OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.
My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book. Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.
Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.
What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.
Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.
In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:
Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.
1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways 2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train 3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path 4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews 5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief 6. Recognize and Reward Initiative 7. Ask Employees What They Want 8. By All Means, Have Fun 9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place
To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:
• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements • Practice effective story-telling • Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust • Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip. • Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value • Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein
Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.
Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.
[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of Warby Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]
The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare
We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.
Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:
1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn
A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.
2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn
Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.
3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn
Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.
4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn
At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).
The Energizer Bunny is an iconic symbol of its own message: “It just keeps going and going…” Such is our belief in high capacity employees and volunteers. In fact, the default is never imagine these tireless folks could run out of steam.Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr
They don’t usually. However, there are situations when their “keep going and going” is out the door.
[High capacity: Nieuwhof describes these folks as those who “can attract other capable leaders; don’t drop balls; love a challenge; constantly overperform”.]
This content is easily generalized to the workplace.
Before we launch into Nieuwhof’s observations, let’s celebrate high capacity folks for a moment. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a colleague or fellow volunteer who immediately came to mind. That person who stays long at-task after others have lost interest, determined to figure out the solution or finish the project. That person we count on to be “a rising tide that lifts all boats”. That person who carries the ball or puts all she has in the game as if the outcome depends on her. Dependable, tireless, and visionary. Like in the classroom, we in leadership roles too often focus on others more than these because 1) others are either more needy or more demanding, and 2) we figure these “energized” ones don’t need our oversight.Photo Credit: Pixabay
We communicate core values in this, whether we’re aware or not. Nieuwhof’s insight and counsel are much-needed in a high-pressure workplace or organization. For leaders who themselves are already stretched, we count on our high capacity folks to stay at the work they love and we focus our energy elsewhere. Actually, the return on such our investment here, as prescribed by Nieuwhof, would work to our advantage.
The challenge isn’t big enough. – When the role is too well-defined and task-oriented with little scope for a broader impact, high capacity individuals may lose interest. It’s less that they have to matter (to the larger organization) but that their work matters…and they can see that by the trust given to them in the challenge.
Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy. – Nieuwhof defines these as:“Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how.” If high capacity individuals are clear on the why, they can engage with the mission and go all crazy with the generation and execution of strategy. Leaders are wise to set vision and then let loose these folks to get after it.
You’re disorganized. – Plenty of us struggle with being organized. It can come with the chaotic schedule of leaders and managers. As we work with our high capacity employees and volunteers, we are wise to focus on providing them with what they need to be successful (direction, resources, right people at the table – including those in charge, on occasion). As time-consuming as this may seem, the outcomes will always be worth it.
You let people off the hook too easily. – Nieuwhof doesn’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. Without intention, we can find ourselves modeling a low-accountability, slacker-friendly work ethic. Not because it is what we value but because our own heavy work-load keeps us from moving our personnel (or volunteers) to the next level of performance. We talk about it (in meetings galore) but we struggle to truly expect it in a real (work)life situation. We keep depending on our high performers to carry the bulk of the workload. High capacity individuals don’t necessarily mind the work but they crave high standards. They see the value and want it for themselves and for those they work alongside. Again, not in a mean way but in a genuinely caring way.
You’re not giving them enough personal time. – Ouch! Where on our full to busting schedules are we going to insert time to touch base with our high capacity folks? We’re talking minutes here – fractions of time in a workweek – that will yield way more than we think. Dropping a meeting or two off our schedule to add face-time with these individuals will speak volumes to how you value them and what they bring. “Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people. Flip that.” – Carey Nieuwhof
You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers (or employees) around them. – We make a grave error in judgment when we think our high performers just want to be left alone to do their work. These individuals are often energized by others like them. They welcome opportunities to learn from and encourage each other. Turn over large projects to these folks and give them the authority and resources to run them together. Then give them the perks of such responsibility – they present on the project; their names are linked to the project; they travel to represent the project. Is it because high capacity individuals need the recognition or significance such a collaboration gives them? No. They have already had the satisfaction of doing a good work with valued coworkers. What this does is to say to the company, organization or world that their bosses truly know and publicly value their contribution. That matters.
A lot to chew on on a Monday morning. Thanks, Carey Nieuwhof. Please write another piece on how you apply this wisdom in your own workplace.
