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.

leadership dot #2770: more time

When I first read Carey Nieuwhof’s trends (see dot 2769), the first thing that came to my mind was “delivery.” Have you noticed that everyone either delivers to your door or has modified extensive areas of the store and parking lot to allow for easy pick-up? Even gas stations are offering food delivery!

Our online grocery shopping service ran an ad promoting “Less time shopping. More time snacking.” I wonder what people are doing with all the time they “save” by having delivery to their home or car. I doubt it is eating popcorn, but how are they using it: Binge watching? Social media? Working? Gaming? Running the kiddos to all their organized activities?

Empirically, we all have the same amount of time we have always had, but the way we spend it has changed greatly. Smart homes, delivery services, in-car pickup services, and automatic reordering are all designed to free up a few minutes from our routine, but other activities eat up large chunks, often mindlessly.

Before you pay a premium to have someone else DIFY (“do it for you” as Nieuwhof termed it), take an assessment of how you are spending your time overall. Use those gained moments intentionally, making your world just a little bit better with the “extra” time you have instead of frivoling it away.


leadership dot #2769: themes

Thought leader Carey Nieuwof outlined 5 disruptive leadership trends for 2020. His list:

  1. The Middle is Disappearing (but the high end and low end are thriving).
  2. DIY (do it yourself) is giving way to DIFM (do it for me).
  3. Insight and access have become more valuable than content (because free content is everywhere).
  4. Focus is a new super power (because distractions are everywhere, too).
  5. Freedom and autonomy are the next generation’s currency. (Just ask Prince Harry!)

You can read more detail about these trends here.

His ideas have been rattling around in my head for days as I consider the implications of each of them. I think the list itself shows the power of #3 – that a synthesized list such as his has more power than pages and pages of random content.

It also makes me want to do a list of my own next year – the promise of which will undoubtedly make me more observant and reflective of the commonalities from these dots and that which I see. How about joining me in the challenge to outline a few trends next year? Let 2020 give you the clarity of vision to see some mega-themes for 2021.


Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #2715: pause button

The greatest danger in business and life lies not in outright failure but in achieving success without understanding why you were successful in the first place.”  Robert Burgelman

This mantra from the former Stanford professor rings true in so many situations. When things go well it’s often easy to forego the evaluation process or to make assumptions about what brought on the largesse, yet without this analysis, it is difficult to truly understand challenges when they occur. Guessing about why things worked out as they did is never a good strategy either.

It’s a wise habit to incorporate evaluation and reflection into your ongoing routine. Conduct After Action Reviews or Lessons Learned meetings. Keep a journal. Hold regular Cave Days or thinking sessions. Add reflection questions to your one-to-ones or staff agendas.

There are many ways to hit the pause button before going blindly forward; just remember to do so when you are experiencing success as well as failure.

Source: As quoted by Jim Collins in Turning the Flywheel, A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great, 2019, p. 5


leadership dot #2714: uncomfortable

In addition to sharing their personal story at the All-Community Reads, Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton advocated for reforms of the criminal justice system. “Exonerations are not the criminal justice system getting it right,” said Jennifer. “It’s a miracle and we shouldn’t rely on a miracle to get it right.”

She continued about how the criminal justice system was created and designed to protect white, land-owning males and how it makes us uncomfortable that we have never done anything different to a system that was designed to be racist.

“We have to get uncomfortable first to acknowledge it before we can change it,” she said. “ I appreciate the fact that you’re struggling with it and want to have the hard conversation.”

It reminded me of the work being done in the child welfare arena where people are also having the uncomfortable conversations about the role of race, the impact of trauma caused by the current system and the need to change an entire system that has been embedded in our culture for decades.

We often avoid uncomfortable conversations because, well, they make us uncomfortable. It’s easier to ignore the topic, only scratch the surface or make light of the root causes. But to truly create the change we need to address that which is hardest to discuss.

Aim not for comfort, but instead seek to create an environment where people can be what Alia describes as “safe but uncomfortable”. Make your culture civil, respectful and open – so that discomfort can be put on the table and deliberated, not so it can be hidden away.