leadership dot #3025: sea and sky

How’s this for a bucket list: walk in space and reach the deepest point in the ocean? Most people would never achieve either but Kathy Sullivan has completed both. She was the first woman to walk in space (in 1984) and this summer was part of an expedition that reached the Challenger Deep, nearly 7 miles below the surface.

Kathy Sullivan was trained as a geologist, became an astronaut, eventually was appointed as the Administrator for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When the current administration ended her tenure*, what’s an ex-astronaut to do except get involved with exploring the underside of the Earth instead of the skies above it.

Unlike Kathy, most of us don’t think big enough. Take a moment this weekend to think about your bucket list. Maybe space and the ocean depths are out of your league, but surely you can stretch more than going on a trip or becoming your ideal weight. It’s never too late to expand your world.

*read more about this in Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk

leadership dot #3024: over there

If you have to deliver bad news, follow this advice shared with my sister long ago: create a visual with the undesirable message and direct your participants’ attention to it as you present. The goal is to have their memory of the unpleasantness associated with something other than you!

The visual doesn’t have to be fancy or formal: it can be budget figures written on a whiteboard, a new structure drawn out on a flip chart or a PowerPoint slide that outlines the changes – anything that focuses the attention “over there” instead of on you personally. It’s a small thing but over time you don’t want the image of your face popping into your team’s head when remembering bad news.

Separate the message from you personally by diverting their attention to “there.”

leadership dot #3023: green eggs

In Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, the main character protests over and over that he does not like green eggs and ham – until he tries them. I feel a bit like that about remote presenting.

While there is still nothing that compares to the value of face-to-face, I’ve come to see the benefits that can accrue from synchronous instruction. Video conferencing platforms allow for multiple ways to input – verbally, written via chat, or more privately through breakout sessions – and have elicited feedback from those who may have remained silent in a large group setting. I’ve benefitted from the opportunity to do show and tell, bring in guest speakers from out of state, and to meet some of the family members and pets. Each time I present, I’m learning how to add a new feature or try a new technique – providing me with professional development in the process.

It helps that both the participants and I are becoming more equipped and comfortable with the technology that is used. It doesn’t seem so foreign anymore and we’re able to spend more time on the content than the process of accessing it. Being remote has even allowed for greater follow-up options and individual consultations that may not have been possible with pre-COVID travel schedules.

While white eggs are still preferable to the metaphorical green ones, my earlier hesitations were overblown. Is there a similar situation that you’re facing where you keep putting off something that you have not even tried? Are you avoiding the “green eggs” on principle, without having proven reasons for your dislike? Maybe it’s time to try a helping. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Deviled eggs with avocado and spinach on festive Easter table, close up, selective focus

 

leadership dot #3022: person

If you watched the early days of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll know that Meredith and Christina always referred to each other as “their person.” They were the Plus One who provided a support system that ensured they weren’t going through life alone.

In the coaching work that I do, I feel like “the person” for most of my calls. It isn’t that I have an abundance of brilliant insights, rather that I’m there for someone to talk through their issues and have someone to reflect back what they are hearing. Work challenges can be lonely, as they often involve colleagues or supervisors making it awkward to process things with them, so it’s much more helpful to have a neutral “person” to serve in that sounding board role.

I believe that everyone is better with “a person.” Hopefully, you’re fortunate enough to have someone in that role for life issues: a sibling, partner or BFF. Make sure you have that capacity for work issues, too. Maybe it’s someone else in your industry, a colleague from your past employment or volunteer work, or a coaching relationship – but we all need someone in our corner to listen, prod, push and to create a safe space to process the hard stuff.

leadership dot #3021: kink

The water from the hose I was using to fill my birdbath suddenly stopped flowing. I turned to discover that it had gotten a kink in the hose. A perfectly good hose with one kink stopped everything.

The same is true with your staff: one kink (i.e. a troublesome employee) can halt the efforts of your entire team. As a supervisor, you may be tempted to overlook this temporary disruption and justify in your mind that it isn’t always that way, that sometimes the process flows smoothly, but unless you tend to the issue swiftly, everything else will slow to a trickle.

leadership dot #3020: peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, a United Nations-sanctioned holiday that is commemorated around the world. The day is designed to encourage people to pause and “for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences.”

