leadership dot #3504: preserve

Our family recently digitized 90 rolls of home movies. These were Super 8 gems not only from my childhood but from Mom and Dad’s dating years and before. Some of them I had never seen before so I spent an afternoon during the holidays watching them all.

Steven Spielberg won’t be optioning them anytime soon but they provided an interesting perspective. It was like someone was on the outside looking in — an unfiltered view of what life was really like. There I was, at about 10 years old, with a pad of paper on Christmas morning writing down all the gifts I received as I opened them. I guess the organization gene is part of the DNA.

While not much has changed with my habits, certainly the environment has evolved. Everyone smoked cigarettes, seemingly all the time. People certainly dressed up far more than they do today, especially at Easter. The kids even had corsages! There were so many people in the movies that were important in our lives at the time but with whom we are no longer in touch today. And don’t get me started on the hairstyles!

The movies froze a moment in time and provided a look back that mere memories could never replicate. While I’m not advocating taking footage of your organization or office, some intentionality around capturing history is important. Even routinely collecting the organizational chart and budget would paint a picture of the way things were. Think of how positions have evolved, let alone the people who hold them, and how budgets have shifted just in technology and benefit allocations.

You’ll appreciate today more if you take an occasional trip down memory lane. Make sure you preserve the ability to do it.

leadership dot #3491: technicality

One of America’s favorite game shows, Wheel of Fortune, received a black eye for its recent treatment of a contestant. In the bonus round, Charlene Rubush had a 5-second gap as she was sounding out the final clue. She got it right but because she did not continuously read the whole phrase, she was deemed ineligible to win the Audi Q3 prize!

Why would the show deny a prize to someone based on such a minor technicality? It seems pointless to me – what is really to be gained by being such a stickler – and it’s clearly not worth the negative press the show received.

The winner in all this is Audi, which heard about the fumble and on their own granted Rubush the car she should have won. It’s not an insignificant gesture as the car is valued at $36K but Audi has gained that and more in goodwill and free promotion.

Rules are important but so is the intent behind them. Follow the spirit instead of the letter whenever you’re able. Being technically right usually gets you nothing but ill will.

leadership dot #3490: dilemma

Dean Willis Tweeted about his leadership dilemma that many supervisors face as the new year begins:

  1. Understanding that we have all been through a lot.
  2. Pushing folks toward expectations.
  3. Giving grace if those expectations are not met.
  4. Driving home the importance of operating with a spirit of excellence – without pushing too hard.

As Willis articulates: It’s not easy!

Supervisors are faced with this juggling act every day, and the lingering pandemic just adds additional balls to be thrown into the act. How can you simultaneously challenge and support?

I think it’s essential that you keep the goal high and dedicate your best efforts to attain it. Excellence may look different in these times but producing a quality product/service should still be your aim. Where grace enters the picture is in understanding that your team may not be able to deliver at the same pace as “before” and how they achieve the end may be altered.

I’m reminded of my Indianapolis analogy (dot 29) – the leader’s job is to define what “Indianapolis” is for the organization – but allow people to choose the route to get there based upon their individual circumstances. Some may not be on the Interstate right now, and your compassionate side should accept that.

Good leaders are continually balancing their head and heart. Keep doing so and urging your team forward – at whatever speed you agree is acceptable right now.

Source: @drgabewillis

leadership dot #3479: pro

Lowe’s has a “Pro” parking lot — a section designated for contractors and other professionals to give them quick access to the lumber and hardware section of the store. I got a chuckle when I was there — seeing the unmistakable white blob of a spilled can of paint on the asphalt.

Even the pros make mistakes and lead an imperfect life.

Remember this as you engage in your last-minute Christmas scurry. Not everything will go smoothly. It won’t all be as you had envisioned or hoped for in your mind. You’ll drop that can of paint. As Elsa sings in Frozen, “Let it go.” The holidays are about mindset as much as material things. Enjoy the thrills as well as the spills and make it a merry one regardless of what gets thrown your way.

leadership dot #3476: finger-pointing

My newsfeed blew up over the weekend with lamentations about Senator Joe Manchin’s apparent reluctance to support President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. Put politics aside and look at this from a broader perspective. All the focus is on Manchin but think of the thousands of other actions that led to this point. For example:

  • What about the decisions of the 50 Republican Senators, any one of whom could have made Manchin’s decision irrelevant?
  • Or the 2020 Senate elections where the Democrats gained 4 seats, but lost 1 — what if they had gained all four — or five, or six
  • Or if Stacey Abrams hadn’t spent years organizing in Georgia and the Democrats did not win those seats — there would be no majority and again, Manchin’s voice would be less prominent in the minority
  • Or if 19,398 more people would have voted for a different Senator in West Virginia
  • Or if the Democratic stronghold in West Virginia hadn’t eroded over the years
  • Or if any of the people involved in writing the bill had been more persuasive
  • Or…

It all reminds me of dot 283 about how similar barbs were thrown at a basketball player who missed the last shot. As I wrote then: “It is easier to place blame on the most recent event but to truly impact change we need to consider more of the whole picture. Next time something goes awry, don’t point fingers at the most recent contributor. Rather, assess why it all came down to relying on that one culminating event in the first place.

