leadership dot #2064: next steps

The Women’s Marches that have happened across the country have been a visible and powerful show of solidarity, but the underlying purpose of them is to stimulate social change. The organizers in Minnesota took steps to make it easier for participants to stay engaged after the March concluded by providing a list of 44 very specific action steps in three areas: Study Up, Show Up and Speak Up.

I have included the list here in the event you wish to increase your own activism, but even if you are not so inclined, there are two key lessons you can learn from how the March organizers structured their efforts to help those marching make a difference.

Organizers enhanced the likelihood of people following through by utilizing two tactics: 1) the action steps were printed on an 11×17 piece of paper. The information would have easily fit on a regular-sized sheet, but that would have made it much easier to “toss on the pile” and for it to get lost among other papers at home; 2) they asked people to make a commitment of what they would do – in the next 30 days – and then sign it. People are often well-intentioned but translating the desire into action is best done with specificity and concrete steps. It is a very different thing to sign your name under the statement “Today I will commit to becoming a Women’s March Minnesota citizen activist. In addition to my commitments [checked] above, I commit to (fill in the blank) in the next 30 days!”

Think of the kind of change you are trying to inspire and ask yourself if you have created a specific infrastructure around it that facilitates further action. Have you handed out a list for follow-up at your company-wide meeting or retreat? Do you provide specific examples of desired new behaviors in your organization’s newsletter? Have you asked people to commit to a specific action rather than relying on general goodwill or the translation of your intent?

Ensure that you put energy into outlining concrete next steps so you obsolete the need to march steps on concrete in the future.

leadership dot #2063: prepare

While we were at the hospital with my mom, my brother asked me if I had my end-of-life wishes spelled out. I answered that, yes, I had a will, but as I thought about it further I realized that I did not really have any of the details written down and had not communicated the spirit or intent of my desires. As a result, I recently put those thoughts in writing and shared them with my siblings.

We thought we were prepared for the logistics of my mom’s passing: she had pre-paid funeral arrangements, a will, an organ donation form and her financial affairs had been transferred already. But we found ourselves asking about the little things: what she would want to wear, which picture to use, which friends to notify, etc. A will doesn’t touch those kinds of topics.

Many people want to avoid the end-of-life conversations in their personal lives, and they also ignore the issue organizationally. No one is going to be in their position forever, yet few plan for succession. Even the key leader of the organization, where the transition would have the most impact, often leaves their legacy in the hands of others. Or, if they have done any planning at all, it is on a mega-level – like the Secretary of Agriculture would become President if catastrophe struck during the State of the Union, but they leave no more detail or instruction beyond that.

It shouldn’t be a news flash that the end is coming – for all of us. Take some time before it does to share your desires and leave a road map for those who are left behind.

leadership dot #2062: dormant

Over 60% of the worldwide population of antelopes died over the course of a few weeks, and scientists have just recently discovered the cause. In May 2015 over 200,000 antelope died suddenly – and it was not the first time for widespread deaths of this species.

Researchers have learned that it was due to blood poisoning — triggered by bacteria that had been present in all the antelopes without consequences – until above average humidity and temperatures occurred during calving season and triggered the fatal reaction.

This has me thinking how there can be disastrous consequences that we can’t even foresee. We make assumptions based on the way things are now but have no idea how another factor may totally change the scenario. Scientists knew there were a limited number of antelopes. They knew this bacteria already lived in all of them. But who knew the warm weather would activate it and kill them all?

I think we make assumptions like that in organizations, too. Our business model is working but then 9/11 occurs. Our organization has a donor plan but then the tax law changes. Our organization is thriving – in Houston, Puerto Rico, California, et al – until Mother Nature strikes.

The antelope example illustrates that organizations need to plan – and plan for various scenarios – as well as monitor trends and conditions that could cause the driving assumptions to change.

Don’t count on the future arriving in a linear fashion.

Thanks, Meg.

leadership dot #2061: transcribe

Many schools and organizations celebrate Black History Month with traditional programs such as speakers or dramatic events. Here is a new way for anyone to become engaged in learning about the history of our country: transcribing anti-slavery manuscripts.

The Boston Public Library is looking for volunteers to read the handwritten text and transcribe it by typing it out as a way to preserve the documents and make their contents more widely accessible. Anyone who has a computer can volunteer!

Instead of passively commemorating this month, take an active role to both learn about history and help share it.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2060: incentivize

I suspect that most of us receive email surveys from companies we don’t know and often hit “delete” rather than filling them out. My sister recently was asked to provide her opinion on human resource trends, and even though she was not familiar with the vendor, their incentive motivated her to complete the questionnaire.