[By the way, y’all, don’t miss the Carey’s commentary on his 6 reasons AND the comments at the end of his blog – so good!]
When we see individuals in the military with some form of Special Forces training and experience, we are captivated and sorely aware of how different they are from most of us. That level of discipline, courage, expertise and physicality is uncommon. Nothing I ever imagined for myself. Still what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply to life and work?
Although the book Extreme Ownership was published in 2015, it was unknown to me until this weekend. Thanks to my Twitter feed and then reading some reviews, I ordered my own personal copy. The authors, and former Navy SEAL team commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are heroes and the stuff of legend.
[OK…I haven’t read the book yet…pre-ordered the latest edition coming out November 21, 2017. however, the reviews and summaries (listed in the links below) have already been so informative, I will gush away even before reading the book. So sink your teeth into these bits below until we have both read the book…or have you already read it?]
The phrase extreme ownership really tantalized because it spoke to my own leader heart. It resonates with servant leadership which is hard to fathom as a norm in military structure and authority. The idea of everyone on a team, in an organization, owning their part of a vision or operation is thrilling to me. It makes sense that this would, of course, lead to highest performance…provided…and this is imperative: the leadership, up and down the organization, is equipping each team member, communicating thoroughly, and sharing decision-making as appropriate.
“Without a team – a group of individuals working to accomplish a mission – there can be no leadership. The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”
“For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”
“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
“There are only two types of leaders: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders that lead successful, high-performance teams exhibit Extreme Ownership. Anything else is simply ineffective. Anything else is bad leadership.”
“Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”
“Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.”
“As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy. If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed. You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”
“Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.”
“Trust is not blindly given. It must be built over time. Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently.”
Business leader Tom Niesen also lists his takeaways from the book, and they align nicely with the other summaries I read:
Mission (Commander’s Intent and Effectiveness)
It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why”, and then pursues the “what”. Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all”.
Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, under-performer [this should be a rare necessity in extreme ownership but it can happen].
Get very good at information sharing.
Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
I hope these two summaries (and others in the links below) will whet your appetite to consider reading Willink’s and Babin’s book. Especially consider taking steps toward extreme ownership in your business or organization.
Sometimes, we struggle in leadership to trust those around us to speak into decisions or even to carry out their assignments without us hovering. Worse is when we just don’t trust others and, as a result, take too much responsibility on ourselves or just a few trusted members of the team. I’ve learned through my life to take joy in the many…even with all its messiness.
If we want processes neat and tidy, we must hold tight to control and keep our trust to a very few colleagues.
Extreme ownership requires a great deal from leaders. We must operate with wisdom and excellence to fully equip our teams and then to give them the freedom to execute. Clear and full communication, up and down the command chain, greases the tracks for this kind of operation. Shouldering personal responsibility at all levels is also crucial, but the key is ultimately the executive leader takes full responsibility in the end…especially if something goes wrong.
I love this concept of extreme ownership. Who’s with me? Fortunately we can apply these principles without having to go through the grueling process of being a Navy SEAL. Thanks, Gentlemen, for your incredible service.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Just saying the word bullying prompts a memory and even a victim mentality. No one is immune from this experience, either being the target or the one targeting another. Bullying can sometimes beget bullying, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Understanding and intervening in damaging situations can turn the course of the experience for all involved.
Childhood bullying has been subject to much research and policy-setting in schools. What about when bullying happens between adults and in the workplace? What can be done there?
When bullying happens in the workplace, we want to call it something else…controlling, rudeness, or maybe incivility. If we call it bullying, we must acknowledge that we could be a victim, or worse, we stood by and watched it happen without intervening. Or even worse, we could be confronted with the possibility that we, because of our commanding personality or position, have become a bullying adult.
I don’t think I’ve ever bullied someone else…but it is possible. When we find ourselves in a changing culture, we can change as well. A wise friend once told me, “A toxic workplace can corrode everyone.” I have, for sure, experienced workplace bullying. Especially early in my career. It’s never pretty, and even thinking about it today causes me to cringe. One situation was very private; no one knew but the two of us. A nurse manager was threatened by my role as clinical specialist and nurse educator on her unit. I had to learn to deflect and avoid confrontations with her (not in a frightened cowardly way but in a “wise as serpents, gentle as doves” way).
