Dirty or Clean Dishes

Leadership Lessons from the Break Room Dishwasher

Dirty or Clean Dishes

“No dishes in the sink!”  This was a reoccurring item on our staff meeting agenda. Commonly, the coffee cups would be loaded up in the sink ready for a brave soul to rinse and load in the dishwasher. Sometimes the dishes would rest over the weekend so they would get extra nasty.

And so on and on it went…

Leading a Mess

I admit here publicly- I was also a culprit. I would bring my coffee cup to the kitchen area and open the dishwasher and then freeze-up!

Are they clean or dirty?

I would look for all the clues. Any coffee stains? Any food on the plates? Often times it’s really hard to tell. Especially if the dishwasher isn’t the greatest. So after a few moments of inspection and feeling unclear on the status of the dishes, I have placed my cup in the sink.

Yes- I am part of the problem! 

In the past we had a magnet that said clean or dirty, but this stainless steel model won’t hold the old magnet.  So what could we do?

Leading a Solution

A sticky note!  Yes- the really small one!  Clean or Dirty is the entire message (with the appropriate message right side up.)

Now we have a handy little sticky note that provides the actual status on the dishes (thanks Krista!). No inspection. No guessing. Immediately you know what to do. The results- no more dishes in the sink! At the last staff meeting, the item was FINALLY removed. Problem solved.

Leading With Direction

So what is the lesson here? Clear direction and written processes are the answer. Here are a few of the benefits of clear, written processes:

  1. They avoid the freeze-up! Decision making takes time. If you provide clear direction, you eliminate this unnecessary time. You move quickly and efficiently. No analysis of the dishes is needed. You immediately know what to do.
  2. They protect you from bad decisions! Some folks are gifted at decision making and some just have a way of choosing poorly. By taking away the options, you are guiding the person to success. No dirty dishes mixed in with the clean ones.
  3. They remove fear! By guiding the next step you remove the fear of making the wrong decision. The responsibility shifts to the process and away from the person. Decision-making comes easy. You are simply following the rules. No worries of peer ridicule for your coffee cup at the staff meeting!
  4. They limit the outcomes! Sometimes even when you follow the rules bad things can happen. In the construction business, we are constantly working with risk. We work hard to avoid it, however, risk is part of what we do.  We know we have chinks in our armor. Strong processes allow us to guide and limit outcomes. Similarly, if someone forgets to turn the clean/unclean sticky note you risk mixing in the dirty with the clean.

Writing It All Out

There are more benefits, but these are a few of the stand-outs. Do you have areas in your business that may need better written processes?

Assembling written procedures are often pushed to the bottom of the “to do” list. For our business they are essential. They provide expected outcomes and keep us out of trouble.

Maybe it’s time for a fresh review of your processes?

Even small changes can have a big impact!  As you can see, even the smallest little sticky note can help solve an ongoing problem!

Do you have dishes in the sink?  Have you been putting off the review of your written processes?  Do you have a success story on processes to share?  Don’t be a stealth reader- click on “leave a comment” and join in the conversation!   


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Joe Passkiewicz

Joe Passkiewicz is Vice President of LandSouth Construction, LLC
He Develops and Executes Leadership, Management and Productivity Strategies
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A Recipe For Failure: Focusing On Success

Great Recipe

When cooking food, a little too much or too little of an ingredient can ruin a dish. So if you are cooking from a great recipe, it is vital to focus on every aspect of building that recipe in a way that will yield success.

Great meals don’t come from great recipes; they come from great execution of a great recipe.

Great Recipes Do Not Equal Great Results

At first, I couldn’t understand how someone could have a great recipe for a great meal but still not be able to produce a great meal. With that reasoning, everyone should be master chefs (and we know that’s not the case). I have come to realize in my ignorance and oversimplification of cooking that the problem lies not so much in the recipe as it does in the placement of focus.

Let me explain, great chefs have great focus and an innate ability to place focus on the right things at the right time. A masterful meal is the byproduct of placing great focus on the details and the processes. The reason many fail at making great meals is because they are focusing too much on… making great meals.

Notice Your Focus

As a youth football player I tried being a kicker (kickers are cool in little league). I couldn’t make the cut and had to settle for a skill position. Who knew playing a position other than kicker could be a demotion! The reason I kept failing as a kicker was because I was focusing too much on trying to make successful kicks rather than the actual process of kicking.

Q: So what does a successful kicker, cook, and company have in common (if only “kicker” was spelled with a “c,” my alliteration would be classic)?

A: The answer is, they all do well when they focus on the details and not the results.

They don’t focus on success because they recognize you can’t place focus on results; you place the focus on the details and processes it takes to produce results. Great kickers have an incredible ability to avoid the temptation of wanting to look up and see if their kick in going to be a successful kick or not.

