Providing nourishment is an essential ingredient in our Joy of Leadership trainings in Los Angeles.
About 5,000 people showed up at a seminar I was organizing. Many more than we expected. As the number of people increased, the ushers became overwhelmed and were not doing a good job of seating them quickly and courteously.
The ushers had been trained to treat each person respectfully but, as the crowd grew, they forgot that a crowd is still made up of individuals. Consequently, they were treating people like a herd of cattle, not human beings.
I met with the ushers in a private room and began pointing out what they were doing wrong and what they should be doing instead. Later, my supervisor called me and asked, “What did you say to the ushers?”
I replied, “I pointed out what they were doing wrong and we went over how they should be seating people properly.”
She inquired, “Did you ask them if they had eaten lunch?”
I was taken aback by her question. It never occurred to me to ask if they had eaten.
Only later I saw that the ushers were under great strain with the big crowds. The last thing they needed from me was more pressure.
What I was doing was like discovering a group of drowning people and offering them a swimming lesson. The ushers didn’t need my instruction. They needed my support. They needed me to see the situation from their point of view. They also needed the energy that eating lunch would give them. This was an altogether new way of looking at the situation and I have never forgotten the lesson.
Before people can accomplish anything, their basic needs must be met. We, the ones in charge, must remember to give basic support, basic nourishment. We must look carefully at what people need in order for them to do a good job and we must make sure that they get it. If we are the leader, we must be the ones who serve.
The experience with the ushers was a wonderful lesson for me in “To Lead Is To Serve” and meeting people where they are.
How does all of this apply to being in charge? It suggests a form of leadership. Do not get stuck in one style. Do not get stuck in terrible when you could easily be serene or comic when you should be forceful.
Use your creativity to find the right placement for even the most difficult person. In the hands of a great master, everything is of value. An artist has a lot of colors on the palette and an organization has a lot of different kinds of people. Like a good artist, the creative leader makes the best use of each one.
Be creative in the projects that you plan. Make some small and others enormous, some simple and some strenuous. You wouldn’t want to eat the same meal day after day, would you?
When making up a team to work together, the event will be more interesting if there are different flavors of people. Think of it as cooking. You would never plan a menu of all potatoes. Do not plan a committee of potatoes, either.
A master chef will balance a meal to include the five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. When we look at a project in this way, we see the value of having different kinds of people in the group. We may not like someone who is sour, but that person might be exactly what is required to balance the committee’s energy.
Successful creativity includes being creative with the resources that we have. Aren’t the best cooks the ones who can go into the kitchen and whip up something with whatever is available?
A good leader serves as midwife, presenting your newborn gift to the people you lead. Offer nourishment by watching what comes out of your mouth, as well as what goes in.
Nurture others in need, as if you were feeding yourself. And be careful not to provide sustenance for those who feed off others. We’ve all seen that happen, where the suck-ups get the best deals from the so-called leader.
If you are going to provide nourishment for your team, yourself and your organization, stay as high on the food chain as possible. Be sure to nourish those who are worthy.