leadership dot #3512: collisions

I’ve been thinking about all the synchronous experiences we used to have as a community.

— People got their news from one of three networks — at either 6pm or 10pm each night — or read it in the (one) local paper
— People gathered at one of a few main services at their church
— Interactions occurred when people shopped at the local mall or downtown strip of stores
— There may have been only one or two “diners” or “supper clubs” for those rare occasions when people ate out
— Everyone waited in line to vote in person on the same day

The growth of specialization led to separation and fewer common experiences. We’re no longer living essentially the same life as our neighbors. We’re not having those “collisions” (as Tony Hsieh called them) and learning to know our people as individuals instead of a generic generalization.

It’s easier to dislike or distrust a nameless person. It’s easier to assume that you have nothing in common because you haven’t shared those moments together. It takes more work to ask questions and establish connections — but it’s worth the effort. Start a conversation with someone new and learn about the world as others have experienced it.

leadership dot #3511: flow

During a discussion or meeting, the participants often have to make a facilitation choice to manage the flow of the dialogue.

In some situations, the comments should attempt to start something: calling on people, raising questions, making follow-up comments that move the conversation in the desired direction, or prompting feedback on specific points of view. The goal is to get a broad spectrum of input and to engage the participants.

In other cases, the comment needs to manage the facilitation by stopping something: cutting off side conversations, redirecting a boisterous participant, bringing a rambling discussion to an end by explicitly setting a limit (“ok, we’ll take one more question…), or allowing only new points to be made. Here the speaker is attempting to manage the flow by ending dialogue that is outside desired parameters.

Before you make your next comment, consider your purpose for doing so. If the conversation is off the rails, you can try to start something or you can achieve the same end by trying to stop the current flow. Everyone in the group can (and should) contribute to its facilitation. Be intentional about how your words can impact the communication tide.

leadership dot #3509: handwriting

There is a meme circulating on the internet that says: “Someday we old folks will use cursive as a secret code.” I don’t think that day is too far off. Handwriting of any sort is disappearing from use and will soon be seen as quaint.

Today is National Handwriting Day — another of those “who cares?” holidays — but it’s a good reminder that the personal touch conveyed through a pen can carry more emotion and meaning than keystrokes. I am a prolific long-hand letter writer, and I also save the correspondence I receive. There’s nothing like pulling out a letter my Mom or sister sent me to feel a closeness to them I can’t capture through just a photo.

Hallmark is trying to make handwriting more convenient through a line of “Sign & Send” cards that allow you to take a picture of your handwritten messages and then they insert it into a card and mail it for you. Not quite the same, but better than a text! Hallmark will even send your first Sign & Send card free if you’re a rewards member.

Our handwriting is a unique expression of who we are. Share some of your essence today and celebrate National Handwriting Day by dropping a note to someone you care about.

leadership dot #3505: golden ticket

Nowhere does hope spring more eternal than when it comes to the chance at winning a prize. Millions buy lottery tickets every day even though there are astronomical odds against hitting the jackpot. On a smaller scale, people opt for “mystery boxes” and grab bags in hopes of scoring a bargain or special deal.

To capitalize on this frenzy, the folks at the Cincinnati Zoo partnered with local Graeter’s ice cream to commemorate Fiona the Hippo’s fifth birthday by adding a surprise to their promotion. Graeter’s has emulated Willy Wonka’s five Golden Tickets and created a Fiona chocolate bar, also with a quintet of winning vouchers. Of the 7500 sold, only five will gift the recipient with a “Fiona kiss painting.” The quest is on to find one!

People really like the opportunity to be a winner. Is there a way you could add an element of suspense or chance to your offerings — either explicitly like Graeter’s or on a more subtle level that surprises people? Maybe you could recognize someone who turns out to be the XXth customer, celebrates a loyalty anniversary with you, or is able to draw a prize based on a level of purchasing? Without making a major investment, you can help people have the thrill of the hunt or experience the joy of winning just by holding a bit back for them to discover by surprise.

Thanks, Lucy!

And here’s another example shared after I posted this: Budweiser is hiding golden cans that make you eligible for a $1 million prize!

leadership dot #3503: injustice

In his TED Talk that has been watched over 53 million times, Simon Sinek shares his story of the Golden Circle and the importance of “starting with why” instead of automatically beginning with the “how” or the “what.” He gives several examples of why switching the order of your message can make it inherently more powerful.