Similarly when it comes to organizations, I have seen where leaders really wanted to be successful but were not able to stay focused on the details and processes it took to produce success.

Recipe for Disaster

Here are a few examples of how recipes for success can come up short:

1. Missing Ingredients

A team wants to be successful, yet no one brings the focus down to the real issues that preventing or hindering its success. Take the time to find what’s missing; could very well be the key ingredient to your success.

2. Half-Baked Plans

An example of a half-baked plan would be having a long-term strategy that you abandon when the early results are not what you hoped for. If this is a long-term process, then stop assessing it by short-term indicators.

Indicators are important, but they are not results.

That’s like pulling the chicken out the oven half-baked and tossing it in the trash because it’s taste was not what you had hoped for. News flash, don’t expect half-baked chicken to taste like anything other that half-baked chicken! You don’t pull out half-baked chicken to taste it, you pull it out to see if it’s cooking according to plan.

Leaders can feel the pressure to show immediate returns on their work that they fall into taste testing their approach and not merely assessing it. This can lead to constant abandoning of incomplete plans and approaches. This can also lead to high turnover and instability within an organization or group. Be sure to keep checking on you plan, just remember that it’s still not finished yet.

3. Wannabe Master Chefs

Don’t try to get creative until you’ve mastered the basics.  People often view creativity as if it is the opposite of order and discipline. Creativity should actually be an expression of high level mastery of the fundamentals. Many try to go out and start with this new creative, out of the box approach only to fall well short of all expectations. Before we become creative, let become competent. Once you’ve mastered your understanding you can begin to apply it in unique, and innovative ways.

What’s your recipe for success? Once you have your unique ingredients, turn your attention to the details and process of following your plan, strategy, or approach. This will help you have the success you’re looking for. My wife (who’s a wonderful cook) at times would ask me how I would make such wonderful dishes on the rare occasions that I do cook? My reply is usually the same,  “I followed the directions from the recipe, Sweetie.”


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Dr. Tommy Shavers

Dr. Tommy Shavers is President of Tommy Speak LLC. and Unus Solutions Inc.
His lenses are Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication
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Leaders: Do You Equip Your Board for Success?

Equipping For Success

We admire pioneers who are not afraid to blaze the trail of success, create their own blueprint for progress, and forge through adversity to breakthrough barriers.

However, nine times out of ten, they have not shared their success with others.

According to John C. Maxwell, nothing of significance that adds value to people’s lives is ever achieved by an individual acting alone (2010).

So Now What?

Recall the people you know who have achieved noteworthy success. Who did they equip to help them achieve their success?

Take a look at a success story. Jennifer Wenzke is the leader and the founder of So Now Network. So Now is a dynamic alliance of “Professional and Executive Women Striving to Empower others to Unite and Raise Up into their Unique Greatness!”

When leaders found organizations, sometimes the ideas are vivid but the name of the organization is not. That’s what happened to Wenzke. Her organization “So Now” was actually born without a name. Wenzke thought it would be a good idea to gather a group of women together at a local country club to network, connect, have fun and generally to help each other.  At the end of the event, she said,

“Thanks for coming!”  The reply back from attendees was, “Wait, can’t we do this again?”

To name her new-found group, Wenzke chose the name of the facility Stone Oak. She called her little group Stone Oak Network of Women.

But that name seemed too long, so she simply made an acronym of that name and changed it to So Now.

Growing Influence And Challenges

As the first anniversary of the group’s founding approached, Wenzke challenged those in attendance (35-40) to bring at least 100 women to the event. She equipped them with a challenging goal. And the result; over 180 women showed up!

As a leader,Wenzke knows the importance of equipping her women with challenges. She continues to equip the women as the network grows.

Here are a few highlights and results of the equipment(s) of the women of So Now:

  • During year-one, the network successfully implemented two projects.
  • Year 2 saw the release of a mentoring program.
  • In year 3, the network started growing rapidly.

o   The announcement of a scholarship program was introduced

o   So Now for Men (Snow Men) started

o   So Now expanded to include lunchtime meetings

o   So Now formed a Board of Inspiration

This is one example of how she implements equipping.

Equipping For Success

All great leaders have great teams that are equipped for success. But what happens when you are a new leader who is unknown?

“Does this mean that if you have a team that does not know you; or you have a flailing team, that you cannot equip your team for success?”

No it doesn’t! In 2007, I was the newly elected president of Sigma Alpha Pi (SAP), for the local chapter of the National Society of Leadership & Success. I had never held a position of this magnitude before.

I knew one person on the team and for the exception of that one person, no one else knew me. Because I was so passionate about SAP, what SAP represented, I knew I wanted to make a difference for the organization’s betterment.

But, where was I to start?

I started with my team. I knew one thing for sure, if I equipped the team for success, they in turn would want to carry out the organizations mission and vision.

