leadership dot #3375: revisit

The tagline for Patriot Day is We Will Never Forget, and if you are of a certain age, you remember exactly where you were when the Trade Towers were attacked. But 70 million Americans have no firsthand experience to remember. It’s hard for me to believe that 9-11 was 20 years ago or that students in college were born after it happened.

Today is an important reminder that we need to revisit the seminal events in our personal, organizational or national history. People from more recent generations (or employment status or family ties) need to hear the stories from those who can tell them. We need to bring to the forefront the memory of the experiences that shape us, and 9-11 certainly is one of those.

The United States has designated September 11 as Patriot Day as a reminder to pause and remember that tragic day. In between all your usual business, take a moment not only to reflect but to share your memories with someone who doesn’t have their own. The history books can’t help others feel the emotions, but you can.

leadership dot #3370: labor

Recruit for this job: pick corn every day during the summer starting at first light. Or stand outside all day at a farm stand to sell it. You would think — in this environment of a tight labor market — that those positions would remain unfilled, but our local farm family has learned that people are attracted to work for more than money.

Farm stand manager Carol Fincel is quoted as saying: “My staff are like my own children. They have to be 14 (years old) to start, and a lot of them stay through college. They learn so much, and I get to see them blossom.” Her relationship-building efforts not only earn her accolades with current staff, but multiple siblings rotate through the years and serve as a pipeline for future labor. Word travels, and the buzz is that the Fincel’s are great employers (and great farmers!).

Organizations today are offering all kinds of incentives to entice front-line or assembly-line workers to fill their positions: sign-on bonuses, college tuition, four-day work weeks, free meals, extra vacation time, and more. But people have always worked — and quit — because of their manager.

On this Labor Day — and the other 364 days — take a lesson from the Fincel’s and treat your current employees in such a way that they become life-long ambassadors for the company and actively recruit their friends. It’s the ultimate competitive advantage.

As quoted in “Sweet corn delights tri-state palates” by Sage Smith in the Telegraph Herald, July 7, 2021, p. 1A

leadership dot #3306: fireworks

Who is the largest consumer of fireworks in the world? Think about that for a minute — what global entity would consistently purchase large amount of the pyrotechnics?

The answer: The Walt Disney Company. Disney parks offer large displays every evening, and that consistency outweighs any singular large purchases for special events like the Olympics or holiday celebrations. According to Business Insider, Disney is also the second-largest purchaser of explosive devices, behind only the U.S. Department of Defense.

I wouldn’t have guessed Disney as the number-one fireworks user. Fireworks are usually promoted as the highlight or the raison d’etre to attend an event — as with many city-wide celebrations tonight — not just part of the routine like at Disney where they have turned another’s main event into part of their daily magic.

Think about the “fireworks” you provide in your organization. Do you treat them like the Fourth of July — infrequent but spectacular occasions — or are you more like Disney and attempt to infuse sparkles into everything you produce? Either can light up your customers, but only one way defines your brand.

leadership dot #3291: impact

As you no doubt have heard, Juneteenth has been designated as a new Federal Holiday to commemorate the day the last enslaved Black people learned that they were free. I wrote about its meaning last year (dot 2926) so this year I turn to consider the yet-to-be-understood implications of designating another Federal holiday.

I wonder what changes the official action will inspire. Will children (and adults!) learn more about the events surrounding this date since it is an official holiday? How will this new-day-off for millions impact future summer calendars? With only two weeks between Juneteenth and Independence Day, will that period become a collective holiday — full of vacations and downtime? Will mid-June now be favored — or avoided — for weddings and other celebrations as people seek to plan other events around what has become a holiday weekend? Will Juneteenth now spur on a host of new festivals and cultural events? How many other employers will add Juneteenth to their employee benefit plans, creating economic ripples throughout the country? Will the designation help tell America’s story to future generations? Such significant legislation spurs so many questions and possibilities!

Consider what Juneteenth could mean for your organization and plan now for how you can leverage or capitalize on the recognition it will receive next year to contribute your portion of the messaging beyond the inevitable holiday sales. Prepare to educate yourself and your team about why the date has significance and what lessons can be learned from it. Just as no one knew the impact of that day 156 years ago in Texas, neither do we know the ripple effect of commemorating Juneteenth as a Federal holiday. Don’t waste the window to do something new as a result of this action.

leadership dot #3272: legislate

At 11 minutes before midnight on the last night of the session, our state legislature passed a measure that went into effect immediately. Whether you agree with the bill or not, it signals how legislating has become reactionary — focused on the short-term political element rather than the long-term impacts any legislation imposes. No bill needed to be put in effect in the dark of night.

Politics has become volleyball — one side overturning the acts of the previous administration, only until the new administration can come in and do the same. With the loss of moderates in both parties, we have forfeited the middle, and along with it, the essential element of compromise.

