leadership dot #3025: sea and sky

How’s this for a bucket list: walk in space and reach the deepest point in the ocean? Most people would never achieve either but Kathy Sullivan has completed both. She was the first woman to walk in space (in 1984) and this summer was part of an expedition that reached the Challenger Deep, nearly 7 miles below the surface.

Kathy Sullivan was trained as a geologist, became an astronaut, eventually was appointed as the Administrator for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When the current administration ended her tenure*, what’s an ex-astronaut to do except get involved with exploring the underside of the Earth instead of the skies above it.

Unlike Kathy, most of us don’t think big enough. Take a moment this weekend to think about your bucket list. Maybe space and the ocean depths are out of your league, but surely you can stretch more than going on a trip or becoming your ideal weight. It’s never too late to expand your world.

*read more about this in Michael Lewis’ The Fifth Risk

leadership dot #3023: green eggs

In Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, the main character protests over and over that he does not like green eggs and ham – until he tries them. I feel a bit like that about remote presenting.

While there is still nothing that compares to the value of face-to-face, I’ve come to see the benefits that can accrue from synchronous instruction. Video conferencing platforms allow for multiple ways to input – verbally, written via chat, or more privately through breakout sessions – and have elicited feedback from those who may have remained silent in a large group setting. I’ve benefitted from the opportunity to do show and tell, bring in guest speakers from out of state, and to meet some of the family members and pets. Each time I present, I’m learning how to add a new feature or try a new technique – providing me with professional development in the process.

It helps that both the participants and I are becoming more equipped and comfortable with the technology that is used. It doesn’t seem so foreign anymore and we’re able to spend more time on the content than the process of accessing it. Being remote has even allowed for greater follow-up options and individual consultations that may not have been possible with pre-COVID travel schedules.

While white eggs are still preferable to the metaphorical green ones, my earlier hesitations were overblown. Is there a similar situation that you’re facing where you keep putting off something that you have not even tried? Are you avoiding the “green eggs” on principle, without having proven reasons for your dislike? Maybe it’s time to try a helping. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Deviled eggs with avocado and spinach on festive Easter table, close up, selective focus


leadership dot #3022: person

If you watched the early days of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll know that Meredith and Christina always referred to each other as “their person.” They were the Plus One who provided a support system that ensured they weren’t going through life alone.

In the coaching work that I do, I feel like “the person” for most of my calls. It isn’t that I have an abundance of brilliant insights, rather that I’m there for someone to talk through their issues and have someone to reflect back what they are hearing. Work challenges can be lonely, as they often involve colleagues or supervisors making it awkward to process things with them, so it’s much more helpful to have a neutral “person” to serve in that sounding board role.

I believe that everyone is better with “a person.” Hopefully, you’re fortunate enough to have someone in that role for life issues: a sibling, partner or BFF. Make sure you have that capacity for work issues, too. Maybe it’s someone else in your industry, a colleague from your past employment or volunteer work, or a coaching relationship – but we all need someone in our corner to listen, prod, push and to create a safe space to process the hard stuff.

leadership dot #3020: peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, a United Nations-sanctioned holiday that is commemorated around the world. The day is designed to encourage people to pause and “for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences.”

The UN Resolution that established the day calls for 24-hours of nonviolence and ceasefire. While I doubt that many readers of the dots walk around with literal weapons or impose physical violence, I believe that all of us are guilty of disrupting the peace through making misspoken comments, causing unintentional hurts or allowing unresolved conflicts to fester in our relationships.

As the elections draw nearer, the pandemic tests our patience and the uncertainty that surrounds us takes its toll it becomes more frequent that our actions can cause discord more than they forge harmony. For today, make your own commitment to encourage peace – in your home, your community and in your heart.


leadership dot #3017: rum

During a particularly stressful project at work, a colleague gave me a tiny bottle of rum for moral support. The joke was that if it got too bad, I could always pour the rum into my Diet Coke as stress relief. The bottle stayed (discretely) in my office for nearly a decade until I returned it to the giver during a particularly rough patch for him.

I never opened the rum but it was comforting to know that it was there. The same principle applied with pain medicine after my periodontist’s handiwork and with a friend’s pain pills after surgery. Neither of us used more than one pill but it was reassuring to know that we had relief available.

Was it ever so bad that I felt I needed the rum or more drugs? No, but I was glad that I was the one deciding that. People are able to accept hardship when they believe they are able to set the limits of what is tolerable for them.

Whenever possible, give your team a relief valve over which they have jurisdiction. Unlock the thermostat and allow people to regulate the temperature. Provide spontaneous flex days when a mental health break is needed. Create an emergency fund that your staff can borrow from. Let people opt out or leave early without question when they’ve reached a breaking point.