Another situation was when a physician wrongly accused me of misjudgment in patient care. This time was very public and he was determined to have me fired. I was not at fault (in fact, one of his interns elected not to act on my assessment of the patient which caused harm to her). Fortunately for me, the nursing chain of command was in complete support of my actions, and his rampage against me was neutralized. Whew! Bullying is costly.
[Sidebar: I don’t mean to disparage either person. Neither was a villain. They just saw things differently and chose to deal with it by coming down on me. I wasn’t a victim after all…especially in the second situation, the patient was the one who suffered during that blame-shifting. Bullying cuts a much wider wake than we think.]
Let’s think about our workplaces. Have we given into a workplace that mimics today’s “modern” culture – technology over humanity, coolness over experience, short-term gains over long-term legacy. Bullying doesn’t necessarily come out of any of this, except that our rules of engagement can change. Within that can evolve a level of incivility that gives birth to bullying, if we are not vigilant in preventing it.
Refusing to ignore bullying and calling it out when it happens are crucial. This can be risky. We have to decide if we can handle the potential negative outcomes. If we don’t wrestle with the problem, it can become commonplace and the silence is deafening.
“Words denied mean analyses not offered, things not grasped, surprise not registered, strangeness not taken in, all of which means that terrible mistakes are repeated, wounding ways of acting in the world never seriously reconsidered. The words’ absence chains you to the present, to what’s accepted and acceptable.” – Tom Engelhardt
Am I wrong here? Is our workplace immune to what our culture is going through? The US is divided right now over how we are handling some huge social issues- racism, poverty, immigration, and potential national threats from outside the US. The media is peppered with Americans calling foul on what is perceived as bullying – from our leaders as well as special interest groups.
What is our recourse? One popular action seems to be to bully back…to villainize…to essentially return blow for blow. Social media is slammed with “he said, she said” hateful rhetoric. I’m so thankful for those who take a path of peace and wisdom (like the news story recently of 5 young people in our city who struck a blow for genuine rather than symbolic change. Transformative change).
Maybe, bullying in the workplace is hard to change because we as adults should be able to fight our own battles, unlike children who need help when caught up in this destructive cycle. We want our children to feel safe and to learn effective ways to deal with confrontation and conflict. In the workplace, we also want to have an atmosphere of mutual respect, purposefulness, and trust.
While insulating ourselves from bullying is one approach to deal with it, hopefully we can consider a more proactive stance. Many schools these days have a “No Tolerance” bullying policy. The students didn’t come up with that. It was people in authority advocating for them – parents, teachers, the school board. What would a “No Tolerance” model look like where we work? Who would set that in place? How would it work?
As peers, we can confront bullying and intervene with each other. However, to change a whole culture, we need those with greater authority to advocate for such a work environment.
Something to think about…and consider.
Please check out the links below – excellent reading on this weighty topic. Also if you have experienced workplace bullying or if you’ve known success in curtailing bullying in your workplace, please share in Comments below.
Two workplace scenarios. The first is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, and action items are determined and given to just the right team member and calendared for quick turnaround. Photo Credit: JSC
The second scenario is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, then one or the other digs in their heels. The meeting ends with no clear shared responsibilities, no movement forward, no hope of change.Photo Credit: GangplankHQ, Flickr
Sigh…all the most excellent strategic planning can take place inside a conference room…and without execution. Essentially, nothing happened there.
I’ve had both kinds of team experiences and want to focus on the former one above. Talk about high employee morale when a group of colleagues operate as a finely tuned machine and the yield is high-quality productivity.
When you go to the website, you actually are able to immediately grow in your understanding of how to influence execution in your company. The video below is an incredible teaching tool – 17 minutes of powerful content on execution:
In brief, their 4 disciplines of execution are:
Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs). The day-to-day operations always stand against those game-changer goals. Determine to be unyielding on the highest-priority goals (1-3 maximum).
Act on the Lead Measure. [New terminology for me.] The lag measure is the goal itself. The lead measure is what you can influence to accomplish the lag measure. Lead measures are the leverage used to get to the lag measure (goal). Lead measures are “predictive and influenceable“.
