leadership dot #2434: refund

The news lately has carried several stories about people lamenting that their tax refund is much smaller than usual. For some people, the total amount of taxes paid could be equivalent or less than the aggregate tax paid in previous years, but how it is paid – and thus, the amount of refund earned – is really what is at issue.

Employers, marketers and others should note this phenomenon and incorporate lessons from it into their policies and behaviors. A little payment over a long time doesn’t amount to much in the mind of the payee – but it does accumulate (such as in a retirement plan). The converse is true – that a little increase in pay doesn’t seem significant in the employee’s mind – but a bonus check with the same amount in one lump sum seems to have more heft and buying power. A small, incremental improvement isn’t noticed but one large renovation or change creates enhanced impact.

If a small difference seems to be swallowed up in the scope of the whole, people should use this to their advantage. Do small things that add up to good and you won’t notice it or hold back small rewards until they become a big win and gain more from the same amount.

leadership dot #2431: thin mints

It started out as an ordinary enough phone call: “Hello, Aunt beth; I’m selling Girl Scout cookies. Would you like to buy some?”

After I listened to the menu of options, I agreed to buy three boxes.

“Would you like another box to make it an even $20,” my niece asked.


“And can I interest you in adding some Thin Mints to your order – you wouldn’t want to forget those!”

I admired the persistence of this young saleswoman and thought that if nothing else, the Girl Scouts were teaching assertiveness.

I wonder how many times you have settled for the initial “order of three” instead of asking for what you really wanted. The next time you have a desire, couple it with the courage to express it – and put your request out there so it has the possibility of being answered. Thin mints, anyone?

leadership dot #2428: Tahiti

In another one of those decade-old conversations that I had but don’t remember, apparently I influenced someone to go on a trip to Tahiti with his friends. This person had the financial means and the time, but for whatever reason was hesitant to make the investment to go on the trip. I talked him into it, and he has been (unbeknownst-to-me) grateful ever since.

This all came to light in a recent conversation when I listened to another of his dilemmas and unwittingly did the same thing. In response to his concerns, I pointed out the flipside: that he did have the capacity to do this and I repeated back all the reasons I had heard about why it was something he really wanted. “You know what you’re doing, right?” he said. “You’re telling me to go to Tahiti.”

All of us need friends and trusted colleagues that can push us to go to Tahiti when we’re hesitant to take a risk. Oftentimes we are personally so consumed by the fear of committing to something that we fail to take into full account the positive side of the equation. Sure, it’s scary to sign a lease, hire a staff member or book a luxury vacation, but it also might be exactly the right thing to do.

Make sure that your network includes some truth-tellers and those who will nudge you forward until you head for the islands.

leadership dot #2422: network

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban may be one of the most successful college coaches of all time. His teams have won six national championships and his overall coaching record at Alabama is 141-21. Part of his success may come from his willingness to reach out to other coaches for assistance.

“Well, there’s been many occasions where the guys that are coaching other places, even in our league, call on occasion and ask questions…” said Saban. “And sometimes I call them and ask for their advice and opinion on things.”

Throughout his career, Saban has developed an extensive network of resources and he has the good sense to use them. Too many professionals focus on accumulating LinkedIn connections, collecting business cards or attending networking events but then fail to take advantage of the knowledge these connections possess.

Reach out. Bounce ideas off others. Ask for help. Learn new things. Double check your assumptions. Commiserate with like-minded souls.

Having a network provides no benefit unless you use it.

Quote from “Saban’s coaching tree casts large shadow by Charles Odum for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, July 22, 2018, p. 8B


leadership dot #2419: milking the cows

Sometimes I am discouraged by all the things I have to do that are never really finished.

  • As soon as I write this blog, tomorrow’s deadline will loom large.
  • Immediately after teaching a class, the next lesson beckons.
  • Before the clean floor dries, the dogs will want to go out and leave their mark on the tiles.
  • Once I finish dishes, I’ll dirty a cup for hot cocoa to enjoy while I read.
  • You file the expense report and go about business, thus generating more expenses to record.

There is so much of our daily work – at home and in our organizations – that is repetitious and as part of a continual cycle. Just as in the summer we plan on cutting the grass each weekend (and lately it seems to plan to shovel snow every day!), so must we allocate in our mental constructs as well as our literal calendar the time to do that which must be done over and over.

As the adage goes, “You have to milk the cows every day.” While that is true, don’t get so consumed by the milking that you fail to enjoy the splendor of the farm that surrounds them.


leadership dot #2415: art museum

A colleague asked me what process I used to figure out that I wanted to work independently rather than in a traditional job. I told him that it was like going to an art museum.

Most self-help and career coaching books advocate that you ascertain your strengths and do exercises to find your purpose, but for me, it was an evolutionary process that was a lot like looking at art. Initially, could not describe to you what types of paintings struck my fancy but I could instantly tell what I did not like. My process was one of eliminating jobs or aspects of positions that did not appeal to me until I found myself in the metaphorical gallery of works that I loved.

In essence, choosing a career path is like picking a painting to hang in your home. There may be many that are possibilities, but only a select few that really speak to you. Keep wandering through those hallways until you find one that you want to be with for many hours each day.


leadership dot #2414: hyperbole

The word “emergency” has lost its impact and become a commonplace occurrence.

Our city declared a Snow Emergency which just means that cars can’t park on the street so the plows can clear the few inches of snow that was predicted to fall.

The president claims a national emergency for a caravan of migrants on foot at the border.

The hospital Emergency Room treats as many sprains and viruses as it does true life-threatening illnesses.

With each overuse of the word emergency, it lessens the impact for when a true calamity is occurring. Emergency should mean dire, urgent or immediate. Keep your language free of hyperbole to avoid “crying wolf” one too many times.