leadership dot #2433: autonomous

A recent article predicts that widespread use of autonomous cars is still at least a decade off – in large part because of weather. The cameras and sensors can’t see through snow or rain and they do not know where to go if the lane lines are covered — thus human intervention is required.

It sounded a lot like supervision to me: employees can “drive” on their own if conditions are ideal, the lanes are well marked and the curbs are in place, but when facing unlined roads, challenging weather or unforeseen obstacles, suddenly “autonomous” isn’t appropriate anymore.

As a supervisor, you should work like the researchers and identify situations whereby your “vehicle” can operate with reliability on their own and dedicate extra attention to the conditions that are likely to cause uncertainty and require your intervention. Autonomous may be the goal for cars and for employees, but so far, neither can operate effectively on their own.

Source: Why autonomous cars aren’t coming anytime soon by Tom Krisher for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, February 10, 2019, p. 7D.


leadership dot #2432: ice

First, the Midwest was besieged by snow, then frigid temperatures and then ice. I think most believe that ice is the worst of all the conditions – first, because you have no control when driving on it, and second because there are so many times when you can’t even tell it is there.

Ice is the invisible hazard; it seems like the road or sidewalk is clear, but a thin layer of danger lurks that makes forging ahead almost impossible.

In many organizations, there is a toxic employee that acts like ice. On the surface, things appear to be normal but what is underneath impedes progress. Others proceed as if conditions are fine – as if there are no objections to a change – but then slip and fall because of the unseen ice, or at best they are only able to move forward at a significantly reduced pace.

Those in the organization who act like rain or snow and make their presence (and opinions) visible are far easier to deal with than those who remain icy silent. It is often what is not seen or what is left unsaid that causes the real damage.

If you’re an organizational leader, you need to proactively apply the equivalent of sand or salt to mitigate the impact of ice on your efforts. Don’t let people skate by who create the invisible barrier to your progress.

leadership dot #2431: thin mints

It started out as an ordinary enough phone call: “Hello, Aunt beth; I’m selling Girl Scout cookies. Would you like to buy some?”

After I listened to the menu of options, I agreed to buy three boxes.

“Would you like another box to make it an even $20,” my niece asked.


“And can I interest you in adding some Thin Mints to your order – you wouldn’t want to forget those!”

I admired the persistence of this young saleswoman and thought that if nothing else, the Girl Scouts were teaching assertiveness.

I wonder how many times you have settled for the initial “order of three” instead of asking for what you really wanted. The next time you have a desire, couple it with the courage to express it – and put your request out there so it has the possibility of being answered. Thin mints, anyone?

leadership dot #2430: positive spin

Many companies offer surveys at the end of a transaction as a way to gather feedback, and often offer the customer a chance to enter into a sweepstakes as an incentive to participate. The SurveyMonkey Contribute app has added their own twist to this and allows clients to spin a wheel and instantly learn whether or not they have won a prize.

As with most contests, the majority of spins don’t yield a win, but SurveyMonkey Contribute has found a way to make the experience fun in spite of that. The wheel features pictures of fruit and each corresponds to a clever way of saying “you lost”. Examples include: “Cherries are the Pits” and “Goodness Grapes”. (I believe the winners can “Go Bananas” – but I have not personally experienced it!)

How can you take an ordinary survey – or form or registration — and put a positive spin on it? Even those who don’t win will leave with a smile.

leadership dot #2429: crazy socks

A colleague posted on Facebook: “Meeting with an important donor. They wear crazy socks so I wear crazy socks…and then we compare crazy socks. This was not in my major gift training course.”

But maybe it should have been taught.

Everyone appreciates being recognized and known. The crazy socks illustrate that the gift officer acknowledges them as an individual, not just another “cookie-cutter” donor. While it costs nothing to do, I’ll bet that it pays major dividends in the relationship.

Pay attention to the small cues that people give you about what is important to them. What kind of candy is always on their desk? Do they suggest a certain restaurant or prefer a special dessert? Do they have a dog near and dear to their heart or a child who is their focus? What hobby can be that conversation hook for you?

You should know a personal nugget about every single person with whom you are trying to establish a relationship, whether that be a colleague, client or classmate. Use those tidbits to create connections that will last far longer than your crazy socks will.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2428: Tahiti

In another one of those decade-old conversations that I had but don’t remember, apparently I influenced someone to go on a trip to Tahiti with his friends. This person had the financial means and the time, but for whatever reason was hesitant to make the investment to go on the trip. I talked him into it, and he has been (unbeknownst-to-me) grateful ever since.

This all came to light in a recent conversation when I listened to another of his dilemmas and unwittingly did the same thing. In response to his concerns, I pointed out the flipside: that he did have the capacity to do this and I repeated back all the reasons I had heard about why it was something he really wanted. “You know what you’re doing, right?” he said. “You’re telling me to go to Tahiti.”

All of us need friends and trusted colleagues that can push us to go to Tahiti when we’re hesitant to take a risk. Oftentimes we are personally so consumed by the fear of committing to something that we fail to take into full account the positive side of the equation. Sure, it’s scary to sign a lease, hire a staff member or book a luxury vacation, but it also might be exactly the right thing to do.

Make sure that your network includes some truth-tellers and those who will nudge you forward until you head for the islands.

leadership dot #2427: safe

Everyone is cautioned against writing down passwords but in this instance, following that advice has proved to be problematic. The owner of Canada’s cryptocurrency exchange died unexpectedly – and with the password located only in his head. As a result, nearly $190 million is inaccessible to customers.

Quadrigacx founder Gerald Cotton took advanced security measures and protected the currency on encrypted computers with precautions against hacking. So far, they are working – much to the dismay of experts trying to reach the funds.

The dilemma highlights the problem of only one person knowing anything. While it is wise to have safeguards and layers of security, there should also be a backup plan should someone suddenly become incapacitated. I doubt that only one person knows the combination to the safe that holds the secret formula for Coca-Cola or just one guard that can access Fort Knox.

Safe means secured, but not just in one person’s brain. Make sure your secrets are safe with at least one other someone.

The safe at the World of Coke in Atlanta