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 #3397: borders

We mostly think of the United States as a whole, with little regard given to state borders. The designs on the highway signs may change, but people cross state lines every day without any difference in function.

Recently, two things have taken me aback because they caused me to realize that I’m in a different state. The first is mask-wearing. Iowa has mandates that you can’t have a mask mandate, but in New Mexico, everyone had masks on everywhere. In Wisconsin, masks were pervasive and required indoors. Coming from a state where they are optional, it was striking to see everyone masked up.

The second reminder was at O’Hare airport where there is a marijuana amnesty box for anyone who bought cannabis legally in Illinois but is unable to legally take it to the state to which they are flying. Another reminder that it’s state legislation in action.

The national elections get all the hype, but day-to-day life is impacted more by what happens outside of Washington. Pay attention to what’s happening at your local, county, and state levels, and use your voice to influence these jurisdictions. We’re divided enough as a country; don’t let state borders become one more division.

leadership dot #3394: Gordon

I live on a fairly quiet residential street with a community mailbox at the corner. Gordon, one of my neighbors, is a mail hound like I am and closely monitors the comings and goings of the mailman as I do. We often share greetings and other banter en route to the mailbox. Yesterday, as he went to drive up the hill to get the mail, his car was hit by another vehicle. He suffered a heart attack in the collision and died. In his own front yard while getting the mail.

Consider this today’s reminder that life is so short. Take a moment to spread kindness to those you love — and all those with whom you share even a friendly connection. You never know when today’s mail call will be your last.

leadership dot #3388: looking back

When you’re involved in any type of change effort it’s natural to focus on the future. But we often get so caught up in what we want to have happen or what we’re trying to make happen that we forget to take that moment and reflect on the change process itself. More specifically, we fail to look back and capture the decisions that we wrestled with, the inflection points that shaped what came after them, the struggles and steps just to get started, or the first glimmers of success.

By the time a project is over, all those memories are overshadowed by the present and we lose the opportunity to learn from them. In contrast, if we document some of the earliest stages of a change effort we can use the learning as a reminder the next time we’re fresh out of the gate and feel like we’re not making any progress at all. We can see that it took us a few months to align our human infrastructure and figure out a game plan. We can be reminded that some of those earliest choices are the most important ones as they shape everything else. We can reflect on where we need to move more quickly and where going slower is ultimately more prudent.

The next time you embark on a new initiative, set some reminders to pause and take stock of what you’ve been up to. Looking back at the early, small steps can be invaluable knowledge in the future.

leadership dot #3387: who luck

When most people think about being lucky, what comes to mind is an event or situation that proves to be beneficial. But in his book BE 2.0, master teacher Jim Collins describes another phenomenon that can have a greater impact on your outcomes — that of “who luck.” Collins describes this as finding that key person in your life whether it be a mentor, partner, colleague, boss, or friend — someone who alters your life by crossing your path.

Collins believes that his life is shaped more by the “whos” than the “whats” that brought him good fortune, and if you reflect on your own circumstances the same is probably true. The right people can bring us success at our joint pursuits, open up opportunities, or simply make our lives fun.

Think about the people who have been “who luck” for you. I know my former boss/now friend is on the top of the list, and as a result of his greatness, I have a host of colleagues who joined in working for him and creating most of my professional highlights. Earlier bosses served as mentors and changed the trajectory of my career. I also had “who luck” to land with the best bunch of siblings.

Take a moment to reflect on — and appreciate — those with whom you have been lucky to cross paths, and attempt to be the one who provides “who luck” to others who cross yours. It is the people that make the magic, not the events.

Source: BE 2.0 Turning your business into an enduring great company by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier, 2020

Keith Lovin — the best of the best. Everyone who ever met him had “Who Luck”

leadership dot #3379: belonging

In addition to sparking my curiosity about minimalism, the movie Nomadland shed a light on the modern-day transience of a group of people — and reinforced the importance of belonging. You may think that those who live in a van or RV roam aimlessly and alone, but the movie portrayed much more intentionality and structure to their movement and highlighted the communities they create along the way.

Many of today’s nomads go from seasonal-job to seasonal-job, working in such places as warehouses during the holidays and in hospitality during the summer tourist season. They have a routine where they return to the same locations — thus know others and have friends. Nomads often rotate between designated RV parks, again where they build community and rekindle relationships, creating a neighborhood complete with entertainment (e.g. outdoor movies or campfires) and camaraderie. While they do not have houses the modern-day nomads depicted in the film certainly have homes.

I thought about this lifestyle as many organizations wrestle with the question of remote work. It may seem that the employee is requesting to detach from the culture that is built in person but there may be a way to create routines and protocols that create community even from a fluctuating base.

