leadership dot #2669: costumes

Give another shout out to libraries – this time for adding Halloween costumes to their inventory of goods-to-lend. A local library added a rack to allow patrons to borrow costumes for kids and adults believing that it fits well with the idea of community sharing. (Not to mention that it is also economically and environmentally friendly.)

The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $3.2 billion on costumes this year (!!) – most for one-time use. Before you purchase a new disguise, check to see if your library can lend you one for free and consider donating unwanted costumes to them afterwards.

And once again, take a closer look at your local library as a model for how an organization can successfully evolve with the times.

Source: Library racks up Halloween outfits by Allie Hinga for the Telegraph Herald, October 4, 2019, p. 3A (Galena Public Library)

leadership dot #2668: coffee maker

I handle logistics for an organization’s innovation cohort – arranging meals, travel, accommodations, communication, hospitality – but one thing that I don’t do is make coffee. Making a good pot seems to require a magic touch, like a chef putting just the right amount of ingredients into a big pot of soup.

The Keurig K-cups give the illusion that there is a standard amount of grounds to make the perfect cup, but my experience with filling a coffeemaker is quite different from that. Even with elaborate written instructions, the author of them still varies the portions and defines “heaping” differently than others do. As a non-coffee drinker, I have no manner to judge whether I’m on the mark or not. Cohort members joke with me about it because I do most any other task but I have concluded that it’s best to leave the coffee making to the coffee drinkers.

Is there an equivalent to coffeemaking in your organization – something that can be done to accommodate personal preference rather than trying to standardize it – or can you develop your own version of K-cups to take the guesswork out of a variable process? Or maybe it’s just best to leave some tasks for others.

leadership dot #2667: cloak

One of the barriers to change is overcoming internal resistance to ideas – and sometimes it is challenging to even identify from where that resistance will come.

A technique recommended in Creative Confidence suggests that you imagine yourself as owning an “invincibility cloak” that allows you to overcome challenging processes or people – and before your change efforts begin to consider where or when you would use this special garment. By framing the question through this hypothetical lens, it will often unlock keys to where you should expect to encounter resistance and give you preparation time to address it.

Harry Potter’s cloak may have made him invisible, but allowing your “cloak” to inform your strategies gives you much more power.

Source: Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2013

leadership dot #2666: assembly line

To set a 1910 context for the movie Seabiscuit, the film starts out by describing the newly-invented Model T. When Ford began producing the car, it required 13 hours to assemble. Within five years, a vehicle rolled out every 90 seconds. “The real invention wasn’t the car,” the movie narrator claimed, “It was the assembly line that built it.” The process of building a car was replicated by other businesses and let to the industrial era of automation.

There have been other inventions that became a linchpin for others to use in new ways: the touch screen ushered in kiosks, smartphones, and tablets. The chimney allowed for skyscrapers and multi-level buildings which resulted in urban centers. ATM machines created a culture of self-service in industries far beyond banking.

But all transformative changes don’t need to occur through technology. Think of smaller enhancements you can create that have a ripple effect throughout your organization or beyond. Your onboarding process becomes a model for others in your profession. A new way of pricing is replicated by others (think subscription services). A whistleblower documents a complaint and inspires others to have the courage to do the same – changing the trajectory of leadership in the organization. You take the time to document a process and it enables others to build on your learning and achieve results that would have initially seemed impossible.

We often focus on the end results and only with time can we come to appreciate the true impact of our work. Keep building your equivalent of the Model T, realizing that your assembly line could turn out to be the real gem.


leadership dot #2665: whistle

Relationships are like tea kettles. Whether a romance or collegial partnership, everyone that is in a relationship needs a way to vent off some steam at some point in the relationship. Structuring an outlet for that to occur, just as on the kettle, keeps the contents from boiling over. It is a thoughtful and prudent component of the design.

What have you done to create a release valve for your relationship? Friends can plan activities or pursue interests with varied sets of friends. Colleagues can create autonomy and work on some projects independently. Couples can take separate mini-vacations or join an organization without their partner.

Whether for a day or as an on-going pursuit, finding ways to whistle on your own is a healthy component of any relationship.


leadership dot #2664: resilience

In a workshop on resilience, Dr. Jasmine Zapata gave each of the participants a handful of rubber bands and asked us to conduct a “scientific experiment” to list 7 observations about the elastic tools. In addition to the obvious such as they stretch and return or were different sizes and colors, the group generated quite a list, including:

  • If you stretch it over and over, it gets easier to stretch
  • It is malleable to any shape that you want
  • When you double or triple them, they become harder to stretch
  • They hold things together, yet can “fly” – they hold/store energy
  • They make a distinctive noise
  • They have not changed much in decades
  • They are separate but can easily be connected

After this experiment, we related these characteristics to resilience in humans – and many of the characteristics hold true. People have the ability to stretch and become stressed, yet are able to return to their original shape only to be stretched again. If you stretch something too far it may break, but can often be tied back together to continue on. People – like rubber bands – handle their flexibility differently – some are weaker and some are stronger but all have the ability to stretch.

Two takeaways from the workshop: 1) give yourself credit for the resilience that is part of you, just as it is inherent in the rubber bands and 2) whether using rubber bands specifically or another set of items, the “scientific experiment” is a useful teaching technique that causes participants to look at something ordinary in a whole new light.

The next time you’re facing a stressful situation, act like a rubber band where the tension is just temporary before you return to your original shape.

leadership dot #2663: diligence

At a workshop by Iowa Fraud Fighters, representatives from the Attorney General’s office shared warning signs of the different types of scams that target consumers. There are so many!

Everyone, but especially senior citizens are targeted by pyramid schemes, oil/gas/metal schemes, free dinner or vacation seminars, and promissory notes. Scammers prey on elderly who may not be as computer savvy and fool them into giving permission to allow the scammer to take over their computer and access all its data or they commit affinity group fraud by sending (false) messages to friends saying “I made this great investment, you should, too.” The presenters shared stories about “heartbreak schemes” where the caller knows enough information about loved ones to have you believe they are in trouble and need money now or callers that require a bank account number to deposit a “prize.”

Everyone in the room came with the thought: “Oh, I am smarter than that; I could never be conned,” but their stories and video of those who thought the same thing – yet still lost thousands or more – reinforced the sophisticated ways that “the bad guys” are using technology to make fake circumstances appear real — in person, via email, social media, calls or postal mail.

Their tips: never answer the phone of a number you don’t know; realize that paying by credit card offers more protection than gift cards, debit cards or cash; don’t rely on your Caller ID (scammers spoof the name and phone numbers); double-check all your bank and credit card statements and verify any charity or investment vehicle through the attorney general’s office before you donate. It sounds like common sense, but the only thing common about fraud these days is the frequency with which it happens to smart people.