to remember those less fortunate during this holiday season.

Many communities and organizations sponsor “Angel Trees” where each ornament indicates the desired item for a needy family or child. A local property manager has taken a different spin on this by erecting a holiday tree filled with ornaments that specify the needs of nonprofit organizations.

It was humbling to see the mundane nature of their requests — copy paper, napkins, garbage bags, toilet paper, rubber gloves, glue gun strips, paper towels, stamps, dish soap, wash clothes and creamer – yet we all know from personal experience how the stuff-of-life items can add up quickly.

I hope you will add a family or nonprofit to your holiday shopping list this season. Your giving doesn’t have to be lofty to make a difference, it just has to occur.

(Local readers: the tree is in the Roshek Building lobby)

leadership dot #2359: levers for change

In yesterday’s dot, I shared the Change Framework (developed by School Retool) that provides a model to articulate an overarching reason for change, identify behaviors that would illustrate the aspiration is occurring, determine a few big ideas toward achieving those behaviors and design several small projects or hacks to make progress toward those ideas.

Hacks are small experiments intentionally chosen to hopefully take a step toward achieving a big idea and to also help the changemakers quickly discover what does or does not work. Hacks are about learning by doing so that iterations can be made early on in the process.

Levers for Change can help generate hacks through focused brainstorming. You can pick one of the levers – Space, Events, Schedule, Finance, Process, Role, Ritual, Incentive or Communication – and try to generate as many hacks as possible to help achieve a big idea through changes in that category. For example, if your Big Idea is to Increase Community Involvement, you could attempt to hack in Space by opening a satellite center or having office hours in a mall; you could have a hack in Roles by redesigning a position to do more community outreach; Communication could involve a thank you note or follow up call for every community member who engages with you, etc. School Retool examples can be seen in this 2-minute video.

No matter how much you strategize, plan or design your initial ideas are not going to be perfect. By creating hacks – and hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks – you will take enough small steps to achieve big change. Think broadly and creatively about the many levers of change you have at your disposal and then get started by pulling one.

For a copy of the Lever of Change handout, click here.




leadership dot #2358: change framework

Organizations often have a paradoxical challenge when trying to implement change: their aspirations are too small and their implementation plans are too big. Through work I’m doing with the Alia Innovation Cohort, I was introduced to a model that addresses both ends of the spectrum.

The Change Framework, developed by School Retool, starts with the identification of a big Aspiration – an inspiring, clear vision of why you are doing the work of change. Next, a short list of Behaviors are identified –if you achieved the aspiration what behaviors would you see. It is easy to have a lofty aspiration, but making it concrete by specifying what it would look like in action helps to design a few Big Ideas toward achieving the desired behaviors. Big Ideas are evidence-informed ideas that could be game-changers – if accomplished they would lead to the behaviors that would achieve the aspiration. Finally, implementation occurs through Hacks – small pilot projects or experiments to learn what achieves movement toward the Big Idea and what doesn’t.

Examples from School Retool help to illustrate the framework in action. The project adopted an aspiration to create “Deeper Learning”. Behaviors that illustrate Deeper Learning included seeing more students engaged in projects and an increase in student voice. Some of the Big Ideas include peer-to-peer learning programs, making learning relevant and making student work public. From there, you can imagine the hundreds of hacks that could move a school closer to achieving its Big Idea. For Alia’s work in reimagining the child welfare system, the aspiration is “Family connections are always preserved and strengthened” with behaviors of fewer children in out-of-home placements, increased community involvement and a shift in the mindset of staff.

If you are engaged in transformation efforts – and who isn’t these days – give the Change Framework a try. Articulating the model’s components in a concise manner will go a long way toward helping you actually achieve the change you desire. [More on hacks and levers of change tomorrow.]

For a copy of the framework, click here.





leadership dot #2357: failure

In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama writes: “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then it’s escalated.”

I love the concept of this. Most people think of failure as an occurrence — something that happens – but discount the role their attitude plays in the process. They think of failure at the end of the line but in reality, it can be a mindset that influences the process from the beginning.

To help yourself become more successful, banish the doubts and fears as you venture into something new. You don’t have to be Pollyanna about it but believing that you will accomplish your goals can go a long way toward making that true.

leadership dot #2356: hole

I recently hit a curb and put a hole in my tire. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but my car didn’t come with a spare. That meant that I had to have my car towed, buy a new tire and be without a vehicle for a day while all this transpired. It was less than convenient.

The tire incident reminded me about all the small things that we take for granted. We assume that the tires on a car will work. That the lights will turn on. That the paychecks will be delivered. That the copier will have paper and the computer will have properly stored our documents.

Infrastructure is what makes all the other work possible. In this season of Thanksgiving, share your appreciation with those in your organization who tend to your infrastructure and keep the place running. Don’t let a slow leak of enthusiasm deflate your staff or let one little hole grind your whole operation to a halt.