Making just one person the scapegoat is taking the easy way out. There is always more to it than that.

leadership dot #3470: long game

If you want to watch an inspirational movie, track down King Richard, the story of Venus and Serena Williams’ father. Will Smith is terrific in the role as he plays out the backstory of the Williams sister’s rise to tennis fame. The movie plays out like a fairy tale — with a dad who wrote a 72-page plan when his daughters were born about how he was going to make them tennis stars — and wouldn’t you know, it actually happened.

Mostly, it’s a story about the long game — and putting in the grit that it takes to succeed. One of the most memorable scenes is when Venus — who grew up in such poverty that some of the sisters had to share single beds — turns down a million-dollar sponsorship contract as a teen because she saw better things ahead.

Richard Williams convinces an elite coach to take the unknown sisters on in exchange for 15% of their earnings. The coach played the long game too and came out handsomely as Venus has amassed $41.8 million in winnings and Serena $94 million. You do the math!

So many of our decisions focus on the impact they will have in the short run. If you want to reinforce the power of perspective and patience, this is the movie for you.

leadership dot #3461: catcher

There are countless tips available on how to make an effective pitch but author Scott Berkun sheds a new perspective on the process. In his book The Myths of Innovation, he urges people to first focus on the potential recipients of the pitch — people he calls catchers. “There’s little sense in developing your pitch if there’s no one to catch it,” he writes.

By tailoring your pitch to the person who will receive it, you are able to make it more likely that the message will be “caught by the catcher”. What do they value? What needs of theirs can you fulfill? How does your pitch relate to something they are working on? Do they respond more to data or stories?

Whether you are attempting to greenlight a million-dollar project or just trying to convince your partner to try a new restaurant for dinner, let their perspective guide how you pitch your idea. It doesn’t matter how powerfully you throw if the catcher doesn’t grab the ball.

Source: The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun, 2010

leadership dot #3457: advanced

There is a sweet spot between complexity and simplicity — balancing work that is robust enough to have profundity yet straightforward enough to be understood.

For example, advanced mathematics may yield greater precision but it leaves out a large segment of the audience who can comprehend its meaning. Personality assessments range from pseudo-entertainment to complex psychological instruments, and the facilitator must balance ease-of-use with more insightful results. Marketers must decide whether to provide a synthesis of millions of terabytes of big data or report inferred insights about consumer behavior based on focus groups. Scientists can expound on their research methods and quickly go beyond people’s grasp or face criticism for a simplified summary of their results.

Experts appreciate the value of advanced analytics — and they often are passionate about sharing the specifics and clarifying the nuances that define complex subjects. But sometimes, just the basics are all your audience can comprehend and your goal should be to communicate just the essence well.

If your information requires an explanation, only use it for a format that allows you to provide clarification as well as content (eg: in person, via an extended article instead of a social media post, etc.) Too much detail often causes people to tune out instead of tuning in for more.

leadership dot #3454: nail

A neighborhood game involves pounding nails into a tree stump — which sounds easy until you learn that you have to use the skinny side of the hammer instead of the side that is designed for the task. Suddenly, it becomes much more challenging when you see it from another perspective.

This is the case with many other things in life. We think we are all using the same hammer to pound in the nails but others have very different circumstances that make something that is easy for us difficult for them.

If you believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with your argument, pause to consider which head you were able to use to achieve that conclusion. The nails may be the same, but the tools are not.

leadership dot #3450: pie

When you think of pies on Thanksgiving, two kinds come to mind almost immediately: pumpkin and pecan. If you were in the pie business, you may consider them the clear winner and give up rather than compete against them. And if you only considered this holiday, you probably would be right.

But if you took a broader view, you would see that apple is the preferred pie for most of the nation and so you could reap bounty by offering that on the other 364 days. Or you could develop a niche and leave the “big three” to others, focusing instead on such delicacies as spaghetti squash pie, crawfish pie, Saskatoon rhubarb pie, or ricotta pie — just to name a few.

The point is not to focus on what you don’t have, but on this holiday to be thankful for the piece of the pie you do. Gratitude is the elixir against angst from comparison.

Happy Thanksgiving!