Create a compelling scoreboard. I appreciate the wisdom of this (Chris McChesney describes it so well in video above). The scoreboard is not for the manager. It’s all about the players at this juncture, and it should feel like a game. [Actually an element of fun and energy incorporated. What a concept!] The scoreboard would be simple, highly visible and the players (employees) should be able to tell right away from the scoreboard whether they are winning or losing toward meeting the goal.
Create a cadence of accountability. Everybody is going to love this! 20-minute meetings are calendared every week, at the same time. All the people in the room have “skin in the game”. This meeting is sharply focused on 3 things (related to the lead measures only): each person reports on the week before; reviews/updates the scoreboard; makes commitments for coming week. That’s it! How streamlined and forward-moving, is that?!
Many years ago, I was on a work team that was given the responsibility and liberty to determine what else was needed in the formation of a comprehensive cancer center. We had many places already in place – excellent medical and nursing care, an engaged community, and a charitable foundation to provide extra resources for taking us to a state-of-the-art cancer center.
3 nurses – Kay, Kathy, and I – had the question to answer of “Why Else?” What else did we need? We worked together on the planning and execution of comprehensive support services and education. Each of us brought our own giftings – I had vision and ideas, Kay was an influential nurse manager, and Kathy was detail-oriented and had a gift for taking a project to completion. Some of the services that came out of those problem-solving sessions are still embedded deeply into the DNA of that cancer center today.
Start at 6:17 minutes in (if you don’t want story and context), and you will hear his wisdom about the importance of radical truthfulness and radical transparency.
“One of the greatest tragedies of mankind: People arrogantly, naively holding opinions in their minds that are wrong…and acting on them, and not putting them out there to stress-test them, and that’s a tragedy.” – Ray Dalio
“Collective decision-making is so much better than individual decision-making if it’s done well.” – Ray Dalio
Kathy, Kay, and I had that sort of team relationship – radical truthfulness and radical transparency.
Whether you are part of a team, or an independent entrepreneur, there are excellent principles here.
If you want to take an honest and critical look at your team or company’s success in operation, you have great helps here – in the FranklinCovey’s counsel, in Ray Dalio’s discoveries and in the philosophies of business leaders like Steve Jobs. I’d also like to add anything on teaming by Patrick Lencioni.
I would love to hear how you get to execution…because until you do, it’s just meetings upon meetings.
Please add in Comments below any other resources that have proved helpful to you in getting to effective execution with the added impact of high morale in getting to goal.
YouTube Video – 4 Disciplines of Execution – Gwinnett Medical Center – This was personally very satisfying and encouraging for me. My dad was a patient at this medical center during the time when there were banners flying everywhere about it being one of the top medical centers in the country. At the same time, we family members stayed with him around the clock, because nurses did not come when we called, nor were other services offered with any communication that my dad or we mattered to staff. To see that they also came to recognize this was a problem and took effective steps to correct it was exciting.
What a wonder to see neighbors helping neighbors…even among the poorest of the poor. Rachel Stern describes the impact of this beautiful phenomenon below:
Natalie Simpson, chair of the Department of Operations Management and Strategy in the School of Management, says there really is no good evacuation plan when it comes to major disasters in densely populated areas. Simpson, who studies on-the-ground first-response and disaster preparedness, says the reality is that when a disaster gets beyond a certain size, there will never be enough professional help. It will take everybody…
“We’ve already gotten remarkably stronger at channeling people’s individual efforts to support the larger response,” Simpson says. “This is very evident right now as we watch fleets of boats continue to save people in Houston.
“When it comes to disaster preparedness, we are experiencing a dawning of awareness. Everyone must solve large problems together. The key is motivating and empowering everybody to feel confident enough to start solving what little part of this big, messy thing they can on their own.”
2) Leadership Scorecard – If we’re honest, we can be pretty analytical and judgmental when it comes to our leaders’ character and performance. I’m no fan of scorecards, but Frank Sonnenberg has developed one that we would be wise to use. Not just on our leaders – absolutely not – but on ourselves as well.Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg
The only leader I know who could ace this scorecard would be Jesus. However, it shows areas we might have blind spots in and in Sonnenberg’s article he goes into detail about the various components of being an effective emotionally intelligent leader. Worth a look, for sure. Any of these areas you struggle in? Please also share (in the Comments below) any examples of leaders you have experienced who demonstrate this sort of excellence.