The UN Resolution that established the day calls for 24-hours of nonviolence and ceasefire. While I doubt that many readers of the dots walk around with literal weapons or impose physical violence, I believe that all of us are guilty of disrupting the peace through making misspoken comments, causing unintentional hurts or allowing unresolved conflicts to fester in our relationships.

As the elections draw nearer, the pandemic tests our patience and the uncertainty that surrounds us takes its toll it becomes more frequent that our actions can cause discord more than they forge harmony. For today, make your own commitment to encourage peace – in your home, your community and in your heart.

 

leadership dot #3019: affirmations

It can be tough to be upbeat as the pandemic lingers on so we need to infuse positive self-talk and affirmations wherever we can. Such was the idea behind Notes to Self socks that come with positive messages sewn into the material.

Founder Laura Schmidt read that the subconscious mind is most open to new thoughts in the morning and evening and decided to leverage one of the activities people routinely perform at that time – getting dressed/undressed. Notes to Self socks are designed to provide a quick word of encouragement that will last throughout the day: I am strong, I am a great teacher, I am confident, I believe, etc.

Two lessons to take from this: 1) capitalize on existing habits to add some positivity and affirmations into your life and 2) pay attention to those fleeting ideas that you have, even if they seem a bit crazy. Sewing affirmations onto socks may be outside the mainstream, but they have sold “hundreds of thousands” of them as well as donating over 70,000 pair to homeless shelters.

Rather than just a Post-it note of kind words on your mirror, maybe times call for wearing your affirmations around with you all day!

 

 

leadership dot #3018: bingo

The nominees for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame were just announced and I was astonished to learn of two of the potential candidates: Bingo and Yahtzee. I would have thought they would have been enshrined many years ago.

Bingo has been a standardized game since 1929 and is the object of organized fundraising events in almost every city. It has been a staple at county fairs, church festivals and nursing home activity rooms for generations. Yahtzee, too, has a long history dating back to its inception in the 1940s and its owner Hasbro still sells 50 million games each year.

Whether or not Bingo and/or Yahtzee are among the three lucky inductees this year, they provide a lesson of persistence to all of us: do what you do best and keep doing it, year after year, decade after decade, whether or not you receive any official recognition for it. These games have brought countless hours of enjoyment to many. We should all be so lucky to have that as our legacy.

leadership dot #3017: rum

During a particularly stressful project at work, a colleague gave me a tiny bottle of rum for moral support. The joke was that if it got too bad, I could always pour the rum into my Diet Coke as stress relief. The bottle stayed (discretely) in my office for nearly a decade until I returned it to the giver during a particularly rough patch for him.

I never opened the rum but it was comforting to know that it was there. The same principle applied with pain medicine after my periodontist’s handiwork and with a friend’s pain pills after surgery. Neither of us used more than one pill but it was reassuring to know that we had relief available.

Was it ever so bad that I felt I needed the rum or more drugs? No, but I was glad that I was the one deciding that. People are able to accept hardship when they believe they are able to set the limits of what is tolerable for them.

Whenever possible, give your team a relief valve over which they have jurisdiction. Unlock the thermostat and allow people to regulate the temperature. Provide spontaneous flex days when a mental health break is needed. Create an emergency fund that your staff can borrow from. Let people opt out or leave early without question when they’ve reached a breaking point.

Most people won’t gulp down all the pills in the bottle but the pain will feel less just because the medicine is available to them. Trust your staff enough to give them that control.

leadership dot #3016: rap

Today is Constitution Day in recognition of the signing of our country’s most important document on September 17, 1787. The Constitution outlines the framework for the government, something we often take for granted unless it isn’t working!

Since many schools have eliminated “Civics” from their core curriculum, the government requires all colleges that receive federal aid (i.e., almost all of them) to conduct Constitution Day education to make people aware of these fundamental principles that guide our democracy. Even the adults could use a refresher and this rap video may be a way to provide it.

The rapper YelloPain merges a very contemporary storytelling method (rap) to share the importance of voting and to explain the three branches of government in an edgy way that makes it more relevant to young and diverse people. It’s worth your 4 minutes to take it all in.

YelloPain is right that all the attention, especially in this election cycle, is focused on the presidential race, but the real difference-makers can be the Congress, state legislators and even local public servants. Make it a priority to learn the background of all those on your ballot and, most importantly, to cast your vote to keep our Constitutional values alive.