leadership dot #2681: harvest

One season “woodland friends” were featured on every imaginable product, then there was a frenzy over cacti, only to be replaced by llamas and unicorns. When something is so suddenly pervasive, my sister and I joke that the product must have gotten a new PR agent who promotes its image and orchestrates product placements in all the major stores.

This year, the mythical marketer of the year award goes to those responsible for promoting autumn. Have you noticed that “fall” has become a merchandising frenzy on its own? I’m not talking about Halloween or Thanksgiving, but the actual “It’s Fall Y’all” season in between. Pay attention and you’ll be astonished.

Fall decorations are everywhere. Products include hand towels, pencils, shower curtains, soap, rugs, and all manner of seasonal trimmings. You can have a complete set of fall dishes and almost every food item comes in pumpkin spice flavor to serve on them. Hallmark has a selection of cards wishing greetings just for the season and Walmart is running commercials to encourage “harvest parties.”

Someone identified a gap between summer and Halloween and revved up the merchandising machine to fill it. You may have caught the bug personally and added an extra pumpkin or wreath to your front porch, but has your organization capitalized on the new energy around this season? Add “fall” to your planning cycle for next year: host your donors at a pumpkin patch, add spice flavoring or color to your product, or send sunflower cards instead of Christmas greetings.

There is a marketing bounty waiting for those who harvest it.

leadership dot #2677: map

An organization that is working on system-wide change did some evaluations with the front-line staff involved in the efforts. What many of them said was some version of “we want a road map” – please tell us how to enact this change, outline the steps for us, give us direction, etc.

The thing is – there is no road map. There isn’t one to give them – and the change is so new and so massive that no one could even make a map if they wanted to. Instead of a map, what the leaders need to give their team is an understanding of the process of change and reframe their identity to one of creator or explorer instead of follower.

I think about this on Columbus Day – and what must it have been like for him and his flotilla to set out to unknown destinations. There was no map for Columbus – nor is there one for any organization embarking on a change effort. In addition to spending time talking about the change itself, leaders would be wise to align expectations of their staff to ready them for ambiguity, missteps, and confusion – and prepare people to make the map instead of futilely seeking one.

It seems appropriate to share this quote again today:

When David Livingstone’s work in Africa became known, a missionary society wrote to him and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are?” If he had, the letter indicated the society was prepared to send some men to help with his work. Livingstone’s answer was clear and to the point. “If you have men who will come only over a good road, I don’t need your help. I want men who will come if there is no road…”

 …Or no map.

leadership dot #2669: costumes

Give another shout out to libraries – this time for adding Halloween costumes to their inventory of goods-to-lend. A local library added a rack to allow patrons to borrow costumes for kids and adults believing that it fits well with the idea of community sharing. (Not to mention that it is also economically and environmentally friendly.)

The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $3.2 billion on costumes this year (!!) – most for one-time use. Before you purchase a new disguise, check to see if your library can lend you one for free and consider donating unwanted costumes to them afterwards.

And once again, take a closer look at your local library as a model for how an organization can successfully evolve with the times.

Source: Library racks up Halloween outfits by Allie Hinga for the Telegraph Herald, October 4, 2019, p. 3A (Galena Public Library)

leadership dot #2644: not ordinary

One year ago today, I was at a meeting with several participants from out-of-town. As they prepared to leave for the airport I was struck by the ordinariness of their departures – they casually said goodbye and left with the business-as-usual confidence that they would board their planes and reach their destination as they had always done. Fortunately, they were right, but it provided a stark contrast to those who boarded the ill-fated planes on this date in 2001. I’m sure they, too, left for the airport with carefree indifference and anticipation of a safe journey.

I see signs of this clash of expectations throughout the year. The crosses on the side of the road, especially the one at a local intersection that I pass through daily, that mark where someone lost their life. The girl in the emergency room wearing brand new shoes – not expecting that it would be the only day she wore them. Those who were just shopping, praying, dancing or driving who were shot down as part of another mass attack. All people doing ordinary things that ended up in a fateful way.

One of the lyrics from Come From Away* says: “It’s like any of us could have died on Tuesday, and we’re dared to see things differently today.” Don’t take your today for granted. Dare to see your life with new eyes and possibilities that capitalizes on all the “Tuesdays” you are given.

And mostly, don’t ever forget those who lost lives and made sacrifices on September 11, 2001. Today is not just another day.

*Quote from “Costume Party” on Come From Away Original Broadway Soundtrack, lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein

 

 

 

leadership dot #2635: grotto

The Dickeyville Grotto is unlike any other. The grotto is actually a series of shrines, paying tribute to numerous religious icons as well as to patriotic legends – all done in stone that is embedded with brightly-colored objects from all over the world. The shrines are comprised of things you don’t expect to find in Wisconsin: “colored glass, gems, antique heirlooms of pottery or porcelain, stalagmites and stalactites, sea shells, starfish, petrified sea urchins and fossils, and a variety of corals, amber glass, agate, quartz, ores, such as iron, copper and lead, fool’s gold, rock crystals, onyx, amethyst and coal, petrified wood and moss.” People just walk through and have wide-eyed stares at what is before them.

The entire grotto was built from scratch by Fr. Matthias Wernerus from 1925-1930. He must have spent most of his free time constructing the shrines, fences and structures that reflect his love of God and his love of the United States. It stands almost a century later as a testament to his labor.

I hope that today, as well as on most days, you are able to dedicate your time to something that you love just as Fr Werenerus did. Maybe it’s not building a shrine or grotto, but I wish for your labor to be filled with the same level of love.

 

leadership dot #2575: pledge

We’ve all heard the Pledge of Allegiance hundreds of times and often say the words by rote memory. On this Independence Day, take a few minutes to listen to Red Skelton explain the meaning of each word and make the Pledge come to life. I challenge you to listen to his monologue and not be moved by it.

Skelton adds power to something by making the familiar unfamiliar. Instead of just using words that we recite without thinking, he challenges us to pause and consider why the words were chosen. Can you adopt a similar technique for an important message in your organization? Perhaps you can have a founder shed light on the thought behind the mission statement. Elders could each share the meaning behind the organization’s values. The board chair or president could describe what the name of the organization or its slogan was trying to achieve. Instead of just sharing words, aim to share meaning.

Happy Independence Day!

leadership dot #2574: bandwagon

There’s nothing like a holiday to create a bandwagon for marketers to jump on and the Fourth of July is no exception. It seems that the weeks between Memorial Day and Independence Day have become one big promotional marathon with stores and their products decked out in red, white and blue – hoping that it makes consumers spend green.

It’s one thing to promote the blueberries and strawberries that would be sold anyway but this year I was struck at the number of pre-packaged products that came out with a holiday edition. Cereals, chips, candies, cookies, beverages and snacks offered their foods dyed with the colors of our nation. Paper products, clothing, decorations and flowers all feature stars or stripes. If there was a way to tie something to the holiday retailers have done it.

On a personal level, you still have today to rush out and deck your halls and buffet table with red, white and blue. Organizationally, take a moment to process the frenzy around you. Did you waste time and energy by participating, or did your additional efforts pay off? If you sat out, could you have benefitted from being part of the wave?

The calendar is packed with mass merchandising opportunities: back-to-school, Pumpkin Spice, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos are all on deck. Jump on the bandwagon or stay off – but do either with intentionality.