Turkey Tales

Thanksgiving is upon us.  It’s my favorite holiday.  What better way to celebrate the blessings of our lives by gorging ourselves until we hit a wall of physical discomfort or self-loathing.  Whichever comes first.

Much like the Native Americans who passed along wisdom through oral tradition, my family recounts a particular Thanksgiving story each year.  We lovingly refer to it as “The Roto-Rooter Thanksgiving.” 

One November decades ago, extended family was gathered at our suburban home to share in the blessings of the season.  Mom, as usual, had placed the bird in the oven overnight.  Unfortunately, by 11 a.m. the following day, there wasn’t even the faintest aroma of turkey.  When dad investigated, he found the oven unable to sustain temperatures warmer than the sauna at the YMCA.

Then, with forced family closeness threatening the continuation of our species, my sister erupted from the bathroom to announce, “Something is really wrong.”

It seems our plumbing had malfunctioned, causing water to back up in every drain in the house.   The resulting aroma smelled more like a turkey farm than a turkey feast.  By the time the Roto-Rooter man arrived to remedy the problem, it was well past dinnertime.    We paid him handsomely in dollars and dessert, and promptly left the house to enjoy our holiday meal at a local cafeteria.   It’s the only time I’ve ever had chicken fried steak for Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but today, the story provides us with a mountain of joy and continues to galvanize us.  It is an example of our resilience as a family.

Similar examples exist in our organizations.  Bungled projects and colossal mistakes threaten the motivations of even the most diligent employee.  But often the difference between failure and forward progress is simply in how we frame the situation.  We’re not suggesting you make mistakes on purpose.  But, when they do happen, consider these tips to assure the mistakes don’t become bad omens, but rather, colorful examples of resilience that define your culture.

  1. Stop Blame storming:  In your after-action review meetings, avoid naming those who made mistakes.  Rather, brainstorm ways to avoid those mistakes in the future and get public commitment to the actions, increasing the chances of future success. 
  2. Redirect Negativity:   The next time you hear a colleague venting about a failure, share 2-3 valuable things the organization learned from the experience.
  3. Find The Hero and Tell Her Story:  People don’t get emotionally connected to charts and numbers.  If you are a leader and you want people to be moved to act, become a storyteller.  Find the heroes of past successes and failures.  Paint a picture.  Use names.  Give your team someone and something to root for. 

In thirty-five years of working with clients, we’ve seen how teamwork can make or break an organization.  To create a culture of collaboration, we must frame the past in terms of lessons learned instead of lessons lost.  If you are looking to build teamwork that leads to better problem solving results, give us a call at (800) 386-5611. 







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