leadership dot #3019: affirmations

It can be tough to be upbeat as the pandemic lingers on so we need to infuse positive self-talk and affirmations wherever we can. Such was the idea behind Notes to Self socks that come with positive messages sewn into the material.

Founder Laura Schmidt read that the subconscious mind is most open to new thoughts in the morning and evening and decided to leverage one of the activities people routinely perform at that time – getting dressed/undressed. Notes to Self socks are designed to provide a quick word of encouragement that will last throughout the day: I am strong, I am a great teacher, I am confident, I believe, etc.

Two lessons to take from this: 1) capitalize on existing habits to add some positivity and affirmations into your life and 2) pay attention to those fleeting ideas that you have, even if they seem a bit crazy. Sewing affirmations onto socks may be outside the mainstream, but they have sold “hundreds of thousands” of them as well as donating over 70,000 pair to homeless shelters.

Rather than just a Post-it note of kind words on your mirror, maybe times call for wearing your affirmations around with you all day!



leadership dot #3015: answer

A colleague was lamenting that her staff members continually turned to her for answers instead of resolving the problem or making decisions on their own. She provided an example of when an employee came to her with a situation and asked what to do about it. I asked her what reply she gave and she told me her response – followed by a silent moment of recognition.

The supervisor had given the employee the answer to the question and it finally dawned on her that it was no wonder people kept coming to her for answers – because she kept providing them! Instead of telling others what to do, a far more effective strategy in this situation is to reply with a question. Asking “What do you think you should do?” would be a good start.

It’s hard to develop independence and autonomous decision-making without practice. While it may be tempting – and likely much easier — in the short run to reply with the answer, you’ll never get out of that dependence loop if you keep doing so. The next time you’re asked a “how” question, utilize the moment to do some coaching instead of answering. Help your employee think through options and prioritize scenarios. Giving them confidence instead of prescribing responses is far better for everyone in the long term.

leadership dot #3012: generate

Whether you’re starting a side hustle, writing a case study for a class or just working on a creative project, there are many times when having a clever name for a business would come in handy. No need to expend brainpower to come up with one on your own: website host WordPress offers a nifty Business Name Generator that can be fun to use, even if you’re not seriously thinking of incorporating a company anytime soon.

By entering the key names for your business, the software will instantly show you a host of options. For example, “Bakery” yields Bakery Beautiful, Harmonic Bakery, Bakery Jet and Canopy Bakery among about 30 other options. You may not love any of them, but they could serve as a stepping stone to other options.

A friend once shared a brainstorming technique where you focus on one topic and write everything down that you can for 10 minutes. Then you do it again for 20 minutes more. In the second session, you’re more likely to get beyond the obvious and reach truly creative names. Let the Name Generator get you started and see where you go from there!

leadership dot #3008: isolated

On an urban campus, parking places are at a premium so when the human resources department allocated five slots to the student life office, they thought the staff members would be elated. They were – until they learned that the spots had to be vacated by 5pm and were available only Monday through Friday. Since most of the office’s work occurs in the evenings and weekends, that perk suddenly lost its luster.

I’ve heard several tales lately of HR offices being out of touch with the work of others in their own organization. At one school, performance evaluations were scheduled to be due in August – usually the busiest month of the year in preparation for opening. Why would they make such a time-consuming task due at the same time? On another campus, administrators were verbally promoting employee engagement and interaction with students but withdrew the staff meal benefits that encouraged this practice.

It’s not just HR that becomes isolated. The pace of work, doing most work remotely, and the budget cuts that have added to the workloads of the remaining staff – all are contributing factors to people worried more about getting their work done instead of taking the time to develop relationships and understanding with others. Don’t let it happen to you.

Everything you do has an impact on someone else, either inside or outside of your organization. Your work will have more meaning – and likely more effectiveness – if you know those who benefit from your services. Make the time to ask before you act.


leadership dot #3007: introduction

“What do you do?”? is the easy default opener when meeting someone new. With just one question we learn so much about a person as their identity is often wrapped up in their job. “I’m an accountant, a teacher, or a nurse” is an easy way for people to find a launching pad for conversational connections.

