Archive for October, 2016

Time Management for Lapsed Anarchists, Tip #6

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Secret 37 in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves takes a look at how we perceive and use our time. In this essay, Ari includes 15 practical tips on how to make better use of our time. torta_secret_37

6. Move Forward Mindfully, Not Carelessly

This tip is really about pace—moving steadily forward, neither too quickly nor too slowly, but as a good marathoner would do, maintaining her pace throughout the race. It’s about staying away from the extremes of either abandoning something altogether or racing forward so quickly that you make more trouble than you might have had in the first place. Other than in extreme emergencies (when you want to go quickly, of course) or when dealing with compulsive behaviors (try to back off as best as you can), you’ll want to stay steady, measured, in the middle.

Being mindful of feelings—and frequently not acting on them—can help here. My experience is that the best pace to move at often runs completely counter to the one that we feel like we need to follow. If you feel internal pressure to act impulsively and in the moment, you’re generally going to do better to back off. If you’re a procrastinator, move more quickly. In either case, it’s about shifting away from unneeded extremes of action and back towards the middle.

Important work takes time to unfold, but getting moving more quickly than slowly helps—I can draft a rough outline or a preliminary write-up for most projects in under half an hour. And the risk of drafting—not acting, mind you, but drafting—is next to nil. The longer you put off that first round of action, the further you get from your true feelings, your creativity, and your insight. Mind you, this first shot at things is just a beginning—don’t race right out and send what you’ve done to headquarters, or trigger immediate action. But if all you do is draft, I think you can have the best of both worlds. You clear your mind by getting moving quickly and follow your intuition, but you integrate safety into the system by waiting a while to gather input before you pull the final trigger on anything too controversial. If in doubt, wait a day, talk to two friends, do a quick vision and values check, and then go with your gut. Steady as she goes might be a good motto for our work styles, as well as our ships.

Creating a Culture of Positive Appreciation

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

We believe there are 5 elements of creating the culture that you’re going for in your business.

  1. Teach itsecret-06-bake-scratchboard
  2. Define it
  3. Live it
  4. Measure it
  5. Reward it

Whether it’s a culture of great service, financial awareness, creativity… each step plays a part. Today we’re sharing Step 3–Live it–from Secret 13 in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business:

3. Live it

Although most folks will agree with the suggestion that it’s good to have an appreciative culture, many organizations fall far short. But without actually living it, walking the talk, not a whole lot is going to happen. Here are some of the areas where I’ve found that it’s particularly worthwhile to invest my appreciative energies:

• Appreciate Yourself: Like all meaningful organizational change, I believe that an appreciative environment absolutely has to come from within us as leaders. Which means that before I could even begin to be more appreciative of others I had to learn to treat myself with the same respectful approach that I wanted to deliver to those around me. While I can’t prove this scientifically, my experience is that if I don’t appreciate myself in a meaningful way, the praise I give to others won’t connect, either.

        Peter Koestenbaum, in Talk Is Walk: Language and Courage in Action, writes that, “You need a friend even if you are that friend.” For me this meant learning to speak to myself respectfully, to appreciate myself for what I achieved (while still of course pushing myself to get better at the same time—don’t worry, I’m not slacking).

• Appreciate Others: It’s just too easy to lose track of the positives. They’re always there—I just have to take time to notice them. In service of which, I’ve adopted an almost daily routine of making myself pay close attention to the many positive things, the great people and really wonderful food and service, that surround me. There are a few zillion examples every day. I also try to do a bit of journaling almost every day, a part of which is regularly making lists of people and things that I might have failed to appreciate of late.

• Train and Organize to Encourage Appreciation: Part of our job as leaders is to help the folks we work with to be successful. And in our world, one way we can do so is by being appreciative of those we work with and serve. While it’s nice to think that appreciation is so much the “right thing to do” that it will spring up on its own, the reality is that one of the most effective things we can do organizationally is to set up systems and structures that make it easy—even require—people to be much more appreciative than they might normally be on their own.

• Start Doing “Appreciations”: Speaking of systems, this is one of the best things we’ve ever done here. Thanks for it goes to my friend Lex Alexander who with his wife, Ann, founded Wellspring Grocery in North Carolina, and now runs the excellent 3CUPS coffee shop in Chapel Hill. The idea is simply that each and every meeting we hold always ends with a few minutes of “Appreciations.” Appreciations can be of anything or anyone: someone in the room or not in the room; something work-related or not; accomplishments past, present, or future. No one is required to say anything, but people usually do. And this one small exercise has made a huge impact over the years. Think of it like ending a meal with a good cup of coffee: the people in the meeting almost always go back out into the organizational world with positive feelings. And because we do it at every meeting, it really disciplines us to devote time and mental energy to positive recognition. (Skip ahead to page 349 to read my appreciations for the work that went into this book.)

