Whose garden are you growing?

I’m not much of a gardener, but I have friends who are exceptional gardeners, and it’s a lot of work. Breaking ground, tilling, sowing, watering, feeding, deweeding, and pruning are just the common activities for whatever you’re growing. Then there’s a litany of not so common activities: planning, calculating, fencing, maintaining your tools, and protection from a host of factors.

Organizational culture is similar to a garden and has many correlated activities. Interviewing, hiring, installing (of new hires), paying, training, mitigating, and correction, along with vision casting, calculating (math is math), settling disputes, seminars and industry news, and legality. Neither list is exhaustive, and yet I’m confident that for every one, there is a corresponding other.

It raises a simple question: who, or what, are you growing? Continue reading

The courage of the servant-leader

There are few who have a harder job than a receptionist.

Nobody is more abused than the receptionist, whether that is by customers, staff, or the job itself. If your job is hard, then the receptionist’s job is likely harder. Your receptionist gets the brunt of your mistakes in the form of disgruntled customers; customers will tell your receptionist before they tell you (if at all), and serenity is often absent when they inform your receptionist of your failures. Show me a dispirited pool of receptionists, and I’ll show you a dysfunctional organization.

With that said, perhaps the hardest receptionist position is the one who serves the mentally ill. Continue reading

Doing the dirty work

It was one of the most efficient crews I ever worked with, in one of the most unlikeliest of places: fast food.

Yup, I worked fast food as a teenager, as have many others. Where I did so is not relevant, as they are all pretty much the same, born from the same process attributed to Ray Kroc. It was an education, but only because of my age, as we all have to start somewhere. What stood out about the experience was not the job or the industry, but the general manager.

What was remarkable about him? He was always doing the dirty work. Continue reading

The sublimity of servant-leadership

Servant-leaders are grown from servants. How do you find someone with servant-leadership traits? You first have to know the tools used to form servants. If you don’t recognize the tools, you won’t recognize the handiwork. Continue reading

Cleaning up after mice

I didn’t know I was building character for a lifetime. I just wanted some extra cash.

I was a freshman in high school, and I was hungry. Not literally, of course: I came from an affluent middle-class home and I had all the basics amply provided. However, my parents were instilled with that hard-nosed work-ethic, which says life is meant to be earned, not handed to you. If I wanted money for something, I had to wait for a holiday.

So, when my Dad mentioned someone he knew and worked with who needed help on his ranch, I jumped at the idea. Then he told me the wage.Two bucks an hour. Minimum wage was more than double. Still, I took the job. It wasn’t like I had other options. Continue reading

A tribute to Fred

I wanna tell you about a guy I once knew named Fred.

Fred is not famous. You won’t find him on your social media feed, on the cover of a magazine, or doing an interview on television. He won’t develop new ideas or theories, and you won’t find him on the speaking circuit. Even if Fred had a platform, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Although Fred will likely never be famous, he is more well-known than most people in this world.

Everybody loves Fred. And I mean everyone. His employees hail him when he enters the building, customers are relieved when he picks up the phone, and he gets hugs from many of his customers when they see him in person. When he is absent, people want to know where he is and if he’s okay. Fred works at a vending company, which is what makes the adoration all the more remarkable. After all, can you name the vendors who serve you during their brief visit to your business each day? Not many can. But all of the people in the organizations Fred serves knows Fred by name.

What makes Fred so special? One small vignette exemplifies why Fred is so special. Continue reading