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leadership dot #2737: ingredients

During a delicious Greek meal, the owner came out to chat with the customers. After we lavished him with praise for the cuisine, he shared his secret: “It starts with the ingredients,” Angelo said. He imports feta with 70% sheep’s milk and Greek yogurt from Greece and uses virgin olive oil in making his pitas. It makes a difference!

The Naughty Greek certainly isn’t the only restaurant of its type in the Twin Cities but it does a thriving business because of Angelo’s attention to the inputs. I think the same thing is true in organizations: it starts with the ingredients – aka the hiring process.

If you have great people and a strong onboarding process, you can distinguish yourself from other organizations producing the same product. Taking the time, and often the expense, to thoroughly interview and train staff pays untold dividends in the long run. These employees can contribute value in ways that you did not initially imagine and seize new opportunities to enhance the organization.

Shortcuts are always available, but in cooking and in hiring it’s best not to take them.

Angelo of The Naughty Greek

leadership dot #2736: digital

So much for the handwritten note – the latest trend in employee recognition is to issue a digital BadgeBot that people can post on their Twitter account. I’m personally not a fan but apparently, there are others who would find this sort of pat-on-the-back appealing.

There are benefits: digital badges allow the sender to include a picture or even short video sharing with the world the accomplishment of the honoree, and they certainly give new meaning to the idea of “public” recognition when the public includes access to the whole world via the web.

For me, a note of appreciation still is the way to go. I like to give a one-to-one acknowledgment of the person’s contribution as it seems more heartfelt and personal. But leaders need to understand the generational differences and preferences of their staff. As part of learning about those your supervise, seek to gain understanding about the type of recognition that is most meaningful to them: public vs. private, time off vs. monetary compensation, and small Purple Clovers that show you know them.

No matter how you do it, recognizing the good work of others is one of the most important things you do as a supervisor. Don’t let uncertainty about the method prevent you from sharing your message.

 

leadership dot #2735: stop talking

We’ve all been there: at a meeting where one person speaks a disproportionate amount compared to the other members of the group. They ask for clarifications, add commentary on almost every item, pose questions and restate what others have said. It’s well-intentioned, but it effectively nullifies their voice.

Groups would be well served if regular meetings had participation-trackers like at the debates, providing real-time summaries of who has spoken the most minutes. Maybe this visual would help people moderate their comments so they only contribute when they have new and relevant insights to add or to ask questions that could not have been clarified in advance. If nothing else, it could prompt a discussion on norms and ground rules for the meeting.

When you speak too much, you are heard too little. Save your words for what really matters.

 

leadership dot #2734: disappoint

A senior leader was giving advice to a new supervisor who was struggling with prioritization. The manager wondered how he could get everything accomplished in a reasonable timeframe – responding to emails, returning phone calls, and attending to all the demands on his time.

“You can’t,” was the advice that was given. “I walk into the office every day and wonder ‘Who will I disappoint today?’” The voice of experience knew that her priorities would not allow her to respond to everyone in as timely of a manner as they hoped. By delaying some replies or by saying no to some requests, it allowed her to remain strategically focused on what was important. She set the priorities, not the urgent pings of email, the ringing of the phone or even people in her doorway.

Author Seth Godin asks the same question in a broader context: “Whom shall we disappoint?” as people work to create something new. That which does not disappoint someone is probably too watered down and compromised to be truly bold or creative. It’s a great question to ask when you are making decisions on new initiatives.

Those who are most successful are the ones who realize that saying no is a powerful tool. You can’t thrive by being everything for everyone. If you’re not disappointing someone else, you’re thwarting your own priorities.

Who will you disappoint today?

leadership dot #2733: generic

Field researchers from the human-centered design firm IDEO are encouraged to wear “generic clothing” to conduct focus groups and interviews. “It’s better to make yourself as neutral as possible so that you can fit in with people of all backgrounds,” Maggie Zhang writes. “Oftentimes, clothing can communicate social status, or reflect personal taste that others may disagree with. Try to avoid wearing logos or looking too fancy.”

Apparently, the Democratic candidates got the IDEO memo. After seeing 12 presidential hopefuls on the circuit, I am struck by the nondescript nature of their clothes. Most of the men are in jeans with rolled-up shirt sleeves while most of the women are in all-black with a solid color sweater or jacket. There has been a sport coat or blazer thrown in here or there, but they are choosing comfort over business attire and keeping their look as plain and neutral as possible.

For most candidates, their attire is the result of deliberate strategy: what colors show up best in the media, what becomes your “signature look” (as with Hillary’s pantsuits), and what is practical to wear for long hours without wrinkles.

But even for those of us that are without an image consultant, what we wear still communicates a message about us. Put a moment of intentionality into your wardrobe choice this week. Are you going for professional, creative, bold, or traditional? Do you aim to stand out or blend in? Is your message better received if you appear formal or more casual?

Don’t let your attire be your message.

Source: 6 Tips from IDEO Designers on How to Unlock Insightful Conversation by Maggie Zhang

 

 

leadership dot #2732: deflated

There is a proliferation of inflatable Christmas decorations this year – the ones that run on motors and blow up to be greater-than-life-size by night to fill yards with colorful characters. The problem is that by day, these same decorations are lifeless parachutes that are just blobs of nylon laying on the lawn. Not only don’t they add to the ambiance, they actually detract from it.

Too often organizations parallel these decorations – focusing only on the moments of a program without consideration to the before or after. Organizations make decisions to add a service that sounds good in the present but don’t pay heed to what needs to happen in the intervening moments to allow the offering to remain viable. People expend their energy on the few moments of inflation when in reality there is set-up, storage and the detraction of deflation to contend with.

Before you invest your resources in the equivalent of a giant inflatable – something that is showy, but really just air – reconsider whether something smaller and more consistent would be better for your organization. If you can only sustain momentum for a few hours, another option is probably the better choice.

 

leadership dot #2731: sleepout

While you crawl into your cozy bed tonight, over 50,000 people around the world are voluntarily foregoing that option and instead sleeping outside. The Big Sleepout is an effort to raise awareness of homelessness and global displacement by hosting events in 60 cities throughout the world. In the United States, people will be sleeping in Times Square and the Rose Bowl. The aim is to raise $50 million as well as to increase awareness of homelessness and advocate for compassionate policies and solutions.

Kudos to the organizers for choosing a night in December for this event. The forecast calls for 27 degrees in NYC – a far cry from a pleasant night of “camping”. I am sure the event will make a lasting impression on those who participate, and hopefully make them passionate advocates for the issue after they return to their own warm covers.

It’s one thing to talk about your cause and seek support but another to help people personally experience the discomfort even for a brief while. Think about how you can make your cause tangible and real to those whose favor you curry – even if it means making people suffer to get the point.