• Stay in Synch: We’ve also learned the hard way that some staff members are embarrassed by public praise. It’s most effective to compliment people in the way that they most appreciate being appreciated. For some that’s in public, others in private, some in writing, some with gifts, some with a pat on the back, some with eye contact and a head nod.

• Appreciations in the Staff Newsletter: We basically follow the same format in our monthly staff newsletter. Each issue contains three, four, or even five pages of appreciations and thank-yous sent in by various staff members.

• Code Greens: This is the name for the form we use to capture and communicate the compliments we hear from customers (the opposite, of course, is a Code Red). Could be big, could be small, but any positive comment we hear should be written up as a Code Green. These are shared with as many people as possible, sometimes by email, sometimes through bulletin board postings, sometimes by reading them aloud at meetings. The important thing is that the information is shared and that the people who work in the organization hear the positive feedback that their work has earned from customers.

• Performance Reviews: These certainly aren’t unique to our organization, nor, I’m sure, are we the only organization that struggles to do them in a timely way. But they are a very good tool for keeping us focused on the positive achievements of those around us—every review here starts with a summary of the person’s achievements.

• Specificity: In all of this positive recognition I’ve continued to learn that praise means more when it’s specific. While general thanks and kudos never hurt, it’s more helpful to be clear about what it is we really value, so that others know what they can do more of down the road to be even more effective in their work.

• Going the Extra Mile: Since we work to treat our staff here like customers, “going the extra mile”—the third of our 3 Steps to Great Service—applies to them, too. That means doing the unexpected (as in good things, not goofy stuff like dumping water on them) for co-workers, showing appreciation and creating the sort of positive feelings that we all want to experience. The effort doesn’t have to be fancy, high-tech, or expensive. Something as simple as a Post-it note stuck to someone’s computer screen, a handwritten card that actually comes in the mail, a quick unexpected email, a flower, a bouquet of fresh asparagus from the Farmer’s Market, or a basket of just-picked cherries . . . these little things can make an enormous difference to people in the organization.

• The “3 and Out Rule”: This is an internal mechanism that I’ve come to use regularly, and, in writing this piece, realized I should share more actively. When I’m having a really rough day (which of course happens) positive appreciation is the easiest way I know to turn things around. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate… the old baseball saying “three and out” actually works pretty well and it’s kind of catchy. So I think I’m going to officially adopt it right now: When in doubt, three and out.

       The amazing thing is that by the time I’ve gone and appreciated at least three folks, it’s literally almost impossible for me to still be in a bad mood. And in the process of turning my own day around, I’ve contributed something small but upbeat to those with whom I’ve interacted. They in turn are more likely to do the same for others. And in the end, everyone—the organization, the staff, the customers, and the community—will all be better off for it.

Moving Your Organization from V to A

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

ari-book-leadershipToday we bring you an excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader. In Secret 28, Ari shares a list of 18 basic, but important, small things that leaders can (and by all rights ought to) do to be effective in their work. Unlike most of the book, the contents of the list aren’t even remotely “secrets”. Following through, being consistent, and acting in caring and considerate ways are simple and old-fashioned, but, ultimately, they’re incredibly effective ways to raise energy and build a better business. To get you started, we’ve included the first 3 points in the list:

…Thinking of staff as customers is a key component of Servant Leadership, but belief in the concept without coming through on what you committed to delivering isn’t going to win many staff members over to your cause.

Because some of us learn better by playing off the positive, while others do better being warned about what’s wrong, I decided to write my list both ways … If the A list is the stuff we all aspire to, I was going to call the second, don’t-do, side of things the B list. But as I worked on all of this, I realized that perhaps the more appropriate letter to use was a V. Which, in this case, stands for “victim.” The behaviors on the V list are things that ineffective leaders—intentions  unknown—do that create a culture in which victims rule. Quite simply, it’s all the stuff I’d suggest one would want to avoid. It’s odd; I know that no one writes a long-term organizational vision in which victims play the starring role, but somehow managers do all this stuff anyway. Bosses behave badly, they believe the worst, they act arbitrarily, angrily, and inconsiderately. They unwittingly (or maybe wittingly) work over their own staff by undercutting them, underpreparing them, and embarrassing them in public, by claiming to have said things they’ve never said, then denying claims they made a month earlier. One week they act like autocrats, the next week they’re inclusive, and in the third they’re neither—”just following the rules sent down from corporate.”

