leadership dot #2839: ignored

A few weeks ago, when I did my health insurance renewal, I received a separate form in the mail asking me the number of employees at Leadership Dots. I promptly returned it and replied “one” to the only question the form asked.

This week, four insurance benefit books were delivered to my house by UPS. Each is about 100 pages, and they promptly landed in the recycle bin.

I am not sure why Wellmark bothers to print these books at all — surely the information could be made available online or in print only by request — but if they are mandated to publish them, why ignore the data that they just went through an expense to collect?

Stop collecting data or start using it. Little pockets of waste create a culture that tolerates big amounts of it.


leadership dot #2838: finger prick

For the first time in a week and a half, I ventured outside my house – to give blood. I know the need continues even in these unusual times and I figured they would be taking as many precautions as they could (they were).

If you’ve never given blood, the process begins with a health screening and a finger prick to get a drop of blood to test for iron levels, then the actual blood draw begins.

The process of the donation is painless – except for that dang finger prick. I had no pain where the needle went into my vein, but my fingertip throbs a day later.

I see it as a metaphor: sometimes we become numb to the big issues but the small annoyances are the ones that bother us the most. We expect the big things to be uncomfortable and mentally prepare for them but little pain points can test our patience or take us by surprise.

Last week, we made mental adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger changes. Don’t let yourself get tripped up by the small aggravations that make your way to you this week.


leadership dot #2804: alternating

In the movie Apollo 13, engineers in the simulator are trying to determine in what sequence the space shuttle computer systems can be re-started given the power that remains after an explosion. One of the options offered is to draw power from the lunar module but another engineer cautions that they will lose considerable power in the switch. In the end, they do utilize that supplemental power source and, as we all know, the shuttle returns successfully.

We aren’t all so fortunate as to have an alternate source of power or to have the capacity to lose energy but still have positive consequences. I am feeling this first-hand this week as I try to divide my focus between a looming grant deadline and preparation for an upcoming residency, as well as attending to the ongoing projects that are always on my plate. It’s all important and as I go deep in one task, the sense of urgency of the other beckons me to work on it for a while. Not a good plan!

As our minds and attention alternate between projects or address interruptions, we lose energy when we try to re-power our work. If you take a phone call or stop for an appointment, you can’t just pick up where you were – it requires a bit of backtracking to reconnect with the thought you vacated. If you work on “this” for a while and then “that” for a bit, you’ll produce less than if you had stayed with one or the other for the same period.

One moment of lost power is inconsequential, but several of them throughout the day can alter your productivity on all your work as you never really obtain full focus on anything. Solid, uninterrupted big chunks of time are rare, but carve out precious, uninterrupted smaller bits of time in your calendar. Then align your to-do list with the time increments you’re likely to have available and stick with one thing during each of them. You’ll find that your best work happens in blocks, not bites.

leadership dot #2789: poll

The long-awaited Iowa Caucus is tonight and the Iowa Poll was supposed to have been released on Friday to add some clarity to who may win. But this poll, seen by many as the one-to-watch, was canceled due to a data integrity question that was brought to their attention.

One caller enlarged their screen to read the script, and, in doing so, cut off the name of one candidate. The order of the candidate names rotates and no one knows how many times it happened or what (if any) impact it had.

With so much at stake, it would have been easy to discount just that caller’s results or to claim it did not matter, but the Des Moines Register and CNN agreed with the polling service to cancel the poll since the results had been compromised.

I can’t overstate the anticipation candidates have for this particular poll’s results. It is timed right before the caucus and often gives candidates a last-minute boost to their campaign. CNN planned an hour-long special to analyze the results. The Register gains national prominence as it releases the results and many caucus-goers look to the paper to help determine their final candidate choice.

If you think the actions of one person do not matter, use this poll as an example. An innocent mistake had big financial implications and could have an impact on the results of the caucus itself. Yet, how refreshing to see that integrity won out in the decision to cancel it. Kudos to those involved for making the hard choice to do the right thing. Let their actions guide you when you’re in your next tough spot.


leadership dot #2763: 27 seconds

The University of Maryland Men’s Basketball team led in a game for only 27 seconds of the 40 minutes of play. Fortunately for them, two of those seconds were the last two of the game. The team went ahead 3-2 in the opening minutes, then trailed, sometimes by as much as 15, until a long 3-point shot tied the game with :19 remaining and a free throw with two seconds left sealed the win.

You can use the game to motivate yourself or your (organizational) team about the value of never giving up. It would have been easy to consider the game a lost cause or to hold back on the effort thinking it useless, but the Terps stayed with it until the end and came out victorious.

t’s also a lesson on the flip side. I’m sure that the Illini thought they had their first conference win locked up, and I would not be surprised if the players lessened their intensity while cruising ahead by more than a dozen points for an extended stretch. Yet, as the lead slipped away, the momentum and energy were hard to regain.

Like basketball, most things in life accrue in small increments. Point by point, bit by bit, and moment by moment actions occur that change the ultimate outcome. Keep the end goal in mind and persist, no matter what side of the lead you are on.

leadership dot #2738: opt to act

There is no One. Big. Thing. that can solve the climate issues that we are facing but many people doing many things is a good first step. Toward this end, outdoor outfitter REI is encouraging people to participate in a weekly Opt to Act challenge to incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into their routine. “On their own, none of these 52 actions are going to save the world,” reads the REI website, “But each week offers a chance to incorporate more eco-friendly behavior into your everyday life. And if we all start being better, together, we can do a lot of good.”

The outfitter has prepared a checklist suggesting actions people can take each week. Most require only modest effort, such as using public transportation to one event this week, set your thermometer one degree lower this week, count the number of single-use plastic items you use this week or go meatless one day this week. I think it illustrates that helping the environment can become part of your habits and doesn’t have to involve a major sacrifice or lifestyle change.

Access the checklist here and Opt to Act responsibly in 2020.



leadership dot #2706: start local

It’s interesting to me to watch the growing momentum to legalize marijuana. Right now, 33 states allow some use of the drug and 11 states fully allow it for recreational use. It has become part of some presidential candidate platforms and my guess is that it will be federally approved within a few years.

Think about the social initiatives that have started at the state or local level: same-sex marriage, 65mph speed limits, casinos, sports betting, abortion laws, civil rights – many of these issues were approved state by state by state until the federal government stepped in and codified the issue.

Change works the same way in organizations. One unit, department or division first implements a change and then others adopt the practice before it becomes company-wide. Cities create policies that eventually are modeled by the county or state. Siblings develop habits that other siblings emulate before the whole family incorporates them.

It’s incredibly hard to implement big change on a big scale. It’s far more effective to start local and build momentum with pockets of small changes coming together to make a significant shift.