leadership dot #2621: shifting

I have noticed lately that the relative size of products is shrinking each time I purchase them. The dog treats are just a wee bit smaller in the new package. Snack bags used to be in boxes of 50 for $1, then 45 and now 38. Fountain beverages were 32 oz. and now are only 30 oz. in some places. The scrubbing pads used to be packaged 10/box but are replaced with 8/box for the same price.

Unless you are really paying attention or happen to have both the old and new side-by-side, you likely won’t notice these changes…

…until they reach a tipping point and you do.

The same is true of organizational culture. It’s barely perceptible when civility first takes a hit or morale shifts a little in the wrong direction or the vision becomes a bit fuzzy. People don’t notice when the standards start to lax or the transparency begins to fade – until the culture reaches that tipping point and suddenly the lapses aren’t so insignificant anymore.

Most changes – for better or worse — occur incrementally. It’s far easier to pay attention and address minor shifts rather than being oblivious until an obvious change has occurred.


leadership dot #2611: it’s nuts

A friend was flying to do some construction work and wanted to take lithium batteries for his power tools. Unsure of the TSA regulations, he researched the website, spent an hour on hold to talk directly with a TSA representative, printed out the rules and size limits and was as prepared as he could be to get through airport security with five batteries and a charger.

That part of his luggage screened without issue. What tripped him up? A coconut!

In addition to the batteries, he was taking home a coconut mailed from World War II. Coconuts have husks and what is commonly known as a coconut is actually inside. TSA doesn’t like things that show up on their scanner “inside” something. The batteries went through once. The coconut four times (before it was allowed to fly.)

Think about other things in life that are like this – where we overprepare for what we expect to cause an issue and instead find difficulty with something that we never gave a second thought. We check the car’s tires before going on vacation but fail to fill the windshield washer fluid. We purchase hundreds of dollars of back-to-school supplies and forget the sandwich bags. We spend hours on a PowerPoint presentation and leave the clicker back in the office.

Yes, it’s wise to do your homework and prepare for the big things – but it’s often the little details that make you go (coco)nuts. Mind them as well.

Thanks, Curt!


leadership dot #2535: while waiting

For many people, time spent waiting is time “wasted” — but not for the Gardner family. Every day, instead of being irritated by the time spent in the school drop off or pick-up lines, they would read books. The goal was to complete the A to Z Mystery Series this year and this week they accomplished it – with even a few days in the school year to spare!

Reading while in line is a great habit to instill in children (and yourself!). We all know that inevitable waits will occur yet we tend to treat them as unexpected. As a result, we fail to prepare for them – or to use the minutes to actually do something besides “wait”.

There is no one I know that doesn’t wish they had more time. Take a lesson from these children and be more effective in using the time you do have.

Thanks, Jeni!

leadership dot #2527: assemble

Oftentimes, people procrastinate about writing a speech or proposal or delay their efforts to design a workshop or presentation. These things seem so big that they become daunting and in the absence of a clear starting point it becomes easier to avoid the task as long as possible.

I smiled when I read Adam Grant’s Originals and he talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. “assembling” his speeches rather than writing them outright. He had key points he wanted to make (much like yesterday’s dot) and would craft whole speeches by rearranging components to fit the need and audience.

A similar technique that has served me well is compiling notes over time – written with just one concept per piece of scratch paper or index card. If I’m working on an article or educational session, I begin with a pile of paper and brainstorm all the ideas that come to me about the topic, writing only one idea per sheet. Then I keep the pile handy for a few days (or weeks) and just add to it as another idea comes to me. When my incubation time has ended and it’s time to get serious about creating the final piece, I sort them all on my counter or floor and, presto, I have an instant outline.

In the picture below, I used this method to develop a six-session nonprofit training program – I had a big pile of ideas, then sorted them into logical delineations for the six workshops. The little sheets are easy to group together, rearrange, add to and remove. Once you get the piles organized in a way that makes sense, you can type them up into an outline and fill in content, or just leave them in an ordered pile and work from that.

It’s intimidating to start from a blank page or to figure out where to begin on a big project – so don’t. Start with one idea on an index card, and then another, and then another. Soon you’ll be well on your way to assembling your masterpiece.


leadership dot #2454: shin

I slid on the loose mat as I was stepping into the shower and slammed my shin into the side of the tub. Yeoww! It triggered all the nerves in my leg and was momentarily quite painful.

When I shared the incident with a friend, he discounted the incident and quickly moved on.

I think this exchange can serve as a metaphor for civility. Even though you can’t see outward evidence or don’t think something is a big deal, you need to respect that it is real for the person sharing it with you. It doesn’t matter that you can’t feel their pain; it still helps to acknowledge that it is there.

Hitting your shin causes disproportionate nerve reaction to the severity of the injury just as many comments or transgressions seem innocent but trigger larger emotions.

Our experiences are very real to us – whether they make sense, seem significant or are apparent to others. Keep in mind that the person to whom you are speaking may have just hit their shin – feeling true pain that is invisible to you.

Image by sciencefreak on Pixabay


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 #2407: matchmaking

You have to look no further than dating sites to get a picture of what a niche market is. A recent article in Fast Company magazine highlighted the plethora of platforms that are targeted at small populations wishing to attract a mate. Opposites may attract, but only if the fundamentals are similar enough for a connection.

There are the big dating services like Match.com and Tinder but the real story is in the growing number of affinity brands that focus on small, targeted groups. Examples include services for those of the same race (Asian People Meet, India Match, Interracial People Meet, etc.), those of a similar age (Our Time for people over 50, Black Baby Boomers Meet, Senior People Meet, etc.), those of common political ideologies (Democratic People Meet, Republican People Meet) or those of shared religions (Love and Seek for Christians, LDS Planet for Mormons, J People Meet for Jewish people and Catholic People Meet).

In addition, other demographics can find their tribe on targeted dating sites: Divorced People Meet, Single Parents Meet, Marriage Minded People Meet, Pet People Meet, BB People Meet (for “big and beautiful” people) and Little People Meet.

Obviously, people fall into multiple categories, leaving it up to them to decide which characteristic is most important in their date and where they should initially seek.

While you may not set out to design a dating app, their model can be applied to your organization as you think about your services and messaging. Ask whether you are like Match.com that casts a wide net or whether you are more like one of these affinity brands that know their population and can target it. Consider how many meaningful ways you can split your market or audience to create pockets that have their own characteristics and needs.

Just like in dating, there is someone out there for everyone. You’ll have a better chance of matching your organization with those who love it if you don’t try to make everyone your someone.

Source: Match Point by Karen Valby in Fast Company, February 2019 p. 32-33.