On this Memorial Day, we honor those who died in the performance of their military duties while serving to protect democracy and the American way of life. Let us hope that those who are living will see clear to make those sacrifices worthwhile by focusing on the long-term health of the country instead of the just political gain of the moment.

leadership dot #3233: reevaluate

Early formal efforts to promote environmental sustainability began by encouraging teach-ins on college campuses. These lively events were popular programs to debate the Vietnam War, and after Senator Gaylord Nelson was moved by an oil slick large enough for him to see from an airplane, he proposed shifting the topic to the environment.

So, the infrastructure was created, a crew assembled and national efforts were made to promote environmental teach-ins on college campuses. It went nowhere. The war generated lots of emotions and diverse opinions, but no one was passionate about ruining the planet. The teach-in was the wrong format.

The advocacy could have ended there but the astute national director Denis Hays realized that college students were still intensely focused on war activism, so he turned instead to K-12 students. The organization shifted its focus, enlisted the help of the major education organizations, and for the first Earth Day in 1970, over 10,000 primary and secondary schools were involved. Today, over 95% of K-12 schools in the US will observe Earth Day, and educators in 149 countries participate in activities.

Keep the early Earth Day organizers in mind the next time your organization needs to pivot. The shift from college teach-ins to K-12 education was not an easy one, but it made all the difference. Be willing to reevaluate — even assumptions as fundamental as your target audience, format and focus — and remain focused on the ultimate goal rather than wed to the strategies to achieve it.

Source: Wikipedia and EarthDay.org

leadership dot #3215: cheer

What do most teens do with their earnings from being a busboy? Not buy a $125 rabbit costume! But a local high school student did just that. He then wears it around town while distributing candy (also purchased with his own money.)

Jason Oyen may be spreading his cheer today to celebrate Easter, but wears his suit on random days as well. He told the newspaper: “I just like making people smile. If I make myself stand out in ridiculous costumes, that seems to work.”

Oyen may be more exuberant than most in his quest to share joy but his intent can become an inspiration to the more timid, too. What small act can you do to make someone smile? Hop to it and spread that cheer.

leadership dot #3167: meaningful

Today is Presidents’ Day – a holiday that was established in recognition of the great patriot George Washington. But when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act locked the date into the third Monday in February it fell between Washington and Lincoln’s birthday and many began to include both leaders in the designation. Today, it is technically seen as an acknowledgment of all United States presidents but in reality, it serves as a retailing marketing gimmick and chance for Federal workers to have the day off more than a meaningful commemoration of America’s executive leaders.

The irony is that while it began by marking George Washington’s birthday as the holiday, due to its fixed date it is impossible for it to fall on the actual birthday of any of the four presidents born in February (also Lincoln, Harrison and Reagan).

Does your organization have traditions or commemorations like Presidents’ Day that have lost their way through multiple iterations and attempts at meeting a plurality of needs? If you attempt to achieve many purposes with one event, it often diminishes the impact for everyone.

A Federal holiday on Washington’s birthday to honor our founding leader is quite different than an arbitrary February date that gives equal recognition to Chester Arthur, Millard Fillmore, Warren Harding and 42 others. Compacting elements together instead of giving each its due may be efficient, but it’s doubtful that efficiency is your ultimate goal.

leadership dot #3166: pet love

Valentine’s Day has gone to the dogs – literally. Milk-Bone now sells treats packaged specifically for Fido to share with his buddies – whether they be neighborhood pals, BFFs at doggie daycare, or other pooches in his circle.

Of course, the audience is actually pet owners but Milk-Bone was wise to capitalize on their love of pets. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that in 2019 Americans spent $95.7 billion on their animal companions. To put it in perspective, $95 billion is the same amount of damage from all the U.S. climate disasters last year! And even pre-pandemic projections forecast increases in pet spending with no end in sight.

Is there a way for your organization to capitalize on this love affair? Maybe you can incorporate pet products into your fund-raising repertoire. Perhaps you can add information about the pets of your clientele or donors and specifically acknowledge them in your communication. At a minimum, know that 67% of families have a pet and over half of American households own a dog, making it an ideal conversation starter or feature story subject.

You’d be doggone crazy to ignore the pet-lovers in your audience.

leadership dot #3165: special occasions

White Castle isn’t exactly where most people think of when considering a Valentine’s Day meal with their date – but the chain has added a new twist to put them into consideration. This year, the Castle is offering “Slider Lover’s Point” by turning their parking lots into a car-hop style restaurant for the holiday. Aficionados of the classic square burgers can safely fulfill their cravings while being served in their car, harkening them back to the time when White Castle was one of the only fast-food places around. It’s a creative strategy to acknowledge the pandemic but also to capitalize on the uptick in Valentine’s business.

Think about how your organization can think differently about positioning itself for special occasions. Can you target godmothers or even fairy godmothers instead of moms on Mother’s Day? Could you provide your fundraising buffet or breakfast at midnight instead of during the traditional hours? Maybe your appeal letter asks for donations to stay home instead of going to another chicken dinner event?

It’s hard to compete with the ordinary. Think extraordinary instead.