Living and Giving

What Are You Bringing to Dinner?

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For Managers:  Be A Welcome Guest at Their Dinner, Even if You Don\’t Attend

I just wrote about the importance of what we bring home to dinner.  We can be conscious of bringing substance, positivity, joy as an essential ingredient to the dinner.  It\’s about leading an Ascendant, rather than Descending, Conversation.

As a boss, a manager, a team member, you are a present guest at the dinner table of your employees. The positive influence you provide at work each day is an essential ingredient in your team\’s dinner.   Will you focus on the positive, be encouraging?   Will you devolve responsibility and let them make decisions?    Could you simply put in a call, to simply thank them (and with no follow-up requests)?  

As leaders we sometimes face challenging issues.  We can also be in a position of power.  We can make a decision and enforce something that perhaps is \”squishy.\”  We\’re right in one way, the employee may be right in another way.

If we enforce our power in these muddy decisions, your power won\’t last long.  It just seems like you get to make the decision.  You get to make the final call of that issue, but you can\’t \”call up\” positive attitudes or positive regard for your team.  That\’s built over the longterm, day by day, through trusted actions and trusted conversations.

I\’ll give you an example I faced in my career. We had a certain amount of vacation days our full-time team members received.  Those who were part-time team members, received prorated benefits. It was clearly stated in our official, legal Employee Manual.  However, one of our Senior Leadership at the time, made an offer to a new team member: They were 80% time and yet it stated full vacation benefits. 

What do you do? 

Your manual already states the principles by which you operate. You can stick by it and enforce it. But a person on your leadership team has, in essence, promised something else.

Ask yourself: \”What Will My Team Member\’s Dinner Conversation Be?\”   You can have them come home disgruntled about having a few vacation days taken away.  Or you can honor your Senior Leadership\’s email and provide the extra vacation days.  You can certainly adhere to your Employee Manual. We could have stated our Senior Leadership made a mistake, and we could apologize for the mistaken information.   Doing this, however, can also make this issue a continuing topic of negative dinner conversation.

So here is what we hoped we brought to dinner that night, even though we weren\’t invited. We sat down with the employee and clearly stated our policy.  We also acknowledged that Senior Leadership had sent a conflicting message.   And we stuck by what our Senior Leadership had stated. While the employee came in a bit ruffled, she was immediately relieved.   We acknowledged the conflicting information and gave the vacation days to the employee\’s advantage.

We built trust. We honored our word, even if our word on paper was different.  We imagined an uplifted, ascendant Dinner Conversation, rather than a descendant one that focused on having something taken away.

Being positive, encouraging; providing the benefit of the doubt, erring on the side of giving when an issue is confusing, is an imperative part of good management every day.  However, there is another time when maybe you won\’t always be a welcome guest at the dinner table. In this case, it\’s actually ok.

Sometimes management is hard. It\’s about an individual\’s growth, and their allegiance to the principles and standards by which your organization operates.   At times, constructive criticism is imperative, and it is not always comfortable to deliver or to be received.  But if it is based on principle, then it is a necessary commitment to the organization. The hope, too, is that they understand how they need to grow, develop and ascend in their execution as well.  

Dinner Conversations are complex.  So think about what you bring \”as their guest every evening.\”   What you say and do could be at times the main ingredient of their dinner.  Would they be happy, peaceful, inspired?  Disgruntled, disappointed?   Bring an Ascendant Conversation to their day, and you\’ll be a welcome guest at their dinner.