leadership dot #2073: sender

I recently received a major award from my professional association and learned about it through an email. In addition to the announcement and details about the award presentation, the sender wrote: “With the changing times it feels strange to send this [first] via email but I believe we have moved to this as a standard and expected form of communication. Perhaps I can generate a dot on this strange feeling.”

I’m not surprised about it feeling strange to send my notification in this way. He was experiencing the dissonance of using a method he thought the receiver would want vs. a method that felt true to him. It’s like the grandma feeling strange texting her grandchildren or them wincing at writing her a handwritten letter instead of a greeting on Facebook.

I think you can eliminate the strangeness with a decision about authenticity. I choose to send handwritten letters, even to my phone-obsessed nieces and nephews, because it is authentic for me. I welcome their thank-you texts for packages, although I would never send one. I choose to send emails or notes to colleagues instead of sending social media messages as they often do.

While much is written about tailoring your message to your audience, ultimately you, as the sender, should choose a vehicle for that message that is authentic for you. Receiving good news is fantastic no matter what the method and a sender should feel good about sending it, too.



leadership dot #2060: incentivize

I suspect that most of us receive email surveys from companies we don’t know and often hit “delete” rather than filling them out. My sister recently was asked to provide her opinion on human resource trends, and even though she was not familiar with the vendor, their incentive motivated her to complete the questionnaire.

In exchange for a few minutes of her time, Discover Org Research provided a $10 contribution to the Nature Conservatory. It was a win-win for everyone: the survey was filled out instead of deleted, my sister donated to a cause she believes in and, of course, the Nature Conservatory received a contribution that they otherwise would not have earned.

Think about the incentives that you provide for participation in research or similar forms of engagement. Maybe appealing to a greater good will do you some good as well.

Thanks, Meg!


leadership dot #2056: spa c in g

Having text show up perfectly across multiple platforms is sometimes a challenge. While many websites are now constructed for “responsive design” to allow for better alignment, it still isn’t perfect.

But what I can’t understand is how humans can fail to have proper spacing in print that is low tech (i.e. handwritten!):

(sadly, just one example of many from the funeral)

Or how egregious spacing errors occur on very visible things that are done by professionals  (i.e. expensive):

(Photo from Karlee Kanz on Facebook)

Who thought this was acceptable? And where are the quality checks – by the supervisor, the person who delivered it or anyone else involved in the process?

I wonder if people are in such a rush that everything blurs together in their brain or so distracted that they don’t take a moment to pause and consider the end product. Don’t fall prey to these traps. Take that extra second to ensure your words stay together and spaces are placed where they belong.






leadership dot #2049: impossible

Talk about the impossible task: Keep your 10-week old puppy calm for six weeks until she is old enough to have surgery on a torn ACL. It is not going to happen.

The instructions from the vet made me think about other equally ludicrous goals that we give employees: pick up the work of the person who left and do your job, too; make monumental changes without revising any policies; serve more customers and serve them well, but without any additional resources, etc.

Why do we add to the frustration by expecting the unrealistic?

Part of our role as a supervisor is to help set priorities. It would serve a far greater purpose if lofty ambitions were broken down into specifics and given rankings: “Be sure the puppy doesn’t climb stairs” might actually occur. “Please do the reporting Chris used to do before you do the work for Committee X.” “Prepare a list of key policies that would be impacted by the change and your recommendations to alter them if needed.” “Let me know how we can reduce barriers and make customer service our first priority.”

Help your staff achieve results by keeping your expectations grounded and prioritized. You are far more likely to see progress in a narrowly defined area than with a broad wish list. Specificity encourages success.

leadership dot #2038: conversion

For Christmas this year, I gave my siblings a flash drive – with 3,347 family slides scanned onto it and made a print book with a selection of shots. It was undoubtedly a labor of love, but one that proved to be quite timely given other circumstances. The slides had been sitting in my basement in carousels for several years since we cleaned out the childhood home, but they had remained untouched.

When I started the scanning process, I found many carousels (aka hundreds of slides) that none of the “kids” had ever seen before: my mom and dad’s dating days, wedding and honeymoon; photos of my mom and her sister in high school and slides of times long before any of us were even a thought. While we had spent countless hours watching slides of the family, we always started with our childhood – where we could see ourselves in the pictures – without ever caring about those early days.

If I had not scanned those slides, I am positive that no one would have ever seen them, and now they have become prized treasures.

Think about what old media is lurking in the basement of your home or organization. Are there old documents or photographs that would be better put into a book that could be shared? Can you find untold stories in storage that should be put into a vehicle to be appreciated? Is there a project that would make the visuals of your legacy come to life?

