leadership dot #2685: passion

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson said that the emotional mood of the nation is different than it was in 2016 – then it was rage but now the tenor is exhaustion. “People want to feel comforted and inspired,” she said.

Whether you are talking about the political climate, the culture at work or the general feeling at home, exhaustion is a key theme. People are stressed about politics, finances, continual changes and the uncertainty that surrounds them. Many are seeking an elusive “work/life balance” as if that will cure their ails.

A different take on the topic comes from church leader Carey Nieuwhof. Instead of trying to find balance he encourages people to find their passion. “Most people who accomplish significant things aren’t balanced people,” he writes. “They’re passionate people. They can’t wait to get up in the morning and attack the day.”

Maybe some of the exhaustion that you’re feeling comes not from overload, but from underwhelm. You’re not excited about the work you’re doing, the life you’re leading or the community in which you’re living. Instead of crawling back under the covers, maybe the solution is to jump out of them and embrace a cause that excites you. You’ll have a lot more energy when doing something you love.

leadership dot #2684: evaluation narrative

New supervisors are often overwhelmed when it comes to writing performance evaluations for their staff. Instead of avoiding this critical task, here are five key sections that can form an outline for the narrative:

Context: What (if any) extenuating circumstances/factors that were outside of the employee’s control occurred during this evaluation period that may have influenced the job the person did/was able to do? (examples: staff vacancies that caused the employee to do double duty, new supervisor, reorganization, new technology system, etc.)

Contributions: Looking back on the evaluation period – what are specific contributions that the employee made? Cite evidence/examples for your statements.

Challenges: Looking back on the evaluation period – what are specific challenges that the employee had/what do they need to do differently… Cite evidence/examples for your statements.

Goals/Looking Ahead…and then, looking forward – what goal/plan/actions are needed to remedy these challenges and what are priorities for the employee in the upcoming evaluation period (to remedy challenges or to seize opportunities)

Summary: Overall assessment of the employee, optional comments on intangibles

Writing an evaluation narrative is an effective way for the supervisor and employee to ensure that their expectations and impressions are aligned. It’s a worthwhile exercise for every supervisor to do every year – both as a conversation prompt and as a snapshot of performance progress. Don’t let the task intimidate you from doing it.

More on the evaluation process can be found at dot 1753.

leadership dot #2683: nicer

With so many signs regulating our behaviors, they tend to lose their effectiveness. One way to stand out from the communication overload is to rethink the wording on your signs and utilize nontraditional verbiage to get your point across.

One organization did this with a sign to discourage employees from exploring unused space on the floor of the office building they were renting. Instead of “do not enter” they changed it to: “Your wandering curiosity and Dupaco’s leased space stops here. Please do not venture past this point.” How much nicer is that?

The next time you need to make a sign, take an extra few moments to craft a message that conveys your point in a memorable way. You can achieve the same intent but with a smile.


leadership dot #2682: a plan

A recent Frazz comic strip features Caufield saying “Plan, they say, so I plan: I decide I’m going to be a millionaire with a muscle car.” To which Frazz replies: “Yeah, that’s more like a dream.” “Then what’s a plan?” Caufield asks. Answer: “The stuff in between nothing and the dream.”

It’s a tricky distinction to go after something visionary – and to simultaneously attend to the minute details but that intermediate stage is what makes the creative possible.

Think about where your skills lie: are you the dreamer who can come up with lofty ideas and see things that are beyond what is possible now – or do your talents gravitate toward taking others’ visions and giving them the plans required to see them realized?

There is a wide gap between nothing and a dream. Where are you best suited to contribute?

leadership dot #2681: harvest

One season “woodland friends” were featured on every imaginable product, then there was a frenzy over cacti, only to be replaced by llamas and unicorns. When something is so suddenly pervasive, my sister and I joke that the product must have gotten a new PR agent who promotes its image and orchestrates product placements in all the major stores.

This year, the mythical marketer of the year award goes to those responsible for promoting autumn. Have you noticed that “fall” has become a merchandising frenzy on its own? I’m not talking about Halloween or Thanksgiving, but the actual “It’s Fall Y’all” season in between. Pay attention and you’ll be astonished.

Fall decorations are everywhere. Products include hand towels, pencils, shower curtains, soap, rugs, and all manner of seasonal trimmings. You can have a complete set of fall dishes and almost every food item comes in pumpkin spice flavor to serve on them. Hallmark has a selection of cards wishing greetings just for the season and Walmart is running commercials to encourage “harvest parties.”

Someone identified a gap between summer and Halloween and revved up the merchandising machine to fill it. You may have caught the bug personally and added an extra pumpkin or wreath to your front porch, but has your organization capitalized on the new energy around this season? Add “fall” to your planning cycle for next year: host your donors at a pumpkin patch, add spice flavoring or color to your product, or send sunflower cards instead of Christmas greetings.

There is a marketing bounty waiting for those who harvest it.

leadership dot #2680: debatable

Thank goodness that they don’t interview executives the way they do presidential candidates! Can you imagine applying for your job – standing next to 11 others vying for the same position – and being given 75 seconds to answer questions or 45 seconds to respond to others – all while on national television.

Primary debates are the ultimate balancing act. You need to stand out from your opponents, yet not too much because you’ll need those supporters in the general election. You need to distinguish yourself from the others who are members of the same party, presumably meaning they share the same essential core values even if you differ on how to enact them. You need more of a message than “beat the other guy” but aren’t really given any time to deliver it.

And all of this leads to soundbites and pithy statements about what you’ll do if elected – conveniently ignoring the fact that you’ll need Congressional support (or at least budget allocation) to get much of it done and glossing over that how those elections go could seriously impact your plans.

Eight million people (including me) thought it worthy enough to watch last Tuesday but I can’t say that it swayed my vote. What it did do was cause me to wonder what the point of the spectacle really is.

If you find yourself producing a program – any program, let alone one the magnitude of the primary debates – take more than a moment to pause and consider what you’re hoping to achieve. Then produce a format that allows for those objectives to be met. It’s debatable whether the debates accomplish the goal of sharing the values and differences of primary presidential candidates; in fact, I’d vote for a better way.


leadership dot #2679: overbuilding

Iowa has some of the richest farmland in the world and it is breaking my heart to see it being covered in concrete for yet another unnecessary commercial development. Within blocks of a construction site are vacant office and retail spaces, yet beautiful black dirt is being plowed under to build another mini-strip mall. Across the street, one of the original homesteads is being emptied in preparation to be bulldozed so a convenience store can replace it – even though there is already such an establishment at the next intersection.

It’s the ongoing tension between capitalism and climate – and the planet seems to be losing.

Everywhere you go, vacant buildings stand idle while new construction occurs on pristine land. What happens to the property when the sports teams vacate an arena or Sears and Younkers cease business and leave thousands of square feet empty in malls across the country? We just allow it to sit empty and build new elsewhere.

If we want to get serious about environmental impact, we need more teeth in zoning laws that allow Planning & Zoning boards to reject new builds when vacant space exists or to deny duplicative businesses within certain geographic parameters. I know, it’s not the capitalist way to regulate competition, but it is the government’s role to oversee land use.

Let’s allow some of the land to remain green instead of cement gray while we still can.