leadership dot #3494: crisis

Yesterday, I wrote about Plano High School’s impressive display to encourage athletes to aspire to the next level of play (dot 3493). Something else caught my eye when I was there: all of their windows are clearly labeled from the outside. Unfortunately, I suspect this is a proactive measure in case of an active shooter or another catastrophe.

Setting aside the sadness that this is necessary, kudos to them for acknowledging the potential need and taking action on their crisis management efforts. It would be more comfortable to pretend that tragedy could never happen in their rural setting but perhaps their nod to reality could mitigate some harm should the occasion occur.

Many organizations have a crisis plan — often on a shelf or hard drive and long forgotten. Maybe it’s time to take yours out and actually do something to help you be as ready as possible for the emergency you can foresee.

leadership dot #3492: bench strength

A friend shared his experience of attending a Minnesota Timberwolves game where the lineup consisted mostly of second-string players due to injuries and COVID exposure. It would have been easy for the bench players to expect defeat as they played against other starters but that was not the case. The Timberwolves stayed in the hunt, almost overcoming the Knicks several times before losing by only a few points. The next game, the same substitute players did rally and claimed a victory.

Think about how you can increase the commitment and contribution of your whole team, not just those who usually are your high performers. Do you have middle management or front-line staff with potential that you have not realized? Can you provide someone with the opportunity to step up and assume greater responsibility in the new year? What about offering an intern or new employee a chance to “have the ball” and participate in a meaningful project?

Quality can be found in many places within an organization. Your organization would benefit from capitalizing on its bench strength instead of always relying on the high profile “starters.”

Thanks, Mark!

leadership dot #3489: mutually beneficial

Americans spent about $400 billion on gift cards this year! Continued growth in this market is expected which makes it a perfect forum for some creative partnerships. There is now a selection of gift cards that provide 3% of the card’s value to designated charities. Several retailers and restauranteurs joined together on selected cards for these good causes — making it a win-win for them as well as the philanthropy without additional cost to the consumer.

I’ll venture a guess that none of these businesses worked together before but the charitable gift card program could be a profitable relationship for all. For example, the Habitat for Humanity gift card is sponsored by Home Depot, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Company Store. The Wounded Warrior card features Lowe’s, P.F. Chang’s, and GameStop. Make-a-Wish is valid at Petco, Top Golf, and Macy’s.

As you return to work for the new year, think broadly about the ways you can work with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Your best partner may be the one that does not initially come to mind.

leadership dot #3485: broker

In a business model that takes into account the aging population, a local firm provides “transition” services for seniors. Translated, this means they come to your home and handle the removal of all of your possessions, either when you are downsizing or after you have passed on.

And then, once a month, the company holds an “estate sale” — a storefront full of everything you could imagine: mounted deer heads, furniture, tools, a vintage Coke machine, jewelry, and every kind of knick knack ever made. They leave out the clothes and the food, but anything else that someone owned is laid out on tables for purchase. And boy, the crowds it draws to buy it!

This firm is strictly the middleman — they clean out and sell, but have no product of their own. Maybe there is a middle role for you in the new year. How could you broker services or monetize your knowledge to the benefit of others? Serving as a bridge can be a lucrative way to benefit both parties.

leadership dot #3482: allocation

During my visit to an out-of-town Target, I was directed to the pickup area. The space had been the former cafe, now converted into a bustling distribution center that saw more activity than the eating area ever did.

Target hasn’t made it a permanent change but instead has recognized that needs have evolved (if only temporarily) and made adjustments accordingly.

As you prepare to start the new year, make a critical assessment of how you are allocating your resources. Is there unused office space that could be rented out or shared with community groups? Do you still have a playroom at home even though the kids have outgrown it? Could you rethink your entranceway in light of likely ongoing distancing recommendations?

Many times our space fades into the background and we never see it with a critical eye. The new year is a good time to change that — and perhaps to alter how you use what you see.

leadership dot #3475: all hands

I was out shopping yesterday and it seemed like everyone in town had the same idea. There were lines everywhere! I’m sure that same frenzy is occurring in warehouses and shipping facilities but we are shielded from it; the packages just show up at our door with the calmness they do in April.

In The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, author Brad Stone recounts the story of Amazon’s earlier days when they only had two warehouses and more orders than they could fulfill. Rather than put the holiday spirit for thousands — and the business itself — in peril, Amazon required everyone to work two overnight shifts to help fulfill orders. Executives, friends, and family members all rallied together in their “Save Santa” program that included contests, food carts, and lots of coffee to get people through the rush.

