Is your business motto "close enough"? Here's the one way to tell

Today I was treated to lunch at a mid-priced restaurant on Kansas City's Plaza. The restaurant has been known for outstanding service for at least 25 years, and today was no exception. Don't you love when the server is friendly and professional, the server knows precisely when to interrupt and when to back off, the food is delivered as order to the right person, and the bill is accurate and easy to process? The restaurant enhanced the experience with a colleague.

It was almost perfect.

The only mistake was one of miscommunication. (Aren't they all?)

This one was about Diet Coke. When the server took beverage orders, the requests were for water and Diet Coke. She returned with water and Coke Light. Coke Light is not Diet Coke. For the uninitiated, they might seem like the same thing. For Diet Coke aficionados, the difference would have been like serving lite beer to someone who ordered Guinness or Guinness to someone who ordered Diet Coke.

The restaurant is ultra service oriented. They care about the dining experience. People often chalk miscues like this up to disinterest, lack of caring, or laziness. None of those apply here. I also would not presume they get Coke Light for less than they could get Diet Coke, so I doubt it is financially based either.

This misunderstanding of their customer is based on good intentions, and fixing this could improve the dining experience of their customers who order Diet Coke. As a Diet Coke fan, I was surprised a different beverage was delivered then was disappointed when it was not tasteful to me.

When customers tell you what they expect (e.g. Diet Coke) and you deliver something close enough (e.g. Coke Light), what message are you sending them? 

The restaurant on the Plaza does many other things right, so the beverage did not ruin my experience today. It will not prevent me from going there in the future. But, I would not bet the same in all circumstances.

I would bet the message to customers at most organizations is, "We deliver close enough."

If your motto is not "close enough", listen to your customers. Talk, ask, listen, hear. Pay attention and listen some more. If you have not asked your customers about their experiences in a real way to enable them to share honestly and to enable you to hear them, your motto might be "close enough" whether you like it or not.

How you can ace Georgetown University’s challenge

Okay, so most of our SAT scores might not prompt Georgetown to offer us scholarships. Maybe we wouldn’t coast through with straight A’s. But, there is one challenge Georgetown just issued that everyone could ace. I think we all can do it.

In the usual rush through our day, we walk by people without noticing them. In fact, we might even have conversations without really noticing people. Think about the store clerk, coffee shop barista, or copy center employee. How often do you have time to truly pay attention to those folks? If your mind is focused on your day, it might naturally cause you to overlook people, assuming their minds are just as preoccupied. There is no negative intention, and probably no rudeness either.

All In strategy #3 is Notice Others. Stop letting what’s on your mind cause you to overlook others. One business student at Georgetown did just that. Mr. Bellamy and Mr. Batchelor both have nightly routines at Georgetown’s library. Mr. Bellamy studies at the library, and Mr. Batchelor cleans it. One recent evening, Mr. Bellamy stuck up a conversation and what an All In experience happened after that.

It turned out, the janitor had similar ambitions as the business student. The janitor makes great curry chicken and wanted to open a business. The business student used his skills to help his new friend get started. Now, Mr. Batchelor’s chicken is famous on campus and he is on his way to operating a successful business.

The story doesn’t stop there, however. Here's what happened at Georgetown:

Mr. Bellamy noticed even more people on campus—cashiers, cooks, cleaning staff, and more. He and his friends started listening to the stories of the people working on their campus, and they began to help some of them. One man is going to visit his family in South Sudan for the first time in 45 years, thanks to help from the Georgetown community.

Georgetown formalized the effort to create more opportunities for connections between staff and students, and they call it Unsung Heroes.

Georgetown is All In! They have habit #3 down! Their students issued a challenge for the rest of us. They challenge us to notice unsung heroes in our own lives. Are you in?

Can you slow down enough to pay attention to the people you come in contact with each day? Notice them, talk to them, listen and learn from them. Can you establish an Unsung Heroes connection program at your school or workplace?

Maybe we all cannot beat Georgetown student’s SAT scores, but we can join them in living All In by noticing others.

(Source: Washington Post 10/13/2016) 

Happiness is over-rated

“Cut the happiness crap, Tyler!”

That’s what a coworker used to holler at me when I was cheerful at the water cooler at 7:00am each work day. He said it with a smile and proclaimed he was teasing, but it stuck with me. Twenty-five years later, I think that guy was on to something.

There is a lot written about happiness these days. Amazon has 22,329 books on the subject right now. A Google search found 46 million articles, with most promising to tell us how to be happier and why we should seek happiness. I have read a few articles about happiness, and I agree with much of what is researched and written about it. However, there is something missing.

There are three perspectives overlooked in the highly publicized search for happiness millions seem to be conducting, and they are worth pondering.

