leadership dot #2440: rock you

I can’t say that I am a big Queen fan, but, like most people, I can stomp my feet and clap in the appropriate places during the song We Will Rock You. What surprised me when I saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was that the addition of these participative elements was intentional – put there specifically to create a role in the song for audiences.

After noticing that fans were singing along at concerts, the band decided that they should write music to intentionally engage their audience and scripted music that called out for specific clapping or stomping at designated places. Queen was a pioneer in this area and their fan engagement helped to solidify their legacy and enduring presence on the music scene.

Think about whether there are moments in your organization’s programs that may now have spontaneous client involvement but could be strengthened with intentionality. Could you add targeted participation in a church service beyond the usual rote responses or songs? Is there an opportunity to allow clients to make something and have a tangible takeaway from a conference or workshop? Can you create places where clients interact with a mascot or photo booth in your establishment? Or maybe it’s something as simple as leaving out Post-its or a blank wall where those who pass by can add comments.

Try one thing today that invites someone else to rock with you.

leadership dot #2429: crazy socks

A colleague posted on Facebook: “Meeting with an important donor. They wear crazy socks so I wear crazy socks…and then we compare crazy socks. This was not in my major gift training course.”

But maybe it should have been taught.

Everyone appreciates being recognized and known. The crazy socks illustrate that the gift officer acknowledges them as an individual, not just another “cookie-cutter” donor. While it costs nothing to do, I’ll bet that it pays major dividends in the relationship.

Pay attention to the small cues that people give you about what is important to them. What kind of candy is always on their desk? Do they suggest a certain restaurant or prefer a special dessert? Do they have a dog near and dear to their heart or a child who is their focus? What hobby can be that conversation hook for you?

You should know a personal nugget about every single person with whom you are trying to establish a relationship, whether that be a colleague, client or classmate. Use those tidbits to create connections that will last far longer than your crazy socks will.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2421: chill

Yesterday, the wind chill factor was 52 degrees below zero but if I wasn’t listening to the news, I would have never known it. I stayed inside all day – where my house was the same temperature as always, pipes functioned properly, and I wore the same layers of clothes. It was a sunny day outside, and inside business was as usual.

While the view from the window may have been pleasant, the conditions in the environment were not. The sun was deceiving as the wind chills were literally life-threatening. The Weather Service estimated that frostbite could occur in five minutes of exposure.

The polar vortex is a metaphor for what often occurs in organizations as leaders try to garner support from employees about the changes that are necessary. They are preaching the equivalent of “it’s cold outside” or “climate conditions are altered” but all the employees see is the sun and normal operations.

As thought leader John Kotter says, you must first create a sense of urgency before any transformation effort will succeed. Leaders must share the thermometers and stories about the implications. They must point out the ice on the inside windows and make note of the canceled mail service. Employees should listen to the news and be inconvenienced by rescheduling or altered conditions.

If you’re leading a change effort, create a way for the employees to feel the chill without getting frostbitten by it. Business as usual in unusual circumstances won’t help you transform.

leadership dot #2409: disincentivized

A large number of buyers may be incentivized to a buy a product because of the rebate but will never complete the arduous forms required to receive it. Of those who do send in the rebate, only a percentage of them will realize it is their check when it arrives in a plain, innocuous envelope in the mail. An even smaller portion of people will cash the check and claim their due.

Rebates are designed to stimulate purchases, but unlike a sale, their default rate is factored into the equation. It’s much more profitable for a store to offer 11% off everything, knowing full well that the reduction in cost won’t be realized by many buyers. The more complicated the rebate – for example, requiring people to complete a paper form, write in UPC codes and mail it –the more it is intentionally designed to discourage use.

Whether it is through a literal refund of money or a metaphorical rebate that returns value to your customer, be intentional about the kind of incentive you offer. Do you truly want to offer your clients a discount – thus reducing upfront pricing on everything or creating a package deal that automatically delivers extras – or are you just creating the illusion of a sale, hoping that they buy without any true desire to discount the price? And as a consumer, if you aren’t willing to pay full price for it, leave it behind. The system is designed for you to drop the ball somewhere in the process and pay the full rate anyway.

leadership dot #2400: they’re watching

I received an email from a former colleague who was alone in a hotel room – reminiscing about the time she and I attended a conference and roomed together so another colleague could have a room alone. The thing is, that was twenty years ago!

I have absolutely no recollection of the action, but it has stuck with her for two decades. She wrote: I’ll never forget how you roomed with me because you felt [our colleague] would appreciate her own room since she had kids at home.  I was always struck by your insight. Today I find myself alone in a hotel room. It’s heavenly!!!”

In ways that you don’t notice or expect, your actions are shaping the culture and communicating to others what is important. People take cues and make meaning out of the smallest actions – and may remember them decades later. As I teach my leadership class, everyone is watching the behavior of the leader. Be intentional about what there is to see.

leadership dot #2389: practial

I am pragmatic and a realist; consequently, I have laminate floors instead of carpeting and rubber floor mats in my car. I can’t imagine what my house or vehicle would look like if the elements from Midwest rain-sleet-snow-mud were tracked onto a non-washable surface. I think rubber floor mats should be standard in all new cars!

We are all faced with frequent choices where we must weigh beauty over practicality. Do I wear a hat and mess up my hair or stay warm? Do I opt for the beautiful white chair or something that is more retriever-colored to disguise the dog hair? Do I spend time designing a new handout or reuse the one from my last class?

There are times to opt for looks and other times to be pragmatic. Don’t always opt for one over the other.

 

leadership dot #2369: peanut

A new scientific study has just concluded which aims to help those with severe peanut allergies reduce their life-threatening sensitivity to the nut. It was deemed “beyond exciting” that two-thirds of the participants were able to ingest the equivalent of two peanuts at the end of a year-long regimen. While the ability to eat two peanuts doesn’t sound like much, it would have a great impact on the millions of people impacted by the allergies.

The study carefully and slowly introduced gradual amounts of peanut protein over the course of six months, followed by an additional six months of maintenance. They started with the equivalent of one-third of a peanut and built tolerance from there.

The peanut study can provide a useful model for the introduction of new skills that are far from our comfort zone. If you are numbers adverse, you could start with looking at one line in a report and gradually over time expand your comfort to the other figures on that page. If you are “allergic” to public speaking, you could begin with a one-word answer and work your way up to full sentences, and then the ability to fully express your position. If your sensitivity has you shying away from technology, perhaps you could pick one piece of software or app and work your way up from looking at a screen to becoming comfortable with one command, etc.

Just as the goal of the peanut immunotherapy isn’t to have the participants eating peanut butter sandwiches, your goal doesn’t have to be to become an accountant, TED Talk presenter or IT professional. You just need to develop enough tolerance to become comfortable with what surrounds you.

Source: New peanut allergy drug shows ‘lifesaving” potential by Roni Caryn Robin, New York Times, November 18, 2108