Amazon has come a long way since the emergency and now operate 110 highly sophisticated distribution centers, but that esprit de corps effort in 1998 probably made everything else possible.

You can’t run on overdrive all the time, but the right mission and culture can allow you to dig deep on occasion when it is truly warranted. The “all-hands-on-deck” effort, provided it truly is all hands and truly an exceptional need, can help create a sense of camaraderie and belonging while achieving a nearly impossible goal. Don’t be afraid to “Save Santa” — once.

leadership dot #3469: after

The final project topic in one of my classes was about veterans and the lack of services as they transition out of military duty. It got me thinking about all the times we end something — especially something structured — and are left to our own devices to be successful (or not).

It happens with those who leave the armed forces, but also with incarceration, foster care, high school, college, or retirement. One minute we’re in a regimented environment with others calling the shots, and the next minute we are independent and responsible for our own wellbeing. Many drift around in limbo, overwhelmed with the choices and ambiguity of their new situation.

Transitioning out happens in less dramatic situations as well — such as completing a physical therapy regimen, finishing a contract with a personal trainer, or achieving the goal in a weight loss program. You say: “hooray I’m done,” but forget that the lack of discipline or structure comes with the temptation to abuse the freedom.

We pay attention to the “transitioning in” process with orientation, onboarding, or boot camp. Give credence to the other end of the cycle and dedicate similar resources to help those with what comes “after” they finish their relationship with you.

leadership dot #3467: catalog

When we were vintage shopping, I came across a 1976 Montgomery Ward catalog. What a trip down memory lane! The thing was a beast — over 1200 pages — as it displayed not only the lovely polyester leisure suits on the cover but offered for sale all manner of items. There were chain saws, dollhouses, blenders, and underwear. You name it, and it probably was in the catalog.

Over the years, I have heard criticism of Amazon and how it has become this monster selling everything “from A to Z.” I had never really thought about it before, but Sears and Montgomery Ward were doing the same things decades before — just with a different ordering and delivery system. They were the one-stop shop for everything from apparel to tools to appliances — just as Amazon is the go-to retailer for almost anything today.

As you move into the new year looking for new ideas to reinvigorate your business or organization, maybe a starting place is looking back instead of looking forward. Consider who was successful decades ago and see if you can adapt or adopt their essence and modernize it with today’s technology and expectations. The arrival of the catalogs used to be a delight — maybe you can rekindle some nostalgia as you bring a few of the ideas from the past into the present.

leadership dot #3449: smorgasbord

When I was growing up, smorgasbords were all the rage in the restaurant world. Whether it was an all-you-can-eat, a giant salad bar, or an all-out buffet, dining establishments that thrived provided not just quantity, but choice. The few fast food outlets there were served their fare in a standard format — there was none of the personalization that is so common in facilities today — so many restaurants offered dining options via the big buffet.

Today’s version of the smorgasbord is the food hall where many restaurants occupy the same building. It’s an upscale, modern version of the mall food court which morphed from the smorgasbord format. Both allow diners to pick which restaurant suits their pallet or dietary needs, and they can still enjoy the companionship of others who may have different tastes. Choosing a food hall is easier than the hassle of coming to an agreement on one place with a limited menu. so people go where there are options.

People have always liked options for their food but they like choices for other things as well. Can you offer your services in a food hall-type format combining your business with other similar businesses under the same roof to generate a larger audience? A wedding hall with all the planning services together? A baby hall with everything new parents need to get started? A new home hall with decorators and contractors working side-by-side?

Similar organizations aren’t always competition.

Prospect Park, Minneapolis

leadership dot #3431: variances

When I write a dot in the WordPress platform, Grammarly checks it for punctuation and spelling. If I write the same dot in Word, that program also checks it for grammar but often has different recommendations than Grammarly. Add a comma or delete the comma. Put in an article or take out the article. Nothing major, but it is frustrating to have seemingly hidden rules that are hard to follow. Which is correct?

The same is true with recycling. At a meeting, we threw away a pile of #1 plastics because that jurisdiction did not recycle clear lids. Other places won’t take black plastic even if it has the “right” number on it. These variations are only known by insiders although they are meant to apply universally.

If you have a set of rules that you wish people to follow, be clear about not only the basics but the nuances of your regulations. Help everyone understand the “why” some situations are seemingly contradictory and why they are in place. If you can’t explain it clearly, maybe you should consider a revision to a standard that can apply to all.