In exchange for a few minutes of her time, Discover Org Research provided a $10 contribution to the Nature Conservatory. It was a win-win for everyone: the survey was filled out instead of deleted, my sister donated to a cause she believes in and, of course, the Nature Conservatory received a contribution that they otherwise would not have earned.

Think about the incentives that you provide for participation in research or similar forms of engagement. Maybe appealing to a greater good will do you some good as well.

Thanks, Meg!


leadership dot #2059: samples

While shopping last weekend I encountered a host of tasting booths at one store. All these demonstrations were offering samples of food with the staff harkening us to “try some free ____.” It was like trick-or-treating for grown-ups.

Then I went to another store that also had a plethora of sampling stations. Only at this place, the message was clearly: “try before you buy.” It wasn’t just free snacking; there was a distinct push to purchase the products that were being shared.

There is a vast distinction between “free” and “try before you buy.” If you have a clear intention for your marketing, be sure to say it in your messaging.

leadership dot #2058: refreshed

I have written before about how socks are the most requested items in homeless shelters. Not only do they keep your feet warm but clean socks also have an amazing ability to make you feel refreshed. This is a bonus for those in shelters who may not have access to clean clothes or showers, but even if you have a drawer full of Bombas or the finest hosiery, keep this tip in mind.

Switching your socks is a training tip that I learned long ago while attending a full-day workshop. The presenter had on very colorful and distinctive socks so we noticed it when he returned from break sporting a new pair. He insisted that just donning a clean pair of socks – with no other interventions – provided a boost of energy to get him through the long hours.

Whether you are attending a convention, retreat, or a day at an adventure park, socks are an easy-to-transport way to provide a refresh during the mid-day lull. Think of socks as cotton caffeine and use them the next time you need an energy boost!

leadership dot #2057: draw the line

My favorite ethics exercise is “Where Do You Draw the Line?” In this simulation, participants are given different scenarios and must determine whether the behavior is acceptable, somewhat acceptable, somewhat unacceptable or unacceptable.

What the groups don’t know is that even though the character in each group has the same name, each group has a different scenario with a similar bottom line. So, when the groups process as a whole, there is often much discussion and debate about how one group could find “Adam’s” behavior acceptable while the other emphatically found it unacceptable.

For example: In one scenario Adam took $10 worth of pencils from work and gave them to a charity (often seen as acceptable or somewhat acceptable) while another group has Adam taking $10 from someone’s purse (usually seen as unacceptable). Both scenarios involve ten dollars – where do you draw the line?

The ethics line can quickly become fuzzy when you start applying rationale to justify why something that could be seen as wrong should be allowed in certain circumstances. Strive for a clear demarcation of your ethics line.


leadership dot #2056: spa c in g

Having text show up perfectly across multiple platforms is sometimes a challenge. While many websites are now constructed for “responsive design” to allow for better alignment, it still isn’t perfect.

But what I can’t understand is how humans can fail to have proper spacing in print that is low tech (i.e. handwritten!):

(sadly, just one example of many from the funeral)

Or how egregious spacing errors occur on very visible things that are done by professionals  (i.e. expensive):

(Photo from Karlee Kanz on Facebook)

Who thought this was acceptable? And where are the quality checks – by the supervisor, the person who delivered it or anyone else involved in the process?

I wonder if people are in such a rush that everything blurs together in their brain or so distracted that they don’t take a moment to pause and consider the end product. Don’t fall prey to these traps. Take that extra second to ensure your words stay together and spaces are placed where they belong.






leadership dot #2055: driver

What is an effective way to lessen anxiety in a stressful situation? Allow the person to have more control.

Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego did just that by allowing children to drive themselves to the operating room using remote-controlled cars. Instead of being rolled into surgery on a gurney, children eagerly anticipate choosing a BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes or Lamborghini to transport them into the OR. It turns something that is dreaded into something that is a reward.

As the staff at Rady regrettably discovered, adults are too large to ride in the hospital’s special vehicles, so cars are probably not an option for your staff! But think of how you can devise a situation in which people have more control over something that normally would leave them feeling helpless. Can you allow them to have more autonomy in their work? Or to choose options instead of having them dictated from above? Or perhaps have the freedom to “opt out” of tasks or obligations on a limited basis?

Everyone likes to be in the driver’s seat. You can enhance your team morale by devising a way to hand your staff the keys.

Thanks, Amy!