leadership dot #2058: refreshed

I have written before about how socks are the most requested items in homeless shelters. Not only do they keep your feet warm but clean socks also have an amazing ability to make you feel refreshed. This is a bonus for those in shelters who may not have access to clean clothes or showers, but even if you have a drawer full of Bombas or the finest hosiery, keep this tip in mind.

Switching your socks is a training tip that I learned long ago while attending a full-day workshop. The presenter had on very colorful and distinctive socks so we noticed it when he returned from break sporting a new pair. He insisted that just donning a clean pair of socks – with no other interventions – provided a boost of energy to get him through the long hours.

Whether you are attending a convention, retreat, or a day at an adventure park, socks are an easy-to-transport way to provide a refresh during the mid-day lull. Think of socks as cotton caffeine and use them the next time you need an energy boost!

leadership dot #2023: home stretch

I recently helped my sister complete the home stretch of submitting her doctoral dissertation. My job was to proofread the paper, help with formatting and put the list of references in proper APA style. We spent 13 hours a day, for two days, engrossed at the kitchen table completing these tasks.

In addition to learning proper comma placement for a government document/no author citation, it brought to light how we often underestimate the time it takes to create and maintain a solid infrastructure. For this paper, it required an extended period of time just to print the 216 pages, let alone proof them. I made substantial progress on a reading book while sitting at the printer waiting for the job to complete.

Our two days together was also a reminder that people bring different strengths to the table. My sister is visionary and excels at the big picture, but would have gone nuts if she had to plod through APA to get her references in order. She could do it, but it would have been harrowing. I can’t say that the task was fun for me either, but it was far better suited to my temperament.

On the next big project that you encounter, think about my sister’s dissertation. Remember that the message will be weakened if the mechanics become a distraction, so allow much more time than you expect to attend to the details and finishing touches. Find a partner with a different skill set than you have to complement the assignment of tasks and make them more palatable for all. And, of course, have more paper and toner on hand than you anticipate!

The last two days turned a draft into a dissertation. The devil isn’t in the details; the magic is.

P.S. Today is her defense: congratulations to Dr. Amy!!

leadership dot #1993: 1%

At a recent Diversity Summit, the speaker, Dr. Jermaine Davis, encouraged people to follow the “principle of the slight edge.” He reminded us that Olympic athletes often win a medal by nanoseconds, not leaps and bounds, and that this same idea of incremental improvement can be applied to learning about diversity and inclusion.

It reminded me of a talk by author James Clear who spoke of developing habits that allow for a 1% improvement every day. He recounts the story of Dave Brailsford, the coach of the Brittish cycling team, who believed in the “aggregation of marginal gains.” Brailsford tended to every detail, including bringing pillows on the road so riders slept better, teaching hand washing skills to prevent colds and evaluating the effectiveness of different massage techniques on muscle recovery. His pattern of 1% improvements led to numerous Tour de France titles and Olympic Gold.

Whether it is in weight loss or profit gain, we are too often tempted to look for the silver bullet that will result in a big win. What Davis, Clear and Brailsford show is that the small, repeated behaviors are really the key to long-term success.

Break down your big goal into tiny habits to achieve victory.

leadership dot #1987: binge

Tonight is the 300th episode of the television drama Grey’s Anatomy. If the average episode is 42 minutes, that means I have already spent almost 210 hours as a couch potato because of this show.

I could have written a book in that amount of time.

While some have spread their 12,558 minutes over the course of 14 seasons, I came late to the Grey’s party, but thanks to the marvel of Netflix, I was able to catch up. In a few months. Watching far more than 42 minutes at a stretch.

Binge watching has changed the landscape of how television is consumed. It is becoming increasingly rare to watch just one show and to watch it as it originally airs. Even people who could do that often save up a few past episodes so that they can watch them as a set – somehow making it more of an experience than an individual event.

Binge watching has implications far beyond television though. People are getting accustomed to (or should we say “being trained”) to consume things on an on-demand basis and to receive an on-going feed of content they desire. Membership sites with monthly fees are available for delivery of almost every product imaginable. Sites like Netflix and Hulu have vast repositories of content that extend lives of television shows and movies. Now if a show gets a good buzz as the series builds, they can still capture an audience. People want to be able to go back and “catch up” rather than being told they missed their opportunity.

Has your website and content delivery been repackaged to allow for “binge-access” for your clients? It’s no longer enough to just have information about the event: now you need to record it, share it and archive it forever. Have you preserved your newsletters, magazines and other content for someone to retrieve at any point so they are able to meet their need at the moment? Do you provide an easy way for someone to dive deep into your organization and learn about your services, such as when preparing for a job interview or to hire you as a client? Do you have educational resources available for customers to learn all they can about a topic when a specific problem arises?

