leadership dot #3391: fire

A friend is in the midst of a crisis at his place of employment. Several people have resigned, leaving him to hold the bag and cover their responsibilities in addition to his own. It’s mid-stream in the work, a horrible time to try and find any help, let alone onboard them and have them actually contribute. He is drowning.

And what was the response of his senior manager? To recommend having a retreat to talk about the issues that have led to the resignations and consider a long-term plan.

Just no.

When the place is on fire, support looks like a bucket of water, not a lecture on fire safety. There is a time and place for debriefing and planning, but in the midst of the crisis is not it.

If you find yourself in a position where you should or want to offer to help someone, first ask them: “What do you need from me?” or as BrenĂ© Brown writes: “What does support look like for you?” Your aim should be to become part of the solution rather than an addition to the problem.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #3390: place

New Mexico has a lot in common with Disney World — in that seemingly every detail of the environment is intentionally designed. From crosswalks to bridges, signs, highway barriers, ceiling beams, and overall architecture, it all seamlessly blends together to create a profound sense of place. You know you’re in New Mexico when you’re there as even the McDonald’s or banks follow the zoning regulations and contribute, rather than detract, from the atmosphere.

Why can’t every state be like this — using bridges as art galleries rather than ugly concrete structures? Adding symbolism to decor instead of leaving things plain? Creating community standards that define an area instead of letting randomness run rampant?

It would be hard to retrofit a place to achieve the sense of continuity that New Mexico has fostered, but maybe you can achieve it in your own space. Think about every decision and every inch — does it tell a story in addition to serving an architectural function? Opportunity lies in every beam.

Ceiling beams inside the Albuquerque “Sunport” (aka airport)
Crosswalks in Taos
State’s Zia symbol on all their highway signs

leadership dot #3389: telepoem

In a creative use of an old phone booth, people can now visit our “Telepoem booth” and dial a designated number on the traditional rotary phone to hear a poem read to them. There is a directory of choices, fastened to the booth with a wire as phone books used to be, offering a whole selection of poems by Iowa artists. The directory gives you the poem category, length of the reading and the number to dial, just as it was in the dark ages of White Pages.

Our local arts organization worked with the state humanities group to bring the Telepoem installation here for a year and I found it to be great fun. It’s free to use, so I listened to several readings — but I’ll admit I received as much enjoyment just from using the rotary dial and hearing that long-ago sound of the wheel spinning around as I did from the poems. It’s a sound that is all but lost with today’s push-button or digital calling.

Vintage everything is so popular right now — and the Telepoem booth fits right into both the arts vibe of our downtown and the trend toward nostalgia. It’s a creative marrying of the two elements that provide a novel activity for people to enjoy.

What do you have from days gone by that you can repurpose into something appealing today?

leadership dot #3388: looking back

When you’re involved in any type of change effort it’s natural to focus on the future. But we often get so caught up in what we want to have happen or what we’re trying to make happen that we forget to take that moment and reflect on the change process itself. More specifically, we fail to look back and capture the decisions that we wrestled with, the inflection points that shaped what came after them, the struggles and steps just to get started, or the first glimmers of success.

By the time a project is over, all those memories are overshadowed by the present and we lose the opportunity to learn from them. In contrast, if we document some of the earliest stages of a change effort we can use the learning as a reminder the next time we’re fresh out of the gate and feel like we’re not making any progress at all. We can see that it took us a few months to align our human infrastructure and figure out a game plan. We can be reminded that some of those earliest choices are the most important ones as they shape everything else. We can reflect on where we need to move more quickly and where going slower is ultimately more prudent.

The next time you embark on a new initiative, set some reminders to pause and take stock of what you’ve been up to. Looking back at the early, small steps can be invaluable knowledge in the future.

leadership dot #3387: who luck

When most people think about being lucky, what comes to mind is an event or situation that proves to be beneficial. But in his book BE 2.0, master teacher Jim Collins describes another phenomenon that can have a greater impact on your outcomes — that of “who luck.” Collins describes this as finding that key person in your life whether it be a mentor, partner, colleague, boss, or friend — someone who alters your life by crossing your path.

Collins believes that his life is shaped more by the “whos” than the “whats” that brought him good fortune, and if you reflect on your own circumstances the same is probably true. The right people can bring us success at our joint pursuits, open up opportunities, or simply make our lives fun.

