Leadership Lessons at the Breakfast Table

IMG_7797Lets start this post with a quick story.  These are what I call Leadership Lessons that come about in our every day lives, if we listen for them.  This morning my kids were eating pancakes for breakfast.  Not our typical midweek breakfast.  But when we do have pancakes our norm is to have them with peanut butter and syrup.  Child A was eating with me while Child B was taking a quick shower before school.  Child A and I finished as Child B was coming out of the bedroom to eat.  So we left the condiments for Child B to enjoy the breakfast.
While Child B was eating Child A started making a lunch.  Today Child B just wanted a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.  Child A was done using the peanut butter.  Child B grabbed the jar (pictured) and made the quick sandwich and return it to Child B at the table, not knowing if Child B was done using it.
When it came time to clean up the breakfast table I had to remind Child B that they had to put their dishes and condiments away.  I went about the routine I was doing to get ready and came back to find the peanut butter still sitting on the table.  Everything else was put away and the dishes were cleared.  When I asked Child B why they hadn’t put away the peanut butter the response was, “I didn’t use it last!”  Ok, so you can see where this is going, right?  Remaining calm, I talked about teamwork and how we can all add value to one another.  Child B objected and said it was Child A’s job to put it away.  Now Child A starts chiming in and it turned into a full blown argument of who should have put the peanut butter away.
What resulted was this:

  • The task wasn’t done
  • The team was fighting

Now I don’t know about you, but what I find ironic is that I see this all of the time in the business and work world.  I see teams and companies so deeply entrenched in this that it becomes a culture of work not getting done and people arguing over whose job it is.
So what is the Leadership lesson in all of this?  Simply put, a team that works towards a common vision, cast by a leader, doesn’t always operate by whose job is whose.  A thriving team works in a culture where when Team Member A is done with their work, they exercise their Leadership muscle and help Team Member B.  The result is Team Member B appreciates Team Member A and how they offered help.  There is a positive relationship where both value one another.  It becomes a “We” culture instead of an “I” culture.  “We” cultures trump “I” cultures every time.
The results of a “We” culture include”

  • Improved team member engagement
  • Improved team member attitude
  • More work gets done
  • Everyone working towards the same vision using the same values

Here are a list of techniques to improve your workplace and or family culture:

  • Say “thank you” often, and sincerely, face to face
  • Publicly acknowledge hard work and initiative at every opportunity (company bulletin boards, in company newsletters, during meetings, and at company social events)
  • Offer options for arriving an hour late on Monday morning or leaving an hour early on friday afternoons, when possible, to those that step in leadership by adding value to other team members
  • Administer quarterly reviews and encourage or require team members to provide a self evaluation.  In this review/evaluation ask them for examples of when team members helped out another team member to create a more positive and thriving culture.
  • Take time to meet with team members one at a time
  • Encourage a sense of ownership in the work for each team member
  • Involve team members in decisions, especially those that will directly affect them, and the quality progress of the team.

Remember, Leadership isn’t developed in a day, but Leadership can be developed daily.  It is true as well, that Leadership isn’t a position or title.  Leadership is for everyone.  Leaders care for and add value to others by helping them to accomplish the team, company, or family vision.
I hope Child A and Child B got the message this morning.  I also hope that this has given you much to think about and act on for you at work and at home.  When it goes right, everyone is WOOHOOing a whole lot more…and that is a good thing!
If you would like to learn how I might be able to help you and your teams improve the culture and grow your leadership, connect with me here.
To your success!