leadership dot #2071: chart

When you hear National Park Service, many people think of places like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, and picture rangers in wide-brimmed hats like Smokey the Bear. While this is true, the National Park Service is an agency that does much more than protect the 59 National Parks. Scientists, educators, conservationists, engineers and accountants comprise the workforce that maintains 417 different sites: monuments, parkways, seashores and preserves, as well as hosts over 300 million visitors/year.

To help visitors understand the breadth of the Park Service, the Lewis and Clark Visitor’s Center in Omaha has a beautiful display that communicates both the mission and the multiple departments that are organized to support it.

Oftentimes only the “front of the house” areas are visible to visitors or are highlighted in organizational publications. It was nice to see Property Management & Office Services, Safety, Information Technology, Human Resources, Contracting and Fire & Aviation Management as prominently displayed as Heritage Areas, Natural Resource Stewardship & Science and Ranger Activities.

Think about how you can make your organizational chart come to life. It may be worth adopting this idea for your organization as a way to recognize your staff in addition to educating others on the scope of your services. For political or public relations reasons, helping others understand your breadth is always a wise investment.

leadership dot #2068: capitalize

There has been much written lately about Amazon and its impact on the retail industry. The behemoth now accounts for 50% of online product searches and for 5% of total U.S. retail sales*. Its sheer size has intimidated many retailers and others are trying to emphasize attributes that such a giant could never possess.

But Kohl’s has chosen another path: rather than fearing Amazon, it has embraced the company as a partner. Now many Kohl’s stores offer Amazon returns: if you bring in an item to send back, Kohl’s will pack it and ship it for free.

Of course, the move is not purely altruistic. I am sure the motivation is to do whatever it takes to get customers into the store – where hopefully they will be lured into making a purchase while there. Whether it works out that way or not, I applaud Kohl’s for an innovative experiment that acknowledges Amazon’s clout but does not succumb to it.

Think of how your organization can draw parallels from the Kohl’s/Amazon agreement. Can you forge an unlikely partnership that capitalizes on another’s size while leveraging that strength for your own organization? Is there an organization in your industry to which you have conceded the market when you should have rethought your positioning instead? How can you service the customers of another provider?

Kohl’s faced the tiger instead of fearing it. Maybe the same opportunity is available to you.

*Source: The Future of Retail in the Age of Amazon by Austin Carr in Fast Company, December 2018/January 2018, p. 94-114.

leadership dot #2062: dormant

Over 60% of the worldwide population of antelopes died over the course of a few weeks, and scientists have just recently discovered the cause. In May 2015 over 200,000 antelope died suddenly – and it was not the first time for widespread deaths of this species.

Researchers have learned that it was due to blood poisoning — triggered by bacteria that had been present in all the antelopes without consequences – until above average humidity and temperatures occurred during calving season and triggered the fatal reaction.

This has me thinking how there can be disastrous consequences that we can’t even foresee. We make assumptions based on the way things are now but have no idea how another factor may totally change the scenario. Scientists knew there were a limited number of antelopes. They knew this bacteria already lived in all of them. But who knew the warm weather would activate it and kill them all?

I think we make assumptions like that in organizations, too. Our business model is working but then 9/11 occurs. Our organization has a donor plan but then the tax law changes. Our organization is thriving – in Houston, Puerto Rico, California, et al – until Mother Nature strikes.

The antelope example illustrates that organizations need to plan – and plan for various scenarios – as well as monitor trends and conditions that could cause the driving assumptions to change.

Don’t count on the future arriving in a linear fashion.

Thanks, Meg.

leadership dot #2054: craft

Ten years ago this week, Starbucks closed all of its stores for three hours in order to conduct barista training. The signs on the doors read: “Taking time to perfect our espresso. Great espresso requires practice. That’s why we’re dedicating ourselves to honoring our craft.”*

The logistics involved in conducting the training were significant. Starbucks delivered DVDs and DVD players to each of its 7100 stores. It is estimated that they lost $6 million in revenue. But CEO Howard Schultz attributes the training to “saving the company.”

The logistics today could be much easier for companies who wish to conduct synchronous training: bring in a laptop and have everyone connect to the Internet and webinar software. Yet so few (any?) are willing to invest the time and forgo the revenue that such a commitment requires.

Leadership guru Simon Sinek says: “Leaders are not responsible for the results. Leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.” Howard Schultz understood that principle when he made the decision to close, and the company thrives today in part because of that choice.

What craft does your team need to practice – and how are you going to create the time for them to perfect that skill? Whether it is espresso or something more significant, your future depends upon making that commitment to your people.

*As quoted in an excerpt from Onward by Howard Schultz

Simon Sinek quote from Twitter 3/22/6 @SimonSinek

leadership dot #2053: fantasy

Most people have heard of, if not participated in, Fantasy Sports Leagues, virtual games that allow people to draft a roster of players and tally wins/losses based on the real-life performance of those athletes. The concept has been expanded into a different genre – Fantasy Movie League.

Players in this league use an app to attempt to fill up to eight cinemas with current movies – all in the quest to see who picks shows that actually earn the highest gross revenue over the weekend. Players are given a budget limit and must adhere to that – filling as many screens as money will allow – but also receive a hefty penalty if their theatres do not feature a show.

The app is free, but the prizes are real: $1000 cash one weekend, a Darth Vader poster signed by James Earl Jones, $250 in movie tickets, etc.

In addition to serving as light entertainment for gamers or movie buffs, I think this also has an application for the teaching of economics. It would be great to fill your “theater” with all of the big name blockbusters, but, of course, the cost cap will not allow it. In this game, as in life, there are tradeoffs and risks that must be made.