It may not be easy to convert old memories into modern methods, but it is so worth the effort to do so.

leadership dot #2028: three billboards

I recently saw Three Billboards outside Ebbings, Missouri, a movie about a woman who posts a larger-than-life message to the sheriff who has yet to capture the person who murdered her daughter. Seven months have gone by without an arrest so Mildred (Frances McDormand) places the billboards thatOKread: Raped While Dying // And Still No Arrests? // How Come, Chief Willoughby?

The movie revolves around her rage which gets expressed in many unhealthy forms, but also about the torment of wanting answers to something that is unanswerable. As the Chief (Woody Harrelson) reports, “some cases are not solved.”

Many things go on in life that seem to make no sense to us. We want answers for illnesses, disasters and deaths although we ware unable to receive an explanation. We want solace when only time can provide an inkling of that most welcome emotion.

Venting your anger on billboards may not be the most effective method of expressing your grief, but the movie does give the viewer many themes to ponder. Maybe you can use its premise and construct for yourself three virtual billboards to vent your frustrations and sorrows in a palatable way. What would your three billboards say?

leadership dot #2027: yet

I made a purchase in a small independent gift store and asked for a gift receipt. The owner, who was also running the register and appeared to be the only employee, said: “Oh, we aren’t able to offer them – yet.”

What a hopeful word: “yet.” It acknowledges that she knows her current limitations, but has plans to overcome them.

I used to tell my staff that everything was better than it was and not as good as it could be. Yet.

Think about how you can convey a sense of possibility with your vocabulary this year.

leadership dot #2021: waiting

While the hustle and bustle of the holidays swirled around me, I found myself sitting in a room with my siblings, aunt and uncle with nothing to do. We were all at the hospital while my mom underwent surgery so no one wanted to leave, but there was really no other option except to sit and wait. And tell stories.

We talked more in those few hours than we have in the past year. We heard about our grandparents, our mom growing up, what the third cousins are doing and other family news that would normally not be shared except via Facebook.

I see these relatives every Christmas, but normally the conversation revolves around the basketball game on television, what presents were under the tree, the meal and its preparation/clean up or other trivial chat. There are so many diversions and so many in attendance that the dialogue is exchanged in snippets, not paragraphs, unlike during the long hours in the hospital waiting room.

Don’t wait for a somber occasion to slow down the clock and have a good old-fashioned story hour with some of your relatives. Use the upcoming holiday gatherings to pull up a chair and actually talk with each other, sans technology, and learn a bit more about those roots on your family tree.

leadership dot #2020: spelling

For many people, myself included, dictionaries are about the spelling and looking up how to properly do that vs learning what the meaning or root cause of the word might be. One of my very favorite apps is dictionary.com. It says a lot about how I spend my time!

Having an electronic version makes it nice that I don’t have to lug a big dictionary around with me, but what I really love is the “did you mean?” feature. When you look up words in a print version— presumably because you don’t know how to spell them, you are left with no assistance if you are off the mark. But dictionary.com will provide you with a whole list of related or possible suggestions — and presto you can insert it and be in your way.

Think about how your organization operates. Are you like the print dictionary where all the information is there and fully accessible to clients — IF they know what to ask or where to look? Or are you like the app where you provide all the same resources PLUS anticipate what your clients might really mean and give it to them in that format instead?

There is a reason the print version is yellowing on my shelf.

leadership dot #1998: answers

How often have you been in a meeting where the pretense was to gather input, but really the person in charge already had determined all the answers?

At a recent event, I participated in an icebreaker that can help you to illustrate this point in a light-hearted and humorous way.

One participant was given a plate with strips of paper marked QUESTIONS. The person sitting next to them was given a plate with strips marked ANSWERS. Person A drew a question then person B drew an answer to respond to it. All of the answers are interchangeable, and some provide hilarious combinations. After person B answers, the plate of QUESTIONS is passed to them and the ANSWERS are given to person C and it keeps going around the table until everyone has asked and answered a question.

For example:

Q. Would you like to be a millionaire?
A. No, once I tried, but it ended up a disaster.

Q. Do you have any shortcomings?
A. People do not speak about it aloud.

Q. Do you love children?
A. During my lunch hour.

Use this to show the futility of having pre-conceived answers without acknowledging what the question is – or just use it as a fun icebreaker at your next event (or Thanksgiving dinner). It avoids that awkwardness of not knowing what to say because the answers are provided for you!

(Get a sample list of questions and answers here.)

Thanks to Kayla Morrison for sharing.