leadership dot #1904: right

Three of us asked our weather app to provide the forecast for the next day. My site indicated that there would be “heavy rain.” Another person’s app said “overcast” for the same day and location. Still a third person’s app predicted “sunshine.” Of what use is that information?

But it turned out that all three were right.

It poured rain in the early morning hours, then there were several hours of overcast before a long stretch of sunshine. This was followed by an afternoon of clouding over and another dose of heavy rain before it cleared up again.

It reminded me of the old story about the blind men and the elephant — whether the elephant feels like a rope, a high wall, a fan or snake depends on what perspective you have and what part of the animal you are touching. And whether the forecast is correct or not depends upon what time of day you are looking at the sky.

Think about the weather forecast and the elephant the next time you are sure you are right. You might be totally correct — and totally wrong — depending on the context. Take the time to look at the bigger picture before declaring with certainty that your answer is the only right one.

How does this dot connect with you? Leave a comment and share your observation with others.

leadership dot #1903: go deep

Today my oldest nephew leaves for college, the first in the family from this generation to head off. Two of my sisters and I do not have children of our own, so Daniel’s achievement of this milestone is a pretty big deal for his doting aunts.

I wrote him a melancholy note (that I will mail to him the old fashioned way once he lets us know his address — boys!!). In it I offered a single piece of advice: to find one extra curricular activity that interests him and to go deep. “Don’t be casually involved in a dozen organizations: instead pick one and become a leader. You will learn valuable skills. You will gain career experience. You will develop relationships with people that know you well and can serve as friends, mentors or references. You will create connections and have experiences that last a lifetime instead of a semester.”

I think the advice works for anyone starting a new phase in their life. New employees can dabble in many projects, but will become more successful if they go deep in one area. Those who move to a new city can make connections through volunteering or becoming substantially involved in one aspect of the community. Politicians can make a difference if they chose one area to focus their efforts.

Think about how you are allocating your time and see if you can make a greater impact if you go deep. Breadth is overrated.

leadership dot #1902: evidence

At the recent city council meeting, the police chief recommended the installation of additional traffic cameras in town. He said that the police don’t even take down the accident victims’ stories anymore: they look at the recording before arriving on the scene and already know what happened.

It seems that so much of life is recorded these days that it becomes harder and harder to believe something without “proof.” People pull up old Tweets to provide evidence of what someone has said months ago. Camera phones record everything from amusement ride accidents to tsunamis. Police officers wear body cameras and major league sports have video replays.

The more we rely on external validation, the less attention we pay in real time. Why bother to note the details or take notes when we can see it again?

The trouble is that even images are not “proof” nor do they provide a comprehensive picture of the entire scene or conversation. Cameras only have so many angles. A single social media post could be taken out of context. Even the tangible is subject to interpretation.

 

 

leadership dot #1901: out of ink

I was writing in my morning journal when the pen began to run out of ink. I did not have a spare pen handy, so I kept trying to write and extend its life until the end of my entry.

It occurred to me that the choices I was making about this pen could be a metaphor for how you live life. When do you quit – after one line as soon as the going gets rough or do you stretch it out 10 lines and get the most out of it? Do you push it or move on to Plan B when your original intention starts to fade? Does it have to be perfect to produce or do you press on despite less than ideal circumstances?

Think about how you are living – both when you feel like the pen barrel is full and when your energy begins to fade. Be intentional about how you write the story of your life.

 

leadership dot #1900: centered

In a conversation about leaders, a colleague and I were discussing how those in power were influenced during their tenure, and how their behavior often seemed to change over time. Unfortunately, we had many examples of people who started out strong but faded after years into the job, but we only had one stark example of someone who remained consistently strong throughout.

In trying to dissect what caused that difference, we concluded that his identity was never wrapped up in being the organization’s leader. The power never went to his head so he wasn’t tainted by it. Often a company’s chief has that role as his or her key identity. S/He may travel, but never fully turn off the job. S/He may golf, but it is still as the CEO hobnobbing with others on the course. S/He could volunteer in the community, but in the context of their position more so than their passion.

Such was not the case with our outlier example. He embraced many different roles that he played in life. When he was in waders up to his knees in a stream, he was a fly fisherman extraordinaire with a whole circle of friends that had nothing to do with his organization or community. He was a foodie and a wine connoisseur for the personal thrill of it, not to impress. He cherished his role as a husband and father and happily conceded any pretense of power to the women in his family.

We talk a lot about work-life balance, but the core issue isn’t a time management one. The real prize is cultivating an identity and remaining centered around the parts of you that aren’t reflected on a business card.

 

leadership dots #1899: transparency

On a trip to the library, I came across the “Government Documents” section that was totally empty. There may have been a legitimate reason for this: they are in the process of rearranging stacks or the documents may have been converted to all-electronic access, but given the sensitive nature of government transparency, it seems that it would have been more prudent to post a sign with the rationale.

There are many instances when an innocent action without explanation turns into a bigger deal because there is no communication about it. Proactively share the truth before you have to reactively defend it.

leadership dot #1898: unless

At a recent doctor’s visit, there were two signs prominently displayed in the exam room. One encouraged patients to contact their pharmacist first if a prescription refill was needed. The second clearly urged patients to call the clinic as the initial point of contact.

The confusion about people calling the “wrong” place is probably what prompted the signs in the first place, but no wonder patients can’t keep things straight. One sign is telling them to do the exact opposite of the other. “Start with us first” unless it is a prescription refill.

Does your messaging carry an explicit or implied “unless”? Once something has qualifiers, its memorability is lost.