Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

At the beginning of March (32 short days ago), I had the heart-filling opportunity to read to students at Ruediger Elementary School during #ReadUnited, a United Way campaign to encourage childhood reading.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Who knew this picture would seem so anachronistic just a month later? An open school! People sitting within six feet of each other! People breathing the same air! Now, of course, the physical school is closed and everything has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although much of our content at SmartBrief has been taken over by coronavirus stories, we did talk about other things last month. Here are my favorite stories (and none of them are about the pandemic).


Unfortunately, we have had our share of hurricanes here in North Florida. After Hurricane Michael, my friends and I spent a day volunteering at a drop-off center for donations. I was assigned to take the clothing contributions that came in and put them in a holding area. I am as utterly guilty of this as anyone else, but some of the things people brought were clearly of the “this has been in our closet for five years and now is as good a time as any to get rid of it” variety vs. “this is something that could clearly be used by a hurricane victim.”

That’s why this story in the March 2 issue about when physical donations hinder instead of helping rang so true.

Here’s an excerpt:

A man showed up to the Seattle homeless service provider with a large box full of new, waterproof, cold-weather boots, a valuable commodity to survive Seattle’s cold, damp winters. Then, Reynolds took a closer look at the boots. They were all for the left foot.

The article goes on to give specific tips for people who want to donate items instead of money, such as the fact that “socks are almost always in need.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the March 30 issue of the Business Transformation SmartBrief, we shared Jane Keith’s article about what she learned from guiding her team through an implementation of their own enterprise planning software product. “Ownership is important,” she wrote, as she described why organizational change is most likely to succeed if people feel heard.

I’ve experienced this time and time again over the course of my career. Stories like this will always make my “favorites” list.

International City/County Management Association

One of the things we hope our municipal agencies and elected officials will do is to keep us safe. Accidents happen, of course, but accidents that happen because people shirked their responsibility are different.

This article about the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans in the March 12 issue documents the “shirking responsibility” type of situation. (To be clear, it sounds like some of the details are still shaking out, and everyone is innocent until found guilty, but there were lines in the article (“Kevin Richardson, another New Orleans building inspector, pleaded guilty to accepting $65,000 in bribes in exchange for not reporting building violations and issuing false inspection reports”) for example, that I found infuriating.

I channeled that fury into a post I wrote for the Lead Change Group. The post juxtaposed the blatant disregard for human life exhibited by the New Orleans inspectors with the way a physician, Dr. Anthony Gbollie Charles, approached his responsibilities are the medical professional in charge of Lillian Chason’s case as documented in the book “Breathless.”

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

National Association of Social Workers

Who knew when Social Work Month kicked off on March 1 that so many social workers would have abruptly transitioned to providing services via telephone and the internet by March 31? The end of the month undoubtedly did not hold the celebration they expected (or deserved). At least this piece in the March 20 issue gave them some well-earned recognition. (It was directed to social workers in Iowa, but it applies across the board.)

National Emergency Number Association

The topic of this article from the March 19 issue isn’t new. It covers the trauma dispatchers face from hearing the absolute worst moments of people’s lives, as well as the proposed 911 SAVES Act, which would reclassify first responders from a federal perspective. The reclassification would take them from being “administrative service” (clerical) to “protective service” and provide better benefits, training and recognition.

Reserve Officers Association

My mother-in-law was blind, so I have a sizable soft spot for visually impaired people. That’s why I loved this article in the March 9 issue. It explains the artificial intelligence remote assistance (AIRA) system that helps visually impaired veterans through a combination of glasses fitted with online connectivity and sighted volunteers. As a side note, I discovered another way to help visually impaired people, Be My Eyes, through the BoardSource newsletter.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

In the March 30 issue, we shared a story about how physicists at Harvard had created a more refined image of a black hole than the Event Horizon Telescope had created previously.

I really liked the description scientist Alexandru Lupsasca gave to describe the challenge of this work an explain why computer simulations are necessary. He said this type of imaging is like “sitting in New York and trying to take an up-close picture of a quarter in LA.”

UN Wire

Here’s the thing about UN Wire in March. Out of 13 issues, 12 of them had a coronavirus story as the top story. Not surprising, right? The one noncoronavirus top story was on March 6, about how girls still face threats after 25 years of progress. Seeing as how coronavirus can’t possibly be good for mitigating any of those threats, I guess the whole situation comes full circle, doesn’t it?

A little more coronavirus content

I realize the above subhead is about the least attractive subhead in the world, BUT I am proud of what SmartBrief is doing to help keep people informed about the coronavirus pandemic, in a way that is hopefully unique and useful.

The Special Report on Coronavirus comes out every Tuesday and Friday. You can subscribe here. Also, SmartBrief is donating $1 to the WHO COVID Solidarity Response Fund for every new reader referred.

Even this sort of relates to the coronavirus

Sorry, but it does! However, hopefully it holds some interest beyond pandemic life. I wrote a post about why empathy matters when leaders are guiding their organizations through a crisis such as the current pandemic. I’d love for you to read/share. Here it is.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned a coronavirus-free section!

A few weeks ago, I received the business cards issued to my colleagues and me to reflect our logo change since Future bought SmartBrief. The whole experience as orchestrated by Moo was so much fun and so delightful. Had the whole world not essentially gone into hibernation (except for all the incredible essential workers), I would have done a cute social media “unboxing.” Now that seems tone-deaf. People are being furloughed and losing their livelihoods, so it’s not the time. But I do want to share what a great job Moo did here:

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights
1. The outside of the box says “Yay!”
2. The seal says, “Made in Providence with pride”
3. The insider of the box says, “My goodness, you’re gorgeous! (We’re talking to your cards. But ok, you are too.)
4. The finished product is nicely arranged, with a card holder.

I love the attention Moo paid to how they presented their product. I also was happy to get my own business cards; it’s a small milestone I guess, but it was meaningful because I am proud of the work we do and of the effort we have put in over the past month, both to meet our usual standards and obligations and to rise to the occasion of coping with the arrival of the pandemic in the US.

About Future and SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer questions and provide more information about the process.

When there are open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc, they can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

*Note: My opinions about the stories are my personal viewpoint; they do not reflect an endorsement by my employer.

4 thoughts on “Left-footed boots and more: March SmartBrief highlights

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