leadership dot #3701: hitch

Over the weekend, I was able to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. Having lived in St. Louis, I have seen them many times before, but they never fail to thrill me. Such stately, magnificent animals!

It’s obvious that Anheuser Busch/inBev invests millions into this operation as there are three traveling teams, each with three custom semi-trucks, a team of six handlers, customized pens, and even branded manure pails. The Clydesdales scream Budweiser because everything around them reinforces that message.

The horses did not make their first public appearance until 1933 when they paraded down the street with the beer wagon to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. It was such a hit that Busch, Sr. sent a hitch to New York and the horses made a tour of New England, including a stop at the White House. Since then, the teams are on the road 300 days/year and Budweiser and Clydesdales have become synonymous.

There is nothing that inherently connects a hitch of 2000-pound horses and beer, but the novelty, repetition, and intentional reinforcement of the brand for close to a century have created a promotional symbol that is recognized the world over. My takeaway from seeing the Clydesdales (again) is to stick with it. Too often, we change logos, looks, or campaigns because we get tired of them. Instead, hitch yourself to a symbol for the long run and build the instantaneous recognition that endures.

You can see Gus and Bud the Dalmations in the pen next to Jeff. Dalmations were originally part of the team to guard the wagon and horses when the driver made deliveries, so they continue to ride on the wagon today.
“Bud” — 19.1 hands — 2200 pounds!

leadership dot #3700: ten minutes

Some of the best time management advice I know sounded too simplistic when I heard it but became a game changer for me. The founder of IKEA shared this gem:

Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.”

Ingyar Kamprad

I have been amazed at how much I can accomplish in that small of increment — and how many times I previously let ten minutes go by doing nothing as I transitioned between meetings, arrived early to an appointment and waited, or scrolled through social media instead of dedicating the time to accomplishing a small portion of a larger task.

When you reframe your day to “what can I accomplish in the next ten minutes?” a variety of options present themselves that set you on a path to greater achievement. Just paying attention to the amount of time you spend on “meaningless activity” can be an eye opener as well as motivation to rethink how you are spending your most precious resource.

Give the ten-minute mantra a trial today and see if it doesn’t shift what you do or don’t do in ways that will be more rewarding in the long term.

leadership dot #3690: painting

I’m having the inside of my garage repaired and painted, a job I definitely do not want to do myself. But my painter, Paul, seems to actually enjoy the work, more than for the income it brings.

“I like painting because it provides instant gratification,” he said. “I can tell right away what I have done vs. doing electrical work where the first thing I have to do is figure out what somebody else did wrong. Painting you can see.”

I think all of us need some aspect of our work that provides tangible results. Creating a formula-driven spreadsheet. Clearing our inbox. Submitting a grant. Mowing the grass. Cooking a meal. Cleaning out a closet.

It’s fine to toil in settings that have a long-term impact as many non-profits do but to keep up the motivation and momentum, sprinkle in some short-term accomplishments. Remind yourself that you are making progress by painting the equivalent of your wall.

leadership dot #3683: shaka

Hawaiians know it as the shaka, meaning hello or symbol of okay. I know it as the Hang Ten gesture, used by surfers to communicate “hang loose.” It can convey good, how are you, or a host of other greetings — all through the hand gesture of a raised little finger and thumb.

Legend has many origin stories for the gesture, but the Polynesian Cultural Center attributes it to Hamana Kalili who lost three fingers of his hand in a sugar mill accident, leaving him only the thumb and pinky. He used his remaining digits to communicate when the sugar cane rail cars were cleared for departure and others copied his shorthand, much like using a thumbs-up sign.

Kalili could have seen his loss of fingers as a shortcoming but instead turned his accident into a distinctive greeting that is still used far beyond the islands. Do you have a liability that instead may become a unique calling card if you embraced it? Perhaps you could hang loose about your misfortune and turn it into a signature feature.

leadership dot #3678: aloha

Throughout Hawaii, there were signs encouraging people to “Drive Aloha!” — a campaign to promote courteous and considerate driving in the state. We found ourselves practicing the Aloha spirit and allowed several drivers to pull out in front of us, gave large margins for merging, and overall drove with a more responsible and mellow temperament than usual.

Those on the mainland would be wise to Drive Aloha as well. You, and those around you, would benefit from your making this your mantra for the summer whereby in small, yet meaningful ways, you practice giving consideration to others on the road. It’s a modest action but every way we care for others brings us one step closer to creating a community. See if you can’t Drive Aloha today — no matter what state you’re in.

leadership dot #9a: the choice is yours

For so many things in life, there is a choice to be made between spending time and spending money.

You can cut your own grass (time) or hire a lawn service (money).
Clean your own bathrooms or hire a maid.
Trim your dog’s nails or go to a groomer.
Cook your own meals or grab take-out.
Hunt for clothing bargains or engage a personal shopper.
Paint your own nails or get a manicure.

