leadership dot #2376: succinct

When I write grants, they are organized around a Logic Model that helps clarify the components of the project. If I can work with the grantee to articulate the logic in a compelling, succinct way I know that the grant stands a good chance of being funded.

The Logic Model begins with a program goal – the overall aim or intended impact of the project. Next, two components that describe HOW the goal will be achieved are outlined: Resources (the inputs dedicated to or consumed by the program) and Activities (the actions that the program takes to achieve the desired outcomes). Finally, two components that describe the WHY or “so what” of the project are clarified: Outputs (the measurable projects of a program’s activities) and then the Outcomes (the benefits to clients, communities, systems or organizations). Resources are needed for Activities which lead to Outputs which cause Outcomes. It sounds very simple, but many hours have been spent wrestling with how to communicate these categories.

The Alia Innovation Cohort members also have struggled to put their overall change aspirations into succinct language. They have been striving to articulate their Theory of Change that describes the aspect of the child welfare reform that their jurisdiction is addressing through completion of this sentence:  “Because we believe that children fare better with protective connections in family, and ____ (#) children in ____ (county) are not living safely within their families, we are ___________(thing they are changing), so that __________ (change they expect to see). We believe this will work because _______ (evidence).” It, too, sounds easy to complete, but it the simplicity belies the difficulty of it.

Mark Twain said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead.” His logic rings true for grant writing, theories of change and most forms of communication. It takes time to edit out all the wiggle words, meaningless phrases and fluff, but the power comes from that clarification.

Logic Model Source: The Office of Minority Health Resource Center, http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov

leadership dot 2365: ticketed

There is an accountability model attributed to Stephen Covey that says if you write someone a “parking ticket” you need to let them know about it. Put in practice, this means that if you see an employee (or child or anyone else) doing something that is counter to your expectation, instead of just making a mental note of it (writing a parking ticket), you need to tell them.

If you see one of your staff come in 10 minutes late, instead of just noting that they were late, you need to let them know that you noticed and that the behavior is not acceptable. If you are displeased at an employee’s presentation, you need to let them know about your disappointment rather than just letting it go. If your child failed to wipe their feet before entering your house, you need to call them on it rather than quietly sweeping it up.

In the literal sense, if a person accumulates enough parking tickets without paying them, the traffic division will put a boot immobilizer on the car because of the ongoing nature of the offenses. In the metaphorical sense, Covey notes that what happens is that we write these mental tickets and eventually it gets to the point where – in our minds – the other person has accumulated enough parking tickets that it warrants putting on an immobilizer. The problem comes in when we don’t tell the person about the ongoing collection of tickets that they are getting, thus ambushing them by our extreme reaction without sufficient warning.

Surprises may be a good thing for birthdays, engagements or celebratory occasions, but they are lousy in an evaluation context. If you see behavior with which you are unhappy, have the courtesy and respect to let the person know while it is still minor. One ticket is not hard to rectify, but a boot is quite difficult to remove.

leadership dot #2362: symbol

There are many complex concepts that are represented with a single, widely recognized symbol. A heart means love. A red cross represents humanitarian effort. Green means go. A jack-o-lantern instantly says Halloween. Countries can be indicated by their flag. Christianity is conveyed with a cross and Judaism with the Star of David.

None of these symbols are literal representations of the concept behind them, yet they have come to communicate as much as words convey. The use of emojis is perpetuating the use of visual shorthand as now there is widespread use of one picture to transmit a larger meaning.

I began thinking about this when I was looking for an image to represent leadership. I came up empty. Leadership is a mainstream term, but I was unable to locate a universal symbol for it. There are many pictures of literal leaders: hierarchies and individuals on a pedestal or at the head of the table, but nothing that widely connotes the overarching concept of leadership in a single symbol as a pineapple is to hospitality.

Not only is there a need for stronger leaders today, but it seems that a universal leadership image is required as well. Any ideas?


leadership dot #2352: be open

“When we are closed to ideas, what we hear is criticism. When we are open to ideas, what we get is advice.” – Simon Sinek

For many families, Thanksgiving is a weekend of togetherness with people they may not often see. It can bring up emotional baggage and preconceived notions about who is the “cool aunt” and who is the “crazy uncle” or other designations.

If you find yourself in a conversation with someone, try to set aside the labels and be open to Sinek’s advice. You may find yourself grateful to learn something new about the world or yourself.


leadership dot #2348: speak

Sometimes when we speak up – pushing back against a bully, an idea with which we think is unjust or a degrading remark – we are unable to achieve the contrition we desire from the other person. Worse yet, the person we opposed may feel even more emboldened to continue in their demeaning ways since no repercussions occurred despite being called out for their behavior.

To pursue justice, you need to realize that you are the stronger one for having used your voice. Speaking up builds courage and gives you the fortitude to speak up again the next time. Remaining silent does nothing to add to your growth or to address the injustice.

You may not win all of the battles, but you won’t win any that you don’t enter. Keep speaking up to confront those who put other people down.


leadership dot #2347: interpreter

I received a pamphlet with my dental insurance bill informing me that if I had questions, I could call a number and receive assistance. What made it catch my eye is that it offered help in 15 different languages.

I wouldn’t think that Delta Dental of Iowa would provide language access services in Arabic, Hindi, Karen, Korean, Laotian, Pennsylvania Dutch, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese, but interpreters are available without charge for these languages and more. It is a great service for customers, free of charge.

While you may not be able to provide such a broad range of interpreters, is there something you can do to assist those who do not speak English? Perhaps you can provide materials in one or two other languages, provide a FAQ list in multiple languages or collect the names of your staff and key volunteers who could assist in translation.

True service is delivered in a language that can be understood.

leadership dot #2346: postcard

One of the most undervalued tools out there is the postcard. We all know that writing letters is a dying art and even the act of penning anything by hand is all but lost, but a simple postcard enables you to do both without the heavy lifting a full letter seems to require.

I use postcards as a quick way to say “I’m thinking about you” in a way that is far more meaningful than an email or text. A handwritten hello takes no time at all to do, yet has an impact that far outweighs the investment. It often even inspires the recipient to write back!

To facilitate the process and make it even easier, I keep postcards everywhere – in my purse, car, notepad, briefcase, suitcase – so that if I have an extra five minutes I can dash one out and be ready to pop it in the mail. You can buy large pads of scrapbooking paper and make your own colorful 4×6 creations or buy them in bulk. Either way, it is the sentiment rather than the artwork that makes the difference.

Think of a postcard as a paper hug and send one off – frequently – to those who are dear to you. Love really can travel through the mail.