leadership dot #3888: wheelhouse

I had a prospecting call to speak with a potential client about facilitating a retreat for her staff. She provided context about the current organizational challenges and we discussed a variety of topics that could be covered in the extended session.

For most of what she wanted, the subjects are well within my wheelhouse but one area is not. As a follow-up, I sent her my thoughts on how the day could be structured and potential ways of achieving the outcomes she desired. Rather than create disappointment or surprises down the road if I am hired, I also included a sentence that read: “I’m very comfortable with all these topics and could present them with opportunities for contributions from the team utilizing the lens you mentioned, but presenting specific content on that portion is not where my expertise lies.”

I could have proceeded by only focusing on the areas where I have strength, and maybe from a business standpoint that would have been a wiser thing to do, but I would rather not get the date than be hired and not meet expectations.

Take every opportunity to align what you promise with what you perform. It’s a great way to add “integrity” to your wheelhouse as well.

leadership dot #3887: nowhere

Look at a map with Japan on the left and the United States on the right. There, in the middle of nowhere sits Hawaii. It is 4000 miles from Honolulu to Tokyo and 2500 miles to the US mainland — and miles and miles from any other civilization.

A display in the Hawaii State Art Museum pointed this out — and noted that rather than see themselves as isolated, Hawaiian leaders saw themselves as having a strategic advantage because of it. Hawaii was “in the middle” — located in between two superpowers that they knew would have increased commerce after World War II. Hawaiians sought to capitalize on their location as a key shipping port and grew in importance in the entire Pacific Rim region.

Every downside has an upside (and vice versa). Instead of regretting its lack of neighbors, Hawaii saw it as an opportunity. Is there a way for you to leverage your uniqueness instead of lamenting it? Maybe being “the only” is an advantage.

leadership dot #3886: cooking

In the competitive hotel market, there is a continual quest to have the latest feature to set a property apart from others. As a result, such amenities as free breakfasts, streaming services, workout rooms, and internet connections have become standard in many chains. Now, it seems, the attention has turned from focusing on the bedroom component of your stay to upgrading the kitchen as well.

As part of this niche, Marriott’s Townplace Suites promotes a “Something Borrowed” campaign where guests can borrow various tools to help with food preparation on the property. The hotel prominently features grills near the entranceway and facilities now offer grilling seasonings, a Suite Eats cookbook, mixing bowls, slow cookers, rice cookers, and blenders. You can check out supplies to use in your in-room kitchen and have a home-cooked meal on the road.

There is only so much a chain can do to distinguish itself when it provides a narrow service so Townplace broadened its definition of what they offer. Maybe your organization can cook up a new way to serve your clients.

leadership dot #3885: spectrum

All skills can be viewed on a spectrum — on one end, people know only the bare minimum of how to do something and on the other end are true experts that understand both how to perform the skill and the mechanics behind it.

Too often, we view ourselves — or those we supervise — in a binary way, thinking we are good at something or we aren’t. It leads to undue anxiety or imposter syndrome, and probably influences career choices more than we care to admit.

Instead of considering how to master something, think of it in a more gradual approach. Aim to get one step further on the spectrum. Getting better is a less stressful route to getting good.

leadership dot #3884: sorting

I’m trying to re-read and sort through my past dots — and with almost 4000 of them, it’s no small task. At first, I spent too much time trying to create just two piles: book-worthy and not. I struggled with so many of the entries trying to decide in which stack to place them.

Then, I re-did my methods and created three piles: yes, no, and maybe. This has made the task so much easier! There are obvious “yesses” and obvious “no’s” and everything else goes in the middle bin, allowing me to easily move on to the next one.

It’s the 10-20-70 rule and I think this process can apply to other things in life that need sorting. Cleaning out the closet: yes automatically goes back in, no is off to the donation center, and maybes remain in a box to see if you really miss them. Purging files can follow the same pattern. Packing a suitcase. Deciding what to keep when moving or preparing for an estate sale.