3) Better Together Cultures – When we lived in North Africa, I had the privilege of working with a great group of parents who founded a parent-teacher organization for our children’s school. It was a relatively new concept there. Well, in a positive sense. We determined to keep it from being an arena for airing complaints but rather a movement for good in our school. For families, staff, and the community around us. We named our organization Better Together.I think I learned at an early age, and beginning with my mom, that so much more can be accomplished in an environment of inclusion where people genuinely care for and trust each other. Serving goes deeper and celebrating comes naturally. Nurturing a culture of better together at work or in any organization is worth the effort and the risk.
[Search inside DebMillswriter for “Better Together” and you’ll see my fascination and concern/hopefulness in the topic.]
“…many people view networking as the path to accomplishment, forgetting that accomplishments make it easier to network.
When you create something exciting, you don’t have to rely on charisma or name-drop mutual acquaintances to get your foot in the door. The door opens to you. Sponsors, mentors, investors, and collaborators gravitate toward people who demonstrate potential, and a portfolio is a stronger signal than a promise.
It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.“ – Adam Grant
He has much more to say on networks along with fascinating stories. Read more here.
5) Bread – Can we just take a minute to sing the praises of bread? There may be some countries in the world where bread isn’t a staple, but I’m glad to have lived places where it is. In fact, everywhere I have ever been, it is a staple. From Southern biscuits (best eaten with gravy) and cornbread, Mexican corn tortillas, Egyptian baladipocket bread, Ethiopian sour-dough injera, British seeded breads, French croissants and baguettes, Tunisian flatbread, and Moroccan khboz and msemen…and I could go on. Don’t you just love the pull and chew in bread.
Ironically, bread isn’t a part of my diet currently…BUT it’s a part of every food memory I have associated with happy times with family and friends, here and overseas. So…a new grocery store with a European bakery opened here recently. Lidl‘s bread loveliness is with us. When bread comes back into my diet, it will come from there…or my daughter’s bread machine.
Those are my Friday Faves. How about yours? It’s raining out there in our “neck of the woods”. Be safe and be kind to each other…we never know what is really going on in each other’s lives.
Eating dinner together was just normal when I grew up. Maybe we all couldn’t be there, with differing work schedules, school sports, and the like. Whoever was home, though, got a call to the dinner table. Our family was a rowdy bunch and our conversation could erupt into loud disagreements on any number of things. Still, we were together. We were family. It kept us bonded in many ways.
Eating together…crowding adults and their families around a long table…is still a delightful, much-anticipated tradition…at least for this mama. That delight of eating together spreads also to friends and to the workplace.
This weekend, I caught a YouTube video that really touched my heart. Especially given the events of this weekend in our state where a racist political rally turned deadly. Not that this little video produced by a major food company in Canada could help bring meaning to this violent weekend…but there’s a message.
In a time when we have the capability of being more connected with each other than ever, we can remain disconnected. Not seeing, not hearing, unaware of those around us or how we might engage with each other.
Eating Together as Co-Workers
In the busiest of days, there is nothing more delightful than breaking from work to eat with colleagues…says the extroverted, “loves people” person. Early in my career, working in a huge inner city hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, it was an effort to get off the patient floor down to the cafeteria. My co-workers used to tease me that once we got our trays and settled at a table, I would always sigh…like, out loud. It was just a relief to stop working for a few minutes…with good food to eat and surrounded with people I both liked and respected.
Susannah Snider lists three reasons why we should be eating lunch with our co-workers:
This was just one of many articles (both scholarly and popular press) related to the benefit of folks who work together eating together.
Eating Together as Family
People are so very busy these days that eating “on the run” is more the usual than not. Or everyone, exhausted, just eating in their various spaces around the house – in front of the TV or other screen. There is something almost magical in the habit of eating around a table. It is the same reason why couples with children need date nights – just getting across a table from each other does wonders for the conversations neglected in the wear and tear of parenting.
Cody Delistratyposts on the broad positive ramifications of families who eat together and what happens when they don’t. Eating together as a family can actually decrease addictive tendencies, enhance academic performance, and build closeness and community – with the family but also beyond the family.
