leadership dot #2676: ink

Tattoos have become so commonplace that pen-maker Bic has embraced the concept and tried to capitalize on its popularity. The manufacturer is now offering sets of body markers designed for people to ink their own tattoos – temporarily. The design will last through several washings, enough to let you test the location and design before you venture into permanency.

Body ink is a logical product expansion for the company – it’s still ink, it still comes in very similar packaging, and it’s even sold in the same section of the store – yet it could create an avenue for new users as well as new uses.

Bic evolved from ink for paper to ink for skin. How might you allow your product to take a step in another direction? Even if the move is only temporary, it could result in some interesting adaptations for a new market.


leadership dot #2675: exterior

Organizations take great care to brand the insides of their facilities and to have their space be reflective of the work they do. Often overlooked is the outside of the building which can act as a giant billboard to create awareness and, hopefully, even interest to come inside.

One artist who grasped this idea created iron art at his studio in Michigan. The rear of his building bordered the edge of a parking lot of the busiest store in town and he capitalized on this proximity as both a storage site and as an advertising vehicle. You couldn’t help but notice his display.

What can you add to your space beyond the traditional sign? You don’t have to be an artist uniquely communicate about who you are.


leadership dot #2674: help wanted

I went to return bottles at the redemption center and it was closed – due to lack of workers. The same thing happened at Sam’s snack bar and at Popeye’s Chicken – the employee didn’t show up so they shuttered the operation for the day.

Liz Ryan (@humanworkplace) offers this perspective: “The ‘talent shortage’ myth is a simple case of employers refusing to acknowledge that the cost of talent has gone up.”

I don’t think she is referring just to minimum wage. The cost of talent, in my opinion, refers to the intangible contributions that employers need to make to create a desirable culture – to provide meaningful work for employees, to treat them with respect and dignity, and to create a sense of belonging and purpose that makes showing up for work worthwhile.

How many times have you volunteered to do hard work for free? Of course, you can’t pay the rent with altruism, but volunteering serves as evidence that you can have experiences that transcend what you are paid to do them. As older generations retire and younger generations are looking for incentives to trade leisure for work, an organization’s culture is going to be as valuable as its salary pool. The time to pay attention to it is now.

leadership dot #2673: helping hand

I’ve recently been asked for advice on how – or even whether – to give advice to others in the organization that “don’t report to me” but could use some coaching.

The “whether” question is easy – if your paycheck comes from the same organization as theirs you have a vested interest in helping everyone become the best they can be. There shouldn’t be silos that inhibit enterprise enhancement.

And, giving feedback to others involves taking a risk, one that is greater if you don’t have a hierarchical line to them giving implicit permission to do so. What I recommend is informally asking the person if they would like some feedback that you think would be helpful to them or if you could share a suggestion on how to approach something. By giving the person a choice and a bit of space before you jump right in, you help them become more open to hearing from you.

You could say something like: “Rosa, I see you struggling with that report. I’d be happy to share a few tips that have worked for me if you’d like – just let me know.” Or “Sam, I remember what it’s like to be new here. If you’d like to grab a coffee and hear some of my lessons learned, I’d be happy to do so.” Or “Whew, Simone, that was a rough meeting, wasn’t it? Let me know if you’d like to debrief.”

Feedback offered in a genuine spirit of helpfulness oftentimes gives us information about ourselves that others can see but of which we are blind. Be open to receiving the gift of feedback and be courageous enough to offer it.

leadership dot #2672: be the string

I’ve had an epiphany of sorts – that leadership dots isn’t about dots at all rather it’s about being the string. The dots that I connect – and others learn to connect as a result of reading these blogs – are common, everyday occurrences that everyone sees. Where the difference (dare I say, magic) comes in is when you act as the string to see the connections between things.

People have written to me saying that they have “dot eyes” and share examples of things that I may use in future leadership dots (I love that!). Really what they mean is that they are acting as the string – making linkages between things that otherwise appeared random or disconnected.

I have written before and preached many times about the value of stringing pearls together to make a necklace – meaning that often organizations have disparate programs, messages or services that would be much stronger if their common theme was made explicit. This is another way of saying “be the string.”

My new answer to “what do you do?” is “I’m the string” for organizations: helping align values and vision; teaching/training to make theories relevant and applicable for participants; coaching/consulting to connect solutions to problems; writing grants or proposals that tie together elements of what is and what’s possible, and sharing daily leadership dots to provide examples of “the string” in action.

I hope that through reading the dots, you cultivate skills that allow you to be the string as well.

(Even my logo is a few dots and primarily string!)


leadership dot #2671: butter dish

In the new novel The Dutch House, Ann Patchett’s main characters are forced to evacuate their home with a stepmother imploring them to vacate immediately. Shocked by her pronouncement after their father’s sudden death, they grabbed a few essentials and fled.

One of the characters reflects: “The idiocy of what we took and what we left cannot be overstated. We packed up clothes and shoes I would outgrow in six months, and left behind the blanket at the foot of my bed my mother had pieced together out of her dresses. We took the books from my desk and left the pressed-glass butter dish in the kitchen that was, as far as we knew, the only thing that had made its way from that apartment in Brooklyn with our mother. I didn’t pick up a single thing of my father’s, though later I could think of a hundred things I wished I had…”

The butter dish resonated with me as I think of all the things in my home and my parents’ former home that have meaning but wouldn’t likely be at the top of the “grab and go” list. I’m sure those fleeing the hurricanes, war or fires don’t grab the butter dish but later would have treasured it. Those things we use every day – so don’t even see anymore – often evoke the strongest memories when we are without them.

For me, the “butter dish” may be the trusty “popcorn pan” that I originally didn’t want because of all the burnt kernels that scarred the bottom, but now signify the multitude of memories that popped out of it. Take a walk around your house today and consider what is the equivalent of your butter dish. Hopefully, you never have to grab it in flight, but just acknowledging the role it plays in the story of your life should bring a smile.

Source: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, 2019, p. 97


leadership dot #2670: waterlogged

In September, we had four times the normal rainfall. By October 2nd, we had already surpassed the monthly average by an inch. I feel like I am living in the stereotype of rainy Seattle, but unlike the Northwesterners, I am not prepared for this waterlogged climate.

Because of misplaced optimism, I am currently suffering through another muddy season as I did in the spring but I am ready to throw in the mud-covered towel and admit this is how the climate is changing for good. Just as I make winter tolerable by having the right tires, snow equipment and clothes I’m feeling that I now need to rethink my expectations and preparation for spring and fall.

It seems that 13 inches/month instead of the usual 3” is the new normal so it’s time to do things differently: bury the sump pump drain instead of having it dump into the middle of my yard, buy cute rubber boots and a real rain slicker, and have my next dog be mud brown instead of English Cream.

We have two choices when conditions change: accept them or fight them. You can remain miserable and lament that things are not how they are “supposed” to be or you can adapt your behavior to improve your situation. Don’t be a victim and just stand by while circumstances rain on your parade.