Don’t waste your energy making decisions about fine gradations during every sort. Do the easy delineations first, and then haggle over the remaining 20%.

leadership dot #3883: sayings

The Season 3 premiere of Ted Lasso is today and I couldn’t be more excited to have it return after a long hiatus. One of the things that makes Ted’s character so loveable — and memorable — is his use of metaphorical sayings. Instead of saying “shake it off,” Ted reminds his players to “be a goldfish” (which allegedly has only a 10-second memory). He “believes in believe” and sees actions that “smell like potential.” His repeated use of catchy mantras helps his message stick into the minds of his players (and viewers!) and communicates his message in a unique way.

All of us have sayings that we use to convey not only our meaning but our personality as well. Apparently, I have a lot of sayings, too. For one memorable birthday, some staff members made a “beth dictionary” capturing my often-used phrases such as “noted,” “Indianapolis,” or “specificity.” They aren’t as original as Ted’s but embedded powerful meaning in my staff’s thinking throughout the years.

Think about what language you use to convey your philosophy and how repeated use of memorable phrases can help your staff hear your voice in their head even when you’re not around. “Connect the dots” with “intentionality”!

leadership dot #3882: the right way

One of my housemate’s responsibilities is to take out the trash. Every week when he does it, he puts the wastebasket in my office back in a different position and rotates the newspaper recycling bin sideways. I constantly found myself putting it back in the “right” position.

And then I stopped.

It was a reminder to me that if I can’t get comfortable with — or at least let go of — such a minor, inconsequential change, no wonder people that I consult with have such a hard time accepting the major changes they are often asked to implement.

Does it really matter if the newspapers are horizontal or vertical? If the toilet paper rolls over or under? If the towels are folded in halves or thirds? If the seat is up or down? No. No, it does not matter.

Pay attention to the small things in your life that you do a certain way, then force yourself to mix it up and make tiny adjustments to the way things are. Learning to embrace variations in all their forms will strengthen your change muscle in preparation for the truly heavy lifts.

leadership dot #3881: forefront

I interviewed a coaching client to enable me to craft a new resume for her. We went beyond the obvious list of positions to go deeper into her motivations, moments of pride, and how she went about her work. After our conversation, I provided her with a list of themes I heard and outlined what I saw as her strengths.

She was amazed at what I articulated — characteristics that were true, but she had not considered highlighting. From her perspective, they were embedded in her DNA so she never thought to call them out as qualities she possessed that others may not.

It happens all the time where you take something for granted that others see as a uniqueness. You get so close to something — yourself, your organization, your surroundings — that what is there becomes invisible. It takes someone else to put your reality in context against others and point out what is different.

The next time you’re working on something important, build in time to have another set of eyes look at it. Having a coach, a consultant, or even an opinion from a trusted confidante can illuminate what you can’t see and bring the obvious from the background to the forefront.


leadership dot #3880: dealing

The annual indoor garage sale at the fairgrounds draws hundreds of people — at one point I was literally surrounded and couldn’t move in either direction. It’s a fun event where people are usually wheeling and dealing for such minor amounts.

A lady was selling a pin for $2 and wouldn’t take less. Another vendor had a $5 item and wouldn’t budge on the $3 price. But another lady offered her $5 items for $2 — or $1 each if I bought multiples and I think she would have gone even lower than that.

It all comes down to what you value — and not just in the monetary sense. Certainly, I could have afforded the $2 but I thought it was too much. She obviously thought $1 was too little, but beyond that, she was willing to risk not selling her items — valuing money over a reduction in inventory. Other vendors were just anxious to get rid of things — happily taking less in return for the freedom of not hauling or storing the goods.

Before you jump into any project, know what’s most important in the end. Having a defined goal in mind will drive all your behaviors along the way.

leadership dot #3879: fires

The fire department just purchased a new Hazmat vehicle and showed it off by allowing the public to tour the inside. While the lower portion of the truck carries materials to help mitigate hazardous spills, the main function of the unit is to serve as a mobile command center if an incident occurs. The vehicle is equipped with computer equipment, whiteboards, a conference table, and can even project to screens on the outside of the truck. It literally is a high-tech mobile office.

Having a large proportion of the vehicle dedicated to planning and coordinating is a good reminder for how to lead. Instead of jumping right in and trying to fix things, everyone might be better off if you took time to assess the situation, develop a plan, and then share it widely. Especially in a crisis situation or when the stakes are high, you may be tempted to hurry up and “do,” but thinking first can prevent even more fires.