“Have you ever had a person of another race in your home for dinner?” Two US senators, Tim Scott and James Lankford, have been asking this question to constituents for some time now. They were not surprised at how segregated the American dinner table was.
Out of this, they developed something they call Solution Sundays…where they encourage people to invite persons of another race to their homes to share a meal.Photo Credit: CNN
“For me, it’s hard to hate what you know,” Scott said. “And it’s just so simple. It’s hard to hate what you know.”
I want to be successful at this. Sure, I have friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are of a different race, but somehow I’m intimidated to mess with their Sundays. Why is that?!
Even Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about “11:00 on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours if not the most segregated hour in Christian America”. Maybe we could shake up Sunday dinner.
For some of you, this is “so yesterday”. For co-workers and family, we all are going all kinds of different directions. Slowing it down to have a meal together may take work and habit change…so worth it! As for crossing racial divides – maybe that is no issue for you. For example, we have family of “different races” so it’s part of our DNA. Still when something like this past weekend’s violence happens here, I think of where we can start to mend. Protest…sure. Pray…absolutely…and maybe also just lean in, across the table, over some food we both enjoy…and eat together.
Let’s start on the grandest scale possible. Even the God of the universe invites us to speak to Him…and He listens and actually hears us.
Something to aim for with each other…on the smallest scale of our lives.
We love when little babies recognize our voices as attached to people they have grown to know and love in their short lives. Then they discover their own voices, and we celebrate that milestone. That magical power of making their observations and requests understood must be life-changing for them…and for us.
At some point, years down the road, we begin to tune out a little…and we model it for them, farther down the road.
This “tuning out” is why courses in active listening abound in universities, and not just in the communications department.
In our adult lives, of work and community, we are wise to take a measured look, from time to time, at how we listen and whether we silence the voices around us by our behavior.
She doesn’t hold back on leaders’ responsibility in this, but I view this as applicable to any part of our community, whether it be marriage, family, friendship, or religious/political affiliation. A brief summary of Nasser’s 15-point checklist follows:
Have a thin skin and make it about you.
Do not ask for input.
Bully and berate others or their ideas.
Speak only to those who make you comfortable.
Ignore ones who raise issues.
Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t.
Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase.
Take credit for others’ ideas.
Accuse and blame in public.
Nit-pick on details when ideas are first offered.
Change the subject without acknowledging what was said.
Pit one person against another.
Override every decision others make.
Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths.
Whew! That was rough, huh? None of us are probably characterized by all those points. However, did any of them smart a little? We don’t want to be that kind of person…probably none of us…that kind of person who, by our behavior and attitude, silence another person’s voice. We all lose when that happens.
Dealing with our realities helps us to listen actively. Our realities may include over-work, weighty responsibility, and seemingly inadequate freedom or resources to make change. Don’t we want to be active listeners…to gain from those around us and empower them to be successful? We can become effective listeners again.
We may think we are good listeners. We make eye contact. We “give face” to those around us. However…hear this. Do others’ ideas make us tired? Do we have a strong grip on “the way it is” and have no intention on giving way…no matter how well we think we’re listening. Author and mediator William Ury (see TED Talk above) speaks of true communication through “a listening revolution”. First we listen to ourselves to discover our own desires, dreads, and dreams. Then we learn how to listen with understanding and with the determination of acting on what we hear. Actually, listening, with the goal of understanding, is the first action we take.
“Give them our full attention and listen to the human being behind the words, because one of the biggest gifts we can give anyone is the gift of being heard.” – William Ury
I’ve had more experiences than usual with doctors over this past year. As we all know, they have the reputation for not being “good listeners”, for not “giving voice”. I can tell you the ones I hope not to see again or the ones who are visibly backing out the door before my questions have been answered. There are still others who “give face” – eye contact and a seemingly engaged look (from years of practice maybe) – who have clearly still moved on to the next patient, even while still standing by my bed.
Then…there is the one or two – those beloved physicians – who actually sit by us, in the exam or hospital room. They treat us as if we’re the only patient they have that day. We talk together, and I know that we are partners in keeping me healthy. Right? Partners – not the greater and the lesser actors in a scene, but partners.