The need to belong is powerful. Capitalize on that desire to create opportunities for those with less anchoring to still feel the connection to the whole.

leadership dot #3378: minimize

I watched the movie Nomadland about a character that is “houseless, not homeless” and instead lives out of a van. It got me thinking about which of my possessions I would keep if I had to reduce them to the bare minimum. When you factor in the items necessary for maintenance, cooking, and hygiene, there is not much space left for sentimentality. (For example, Frances McDormand’s character keeps one picture (total), and one plate from the full collection her father left her, etc.)

The movie prompted me to pay attention to what I actually use in my home, and I have observed that a large portion of my things is only for occasional use. When I did the same exercise about what I pack into a suitcase for a weekend trip, I realized that there are many items I take “just in case” I need them (e.g. a Bandaid, swimsuit, or extra phone battery).

It occurred to me that there is a link between possessions and risk tolerance. If I’m willing to take the chance that I’ll need to improvise, run out, or substitute I can get by with a lot less. If I am afraid of going without or being unprepared, then I accumulate a bunch more. This is true whether I’m shopping, presenting, or going on vacation.

Become your own observer and see what your insights tell you. Can you expand your risk tolerance for the bigger issues by starting with some small risks around your possessions? How much of the “in case” preparations do you actually use? How have you responded when thrown a curve ball? The time and energy you devote to contingencies may be better spent pursuing opportunities.

leadership dot #3375: revisit

The tagline for Patriot Day is We Will Never Forget, and if you are of a certain age, you remember exactly where you were when the Trade Towers were attacked. But 70 million Americans have no firsthand experience to remember. It’s hard for me to believe that 9-11 was 20 years ago or that students in college were born after it happened.

Today is an important reminder that we need to revisit the seminal events in our personal, organizational or national history. People from more recent generations (or employment status or family ties) need to hear the stories from those who can tell them. We need to bring to the forefront the memory of the experiences that shape us, and 9-11 certainly is one of those.

The United States has designated September 11 as Patriot Day as a reminder to pause and remember that tragic day. In between all your usual business, take a moment not only to reflect but to share your memories with someone who doesn’t have their own. The history books can’t help others feel the emotions, but you can.

leadership dot #3363: dirty work

What a week. Between Covid, Afghanistan, and now Hurricane Ida I think of all the people who are risking their lives to provide us with health, protection, or even news. The armed forces, health care professionals, weather reporters, FEMA staff, or front-line rescuers — we expect them to be there when we walk into a hospital, dial 911, or tune into emergency reports, without always considering their sacrifices to do so. Moments after Ida made landfall I was seeing pictures, but someone had to be in close proximity to the 150 mph winds to take and share them. In order for Louisiana staff to be at the hospital to serve patients, they had to allow their families to ride out the storm without them.

Even ordinary circumstances require people to work in risky or undesirable positions. In his book Dirty Work, author Eyal Press highlights prison employees, laborers in chicken slaughterhouses and processing plants, and drone warriors who all fall into the “dirty work” category. For the most part, we never think about any of these positions or what could be done to make the conditions more tolerable for those who hold them, yet we expect people to work in those roles.

As you start the week, take a moment to reflect on the many layers of people you unknowingly rely on to keep your community functioning in the way to which you have become accustomed. Someone is keeping the power on, the cows milked, the grocery stores stocked and the schools open. People are walking into dangerous situations to keep terrorists at bay, fires under control, and jails locked down.

If you think it is difficult to find employees for a retail operation or in the hospitality industry, consider what it takes to recruit and retain quality staff in the undesirable roles — yet we all need people to be there. Raise your awareness, appreciation, and advocacy to create safe and sane working conditions for all.

leadership dot #3343: tags

I spent about two hours searching for the tags that fell off my dog’s collar. We retraced all the places she had been in the past day, tore apart the beds, couch and crate, and posted on the neighborhood Facebook page for others to be on the lookout.

As I considered why I was distraught about this, I realized it was because her tags are truly the only thing that is exclusively hers. The next dog will take up residence in “her” crate, play with the same toys, and even repurpose her collar. But the tags — they are Iris’. So we looked, and re-looked, and scoured the yard — before I remembered that had she escaped from the fence for about a minute when the neighbor’s dog came over — and sure enough, the tags were on the neighbor’s hill where she rolled while reveling in her freedom. Relief!

The episode was a reminder to me to be clear about the “why” behind your actions. I was not searching for functional reasons — I could easily have the ID replaced and she certainly doesn’t need the collection of rabies tags that are too worn down to even be legible. The hunt wasn’t about financial reasons either as it would only require a modest sum to get a new tag. No, I looked purely for sentimental purposes; to have “her something” when she’s gone. It explains why it consumed me for the better part of the morning and why I wouldn’t stop looking even when all logical places were thoroughly exhausted.

Understanding the motivation behind actions — yours or others — can go a long way in making sense out of the behaviors that result. Tag those emotions, and then act accordingly.