Think about the people who have been “who luck” for you. I know my former boss/now friend is on the top of the list, and as a result of his greatness, I have a host of colleagues who joined in working for him and creating most of my professional highlights. Earlier bosses served as mentors and changed the trajectory of my career. I also had “who luck” to land with the best bunch of siblings.

Take a moment to reflect on — and appreciate — those with whom you have been lucky to cross paths, and attempt to be the one who provides “who luck” to others who cross yours. It is the people that make the magic, not the events.

Source: BE 2.0 Turning your business into an enduring great company by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier, 2020

Keith Lovin — the best of the best. Everyone who ever met him had “Who Luck”

leadership dot #3386: clasp

I have written before (dot 2202 and dot 2672) about my pearl analogy — how small strengths, initiatives, or programs can be strung together to form a “necklace” or cohesive whole. The string that serves as the through-line is a critical element — if you aren’t sure what you’re trying to achieve, it’s hard to know which “pearls” should be included and which are distractions.

But I think the most important part of the necklace is the clasp. The clasp is the element that not only holds it together in the short term, it also ensures viability over time. The connector keeps the pearls from entropy — falling off when people are no longer paying attention to assembling them. In a project, the metaphorical “clasp” is often overlooked — people are so excited to have all the pearls strung that they rejoice in the moment and fail to take those extra steps to strengthen the work for the future.

A string with a bunch of pearls is not a necklace without a clasp. Don’t stop short of making that final connection that allows the work to be useful for years to come.

leadership dot #3385: no fanfare

A friend was sharing about his earlier years which included being a smoker. He recounted how he tried numerous methods to kick the habit: declaring his intentions publicly, tossing his supply, and giving himself incentives but none of them lasted. When I asked how he finally stopped, he said: “I ran out of cigarettes and just didn’t buy anymore.” He didn’t proclaim that he was quitting; he just made the choice and honored it.

What is the parallel action in your life where you can make an internal declaration without fanfare and stick to it? Maybe you start walking or running every day. You elect to make one healthy choice at every meal. Perhaps you give up soda. Do meditation each morning. Save $X from each paycheck. Publish a blog.

Sometimes the buildup or dread is worse than the action itself. If something is important for you to start or stop, make that your next move instead of all the ancillary acts around it. As Nike reminds us, “Just Do It.” Without a fuss.

leadership dot #3384: cannot

I’ve been having some trouble with one of my ears and the first time I went to the otolaryngologist, he recommended a steroid shot into my inner ear. I said “N.O. way.” We tried some other treatments but they had no results, so, very reluctantly, I conceded to have the shot. Not just one, but three over the course of three weeks.

While the shots did not yield the impact I had hoped for, I did live through them. I will even admit that with the initial numbing medicine, they weren’t as bad as I imagined in my mind. And I need to remind myself that if I had done them in the first place, I could have avoided the terrible side effects from the first treatment that was far worse than the shots.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” She was right. We can do that thing. We can get the injections. We can fire the star performer if there are ethics violations. We can rebuild after tragedy. We can grunt through one more task to finish that project.

Your mind may scream “no” but if your gut knows it’s what you should be doing, let your mouth say “yes.”

leadership dot #3383: dogs

An interesting factoid — 92% of people would rather talk about their dog than any other subject. Ok, I read it in an advertisement for dog treats but I believe that it’s true — or at least it is for me. Ask me about my dogs and I get chatty!

Pets are a source of joy for people — close to their hearts but not too personal to share. Keep this in mind the next time you’re with a group of strangers and need to strike up a conversation. You could ask: “Any four-legged members of your family?” or “Who has puppy stories to share?” or “My dog makes me laugh — how about yours?”

Just as pets wiggle their way into your heart, let them do the same with your conversation. Human tongues will be wagging!

leadership dot #3382: pumpkin spice

Think of how many millions have been made because of the flavor pumpkin spice. What started off as a coffee enhancement has morphed into just about every product imaginable: breads, cereals, nuts, candles, soaps, sanitizers — if it is scented, I guarantee that pumpkin spice is an option. I even saw a cartoon that parodied offering “pumpkin spice vaccines” since everyone seems to be attracted to whatever is offered in that flavor!

Can your organization jump on the bandwagon? Even adding some pumpkins to your print subliminally links you to something that is popular with the masses. As the fall weather changes, your offerings might benefit from a bit of spicing up, too.