Binge watching is the new norm for entertainment, but I predict it is going to spread over to consumption of educational content as well. Think about how you package your content so you don’t need a crash cart to resuscitate your brand.

leadership dot #1980: stacking

A local financial firm is promoting a new set of services called StackStone Wealth. I love their graphic and messaging concept:

“Stone stacking is the art of creating sculptures by balancing rocks of all shapes and sizes. The artist works with only naturally available rocks, balancing them without glue or wires into beautiful, unique shapes. At StackStone Wealth, we strongly believe financial freedom is about balance. We work with your “financial stones” – investments, risk management and tax strategies – to help you build a beautiful, unique financial life…”


I think that most people and most organizations could benefit by taking a stone stacking approach to life. In my organizational behavior class, we talk about this concept in different terms, but it is the same way that organizations build a culture: by balancing different elements of operation and process to provide a way of operating that takes the long-term into account. Relationships are built by staking small gestures and care to balance out transgressions that could occur. New strategies are infused into groups by rebalancing the stones to adjust time and effort in hopes of greater gain.

There are no “silver bullets” or shortcuts to attain the really big goals in life. If you have something of consequence on one side, the best way to achieve it is through an accumulation of small stones on the other side – working daily to create a balance between what you want in the short term and what you seek to acquire/become in the long term.

Happy Stacking!

Source: StackStone Wealth: A private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial, Inc.




leadership dot #1968: standard

I am a typography nerd, so when I discovered the link to the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual, I reveled in the opportunity to see some of the iconic pages online (it is also now a book). The signage standards were first designed in 1970, and the strict adherence to them has made them one of NYC’s most famous landmarks.

Determining a font style, kerning and color palette does not seem like sexy work, but it is through the consistency of application that the subway signs have become art. There is no variance is what is acceptable and this repetition makes them memorable.

Those who write standards manuals and enforce the application of them are often seen as nitpickers. I remember supporting the graphic designer who reprinted an entire order of notecards because the color was slightly off. Others wanted to keep them and “use them internally” but we recycled the whole lot. I am sure the NYC subway folks would have done the same.

There is a dual meaning to “standard” – and creating a standards manual that you strictly follow will make your work a gold standard for others to follow.




leadership dot #1958: compilation

If you have ever seen a Dale Chihuly sculpture, you know that they are a montage of intertwined glass in vibrant colors, with different shapes and colors assembled in unique and visually captivating forms.

Chihuly’s work reminds me of yesterday’s dot, about how the Smithsonian curated a collection of John F. Kennedy photographs purchased from eBay. The exhibit exclusively utilized ordinary artifacts and made them special by their compilation. In a similar way, Chihuly utilizes individual pieces of glass that are not spectacular by themselves, but create stunning works of arts through their arrangement.

I think that too often we believe that greatness or creativity must be ONE.BIG.THING. — a monumental discovery, an epic piece of art or a product that is truly magnificent. What Chihuly and the Smithsonian demonstrate is that little things can add up to create something with synergy greater than the individual pieces. Dots that are connected can result in something amazing and new, even though the components are not so special if considered alone.

Don’t let your fear of the mountain prevent you from taking that first step. Start from where you are, with what you have, and see if you don’t end up with something noteworthy by putting together the ordinary in new ways.

Chihuly Sanctuary at the Buffet Cancer Center, Omaha

leadership dot #1948: take for granted

There are many things that you take for granted: that the city will notify you when your taxes are due, that they have the correct address to do so and that your sidewalks and streets aren’t for sale. But for a San Francisco community, none of these things proved to be true.

In a fluke case, an unpaid tax bill on the common areas of an exclusive private street (including sidewalks, the street and parking) caused the city to put the property up for sale. The bill ($994) went unpaid because the accountant’s address hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. So when the land went on the auction block, a real estate developer bought it and wants to charge the homeowners to park in front of their homes. Now there will be far more than $994 in legal bills as the new landowners and the long-time residents duel over who has control.

You know the morals of the story: Don’t take things for granted. Details matter. Little things can turn into large problems if left unchecked. Today is just a reminder to heed the wisdom.

Thanks Meg!


leadership dot #1882: example

“You are setting an example — whether you want to or not” read the marquee outside a local church. The quote gave me pause for both is magnitude and simplicity, as well as for the accuracy of its message. People truly are watching.

Think about the example you are setting for others around you. Do your colleagues see you delivering the stellar service that you would hope to receive? Are your children observing you make sacrifices to support causes you admire? Have you committed the time to your friends that will sustain a relationship or does work always come first?

You may think that people aren’t paying attention, but when you consider how much you observe about others you’ll realize that someone is learning from you. It is through the small actions more than the big ones that our legacy is communicated. Live like someone is watching.

leadership dot #1872: inflamed

While outside reading, I was bitten by an insect. It was so small and fast that I did not even see it — until a spot on my hand became red. When I woke up, the whole area was inflamed, and by mid-morning I was heading to the store for Benadryl. I could concentrate on nothing else — all because of something I did not even notice initially.

Is one of your organization’s employees like that insect — stealthily spreading toxicity throughout your organization? Maybe they are not loudly protesting or causing a scene, but if they are buzzing from person to person leaving a negative reaction behind the effect is even more powerful. Others may not even realize what is causing their itch, but it is distracting them nonetheless.

As the leader, you are responsible for administering the equivalent of organizational Benadryl or deploying the swatter. Don’t let size fool you. Something so small can have a disproportionately big impact if you don’t stop it.