leadership dot #1992: pieces

I spent several hours over the weekend working on a puzzle featuring scoops of ice cream in different flavors. I thought this would be an easy puzzle because of the variety of colors but when I spread out the pieces, all the same color pieces appeared to be the identical and I couldn’t distinguish to which scoop they belonged.

After making little to no progress, I began to see details and features of each piece that revealed their identity: that pecan goes in the scoop in the top left; the cluster of cherry pieces is the pink scoop in the center; the piece with the red connector goes here, etc. All the details became vivid clues and allowed me to complete the picture.

It reminded me of the training exercise where I do a similar thing with oranges. At first, all the fruit looks alike, but then people create distinctions and “identities” for their fruit. Once they craft a story about the fruit, they can easily pick their particular orange out of a bushel.

People, like puzzle pieces or oranges, often look alike when you view them from afar or with broad strokes. It is only when we spend time with them and truly understand their nuances that we come to appreciate the gifts they bring. You never say: “just the piece I’m looking for!” without spending time understanding the specifics of what you need or what you have.

Invest similar time in making connections with other people – by learning about their individuality and discovering what their connection can add to the picture of your world.


leadership dot #1991: red flower

There is a new (to me) philosophy for teaching art to elementary students that involves focusing on self-expression rather than technique. Students are encouraged to pick their own topic to explore, then taught how to use tools and technique to create that art. Instead of being about projects, class is about artistic expression.

When I heard about this concept, I immediately thought of the story about the red flower that was memorialized in an old Harry Chapin song and which is in story form here. In short, a teacher gives explicit instructions so many times that students become reliant upon them and are unable to create on their own, even when given permission to do so.

I think the red flower story has relevance to today’s structured activities for kids – because they grow up always having something on the calendar it becomes difficult for them to create their own fun, even when time permits. And after completing 12+ years of structured schooling, new employees are often challenged in taking initiative at work, instead wait for their supervisor to tell them what to do.

I applaud all efforts that help people – of all ages – truly think about things instead of memorizing them, and bravo to teaching that helps people learn how to conceptualize and understand the rationale of the fundamentals behind what they are studying.

Here’s to creating a gallery of snakes and snowmen and elephants and mice!

leadership dot #1990: screen door

Without any computer expertise, I’ll bet you could hack into about half of the computers out there. Why? Because people use obvious and easily-guessable passwords.

Keeper online security service reviewed 10 million passwords and found that 17% of them were “123456”! The top 25 passwords accounted for over half of all passwords they analyzed.

Having a weak password is like having a screen door as the main entranceway to your house. You don’t expect someone to break in, but you make it incredibly easy for someone to do so.

Take a few minutes today to put a deadbolt on your electronic door. Use a long string of letters and characters that have meaning for you, but are not found in a dictionary. Or use a password program. Or develop a pattern that you use depending on the site (e.g. your custom string of letters + the second/third/fourth letter of the site for which you are creating the password).

You wouldn’t leave your house door unlocked; don’t do the same for your electronic home either.

Source: Get Serious About Cybersecurity: Three Simple Tips to Safeguard Your Account, American Funds Investor News, September 30, 2017.



leadership dot #1989: selfie

One innovator combined two concepts together for their new business idea: a) people don’t like the stilted nature of having a professional photo taken and b) people are very willing to take selfies, and in fact, the younger generation is actually pretty good at doing so.

As a result, we now have the Iris Booth, a kiosk where you can take a professional headshot on your own. The booth is an automated photo studio, with LED lighting, retouching/editing options and a high- end camera. What is even better is that you receive six options and one high-resolution download for $20!

As someone who just had new professional shots taken, I can tell you that the price is a bargain, and I think they are on to something by allowing people to take their own shots. I always feel stilted when someone else is taking my photo, so, while I like how my pro photos turned out, I wonder what they would have looked like if it were just me in the booth.

If you travel through the right airport that has an Iris booth, you no longer have to have amateur-looking pictures as your profile photo or professional headshot. Iris allows you to go far beyond “just a selfie”; you can whiten teeth, remove blemishes and soften skin – editing one pose in the booth, or for a mere $5, to do all six later.