  1. The expectation to be happy. If we expect to be happy all the time, we will be thrown off when life takes an unavoidable turn. The fact is, life’s journey includes some detours once in a while. People get sick, companies close down, children become teenagers. Life happens, and it’s not always full of skipping through sunflowers whistling Zippity Doo Dah. When we expect to be happy every day, we either shove the sadness deep inside to hide it or we are overwhelmed by the bad stuff and get stuck in misery.
  2. The pressure to be happy. The peer pressure to be happy causes stress and can damage relationships. When you’re struggling with one of life’s obstacles, and you turn to a friend for support, do you love it when the friend says, “You shouldn’t be disappointed by your manager leaving the company. The new one will be even better.” We don’t really enjoy someone else pressuring us to “get over it.” We all have feelings we need to grapple with, and we will do so in good time. Pressure not to feel the sadness is not helpful.
  3. The lost opportunities caused by happiness. The expectation and pressure to be happy cause us to miss out on the benefits of adversity. In our effort to be happy every minute, we are likely to take fewer risks or deny a challenge facing us. Happiness can blind us of reality and prevent us from rising above obstacles, which is unfortunate because there are few feelings better than those experienced after surmounting an obstacle or staring down a challenge. We rob ourselves of those feelings by trying to stay happy all the time.

When we deny life’s detours or go out of our way to avoid them entirely, we are telling ourselves a few things. We’re saying, “You’re not capable of overcoming that obstacle.” Or, “You’re not good enough to figure out a new way.” Or, “No one cares if you reach the destination.”

Let’s not sabotage ourselves with such negativity. Instead, let’s face the reality of all situations and let’s face challenges head-on. Look forward to the sense of accomplishment, don’t avoid it. We don’t have to “cut the happiness crap” completely. Let’s just keep it in perspective.

The big favor FOMO can do for you

The annual transition between Summer and Fall offers an opportunity for two actions: to reflect on the year and to identify how to spend the last three months of it. Are you pleased with your year so far? Are you well on the way toward accomplishing the goals you had in mind? Or, did you miss out on something you would have liked to do?

If the reflection brings to mind what you missed out on, you might suffer from FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

In the five-minute video, Dan Ariely, Duke University Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, shares what FOMO is and how is causes regret.

He explains so clearly how we are affected when we barely miss our goals versus when we are off by a long shot. You might be surprised which one we prefer, according to the research.

Usually FOMO is discussed in very negative terms. It does spark regret afterall. But, it can do do something great for us too. The big favor FOMO delivers is the opportunity to change. If the only time you ponder what you're missing is when it's too late, you'll miss opportunities to change.

If your Facebook feed is full of friends' posts about their summer vacations to Europe, and you wish you had made time for one, make time now. Can you still take a trip this year? Or, plan one into 2017 before it fills up too. If you can't fit one in this year and you don't want to plan around one next year, then ask yourself if you really want a European trip.

It might turn out that you don't have FOMO. You have NFM instead: Not For Me. I just made that up, and it means you can be glad your friends had those trips but you don't want one. Obviously, there would be no need to tell them that. It's just for you to use to re-frame how you viewed your Facebook feed.

From now on, when you feel FOMO, pay attention to it. You might decide you really do what to do whatever is causing the feeling, so you make it happen. Or, it might turn out that you are content to skip it. Either way, you will decide. And, that is the favor of FOMO.

3 ways leaders are like pizza

In a meeting this morning, a colleague spoke about the importance of rest. Mimi Gatschet (Founder of Art in Connection) talked about the importance of taking a break, and she equated it with pizza dough.

My dear Italian friend spoke about making homemade pizza dough and the way the ingredients work. Mimi described the way dough has to be worked so the ingredients come together, then the dough needs to rest overnight. After the rest, the dough is malleable and ready to become a tasty pizza.

What a terrific analogy!

Yes, we need to take breaks and turn our brains off so they can rejuvenate. The rest also enable us to tap into our strengths better, just like the ingredients of the dough do.  But, the dough is not the pizza. It is the foundation of the pizza. It needs more to become a pizza, just like we do.

Here are the 3 ways leaders need to be like pizza:

#1: Start with a solid foundation. 
In pizza, it’s the dough. In life, it’s the values, perspective, EQ, and personal make-up. Like Mimi said, we need to mix the ingredients in a way that enables them to work together and become the foundation of greatness.

#2: Enable collaboration. 
Collaboration is key because it takes more than dough to make a pizza. Similarly, it takes more than one leader to make a workplace thrive. Add the right ingredients. “Right” is key because what’s right for one is not for another. Just ask my husband. He likes spicy meat on pizza, while I like a variety of veggies and sometimes even pineapple. We always order half-and-half, and neither of us minds. Could workplace compromises become as simple? Obviously, many workplace challenges are not as simple as pizza. In those cases, select what is right for the Mission, and remember, there can be more than one right choice.

After selecting the right toppings, let them do their work. On pizza, we let the cheese melt all over the top so we can enjoy the wonderful flavor combination. At work, foster collaboration and empowerment. It takes more than dough to make a pizza, so be selective about the ingredients then enable let them be their best.

#3: Expect some heat before greatness. 
Once a pizza has been made, it’s still not ready to be devoured. It needs to bake. Baking brings out the best in the whole combination, just like the heat, or pressure, of deadlines and client demands brings out the best in most teams. Don’t be thrown off by some heat. No team holds hands singing Kumbaya throughout the entire project. But, don’t worry, a little heat can help a team rise and become its best.


Lead like a pizza: start with a solid foundation, collaborate with the best, and thrive after challenges. One last word of caution: In accordance with the pic from a friend, leaders don’t try to please everyone…you are not a pizza.

Lead like a pizza and you'll be All-In!

Can you think of additional similarities between leadership and pizza? Add to the list below.