leadership dot #2189: sign

I’ve been enduring road construction near my home and each week brings a new traffic pattern or set of conditions. There are so many changes that the contractor has resorted to covering up signs with duct tape or ignoring the signage all together.

This one appropriately describes the situation – there may be work or it may be closed – it just depends.

I wonder if organizational employees sometimes feel like this is the mantra of their management. Something is going on, but no one is sure what that is. Leaders send mixed signals or unclear messages which, in many cases, is worse than not communicating at all.

Messages that fluctuate depending on which way the (leadership) wind is blowing cause more confusion than necessary. Help your employees know which road to take by providing accurate and timely information instead of leaving them to guess.


leadership dot #2188: return

At the risk of TMI, let’s leave it that my puppy is having some issues with her stool and the veterinarian recommended that I switch food. I have on hand a new 40# bag of food, auto-shipped from Chewy.com that I figured I was stuck with, but when I was on the website ordering new food, I noticed a “Returns” tab, so I gave them a call.

In less than two minutes (literally), I had received a $50 refund for my food and told to donate the unopened bag to the Humane Society on Chewy’s behalf. Before I hung up, I had an email with the credit and another canceling my auto-ship. No questions asked, no hassle, just “have a great day.” Wow.

Chewy’s refund policy says: “We want you to be delighted, enchanted, blown away, jubilant, thrilled, ecstatic, tickled pink, euphoric, overjoyed, pleasantly surprised, elated, flying high, excited, and definitely over the moon about your experience with us. Our policy is simple: If you’re not 100% totally, completely, and unconditionally satisfied for any reason whatsoever, return it! We’ll give you a complete refund. Oh ya, we’ll also pay for the return shipping.”

 Why does working with a company that delivers such stellar service have to be the exception rather than the norm? In the dog eat dog world of retail sales, Chewy has found a way to distinguish themselves as Best in Show. Take a lesson from them on how to truly treat your customers so that, like me, they’ll be wagging their tail with happiness over the ease of their transactions.

leadership dot #2187: noticed

I handled the logistics for a recent event, and at the end of the day, the organizer asked the participants if there was anything else they needed for the next day’s gathering. “I’d love some Mountain Dew!” one attendee said – a nod to the early hour at which her travel began.

So, of course, the next day there was Mountain Dew. No big deal.

Only it was. The presence of the beverage was reflected in the event evaluation – but not by the participant who requested it. Another attendee wrote: “I noticed the Mountain Dew,” read the evaluation. “You kept your promises.”

It reminded me of my time on campus when we conducted a student opinion survey. Among the multitude of suggestions, one was to put a pencil sharpener in the main classroom building. We did so almost immediately. The presence of that $10 item garnered us more goodwill than some of the more expensive solutions because it happened right away and showed that we really were listening.

Responsive actions may seem little to you, but they are anything but in the lives of others.



leadership dot #2186: value

How do you get someone to pay $9 for a cup of root beer? You turn it into an experience.

Wild Bill’s Soda has done just that with their Olde Fashioned Soda Pop stand. Stationed at the area’s first festival of the season, Wild Bill turned an ordinary utility trailer into a scene from the Wild West. They sold reusable cups for $9–$20 promising the opportunity to get refills at events throughout the season (if you remember to bring the cup back and if you want to drag it around with you…).  Wild Bill’s allowed customers to dispense their own and experiment. You could try one of their flavors (such as Sarsaparilla Six Shooter, Outlaw Orange, Vintage Vanilla Cream, Blazing Black Cherry, or Buck’n Birch Beer) or mix them in your own combination. There was a line at their booth all day.

Starbucks mastered the idea of turning a generic cup of coffee into a multimillion-dollar franchise by raising the price commensurately with the experience around the beverage. Maybe Wild Bill can do the same – and maybe you can take a lesson from both of them. Don’t think about what you offer in a literal sense when you assess its price; think about the value of the experience you provide. They both can rise in tandem.

leadership dot #2185: reclaim

At airports and public spaces around the country, there are vestiges of phone booths from days gone by. Most establishments have removed them and replaced them with something else entirely, but the Denver airport repurposed them into private workstations. While passengers may not require the physical phone itself, they still appreciate the sound buffering that the padded sides afford as well as the desk space in order to accomplish their work.

Think about spaces you have in your organization. Have they remained stagnant or outlived their usefulness? Perhaps you could refresh them to add a different level of functionality: the counter that holds the fax machine could become a clear workstation, an alcove could gain a small table instead of just seats to make it easier to work on a laptop, tellers could sit at a desk instead of behind a counter or hotels could replace spaces that hold physical phones and alarm clocks with wireless printers for their guests.

Just because something claimed a space at one time does not give it the right to keep it forever.

leadership dot #2184: seeing

Yesterday’s dot idea came from a friend who sent me a text about his experience, specifically because he knew it was a possible leadership dot. I receive frequent dot ideas from close family and friends; I always enjoy them and often incorporate them into a published lesson.

For me, the best part is that that people have the ideas and are seeing connections in the world. Leadership dots (the blog and the company) are designed to help you see patterns and meaning when otherwise you would not. Even the leadership dots logo intentionally incorporates the string, not just the dots, because it is all about making connections.

I hope that reading leadership dots goes beyond just the dots themselves and their explicit lessons. I write them to inspire you to see things differently, and I hope that reading them subliminally makes you more aware of what is around you.

So, the next time you say: “that could be a dot”, know that you’ve internalized the whole point. (And feel free to pass along your ideas to me!).

leadership dot #2183: glitter

The breaking of a bone can be a traumatic experience for a child – or not.

One St. Louis pediatric orthopedist turned a broken bone into an adventure and had his 6-year old patient leave with a smile in addition to her cast. How did they do it?

>No plain, boring white casts. The patient was able not only to pick out her color but had the option to add sparkles to the plaster mix. Somehow, a sparkly pink cast doesn’t seem as medicinal or daunting as a boring white one.

>Since she’s a thumb sucker, they took special care to accommodate for that and left the thumb outside the cast.

>The cast came complete with a mini-Sharpie so the patient was immediately equipped to get autographs – thus making the cast personalized and cool.

As a pediatric orthopedist, his entire clientele consists of children with injuries. By turning the office visit into a fun experience for them, it has the effect of helping the visit go much more smoothly for him. How can you adopt some of these principles and help deliver glitter among the medicine you must serve?

Thanks, Brian!