The world is becoming much more visual, and quality always matters. Iris Booth saw a need and met it in an innovative way, and did so at a very affordable price. How can you capitalize on access to professional-quality photography for yourself, your team or your organization? It’s time to say “Cheese!”

Thanks, Tracy!


leadership dot #1988: fuel

In the movie Only the Brave, the superintendent Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) takes a group of rookie wildfire firefighters on a training hike up the mountainside. “I want you all to breathe in this beautiful vista,” Marsh tells his men as they come upon an expansive view overlooking acres of forests. “Once you’ve been baptized, you’ll never be able to see it that way again…there’s only one thing you’ll be able to see — that’s fuel.”

I’m certainly not a firefighter and am far away from wildfire territory, but Marsh’s line has stuck with me. He was describing a lens with which to view the world; people wearing an invisible set of glasses that filter everything they see.

I wear those glasses every day, seeing dot topics instead of fuel. I take pictures in stores and on walks; I make notes during movies and while listening to the radio; I read the paper or magazines with leadership dots in mind. For the Granite Mountain Hotshots, trees equal fuel. For me, ideas equal dots.

I believe everyone is wearing some type of glasses with which they filter their life’s experiences. You may see incidents of injustice or be keenly aware of environmental waste. Perhaps your glasses help you see opportunities for entrepreneurship or zero in on unhealthy salts in foods. Maybe you view everything based on what it will cost or how much time it will require from you.

I think the trick is to have multiple sets of glasses and even to borrow others’ lenses for a new perspective sometimes. Don’t miss out on that beautiful vista and only see fuel.

Source for picture: here
Source for quote: Village Voice
To read the GQ story that inspired the movie: click here




leadership dot #1987: binge

Tonight is the 300th episode of the television drama Grey’s Anatomy. If the average episode is 42 minutes, that means I have already spent almost 210 hours as a couch potato because of this show.

I could have written a book in that amount of time.

While some have spread their 12,558 minutes over the course of 14 seasons, I came late to the Grey’s party, but thanks to the marvel of Netflix, I was able to catch up. In a few months. Watching far more than 42 minutes at a stretch.

Binge watching has changed the landscape of how television is consumed. It is becoming increasingly rare to watch just one show and to watch it as it originally airs. Even people who could do that often save up a few past episodes so that they can watch them as a set – somehow making it more of an experience than an individual event.

Binge watching has implications far beyond television though. People are getting accustomed to (or should we say “being trained”) to consume things on an on-demand basis and to receive an on-going feed of content they desire. Membership sites with monthly fees are available for delivery of almost every product imaginable. Sites like Netflix and Hulu have vast repositories of content that extend lives of television shows and movies. Now if a show gets a good buzz as the series builds, they can still capture an audience. People want to be able to go back and “catch up” rather than being told they missed their opportunity.

Has your website and content delivery been repackaged to allow for “binge-access” for your clients? It’s no longer enough to just have information about the event: now you need to record it, share it and archive it forever. Have you preserved your newsletters, magazines and other content for someone to retrieve at any point so they are able to meet their need at the moment? Do you provide an easy way for someone to dive deep into your organization and learn about your services, such as when preparing for a job interview or to hire you as a client? Do you have educational resources available for customers to learn all they can about a topic when a specific problem arises?

Binge watching is the new norm for entertainment, but I predict it is going to spread over to consumption of educational content as well. Think about how you package your content so you don’t need a crash cart to resuscitate your brand.

leadership dot #1986: influencers

On one of my in-class feedback forms, I had a student ask me for recommendations for additional reading on topics such as leadership and culture. I love teaching adults!

My list is ever-changing, but I compiled a selection of resources that I thought would be beneficial for her. Then I thought that they might be of interest to my readers as well, so I am including the list here for you.

As I said in a recent guest post, my bookshelf played a key role in my career evolution. I have shelves upon shelves of books in the leadership/culture/organizational behavior area – and I would have countless more if I had not moved so many times!

I share this for two reasons:
1.  pay attention to what kind of reading you gravitate towards – maybe it can unlock a clue to your true passions and interests;
2.  I obviously love to read, so share your recommendations in the comments or email me. Winter is coming, and there is nothing like snuggling up with a good book!

Happy reading!

#1 most influential book on my list!