One of the examples he uses is the namesake of today’s holiday. “Why did Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the civil rights movement?” Sinek asks. “He wasn’t the only man who suffered in pre-civil rights America and he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day. Why him?” Sinek’s answer is that all the great and inspiring leaders in the world, including King, “think, act and communicate” by first focusing on the “why” in their messages and making that their central theme.

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” King wrote in his letter from jail. “…I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

King’s message is as powerful today as it was when he wrote it in 1963. May it serve to help us become more united as a country by embracing King’s “why” and working to preserve our interdependence instead of posturing to advance only our own cause.

leadership dot #3502: apply

Yesterday, I wrote about using humor as part of a branding strategy to help mitigate temporary product shortages (dot #3501). A similar principle can apply when acknowledging staffing challenges.

I have seen many signs asking for latitude or consideration toward the skeleton crews but one of my favorite signs comes from Dunkin’: If you run out of patience, please ask for an application.” It’s a targeted way to remind customers that places are open to hiring — but unable to find candidates at this time.

You could say nothing and let people come to their own conclusions about why the line is slow but better to be explicit about what’s going on. People in line want the output but don’t want to be part of the input. The reminder is good for everyone.

leadership dot #3501: out of stock

In a rack of greeting cards, there were several selections that were sold out. Anticipating this, Hallmark used their dividers to communicate fun messages instead of leaving the slots blank. Examples include: “Bet you’re wondering what this one said,” “Go figure. This was probably the perfect card,” and “Don’t worry, the card fairies are busy making more.”

The lighthearted tone fits well with the irreverent Shoebox series theme and the humor makes the poor selection more tolerable. Somehow, reading a funny divider feels much better than seeing a blank reminder that the card is out of stock.

Supply chain challenges are causing shortages everywhere. Foresee where your gaps may be and proactively consider how you might mitigate them through humor or other strategies.

leadership dot #3498: demur

I listened to an interview with Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn who is on the circuit promoting her new book. She freely discussed her failures, injuries, and challenges with depression but when it came to commenting on her relationship with Tiger Woods or more current beaus, she politely demurred. Lindsey smiled but firmly said that she believes there should be a boundary between her personal and professional life and her dating partners were something she did not feel were in the scope of the interview or even to be discussed in her book. Smile again and sit silently.

I admired her for what she did not say as much as I did for anything else in the interview. It would make juicy fodder for her book and her promotion of it, but Vonn chose to keep private matters private — something that I’ll guess is challenging to do in this era of social media and the quest to receive coverage. She didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it was clear she was not going to respond further.

All of us could take a lesson from her and make a conscious choice not to capitalize on every opportunity to garner attention or even to answer every question that is asked. Whether about personal or organizational matters, know where your line is and stick to it. Your most powerful communication may simply be a quiet smile.

leadership dot #3497: plausible

Have you been in a situation where as soon as you reached a plausible explanation, you ran with it and never bothered to consider other scenarios that could be at play? Perhaps you jumped on one medical symptom and reached your own diagnosis without digging deeper. Maybe you had a problem with a project and never pursued it long enough to find out there was another reason for the underperformance. Or maybe you accepted a valid excuse for why someone left your organization without truly understanding their real motivation.

We like it when we find “the answer” — often embracing it more for its expediency than for its correctness.

It’s tempting to accept a rationale that is reasonable. But as much as we benefit from coming to decisions and moving on to the next thing, be on guard that you don’t stop your thinking prematurely. Too fast is often too soon.

leadership dot #3495: measurements

I was looking for a basket that was about four inches deep. What I found at Target was a container that is 9-13/16 inches x 7-15/32 inches x 3-29/32 inches. I guess that is close enough!

There are certainly times where precision is warranted, but the dimensions of a plastic basket is not one of them. Consider your audience: is the basket being used by a consumer who wants something that is about four inches or a contractor who needs to something to fit exactly?

Don’t waste your energy on calibrating things that can be described in looser terms and take the time to provide detail where it is helpful. Reversing the two only provides a measure of frustration for everyone.