leadership dot #2997: accounting

When I was in high school and even college, all of the career aptitude tests I took said that I should be an accountant. I didn’t really know what was involved with the profession – except math which I did not like – so I dismissed the notion repeatedly without any further investigation.

Today, I can look back and see that this was a very reasonable suggestion. I know now that accounting is much more than just math and my detail orientation would have probably allowed me to be a very good accountant. While I don’t regret my actual career path, maybe I should have listened to the test results.

If you are given advice repeatedly, even if it sounds outlandish at the time, perhaps give it a bit more credence instead of instantly ignoring it. If you hear that you’re good at something or could improve at a portion of the task, pause to consider what is motivating the suggestion. Ask some clarifying questions to understand what’s at the root of the feedback and ponder whether the core idea has any merit.

Even if you don’t follow the advice you are given, there’s no accounting for what you can learn to enhance your work along the path you do choose.

leadership dot #2941: marriage

Without fireworks, cookouts and all the usual trappings of the Fourth of July, it won’t seem like a holiday to some, but it’s still Independence Day with or without pyrotechnics.

It reminds me of times when people are so focused on the big, flashy wedding that they forget that what’s actually important is the marriage. Today, the real reason for celebration isn’t in the night sky rather to commemorate the founding of our country and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Take a moment to appreciate the gifts of democracy, freedom and our never-ending quest for equality. It may be fun to have fireworks or a fancy wedding, but the real value comes from the work you do afterward to sustain it.

leadership dot #2936: cover up

It is interesting to me about how controversial and political wearing a mask has become. In most establishments, there is an explicit “No shirt, no shoes, no service” regulation, but people don’t protest about that violating their rights. There are laws that require people to wear clothes in public or be arrested for going naked and those laws aren’t flagrantly violated, even in swimming pools or at beaches. Drivers who can’t see without glasses must wear them per their license and you must don a hospital gown or x-ray shield when getting certain medical procedures. Why is mask-wearing so different?

Part of the reason is the polarized political climate and mixed messages about COVID. If government leaders had modeled mask-wearing and consistently required their use, masks would already be as pervasive as wearing sunglasses in the summer.

But another contributing factor is the newness of the practice. People don’t like to change and resist anything that alters their normal habits. When you ask people to do something that requires intentionality instead of rote you should expect pushback – not based on the merits of the action rather simply because it is different. That’s where requiring masks everywhere pays dividends; the more often you do something, the sooner it blends into the routine and the resistance fades.

Pay attention to how mask-wearing (or not) plays out in your community: the irregular enforcement of it vs. strict adherence; the reasons for objection vs. the rationale given in support; the modeling of who does/does not wear one – all represent great lessons for you the next time you seek to implement a change in your organization.

leadership dot #2914: rationale

I had the undesirable experience of going to the can redemption center to return my four months of bottles and cans in order to claim my deposit money. Usually, I return them a week or so at a time at the grocery store, but since COVID stores have stopped their redemption process. Of course, they still charge me, but now I needed to wait in line outside for a half-hour to reclaim my bounty.

I believe that the grocers are going to hold off on resuming redemption for as long as they can get away with it. It’s a filthy, disgusting process (that I think should be stopped anyway – can you tell?) and if they don’t need to invest the staff time or storage space, why would they?

As things reopen, I am noticing that many businesses are taking advantage of the opportunity to limit their services under the guise of COVID, but I suspect that the motivation is more financial. The bank doesn’t even have drive-up hours on Saturdays. Stores won’t allow you to re-use cups for fountain drinks, forcing you to buy a new one each time. Business hours are limited and some stores do not even open on Sundays during this time.

I wonder how many of these restrictions truly are for sanitation or whether they continue simply for businesses to realize savings. With phased re-openings and so much unknown, the line is blurred between precaution or preference. Make sure you have rationale – not rationalization – for your actions.


leadership dot #2865: a tribute

There has been a movement on Facebook urging people to post their senior pictures from high school as a measure of support for the Class of 2020, who, more likely than not, will be without their senior year traditions including prom and graduation. I’m not sure seeing pictures of others will help at all, but something that could be of benefit is a video tribute.


The company Tribute estimates that during COVID there will be 50 million birthdays, 2 million graduations, 400K births and 400K weddings that will be impacted. Their contribution to lessening the blow of these missed events is to offer a free video tribute to anyone who has been affected by the quarantine. They offer a simple process to solicit email messages from friends, string them together and share the final product.


Even post-virus, think of how you could use this type of tribute for many occasions: welcoming a remote employee to the team, offering a lasting farewell to those departing the organization, congratulating a teammate on a great performance or having presenters set the stage for attendees before a virtual conference.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, just think of the impact from a video tribute (especially if it’s free). Who can you honor today?

leadership dot #2824: align

Every now and then my printer indicates that it is time for an alignment. The copy job pauses and the printer automatically prints out a page of lines and a little bird, showing me that the adjustment is complete. I never notice that I needed it but it always looks better after the alignment is completed.

