Cooking Up Excellence in Three Parts …

Fresh Food

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Julia Child

I’m not much of a cook, but I can follow a recipe …

Ms. Child has given us a very clear and useful recipe, and it probably makes sense when you are preparing food as well.

Not Fancy or Complicated

Some folks feel that a complex or intricate business solution is worth more.   

The more formal education the person has, the more likely they are to want to bring all that knowledge to bear on what might be a quite simple little issue.

Complex presentations impress many people.  Sometimes we appear impressed when we are just reluctant to say “I don’t understand this.”

Notice that Ms. Child did NOT say “plain” or “tasteless“. Continue reading

Smiling Through … Always Good Customer Service?

CHinese smiling

“Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.”

Chinese Proverb

Well, what do you think?

I know that smiling is always part of good customer service training, even when you are delivering that service on the telephone.   Apparently, we can hear each other smile:)

Smiling conveys warmth, connection, and pleasantness.  All are usually positive things to include in building connections with another human being, especially in high-stress situations.

Can you think of any situations when smiling is not so appropriate?

I thought of these:

1) MESSAGE:   When delivering bad news to someone.

2) EMOTION:  When trying to convey that you understand and empathize with the customer’s issue or complaint.

3) CONTEXT:  When you work at a funeral parlor.

When would you NOT smile?

Grinning like an idiot in the Heartland ….


“We Are What We Allow …”

Sleeping Beauty

A well-written employee handbook does not matter …

A well-intentioned front line leader cannot make all the difference …

Inspiring speeches by senior management are not critical …

The company logo, letterhead, advertising, and t-shirts are not your message …

All the signatures on all the compliance forms in the world are immaterial …

What makes the difference is what you support and what you do not support.

When you allow employees to consistently and continually come in late, you approve of tardiness.

When you do not confront inappropriate behavior between employees, between subordinates and superiors, between employees and customers, then you approve inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

When you do not consistently and continually engage in active support of organizational policies and goals, you are undermining them.

When you do not lead others according to the words and phrases you utter, you are wasting your breath.

Aggravated as snot that I have to still be posting about this one in the Heartland ….


“Can, Should, Will” ~ 3 Step Change Decision Model

FutureAs 2012 ends and 2013 begins, we merrily careen toward the great resolution and planning period.

So here are a few simple questions about those grand plans we are all busy making …

Can We Do It?

Do we have enough funds to support attempting to do this?

Does our current structure and tangible resources support our attempt to do this?

Are our people, including me, prepared or able to be prepared to attempt this?  

The realities of life dictate that we first look at what we are currently capable of doing and use that as a measure for attempting a change.  If nothing else, you’ll at least discover what you need to fix or build up.

Should We Do It?

Will our organization benefit from attempting to do this?

Is this an ethical and logical choice of direction to go?

Will we be proud that we attempted to do this?  

Consider the potential benefits of doing something and project the gain, which might be monetary, market share, image, or something else.  

Then consider whether what you are contemplating is the right thing to do.  In my world, this is one of the deal-breaker questions.  Regardless of gain, the goal has to be the right one, in the fullest sense of that term.

Will We Do It?

Are we motivated to attempt to do this?

Do we have the emotional and psychological strength to attempt it?

Do we really want to do it? 

Wanting is different from being motivated.  I can be very motivated by the threat of a loss or some other negative outcome, but when I want to do something, other issues tend to fall into place.  

As someone has undoubtably said … “Ya gotta Wanna!”  

Carefully considering my abilities, my options, and my interest in the Heartland ….


Strength-Based Poetry …

Do not think of your faults, still less of others’ faults; look for what is good and strong, and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.

John Ruskin

The strength-based approach and its cousin, Appreciative Inquiry, both come from the same perspective:  

We become more effective more easily and quickly by focusing on our strengths, and not on our weaknesses.

I am particularly fond of the application to leadership development, as outlined by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie in Strength Based Leadership.       

In general, I agree …

However, I have several questions for us to ponder this bright and crisp fall morning:

1)  Is focusing on strengths always the best approach?

Situations may exist when you have to focus on the weaknesses,  perhaps during an organizational crisis or when the bleeding simply has to be stopped first.  How do you know when this is necessary?

2)  How does a strength-based approach fit with your corporate culture?

Some cultures welcome an approach which focuses on things which are going well, while other cultures would resist this.  How does your culture treat this?

3)  When you focus on strengths, what do you do about weaknesses or failures?

You can ignore your weaknesses, downplay them, or rationalize them away.  What options have I missed?

DISCLAIMER:  Before someone has a fainting spell, let me reaffirm that I believe strength-based approaches ARE the most effective approach for either personal or professional growth and development.  

I just want us to think it through, and not simply climb on the bandwagon and start singing the praises.

In case anyone is interested:

My StrengthsFinder 2.0 Top Five are:  Learner, Intellection, EmpathyIndividualization  and Input.

My Strength Based Leadership Report profile includes the strength of Connectedness  in the Relationship Building theme and the strengths of  InputIntellection, Strategic, and Learner  in the Strategic Thinking theme.

No surprises, but much to consider.  I’ll write more about this another time.

Thinking in terms of what I do well and letting go of what I do not in the Heartland ….