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.

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!