leadership dot #2840: fading

In Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, he writes about ethical fading — the short-term focus in an organization that pressures people to do things which they normally would not do.

“Ethical fading is a condition in a culture that allows people to act in unethical ways in order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others, while falsely believing that they have not compromised their own moral principles. Ethical fading often starts with small, seemingly innocuous transgressions, that, when left unchecked, continue to grow and compound*.”

 The classic example is Wells Fargo, where over 5,000 employees were involved in opening over three and a half million fake bank accounts, but unfortunately, lapses occur daily in many organizations.

I think about Sinek’s concept in this time of COVID. With millions working from remote locations there can be a great temptation to engage in work ethic fading – letting habits of productivity and performance lag. Just as with ethical fading, you may be able to justify your slacking to yourself as self-care or what “everyone” is doing in this time of high anxiety – which may be true – but it is also the start of smaller lapses that can have larger negative impacts.

Don’t let your 8am start time fade into 9am then 10am before you turn on the computer. Try to remain vigilant in keeping up with email and communication. Stay on target to complete the projects you are able to finish. Reallocate any open times to create for the future instead of checking out early.

The times of uncertainty will settle into something new in the future. Take care now so that the virus doesn’t claim your work ethic as one of its victims.

*The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, 2019, p. 132

leadership dot #2839: ignored

A few weeks ago, when I did my health insurance renewal, I received a separate form in the mail asking me the number of employees at Leadership Dots. I promptly returned it and replied “one” to the only question the form asked.

This week, four insurance benefit books were delivered to my house by UPS. Each is about 100 pages, and they promptly landed in the recycle bin.

I am not sure why Wellmark bothers to print these books at all — surely the information could be made available online or in print only by request — but if they are mandated to publish them, why ignore the data that they just went through an expense to collect?

Stop collecting data or start using it. Little pockets of waste create a culture that tolerates big amounts of it.


leadership dot #2838: finger prick

For the first time in a week and a half, I ventured outside my house – to give blood. I know the need continues even in these unusual times and I figured they would be taking as many precautions as they could (they were).

If you’ve never given blood, the process begins with a health screening and a finger prick to get a drop of blood to test for iron levels, then the actual blood draw begins.

The process of the donation is painless – except for that dang finger prick. I had no pain where the needle went into my vein, but my fingertip throbs a day later.

I see it as a metaphor: sometimes we become numb to the big issues but the small annoyances are the ones that bother us the most. We expect the big things to be uncomfortable and mentally prepare for them but little pain points can test our patience or take us by surprise.

Last week, we made mental adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger changes. Don’t let yourself get tripped up by the small aggravations that make your way to you this week.


leadership dot #2837: error

Those who work with web pages know that the dreaded 404 Error will occasionally pop up, alerting the user that a “page is not available.” Des Moines Area Community College prepared for this inevitability and opted to use it to its advantage – by advertising its IT classes on the error page.

“Interested in fighting the evil 404 error as a career? Gain this and other super skills with our powerful line-up of technology courses at DMACC. Join the Department of Incredible Things and Find Your Super IT Power,” their ad reads. I have no computer skills but it makes me want to sign up!

You can predict some of the things that will go wrong. Capitalize on this opportunity to reframe the message and give your client a smile, if you’re temporarily prevented from providing what they were originally seeking.

Thanks, Emily!


leadership dot #2836: home inventory

How many times have you put off home projects because you did not have time at home? Well, now you do. And there has been a multitude of Facebook postings full of ideas for how you can spend it: reading, family game nights, cleaning out closets, exercise, etc. I’d like to add a suggestion to the list.

Do a home inventory.

You can even assign the project to the kids – having them video all the contents of your home, crawling around appliances and technology to record serial numbers, and documenting all of your valuables. You can join in on the project and narrate the stories behind sentimental or heirloom items, giving meaning to the possessions in your home.

The results can serve as an invaluable record of your assets should you ever need it for insurance claims, but more than that, the video captures a moment in time of your life. Wouldn’t you love to watch a movie of your parents showing your childhood home? Think of the laughs you could get from viewing your first apartment – seeing what has made the journey with you and what has changed. And how helpful would it be for remaining loved ones to know what had value and what did not?

This week, many have come to appreciate what they had taken for granted. There’s no time like the present to appreciate — and document — what you have.

leadership dot #2835: gentle

There have been comparisons of this week to the terrorist attacks on 9-11 but something felt very different for me. Some of my thoughts were summed up in a Tweet by Matt Haig*: “News is normally a fading shock. A terrorist attack, say, that hits us and then we absorb it and its impact fades. We aren’t used to a rising shock. I think that’s what makes our current news so psychologically hard.”

 When 9-11 happened – or a tornado, hurricane or fire – it happens and then it is done. With COVID, there is ongoing anxiety as the threat looms. Life seems even more surreal because some people right in our own circles are living in ordinary ways while there is a massive disruption for others. There isn’t that same universal, common experience that often follows a tragedy.

Two takeaways from this for me:

  • There is a need to attend to our mental wellbeing as well as our physical environment. Yes, it’s important to hunker down and social-distance but it’s also necessary to impart some self-love. Even if you’re not sick or out of a job, the uncertainty alone makes for stressful times. Don’t dismiss the anxiety – attend to it.
  • Remember how you feel and draw upon that empathy when there are parallels in your organization or family life. Don’t drag out the threat of layoffs and let concerns about company viability linger to cause ongoing stress. If a friend or family is gravely ill, be gentle around the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

Life needs you to take extra care when a negative is likely to escalate before it dissipates.


leadership dot #2834: nonlinear

Last year, the Heartland saw a 100-year flood. And it’s predicted that it could happen again this year.

The cancellation of entire concert tours, the Kentucky Derby, NCAA championships, all professional sports, etc. – they have all been happening for decades and, until this week, no one would have suspected they could all be called off within days of each other.

Just because floods haven’t happened two years in a row doesn’t mean that they can’t occur again this year. Just because Disneyland has never closed or school systems haven’t been shut down for months doesn’t mean they won’t during a pandemic.

People claiming “I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime” seem genuinely surprised when something new occurs, as if its absence in the past literally prevents it from happening in the present.

Life is not linear. While the past may provide some clue as to what comes next, we can’t rely on it as an infallible barometer regarding the future. Spend your energy looking ahead based on what could be vs. forecasting your outlook based on what was.