leadership dot #2345: piddle

One of life’s little luxuries occurs when we have the opportunity to piddle around – doing (or not doing) whatever strikes our fancy, without regard to a schedule or to others’ needs. Piddle is the equivalent of having permission to pursue metaphorical rabbit trails to see where they lead or getting immersed in something that you normally would not spend the time on. It’s unstructured, serendipitous time that rarely occurs because we schedule ourselves so tightly.

But piddling, for me at least, is a great stress reliever. I may go into the closet looking for something and end up rearranging all of its contents. I may pull out a file and spend an hour re-reading all the articles I have collected on that topic. I may look online for one thing and find myself delving into an entirely different site…all without structure or purpose. Piddling can occur at home or at work, and often leads to not only personal rejuvenation but can also stimulate new ideas or solutions.

As things slow down a bit heading into for what is for many a short week, try to carve out a bit of time that can be yours for the taking. Allow yourself to explore whatever calls to you or immerse yourself in something you would not normally undertake and to see what comes of it.

Stress release and creativity don’t have to be lofty or planned. Let yourself piddle around and see what comes from being in a new flow.


leadership dot #2344: parked

To support the hoards of shoppers that flock to the Mall of America, the complex also includes 20,000 parking spaces on-site. Many people have trouble remembering where they parked their car at the grocery store or Target, so imagine the confusion that could ensue at a place this large.

Nothing is worse than walking out, tired from a long day, with arms full of bags, only to wander around looking for your car. The Mall attempts to prevent this by implementing multiple memory aids in their parking systems. Each floor is labeled with the name of a state and an accompanying picture to represent that area (eg: a cowboy boot for Texas). Each floor of the elevator is painted a different color. The elevator has an audio that says which floor on which you are entering. There are signs everywhere encouraging people to “remember where you parked.”

Other large enterprises deploy similar systems. At O’Hare Airport, each floor of the parking garage is named for a Chicago sports team. Everything from the elevator buttons to the front of the elevator is painted with the logo of the teams to aid in recall.

Think about what your organization requires people to remember. Are there creative ways to stimulate memory rather than just numbering something? Can you utilize color to assist as a visual reminder? How can you add in audio cues to aid in the process?

You could provide great car-finding assistance on the back end, but it is much more effective to prevent lost shoppers in the first place. Help your version of shoppers find their way home with ease through memory-enhancing tools for the easiest-to-forget aspects of your organization.

leadership dot #2343: collective

Each year, over 40 million visitors come to the Mall of America – twice as many as the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. It is crazy! Some may call it commercialism at its worst; locals are turned off by its enormous size and many find the mere concept of it to be excessive, but the Mall of America really is a visionary enterprise.

The gigantic entertainment and shopping complex was built on the site of the former Metropolitan sports stadium. Instead of seeing a forsaken plot of land right across the road from a major airport (and its accompanying noise), developers took a risk and built a bemouth with 2.7 million feet of retail space plus an amusement park complete with roller coaster plus a million-gallon aquarium plus a wedding chapel. Would you have invested billions in putting such a monster in an abandoned lot, in a state known for its harsh winters, in a location that borders the low population states of the Dakotas and Iowa? Not many would have, but 20+ years later the mall is still alive and well.

There are many specialty stores in the mall, but many are the same stores that you can find all across America. What makes the Mall special is that they are all there together – all 520 of them – so you can find almost anything (if you’re willing to walk a literal mile to get to it). It is a case of the sum being greater than the individual parts.

How can you follow the lead of the Mall of America and capitalize on the value of a collective? A job fair draws more candidates than individual recruitment ads. A craft show attracts more vendors and customers than a solo display. A medical building is more appealing to doctors than renting in disparate places.

And your organization is better off when it is in proximity to whom? You don’t need to be so large as to require your own zip code (like the Mall does!) but together is usually better.

Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America

Sources: Mental Floss and  Minnesota Fun Facts





leadership dot #2304: art around us

On my recent tour of historical buildings, the guide said that “architecture is art that is all around us.” I think that art is all around us, and architecture is just one of the ways it is expressed.

An artist at the Farmer’s Market proved that talent is not limited by its medium. While we often think of art as using a traditional tool such as paint or pencils, one of the vendors was giving henna tattoos and the designs were as beautiful as many paintings. I wouldn’t normally think of henna or tattoos as an art form, but in this case, they definitely were.

I have seen gorgeous sunsets lately and the trees are starting to turn their fall shades of red and gold. That, too, is art that is all around us.

Art does not live exclusively in galleries or museums. See the world with artistic eyes today and come to appreciate that which surrounds you.

Morning Star Henna
Danika Zivojnovich





leadership dot #2273: kindling

Yesterday I advocated keeping reflective notes to aid in your ability to see situations from a broad perspective. Today I encourage you to capture not just your emotions or commentary about your experiences, but to also develop a method of saving and collecting as many of your ideas as you can. Even if they have no apparent use at the moment, old ideas have a way of morphing into something valuable – maybe even years later.

Lin Manuel Miranda recently shared that he wrote the melody to one of Hamilton’s hit songs when he was 16 and another when he was 10 years old. He tweeted: “Learning to pilfer your own thoughts and doodles for something later is another tool in your toolbox.”*

I keep a notebook of potential leadership dot ideas. Sometimes items sit on the list for ages as incomplete thoughts, but then later connect with a new reflection to give the lesson clarity and depth. I have files (ok, files and files and files and files) of articles, handouts, and reference materials that often lay dormant – until they become perfect resources at the right moment.

A colleague recently called me a “repository of information” – quite the high compliment for me – and indicative of my pack-rat nature of clipping out articles, screen-shotting tweets, making notes and hoarding them all to create a matrix of ideas that can coalesce to provide the perfect training tool or analogy almost on demand.

A blank page is a productivity and creativity drag for almost everyone. It is far, far easier to start with something, even if it is rough, old and not quite on target. Keep track of those nuggets and ideas that cross your path. One day you can use them like kindling and assemble a few tiny twigs to get your creative fires blazing.

*Lin-Manuel Miranda, @Lin_Manuel, 8/29/18


leadership dot #2249: axed

I have seen a lot of unusual team-building activities in my day, but this was a new one to me: axe-throwing seems to be an actual thing! In little areas reminiscent of batting cages, participants throw an honest-to-goodness real axe at the wall in hopes of hitting near a target (and not the person throwing next to them!).

When I saw the first facility, I thought it was a fluke, but there were at least two locations in downtown St. Louis that offer the experience. It is billed as a “corporate team-builder” although I can see many subliminal emotions that could be expressed by people’s inner Paul Bunyan.

When you are choosing a team builder for your organization, take into account the temperament and characteristics of those in your group. Some may love the physical challenge of axe throwing, while others may be more suited to the mental stimulation of an escape room or scavenger hunt. It’s one thing to take your team outside its comfort level and another push the boundaries so far that it does more harm than good. Assess whether you would want to ax this activity for your organization or determine that it could be ax-actly what your team needs!

leadership dot #2248: rangers

The Gateway Arch grounds cover 192 acres, making it difficult for the Park Rangers to be visible and present at all times. To help expand their presence, the National Park Service instituted a Bark Ranger program where trained volunteers and their canine companions can walk the grounds provide service and observations when the official Rangers are unavailable. At the Arch, Bark Rangers monitor the ground and answer questions for tourists. At Glacier National Park, the Bark Rangers keep visitors away from the goats!

Apparently, many downtown residents routinely walk their dogs throughout the park, and this is an ingenious way to capitalize on their willingness to be a resource. For the price of a bandana and t-shirt, the Park Service unleashed dedicated fans to help them. Who is using your service already that you could more formally deploy to assist your organization?