Most people won’t gulp down all the pills in the bottle but the pain will feel less just because the medicine is available to them. Trust your staff enough to give them that control.

leadership dot #3016: rap

Today is Constitution Day in recognition of the signing of our country’s most important document on September 17, 1787. The Constitution outlines the framework for the government, something we often take for granted unless it isn’t working!

Since many schools have eliminated “Civics” from their core curriculum, the government requires all colleges that receive federal aid (i.e., almost all of them) to conduct Constitution Day education to make people aware of these fundamental principles that guide our democracy. Even the adults could use a refresher and this rap video may be a way to provide it.

The rapper YelloPain merges a very contemporary storytelling method (rap) to share the importance of voting and to explain the three branches of government in an edgy way that makes it more relevant to young and diverse people. It’s worth your 4 minutes to take it all in.

YelloPain is right that all the attention, especially in this election cycle, is focused on the presidential race, but the real difference-makers can be the Congress, state legislators and even local public servants. Make it a priority to learn the background of all those on your ballot and, most importantly, to cast your vote to keep our Constitutional values alive.

leadership dot #3005: it’s a bird…

A meme on social media shares the picture of a goat – or is it a bird? Depending upon which area of the picture you focus on, you’ll see two totally different creatures. Most can eventually see both, but one or the other will pop into view instantly.

Hold it as a possibility that, like with this meme, two different things can be true simultaneously. You can be happy to be working from home and missing your colleagues. You can enjoy being around your kids and wishing they were back in school full-time. You can believe that Project A is important and Project B, even though there are only funds for one.

Learn to embrace the duality even though you may vehemently embrace one side. Even if all you see is the goat, the bird is still there.

Posted on Facebook by Shannon Murphy-Burt > Beyond the Far Side, July 2020

leadership dot #3004: who’s there?

There are now masks that come in styles to fit all personalities, but what we really need are masks with one of those “HELLO, My Name Is…” icons on the front. I had a hard enough time identifying people before COVID, and now that I only see half their face I am doubly challenged.

And I am not the only one. While in the store, a young girl came up to me and excitedly greeted me with “Hello Mrs. McDonnell!!” I had to deflate her when I pulled down the mask while assuring her she is not the only one who is currently confused.

As schools begin, new hires are acclimated into the office environment and in any other circle where deep familiarity is not present, do what you can to help others match names with faces (in other words, with eyes!) and make it easier to remember who is hiding behind that shield. We must remain physically distant but using someone’s name helps with the connection for which we all long and need.

leadership dot #3002: fulfill

A client of mine has been looking for months to obtain a free version of an assessment tool to use for his dissertation – with no luck. Ironically, while I was looking in my files on a different topic, I found something semi-related. He used the contact information from that to locate the author — who referred him to another source and now he has the free tool that he needs.

Many times, I have seen situations like this where if you articulate what you need to another person, you are often gifted with a resource from unlikely places. While at dinner, I mentioned to a colleague that I was working on a new session and – viola! – he had a handout to share with me. My sister was looking for a hard-to-find office supply and I was able to provide it once I knew that she was searching. My stylist lamented the unavailability of disinfectant wipes so I picked up two when I found them.

Instead of plodding away on your own, let the universe conspire to help you. Tell everyone that you or your friend are looking for a job. Mention your new gluten-free eating and let people share recipes with you. Be clear with colleagues about the project you’re working on and where you are stuck.

Inspiration and knowledge don’t follow linear paths or require individual effort. Your most valuable work may be sharing your needs so that others can fulfill them.

leadership dot #3001: freeze

When I was a kid, our refrigerator was stocked with freezer pops all summer. We fought over the coveted red or blues ones, drew straws for who was stuck with the grape and were neutral about the green, orange or yellow – but that’s all the choices there were. Cherry, blueberry, grape, orange, lime and lemon.

My housemate recently brought home a bag of pops – still refreshing and ridiculously cheap – but now they come in a modern version of flavors: pina colada, mango, green apple, peach, and watermelon!

It’s the same phenomenon as the expansion of colors I previously wrote about. Yes, the new flavors are initially intriguing, but “more” adds complexity. “More” adds time and angst about which choice to make – or which choice was made. “More” adds even greater odds that some will be favored and others left behind.

If you’re looking for ways to simplify your life and make additional time available, one way to do it is to minimize the number of “mores” that you add to your routine. Pay a few cents more and buy the box of one-flavor popsicles. Purchase multiples of the same style of clothes or undergarments and eliminate the time spent on deciding. Have one form for all types of time-off requests.

We only have so much decision bandwidth and can only effectively manage so many inputs. Avoid the brain freeze that comes from using up your capacity on fancy-flavored freezer pops and trivial matters.