October 9, 2019 · 8:24 am
Yes, I’m aware it’s 2019 but this is what I posted last year on Yom Kippur and it represents my best take. Enjoy!
It’s Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. This was a post from several years ago. As I read it over, looking for inspiration for something to write on the subject of change and business based on the holiday, I realized that I had expressed my thinking pretty well in the earlier post. Those of you who celebrate the holiday are probably not reading this until sundown (I scheduled this yesterday in keeping with the spirit of not working on the day). Whether you do or don’t celebrate, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect.
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, it concludes the 10 day period at the start of the Jewish calendar – Rosh Hashanah – head of the year – during which all Jews are supposed to reflect upon the past year and examine how they’re going to change their lives going forward. One also seeks forgiveness from those against whom he has transgressed – both those of this earth and higher powers. There is a lot of other imagery connected with the period – inscription in the Book of Life being a big one – but I think there’s something each of us can take as a business lesson in a non-denominational way.
We all get off track. Sometimes it’s in little ways like eating badly or drinking too much. Sometimes it’s in big ways like alienating our families or hurting friends who love us. The concept in Judaism of repentance is called Teshuva which means “return”. I love the notion of coming back to one’s self as well as to the basic human tenets that are common to all religions and peoples.
We can take a period of reflection and “return” in our business lives as well. The most obvious way is for us as individuals. Who have we alienated this year? What client have we taken for granted? But it a bigger opportunity. How has the business diverged from the mission? Why have we stopped getting better and are just marching in place? What can we be doing to grow our people but are ignoring?
We ask those kinds of questions from time to time, but I guess I’m suggesting that it become a more formal process. Set aside a period every year for “return” thinking. A period of repentance? Maybe, in some cases. But in all cases a chance to change. A chance to regret past bad actions and to vow not to repeat them. Most importantly (this is true in the religious sense as well), to correct the transgression. To apologize. To make restitution. Whatever is right and lets everyone move forward with a clear conscious and a vow to do better.
Sound like a plan?
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September 20, 2019 · 2:58 pm
Happy Foodie Friday! Years ago I started serving pimento cheese as one of the snacks I had available as guests arrived for Thanksgiving. I can’t recall what started me down this path. As a Yankee, it was not a food that I’d eaten other than hearing about it being offered as a sandwich on-site during the annual Masters Tournament. The guests liked it and I served it thereafter. In fact, it became a household staple of sorts.
Little did I know at the time that I’d end up here in the South where pimento cheese is as common as mosquitos. What I didn’t understand, however, is how its use is as widespread as it is nor the seemingly endless number of variations, both personal and commercial. Everyone’s mama makes THE BEST pimento cheese and you can go from tailgate to tailgate at any pregame and find out just how different a single food can be. Of course, one look in any southern supermarket will tell you the same thing. There are dozens of brands and often several flavors (jalapeno pimento cheese, anyone?) from each brand.
As with many things southern, pimento cheese was born in the north and moved here. This is a terrific history of the stuff from Serious Eats but in a nutshell
The original version started out as something quite different: the marriage of cream cheese and canned pimentos, two popular and newly-available products of the industrial food trade.
It evolved into the basic grated cheese (usually cheddar), mayo (Duke’s, please) and pimentos recipe over time. The variations upon that basic theme are endless. I caused a bit of a stir when I presented my variation on the theme by adding green onions and Worcestershire sauce to mine, using two types of cheese. A friend ridiculed me until the friend’s mama tried it and loved it. So much for my Noo Yawk tinkering!
This is the third time I’m writing about pimento cheese and yet each of the posts has been different. Why I raise this topic here at all in a business blog is that it reminds me that not everything we do in business has to be completely new or innovative. Just taking something that’s basically good as is and making it a little better can be a win. Think about how Apple made the mp3 player better or Amazon transformed online shopping. eBay made a better auction engine and the Japanese saved their economy by taking things that were developed elsewhere and improving them. It’s not finding the needle in the haystack that transforms your business. It’s often figuring out how to make the haystack itself just a bit better.
I’ve yet to sample any pimento cheese here that is made in a way that’s delicious but incomprehensible. Most of the time, it’s a variation that is smart and understandable and makes you wonder why you didn’t try that. I think a lot of the great things in business are just like that, don’t you?
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January 21, 2019 · 11:33 am
I think I got it right last year so I’m reposting it this year along with the introduction I wrote at the time. Happy birthday, Dr. King!
As I sat down to write this morning’s screed with Dr. King’s birthday on my mind, I realized that it’s been 50 years since that horrible year of 1968. I was 13 at the time and if you’re younger than about 55 today you probably have no memories of the almost non-stop bad news. It’s hard to believe but things seemed even more screwed up and polarized than they do today. The day Dr. King was shot is one of my indelible memories and the killing of Bobby Kennedy two months later snuffed out a small glimmer of hope that Dr. King’s legacy might come to fruition soon. It took another 40 years for that although there are valid arguments that we as a country are still waiting in many ways.
With that, what follows is my post on celebrating Dr, King and his message from a few years ago. It’s about listening, something many of us don’t do often enough. Maybe you can give it a try this week?
Today is the day we pause to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. I went back and looked at my post from two years ago, which was about dreams – specifically one of Dr. King’s dreams becoming a reality. That was sort of focused on what he saw – his vision. Today I want to focus on one of the great man’s best qualities that influenced how he acted to make that vision real. I think it’s applicable to business. No, it’s not going to be another ethics rant (although those are never out of style in my book). Today, it’s about the most important skill I think all great businesspeople – and great leaders – possess.
To me, great leaders serve to fulfill the needs of their people. For Dr. King, it meant endless meetings with various groups to understand their concerns and explain how broadening civil liberties to be more inclusive could help meet them. For those of us in business, it means paying more attention to the concerns of our customers and co-workers than to our own agenda – these folks ARE our agenda to a certain extent, along with the underlying needs of our businesses. In a word – listen.
Everyone wants to feel as if their ideas and thoughts are being heard if not acted upon. Without someone hearing them, acting on those concerns is impossible. Listening, then speaking, brings trust.
I know this isn’t a new thought in this space but it came to mind on this day thinking of Dr. King. If you go back to the early days of Dr. King’s involvement in the civil rights movement, it’s pretty clear that he was a reluctant leader. He was drafted to lead and was kind of unsure of himself. As he listened to the members of the community and other clergies, he realized that he was simply a voice for the community and their agenda became his agenda.
Many of you will be familiar with Stephen R. Covey, who wrote that we ought to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I think Dr. King if he read pop-psychology, would have appreciated that.
What are you listening to today?
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Filed under Growing up, Helpful Hints, What's Going On
Tagged as business, business thinking, history, Holidays, life, life lessons, management, Martin Luther King Day, Martin Luther King Jr