leadership dot #2562: indigo

Blue jeans are, well, blue in my mind but I recently learned that there is a lot more color that goes into making a pair of indigo denim.

Denim is made through a diagonal weaving process that utilizes three strands of blue thread on top of one strand of white thread. This method creates a whiter underside of the material but is also responsible for the signature fading quality of denim.

And the synthetic dye that is used to transform the cotton into that indigo blue: it is bright yellow until it encounters oxygen.

So, without the yellow dye and white threads, denim wouldn’t be blue.

I think jeans can be a metaphor for the power of diversity. We sometimes only see blue but it comes from the amalgamation of two other hues. None would be in existence without the other. Take some time to look more deeply, not just at your jeans, but at your organization and community. How can you learn to appreciate the contributions that all the colors are making?

leadership dot #2561: word choice

I am continually struck by the power of language and how nuances in word choice can change the meaning of an entire concept. I especially wonder about this with the notion of climate change. So many of the early warnings centered around “global warming” and, while I personally believe the scientists, not everyone is directly experiencing warming. In the midst of the polar vortex when it was -55 degrees, global warming seemed to be a foreign concept and gave fuel to the doubters. I wonder if there would have been greater acceptance if scientists had initially framed the issue as “climate change” from the start – a concept that seems irrefutable given the havoc that weather is creating around the globe. If more people could agree that the climate is certainly changing, it may be a starting point for discussions regarding what to do about it.

A similar shift is occurring in the mental health arena, with many advocating for the use of “brain health” vs. “mental illness” in an attempt to reduce the stigma that the latter often creates. If we treated an unhealthy brain with the same compassion and access as we provide to unhealthy bodies it could create a world of opportunity for many.

In the social sector, language is changing away from “foster care” which sounds nurturing to “stranger care” which is the reality of what occurs in many out-of-home placements. The more accurate descriptor creates an urgency to focus on prevention rather than on additional facilities.

Language is also being reframed around gender identity, expanding beyond the binary “male or female” to a multitude of choices, a personal preference for pronouns and a movement toward neutral language that precludes labels altogether.

A change of language can become a euphemism, designed to sugar coat the real issue at hand, such as calling lies “misunderstandings” or disguising unpaid grunt workers as “interns”, but language can also serve to create an opening for understanding and action. Take care to describe that which is important to you with words that others are able to hear.

leadership dot #2543: humming

A friend of mine had a hummingbird feeder in her yard and I was fascinated by watching the little birds drink the nectar. So this spring, I decided I would get a feeder of my own.

I have now invested in a feeder, a shepherd’s pole to hang the feeder, a funnel to pour the sugar water into the feeder, an extra bag of sugar – and a good amount of my time. The result: I have seen zero hummingbirds use it…

…only I know they are there because my housemate shared this picture just to rub it in. I do the work, make the mixture, buy all the equipment and he sees the hummingbirds.

Hmm…it made me wonder why I started this adventure – was it only for my pleasure? What about the benefit of others who may see them? Or the benefit of the hummingbirds themselves who have fresh, delicious sugar water waiting at the ready?

Think about what else is out there that we don’t do for ourselves. Can you make the world a little better place for others – whether they be humans or otherwise? I know I will keep mixing the nectar. What will you do today?

P.S.  Speaking of things we don’t do for ourselves…Happy 7-year Anniversary to leadership dots….on to Year 8!

leadership dot #2540: generes

I’ve always thought that the difference in temperaments could be described as by comparing them to journalism vs. creative writing. Pure reporters are trained to just put it out there – just the facts Ma’am – concisely, prioritized and without embellishment. Authors, on the other hand, have liberties to create and fantasize and to be much more eloquent in their thinking. It’s like someone who is direct vs. someone who is more nuanced. Both have their place; they are just different.

 

But the more I think about this analogy, the more layers it has. There are different types of journalists: news reporters who follow the pure model and stick to facts; feature writers who are akin to creative writers with more flourish; sports reporters who are focused on the action and columnists or opinion writers who offer analysis and insights. The different parts of the newspaper seem to parallel the True Colors temperaments or personality types.