But for the 30 million who are unemployed right now, “What do you do?” becomes tricky. It can even bring on waves of shame or self-doubt, even though it shouldn’t. What you do is a vastly different proposition than who you are. That hasn’t changed whether or not you have a current position; if you were talented, amazing, generous and creative before the pink slip, you remain so today.

Be conscious of those who are seeking jobs right now and rephrase your introductory questions or casual queries. Things like: “Tell me a nugget about yourself; What’s something you learned in the last month?, or What do people say about you a lot?” get the conversation rolling without that awkward moment of angst for those who don’t have a position or title to share with you right now.

leadership dot #3005: it’s a bird…

A meme on social media shares the picture of a goat – or is it a bird? Depending upon which area of the picture you focus on, you’ll see two totally different creatures. Most can eventually see both, but one or the other will pop into view instantly.

Hold it as a possibility that, like with this meme, two different things can be true simultaneously. You can be happy to be working from home and missing your colleagues. You can enjoy being around your kids and wishing they were back in school full-time. You can believe that Project A is important and Project B, even though there are only funds for one.

Learn to embrace the duality even though you may vehemently embrace one side. Even if all you see is the goat, the bird is still there.

Posted on Facebook by Shannon Murphy-Burt > Beyond the Far Side, July 2020

leadership dot #3004: who’s there?

There are now masks that come in styles to fit all personalities, but what we really need are masks with one of those “HELLO, My Name Is…” icons on the front. I had a hard enough time identifying people before COVID, and now that I only see half their face I am doubly challenged.

And I am not the only one. While in the store, a young girl came up to me and excitedly greeted me with “Hello Mrs. McDonnell!!” I had to deflate her when I pulled down the mask while assuring her she is not the only one who is currently confused.

As schools begin, new hires are acclimated into the office environment and in any other circle where deep familiarity is not present, do what you can to help others match names with faces (in other words, with eyes!) and make it easier to remember who is hiding behind that shield. We must remain physically distant but using someone’s name helps with the connection for which we all long and need.

leadership dot 2998: jargon

This was the actual script of an online training I was required to take in preparation to work for the Census:

Keep in mind that this is orientation training so none of the acronyms, forms or abbreviations mean anything to the person working their way through this module. And, obviously, making a personal property claim isn’t something that is applicable before working (if ever), so going into this much detail at this point in the process makes no sense at all.

It’s tempting to want to cram everything an employee may need to know into the early days of training, but don’t do it. If you make the first days positive, relevant, and engaging, you’ll reap the dividends throughout the whole term of employment.

leadership dot #2984: take responsibility

Don’t you want one of these signs in every building? Indiana University Health put into writing what many of us wish was said – and followed – by everyone.

Think of how your mental framework would shift just by reading this sign. It’s a free and simple, yet powerful way to change not only your experience but that of those around you.

Pretend this notice is posted everywhere and take responsibility for your energy, words and behaviors. It’s an easy way to make the world a better place.

picture by Deborah Riegel


leadership dot #2983: I’m thinking

I’m a fan of the “three dots in a bubble” that pops up when someone is responding to your text message — and I want to create a counterpart. We need a new icon with three lightbulbs that shows “I’m thinking.”

Not just with texts but with communication in general, there is an expectation of an instantaneous response. We would be better off if there was an easy way to allow people to consider their reply without leaving the recipient in cyber-limbo. You could hit the three lightbulbs to indicate that you need a moment to ponder – to think of the implications beyond the obvious that came to light upon reading the query and to craft a thoughtful response that uses more words than smiley faces.

Currently, we’re faced with the dancing ellipsis that impatiently nudges us to hit “send” in order to pacify the eager recipient who is also watching the dots for them to morph into a message. Until my three lightbulb idea comes to fruition, intentionally ignore the icon boogie and prioritize a wise response over a speedy one.