The list goes on and on at work too.
Analyze numbers yourself or outsource to a consultant.
Create in-house development programs or hire a trainer.
Invest in teaching young talent or hire experience.
Do your own taxes or work with an accountant.
Place ads yourself or engage an agency.

Don’t let habit make the choice for you. ¬†Know what is more valuable to you in each situation — your time or your money — and then invest from there.

Originally published in modified form on June 10, 2012

leadership dot #3672: just did

I had a conversation with a colleague whose employee has just resigned. As she prepares for the transition in his final days, she has been reviewing a list of tasks he has prepared so she can assign his duties to others. This will work well — until something arises that he “just did” and did not think to put on the list. “You don’t realize what people do until they don’t,” she said. How true!

It happens at work, of course, but also at home when one of those in the household is unavailable. Locations of supplies or equipment. Passwords. Maintenance items. Shopping and inventory management. Financial responsibilities. The list goes on.

There are so many tasks that we “just do” without thought or effort, but for others to do them requires both. Prepare in advance for your absence by maintaining an ongoing resource of key information that others would need if you were out of commission or move on — or better yet, trade-off duties with others so you are not the only keeper of the knowledge.

Whether due to your absence, resignation, or death, you’re not going to be the one doing it forever. Don’t act like you are.

Thanks, Natalie!

leadership dot #3664: external context

A recent article caught my attention:

“Thousands of people marched through [the streets] on Saturday in a protest over the soaring cost of living. Huge crowds flooded into [the city] for the rally to demand that the government do more to help the people faced with bills and other expenses that are rising more quickly than their wages. [The leader] has been criticized for being slow to respond to the cost-of-living crisis. Inflation has been surging…Prices were already rising before the war in Ukraine, as the global economic recovery from COVID-19 pandemic resulted in strong consumer demand.”

It sounds like something that could be written about any city in America with President Biden being blamed by many for the economic state of affairs. But the article above was written about Britain — the protests in the streets of London and criticism directed at Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Knowing that financial pain is not a localized phenomenon may not do anything to improve an individual’s situation directly, but it does illustrate that the problem is more complex than one person can address.

The article provides an external view and perspective — something that is valuable for leaders to do on any topic. By helping people in an organization understand where they stand vis a vis others like them, people can more appropriately calibrate their reactions and response. Knowing that they are not alone in confronting a problem often provides solace and lessens the distress (see dot #3629).

It’s easy for leaders — and, in turn, those in front-line or middle management positions — to be consumed by an internal focus. Wise leaders turn their attention outward and intentionally share an external context to help everyone have a more realistic view of where they stand.

Source: Thousands protest soaring costs in London by the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, June 19, 2022, p. 23A

leadership dot #3658: distracted

As part of a workshop I attended, we participated in a group exercise where we had to plan a fundraising event. We were deciding on a location and the question arose whether it should be indoors or outdoors. “Definitely indoors,” one colleague said. “Outdoors all it takes is one gnat and you lose their attention. All the focus goes to the gnat.”

It’s so true. A friend was chilled at an outdoor concert and could only pay attention to her goosebumps instead of the music. I’ve been diverted the same way over a very itchy mosquito bite that momentarily overruled any other input, and by a developing blister that consumed my mind during my walk. And just ask Mike Pence about how much attention was paid to the fly on his hair instead of his words at the vice presidential debate!

We develop strategies to mitigate large distractions but it’s often the smallest ones that derail us. Take the details into consideration if you are hosting an event or meeting: aspirin, bandages, bug spray, tissues, etc. Keeping participants’ attention requires more than good content.

leadership dot #3652: gardens

Our botanical garden has a section of beds that are planted with a different theme each year — this year’s version being Games People Play. Each of the gardens uses flowers to represent a familiar pastime representing such games as Candyland, Minecraft, and Duck Duck Goose. Examples include alternating red and black flowers to form a living checkerboard, marigolds in even rows to serve as a football field, battleships hidden amongst the flowers, and impatiens encircling a rose bush to depict Ring Around the Rosie.

If you walked through the section without realizing an underlying theme, the gardens would not seem to fit together. There were dozens of plant varieties, multiple colors, and seemingly incongruous layouts. But once you recognize the connection, all the beds tie together nicely and use flowers to tell a story.

The human mind likes patterns and a good theme delivers them, thus is its power. Themes are the throughline — the thread that brings cohesion to elements that would otherwise appear random. They provide a beautiful blend of coherence and individuality, simultaneously creating focus and latitude.

Whether you are planting gardens, hosting a party, writing an annual report, or preparing a speech, ensure that you have a theme that provides a logical framework sprinkled with a creative surprise or two. Connect those dots!

Tic Tack Toe garden