Creative writers, too, parallel the temperaments with their genres: fact-based stories that parallel real events, romance novels, thrillers and science fiction.

I wonder if we gravitate toward one type of writing – or one type of reading – depending upon our innate preferences. It sounds like a dissertation study!

Pay attention to the reading you do – online, in books or in the newspaper – and conduct your own mini-study. If you find yourself focused on one area, take the advice I give my temperament session participants and branch out. An artist with only one color on their palette is limited in what they can create, just as a reader with only one perspective is missing what the other perspectives have to offer.

 

leadership dot #2520: deal or no deal

I found it interesting to witness the varied approaches sellers used when hosting a garage sale.

For some, it was all about getting rid of things. These sellers had many items that were marked “free” or would initiate bargaining conversations: “If you don’t like that price, name another.” They had made the effort to declutter and as one seller said: “Nothing out here is going back into the house.”

Others were holding their sale strictly to make money. When I asked if a set of items sold as a combination could be split and sold for less, the answer was: “you can split them, but you still need to pay full price.” This seller wouldn’t negotiate to $120 on a $150 vintage item and would not accept negotiation on anything.

Many fell somewhere in the middle – they may have lowered the price if asked but seemed content to keep anything that did not sell. While they would have liked to have sold more, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to part with possessions at a significant discount. The items still represented value to them, and they retained hope that they could obtain that value at a later date.

What is your philosophy when conducting transactions?

Do you operate from the perspective that the past is the past? You believe that if the item is paid for, use obtained from it, and now it no longer serves a purpose, it is better to receive nothing than to be burdened with the possession. Your focus is on the present where retaining it has negative implications.

Or are you more likely to focus on the future and be willing to wait to receive what you believe is due? Even though no one may be willing to pay your price, you hold on to what has potential.

Both approaches have merit given different circumstances. The key is to know which path you are following before you hang out your shingle.

 

leadership dot #2519: vintage

Last weekend our town held its city-wide garage sales and I was struck by how the event has gone from a highlight of the spring to something barely noticeable. It used to be that hoards of people would walk the main streets, going from house to house hunting for treasures. This year we practically had to drive between sales because they were so few and far between and the buyers were even more sparse. It was a bust.

I hypothesize that eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other sites have diminished the allure of a garage sale. Families no longer need to rely on the annual event to unload their unwanted items; they can post them daily and garner some pocket change without the work required to host a weekend-long sale. I was talking with one of the lonely sellers about the phenomenon and she had two other thoughts on why the enthusiasm around sales had dulled: 1) people today are minimalists who don’t want shelves of knickknacks or lots of possessions without a purpose and 2) people are much more mobile, thus purge with each new move instead of accumulating generations of possessions in the family attic. They just have less to sell and have a waning interest in buying something that isn’t the latest and greatest.

Whatever the reason, it is sad that another community-building event seeming has reverted to an online transaction with no personal connections involved. While it may be more efficient to buy and sell via an e-commerce site, there is joy in spending a spring day wandering the neighborhood gathering bargains and treasures for a quarter here and a dollar there.

When you think of “shopping small” think of your local garage sales in that vein. You’ll keep someone’s castaways out of the landfill and amass your own eclectic collection of treasures for a bargain.

leadership dot #2512: rotation

How much can you change things before it’s no longer the same thing? A hypothetical question circulates in organizational behavior circles: if you replace one plank of a ship, it’s still the same ship, but what if you replace them all? At what point is no longer the same ship?

This question came to mind recently when I saw the Canadian Brass, a group formed in 1970 but that now features only one of its original members, then I saw the FLY dance troupe, formed 22 years ago and now touring with 22-year olds, and when the Harlem Globetrotters came to town, obviously without any of the original 1926 players. How many members can you replace before it is no longer the same group?

Obviously, sports teams continue to play for decades with rotating rosters, Broadway shows replace their casts and bands rotate some of their musicians – all under the same name and brand. Think about your organization – what is the through line that provides consistency year after year? People come and go but for the enterprise to retain its essence, something needs to remain intact besides just the name.

Spending the time to clarify and celebrate what makes you be you is worth the time and effort to do.