Kudos to you out there – physicians, bosses, colleagues, spouses, parents, children – who don’t just have the look of listening or communicate some sort of nuanced “I hear you”. Kudos to you who really listen and engage with the other.
We are not all just a set of ideas or opinions. Real people bring a voice to the table. When we communicate that we are too busy or too important or too settled already on a decision to consider one more voice, we speak volumes about our own character…and eventually the product or service we have to offer.
[I’m preaching to myself here…reminded of the God of the universe who takes the time and action to assure us that we will be heard… when we speak to Him. Sometimes, I cry out to this small world of mine, demanding to be heard…when there is a place, a Person, who always welcomes me. Please forgive my waxing a bit philosophical or theological. For me, it’s a good place to start in 1) sorting out what exactly I want to voice, and 2) practicing listening to another with the same honor/respect I wish for myself.]
We are not just the ones who silence voices or the ones who feel we are not being heard. We can be both, and usually are.
Listening, determined to understand, brings us closer to both leading well and following better. Something to think about on this Monday morning.
Don’t miss the links below. Really excellent reads on how we silence one another’s voices and how to we turn it around.
Another Friday has gloriously arrived. Before we head off our computer and into the weekend’s activities (great idea to do life unplugged for a couple of days if you can…me, not so much), here are my favorite finds for this week.
2) Designed ‘We’ – One of my husband’s core values is “We is better than me.” I had not seen the news report about the Air Canada flight that almost landed on a crowded taxiway this past week. When Dave told me about it, he talked about how in air traffic control, there is actually a “designed ‘We'”.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
With the Air Canada flight, the controller instructed the pilot to land on one runway, but he descended to the taxiway right beside where he was instructed to land. I would have thought the controller would have seen the pilot was coming in wrong, but, before it was too late “an unidentified voice” (on the audio released) interjected. He saw the error and the pilot was able to correct before plowing through four other planes lined up on the taxiway. Whew!
The skill of pilot and copilot and their working in team relieves all of us who travel often by air. Also crucial is the role of the air traffic controller and team is crucial for our safety in the air and on airport take-offs and landings. The film Sully demonstrated this real life situation masterfully…the critical importance of team, or many eyes on a situation, and fast thinking and execution.
Designed redundancy (the American use of that word) is worked into the air control team structure. News reports allude to the possibility the controller was working alone (we will know more after the investigation). Still this sort of team makeup is vital in situations where there can be no tolerance for error. We rarely ever hear of a crash based on air traffic control error because of such a built-in team fail-safe.
Something to think about, not just in safety situations, but in any workplace where the outcomes really matter. To establish a “designed ‘we’ and never just a me”.
3) Tour de France – You are either a fan or not so much. Even with the years of doping scandals, this race remains an annual summer favorite in our home. In fact, the only reason we have cable TV is the easy access to NFL Football and this bike race. The Tour de France is an amazing spectacle of beauty, skill, endurance, and fan support.Photo Credit: NBCSN, Screen Shot
This year’s race, a week in and a week to go, has been full of drama and incredible finishes. Amazing bikers abound every year While the current favorite is Christopher Froome, several this year have a chance to wear the Yellow Jersey and win it all. Yesterday’s Stage 12 is an example of how this year’s Tour is going. Here are highlights:
4) Franklin Engraving – Just a shout-out to a artist in Virginia. Katie Franklin is an engraver and has now incorporated as a small business. Franklin Engraving. She pours her energy, intelligence, and creativity into beautiful and personal works of art made to order. Check out her Facebook page to order. Her webpage will be up shortly.
5) Mission BBQ – Rewarding customers with great products, ambiance, and service can turn all of us from occasional consumers to regulars. A further step is to get us back is to extend hospitality through special offers like Birthday Clubs. I love Mission BBQ‘s strategy on this. Sign up online for a birthday club and get a free sandwich on your birthday. Not bombarding my inbox with emails…just an occasional invitation to remind us of special days (veterans and first responders are also fed free on holidays). This restaurant is all about America in honoring ways. Do you have one in your city? Or a restaurant like Mission BBQ?
That’s my Five. How about you? Any favorites from your week you would share in Comments below. I had so many great finds, the bonuses follow. You might find some useful or inspiring. Have a great and safe weekend.