Ever have those days where something small happens and it awakens a new opportunity or purpose for you to investigate? This past week I had an “ah ha” moment that both inspired and humbled me, as it showed me that I know far less than I thought, and how I can improve my knowledge base and continue to be a better leader.
As leaders, we get to know our employees through daily interactions, through their performance, how they interact within their team as well as with other teams. We know the basics about their home lives, their families, work experience, career expectations and long-term goals. While all of this information is valuable, it doesn’t always tell the history of their lives, which in turns gives us a window to see what truly motivates them. In my Dietary department, I have staff that hail from several different continents and backgrounds. I have five cooks that prepare food both for patients and the public, they work diligently behind the scenes to create appetizing meals that both nourish and heal. They are all truly committed to what they do, but there are some limitations to what they can do based on diet restrictions or mass appeal. Because of their diversity, I decided we would “Spotlight” our cooks by giving them an opportunity to make a meal that is from their home country, that speaks to their culture and the things that mean the most to them. When I pitched this to them, they were not totally open to the idea, but they did warm up to it as they realized what it would allow them to do creatively.
Our first “Spotlight” occurred last Thursday. I created a poster board with a picture of the “chef” for the day, and because he is from Mexico, added his recipe in both English and Spanish. We added a short biography, wanting to define why the recipe is important to the chef, and give some detail from his home country and childhood. I learned so much more than I previously had known, and found it intensified the connection I have to this particular staff member. When I showed him the board, he was clearly moved by the detail provided, and how well it spotlighted not only his recipe, but him as a person outside of his profession. Everyone who visited our cafeteria that day learned something new about this staff member, and got to fill their bellies with his fantastically tasty meal.
I met with my team after the event was over, to gain their feedback about the experience, what worked, what we could improve before the next “Spotlight”. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic, they had gotten great reviews from the customers, and felt it had been a huge success. But the one thing that had created the most enthusiasm was the poster board. Being highlighted in such a personal way, and being celebrated for both their cooking acumen as well as their personal experience had the greatest impact on all of the staff. This was my “ah ha”moment; while my intention was to celebrate my staff and their contributions, and give them an opportunity to be more creative than is normally allowed, I didn’t truly understand how meaningful it would be to them.
We are already working on our next “Spotlight”, and my staff are arguing over who gets to go next. I am as excited to learn new things about my staff as they are to share with me. And it truly enforces that while I do know quite a bit about each and every member of my team, there is so much more to learn and I am excited about the journey!
Please share your thoughts, feedback and suggestions are always welcome!