…The V list is here just to help raise our awareness; if acceptance is the first step towards recovery, then knowing that this stuff is happening is a very solid step in the right direction. From there the simple act of consciously deciding not to do them can only help make your business—and really, the whole world—a better place! It is, after all, all about free choice. Me, I’m gonna try to get on the A team.

1. Always Be Considerate

aAs I told a classroom full of K-4 kids a few years ago, “Kindness is free.” A gentle hand, a welcoming tone, and a caring question are almost always appreciated. Thinking of things from someone else’s perspective, having empathy, and looking at a task from the point of view of a new employee are always helpful. Used rotely, polite words are pretty much meaningless; but saying them when you mean them, truly thinking kindly and considerately of others, means the world. If nothing else, you exude good energy, which surely will get you good energy in return, and get your entire organization going in the right direction.

1. Be Rude


I don’t know if this is so stupidly obvious as to make it unworthy of appearing here, but rudely riding over others, cutting people off midsentence, yelling unnecessarily, and, basically, just being a jerk are never helpful behaviors. Behaving this way helps no one, least of all the leader who’s doing it. To quote early 20th-century Italian anarchist, Errico Malatesta, “Hate does not produce love, and by hate one cannot remake the world.” What it does do is sow seeds of victimhood—when people can’t get heard, when no one cares what they think, when they’re shut down and shut off before they’ve even finished sharing their thoughts, then starting to think and feel like a victim comes naturally. What else can you do?

2. Be Consistent

aWhatever style you choose for yourself as a leader, one key is to keep living it as consistently as possible every day. One of the most important roles for any leader is to create confidence; and that confidence is, in part (though certainly not fully), based on consistency. People want to know what they can count on—the more consistent we are, the less they’re worrying about the random wackiness we’re going to do or say next. If you want to be strict, that’s fine—just be strict all the time. If you want to keep things loose, that’s lovely—just do that all the time. The point is just to be consistent with your energy, your personality, your decision style, your . . . everything.

2. Be All over the Place


By contrast, the most frustrating bosses to be engaged with are all over the place: open to input and appreciative on one day, then distant and dictatorial on the next. Sure, I’m an anarchist, but I’m not at all about being unprofessional. People can learn to cope with most anything; even undesirable behaviors done daily are probably less stressful to adjust to than a manager who’s mellow on Monday, tough on Tuesday, wimpy on Wednesday, thorough on Thursday, fun loving on Friday, scattered on Saturday, and sensitive and supportive on Sunday. This scattershot style is only productive if you’re out to produce a victim mindset in your staff. When bosses are predictable only in their unpredictability, people on the front lines don’t go for greatness, they just look for cover. No sane frontline person wants to step up and take a leadership role on a shift when they don’t know what role the leaders will be playing until they show up for work.

a3. Be Reasonable

While it’s true that we’re not on Planet Fair (see Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service for details on that one), it’s way easier to work with, and for, a manager who’s reasonable and who consistently and effectively explains their reasoning. Look, even the most spoiled souls among us know that we’re not going to get our way every single time. What everyone does want is to know that, whatever decision is delivered, there was a fair process behind it. I’m not necessarily talking about Solomon-like wisdom or breathtaking leadership brilliance—just some balanced, reasonable, ethically oriented thinking and decisions that are explicable without expletives. Whether your organizational orientation is anarchistic, autocratic, or anywhere in between, pretty much all adults like to know why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we’re asking them to do what we’re asking them to do.

3. Be Arbitrary


By contrast, managers whose comebacks to questions about their decisions include things like, “That’s the way it is,” “Just take care of it,” “I’m in charge here,” or “ I don’t want to talk about it—just get it done,” are anything but effective. While I know there’s something going on in those managers’ minds, from the outside it sure seems like their decisions are random, driven more by mood or electrical disconnects than by depth, deference, and attention to detail. Arbitrary action at the top leads verily towards victimhood as well. When reason, reality, and what’s right have little to do with what the bigwigs decide, it’s hard not to feel like one’s future is completely out of control. Frontline folks are, literally, at the mercy of the way the management winds happen to blow on any given day. And when frontline people start basing their actions on the mood of the manager, you can be sure that the business is not benefiting.