Last week I shared a story about leadership in tough times (below). A local restaurant owner got my attention with a handwritten letter he put in our takeout meal bag. The sincerity of his letter prompted me to write about two leadership behaviors that I believe are crucial – authenticity and vulnerability.
One of the comments left on the blog post made me realize that there is another really important lesson in this business owner’s leadership style – the power of expectations.
The comment read:
This comment was left by Han Tak, the individual who designed the online ordering system between the time that restaurants were closed on March 17 and March 28 when the online ordering launched. Talk about leap of faith. He didn’t know how to do something, and Bernard trusted that he’d figure it out.
I love a good inspirational story, and I love it, even more, when it shows how innovative and persistent people can be when trusted to carry out a vision. I suspect that Bernard had a vision that the “takeout ordering thing” could be a lot easier with online ordering. So he asked someone with whom he already had a trusted relationship.
I spoke with Bernard about how he came to ask Han to build an online ordering site. He said, “…in our first interview he told me about his background with Google, which gave him instant credibility. Not knowing much (or liking it) about social media, I felt I needed a dynamic person to handle that aspect of our business. He convinced me that when you do social media, you have to do it right. High-quality video and photography are essential and after seeing one video from him, I was sold. We developed a really good relationship and seem to inspire one another.”
Wow. Now I know where all those awesome Facebook posts after the hurricanes when Caps was rebuilding came from. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but seeing a business owner giving a virtual tour of all the new amenities after the hurricanes made me feel connected to the restaurant in ways I had never felt connected to a restaurant. Wise counsel, Han!
When an expectation is low there isn’t too much to strive for.
But let’s get back to leadership. I titled this “The power of expectations” for a reason. I think that people rise to the expectation. When an expectation is low there isn’t too much to strive for. But when someone expects the extraordinary, my experience is that people want very much to deliver. After way too many years in corporate America where organizations focused only on technical skills and were often disappointed that the outcome was not what was expected, I came to believe that technical skills are only half the battle. Will and persistence take any execution a whole lot farther.
Oh, I can hear the contrarians out there saying, “Having experience at Google does not a technology expert make.” Quite true. But it has been my experience that, once you know the basics of technology, it is creativity and innovation that propel the deliverable.
Bernard took a risk on Han, and Han was candid with Bernard about his abilities. I’m guessing that the “good relationship” they developed helped both say, “let’s figure it out.”
A good lesson here, perhaps.
It’s important to be clear about the outcome and clear on what it takes to succeed. If your outcome requires a knowledge of rocket science, hire for technical qualifications. But if you can, give someone a chance to show what they can learn and do.
The cool thing is that everyone else at the restaurant watched the process and joined in cheering Han on.
March 2020 was an unprecedented time. Bernard had a goal (which he put on Facebook) – to keep his full-time staff employed. Faced with closing or trying a new business model, he chose to enter uncharted territory, trusting his own instincts and those with whom he had developed relationships to make it work. He gave an opportunity to Han to learn something new and do something extraordinary. The cool thing is that everyone else at the restaurant watched the process and joined in cheering Han on. I know because when we picked up our Easter takeout brunch today, they told me so. And it is obvious that everyone is in the spirit of making Caps the very best takeout restaurant in north Florida. They were already among the best waterfront restaurants in north Florida, and now we all know why.
When I shared this draft with my husband, he reminded me of a pretty relevant and cool quote:
You can order this poster of the Calvin Coolidge quote on Etsy.