Did I know how to equip this team for success? No, but it didn‘t take me long to figure it out. The team was already in place therefore, I made a commitment to myself and to each person, to get to know them.

As a result, I got to know every team member personally. We matched every person and their unique attributes to roles and responsibilities that would enhance overall success. Then, each person made a personal commitment to invest his or her talents in SAP.

Be Wise, Recognize

Another important equipping tool is recognition. Recognition is very important to everyone, and it is a powerful tool for leaders to use. SAP would not have reached a level of success that year if it had not been for this amazing team! Therefore, I recognized every Board member for his or her personal attributes and contributions.

SAP measured their success by the goals they accomplished:

  • Increased membership
  • One hundred percent participation in leadership training
  • Choosing a community organization to make a donation.

At the end of my term as president, the SAP team was equipped to carry its legacy forward.

Leaders, are you dedicated to equipping your Board? Is your Board equipped to handle the charge of responsibility?  Is your Board equipped to meet challenges with courage and creativity? I would love to hear your comments.


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Debra Olejownik
Debra Olejownik is a consultant with DJC Core Consulting, LLC
She helps clients identify comprehensive solutions to problems that inspires change
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I’m a Leader Now But No One Likes Me


What too many people fail to grasp is that one doesn’t become a leader overnight.  You may have the title, but that’s not all it takes to be successful.  To become a good leader takes some planning and experience.

Have you ever felt like this:

“I was “one of them” on Friday, but since I’m their supervisor now, no one likes me.  Why?”

You probably made the jump too suddenly.

Learning Leadership

When people tell me they want to be a leader in their organization or I hear that someone is being looked at to fill an upcoming position, the first thing I tell them is to start the transition NOW.  Plan and learn.

Don’t wait to make a sudden change over a weekend, because you’ll set yourself up for disaster.

Two Lessons on Leadership

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Story One

Mike has been one of the guys since he started at ABC Company.  He knows his job well, and that of the department, but really only does what’s required.  He watches the clock, is always yucking it up with everyone, and hits the bars every Friday afternoon having drinks with the best of them.

But behind all of that, Mike does think about moving up and his managers believe he has some good leadership potential.  A supervisor position is getting ready to open up in 2 weeks and Mike is offered the job.  That means more money, control and responsibility.  He says he’s up for the challenge.

Mike does nothing to prepare, thinking he’ll learn what he needs to know once he starts.  He continues his ways and on Friday Mike goes out with the gang and pounds shots.  On Monday morning, Mike is a straight-laced, all business, suit, barking orders around every corner.  What do you think the reaction of his staff is to this new look?  “What the h*ll happened to you?”  Is his staff ready to work for/with him?  I don’t think so Tim.

From then on, Mike is in an uphill battle to get respect and support.

Story Two

Patty, on the hand, knew she wanted to be a leader within the ABC Company someday.  Everyone likes her and although she’s also one of the guys, she never goes overboard.

She has fun, but within limits.

Patty, like Mike, knows her job and the department well.  But unlike Mike, she asks questions and tries to understand the business as much as she can.  She also reads leadership blogs online (i.e., Linked2Leadership) and participates in leadership type webinars.  The people she works with know where she’s headed some day.  So it comes as no surprise that when a leadership position opens in her department, she’s offered the job and accepts.

She immediately asks for time during the next two weeks to meet with experienced leaders to discuss her new position and to ask questions.  At the same time Patty discusses how this new position is going to alter her relationships with her,

  • old peers/new team,
  • new peers/other leaders,
  • old/new boss, and
  • . . . family.

How do you think Patty’s transition goes, compared to Mike’s?  I see much success in Patty’s future.

Leadership and Family

When I talk to people about changing relationships, many don’t immediately understand how there’s a change with family.  After all, work and family are two separate things.  Well, not exactly.  Even though we like to keep the two separate, they’re pretty well intertwined.  The added responsibility of being a leader is going to cause more stress, working more hours, and possibly travel, among other things.

Your future is also your family’s future.

Don’t get caught up just looking at the job itself.  It’s going to affect other people besides you.  The better prepared they are, the less stress it will cause.

It’s never too late to learn and plan for the future.  It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and comer, or you’re a director, or even a CEO.  Learning should be a lifelong endeavor.

When we stop learning, we stop growing.

The two books I always recommend to people when they’re starting out in their first leadership role are:

These books are not only good for new leaders but also serve as great reminders and inspiration – and some new info – for the seasoned leader.

It takes little effort, or time, to read a couple of blogs or books here and there.  Then be sure to share that new found information with the people coming up underneath you.  Remember, some of those people are going to be in your position some day.

Have you planned your future?  Do you discuss your future with your family?  Are you investing in continued learning?  Are you helping others succeed?


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Andy Uskavitch

Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
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