The same idea applies to my mental wellbeing — only my version of the printer adjustment involves writing longhand in a journal every morning for a few months. Many people journal every day, but, for me, letter writing usually suffices for routine reflection. But, like that printer, every now and then I need a course correction and journaling is it.

Journaling has been shown to improve memory, wellbeing, performance and communication and to decrease anger, worry and stress. The handwritten “brain dump” is the best method I know to release all the negative thoughts and it’s far more therapeutic for me than ranting on social media or withdrawing altogether.

The Daily Stoic has some examples of journaling but emphasizes that any method that works for you is the right one to use. Don’t be daunted by the thought of needing to write every day – an occasional re-alignment might be all you need to stay centered.



leadership dot #2823: female

On this International Women’s Day, it may be natural to thank the obvious female role models in your life like your mom or sister or even to acknowledge your professional female colleagues. I’d encourage you to expand your thinking to recognize the women who are forging paths for the women of the future, not just to celebrate those in prominence today.

Two that have been in the news recently are Patrice Banks and Emily Pilloton who are working to create new career opportunities for women in the trades. Banks runs the Girls Auto Clinic and manages a staff of female mechanics – or SheCANics as she calls them. She couldn’t find a female mechanic for herself so enrolled in tech school to learn how to become one and now is working to expand her service center to other areas.

Emily Pilloton was a high school shop teacher until she launched Girls Garage to provide classes for girls ages 9-17 in subjects such as welding, carpentry and drafting. She employs an all-female staff to help the girls learn how to “fear less and build more,” preparing them for life as well as an in-demand career.

Who would you add to your list? The fearless women who ran for President of the United States certainly qualify. Closer to home, you could add my all-female veterinary clinic, female city administrator, the female electrical engineer who enrolled in my MBA class or the female head of the Boy Scouts chapter.

Look around and pay attention to the trailblazers. A SHEcanic in Pennsylvania may not mean much to you now, but she’s creating new options for the girls of tomorrow.


leadership dot #2787: next page

As I flipped my desk calendar over to the new month, I was quite surprised to find a second January page!

It got me wondering – what would I do if an additional month were possible or if I was able to take advantage of a “do-over”? Would I just fill it with routine tasks and activities that blur together in ordinary ways or would I create something special with my “found time”? Would I add an “extra” January or save the option until June?

While we don’t have the luxury of adding time to our lives, we do have the opportunity to add life to our time. Do something this weekend that you will remember after you turn the next page.


leadership dot #2785: ruthless

The Founder movie portrays Ray Kroc as a visionary whose genius is offset by his ruthlessness. He took credit for others’ ideas. He went back on his word. He cheated the McDonald brothers out of hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties that he promised them with a handshake. He created loopholes to skirt his obligations and even had an affair with a franchisee’s wife.

And yet, he is held up as a model entrepreneur – someone who went from being a milkshake-mixer salesman to the CEO of a company that has a market capitalization of $134 billion*.

Kroc is by no means the only leader who achieved results in a less-than-admirable way. I personally know of several others who were despised by their staff, talked down by peers and seen as unethical – while in the next breath praised by these same people for what they achieved.

Wall Street runs on tangibles – earnings, outcomes, growth and many other organizations hold that which is measurable to a higher value than intangibles such as character and integrity. The ends will always outweigh the means if that is all that is taken into consideration during the final assessment.

*in September 2018

leadership dot #2784: real estate

The Founder movie tells the story of four visionaries: the two McDonald Brothers who were the first to understand that speed was a unique selling proposition in the food industry; Ray Kroc who recognized that the McDonald concept could be franchised, and Harry Sonneborn, the real genius who monetized the concept into its billion-dollar fortune.

Sonneborn was an enterprising businessman who helped Kroc understand that he wasn’t in the burger business, rather he was in the real estate business. Sonneborn had the idea for Kroc to buy the land that the McDonald’s restaurants were on and lease it to the franchisees. This provided capital before the restaurant opened, created an ongoing and lucrative revenue stream, allowed Kroc to accumulate hard assets to get more capital to open more restaurants, and gave Kroc leverage to ensure that franchisees followed quality control and standardization procedures or he could pull their lease. In addition, by creating a separate land acquisition entity, it freed Kroc from the restrictions he was bound by through the original McDonald’s contract which required approval from the brothers before any change could be made.

Kroc may have made a name for himself in the restaurant business, but it is through the reframing of his focus to real estate that earned him the prominence and real fortune.

When is the last time you deeply considered what business you are in? Is education for job preparation or life-long learning or citizenship? Are financial institutions there to safeguard your money or teach you to grow wealth? Should churches be in the spiritual business or focus on community-building and belonging? It may be time for a “Sonneborn Retreat” to reflect on the true purpose of your work.