Think of how you can help your students or your organization learn about economic realities through this game or another. It’s fun to play around with choosing movies to fill a theatre, but there are serious lessons that can be learned from assessing choices and taking the whole picture into consideration.

leadership dot #2048: forever

Without any fanfare at all, the US Postal Service again raised its rates for First Class stamps. I doubt you have noticed, but as of Sunday, stamps now cost 50 cents each.

It used to be that an increase in rates was accompanied by a flurry of activity as everyone scrambled to buy the one-cent stamps or “letter” stamps that were put into production before the final rate was known. But once the USPS transitioned over to Forever Stamps that do not require a price supplement, they used this convenience as a way to increase more frequently and stealthily.

In the 1990s, there were three postage increases. Since 2007, when the Forever Stamp was introduced, there have been ten First Class rate hikes, approximately one every year. Rates in the last decade have gone up 21% — from 41 cents to today’s 50 cents.

Think of how you can you learn from the (albeit self-serving) genius of the Forever Stamp. Is there a service you offer that frequently rises in price that you can offer on a pricing model that makes the increases less impactful for your customers? Can you offer a Forever rate for one of your key products as an incentive? If you haven’t increased prices lately, could you offer a “Forever” rate or a “For-a-Long-Time” rate and capitalize on your stability?

Maybe there is a way for you to put your stamp on a pricing model that makes sense in the long term.

leadership dot #2046: in person

When I was at Sam’s Club, there were blue tickets distributed throughout the store “entitling me to a free gift!!!” Free is such a magic word! I fell for the pitch and went to claim my reward.

Before I could receive my “free paring knife – a five dollar value!” I needed to listen to the salesperson’s pitch about a set of knives that he was selling. I barely cook and I certainly do not need a 9-piece set of knives, but by the end of his demonstration, I was ready to hand over $50 to have them. (But I refrained!)

The combination of seeing P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman and then listening to a smooth-talking huckster caused me to pause and consider the value of an in-person sales message. I would not have spent five seconds, let alone five minutes, watching an online demonstration of knives, yet there I was, gathered around the booth at Sam’s. I would have even walked by a display in the aisles without giving it a second glance, but the salesman made the cutlery seem like both magic and a bargain.

Think about what you or your organization is trying to sell. Maybe the best way to accomplish this is to ask people to “step right up” and see what you have to enhance their lives.

leadership dot #2045: solutions

Airports seem like great places to get exercise: they have miles of corridors for walking and most people there have ample time on their hands with nothing else to do. But somehow the logistics of walking with a carry-on in tow or dragging a rollerboard suitcase behind you diminishes the appeal, so most people end up sitting idly or balancing a computer on their lap to accomplish business.

Minneapolis airport has found a way to make work compatible with exercise while waiting in their terminals by providing treadmill desks. These machines allow people to walk and have a stable desk space while leaving their luggage resting beside them. Stand up desks have become popular in the office; maybe treadmill desks will catch on as well.

Think about the problems that your customers have. Is there a way that you can solve them with innovative solutions? Maybe hospitals could provide the treadmill desks for visitors who spend long hours waiting. Perhaps you could provide bowls at movie theatres to make it easier to share (rather than spill) big buckets of popcorn. Or you could offer sunscreen in dispensers (like hand sanitizer) at your outdoor event.

Look at your customer’s frustrations as opportunities for you to shine.

Thanks, Tracy!

leadership dot #2042: pass

For Christmas, I received a year’s subscription to the MoviePass – a new program that, for about $10/month, allows you to see one movie per day in almost any movie theatre. It has been the greatest gift!

What I have discovered is that I really like movies on the big screen – much more than I realized that I did. I have seen more films in the theatre in the past month than probably in the past year. I take more risks and see things that I would not have otherwise paid to see. I see movies that I love multiple times (and, in the case of The Greatest Showman, yet again for the sing-along version!). I go to the theatre because it is now literally cheaper than renting from Redbox as long as you can resist the concession stand.

Instead of going to a movie as a rare treat, I this month I have seen several movies a week. Maybe the novelty will fade (or the post-Christmas selection of films will wane), but for now, I am really enjoying this cinematic addition to my entertainment.

MoviePass is a confluence of two key trends: a) a subscription service where people pay a recurring fee to get access to something and b) the use of data to mine the purchasing habits of the buyers. Part of what funds MoviePass is the data that the company sells to studios about the demographics and attendance patterns of the users. They already know how many tickets are sold, but now they know much more about who has purchased them.

Think of how your organization can capitalize on either one of these behaviors. Can you offer part of your services as a subscription for your most dedicated clients? Or perhaps you have data that could be valuable to your efforts (or to someone else’s)?

Implementing either strategy could be the ticket to your organization’s future success.

leadership dot #2039: wires crossed

I recently donated blood and this was the office in which the staff took my vital signs and conducted my donation history:

Who thought that it was ok to leave the wiring like this? Did the installer prioritize speed over pride by leaving the job in this manner? Do the nurses even notice the entanglement when using this office to greet volunteer donors? Has the administration abdicated their responsibility for creating a professional atmosphere in which to conduct serious work?

I believe that the problem stems from the fact that it is a “general-use” office where multiple staff members meet with hosts of donors. No one has ownership of the space. It is used by everyone, so is cared for by no one.

Segments of highways receive more attention than this donor office.

Do you have common spaces in your organization that need to be “adopted” by someone to provide routine cleaning and inspection? Your space is part of your brand and reputation. Don’t let your wires get crossed as to who is responsible for maintaining it.