When it comes to better business performance, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite fables about a generation of women whose ham recipe not only brings a few laughs, but also illustrates a valuable lesson. In the workforce, for the most part, in order for an employee to be productive, they need to feel appreciated. How do you make them feel appreciated? Keep all lines of communication open, cultivate good relationships, and never miss an opportunity to show humility!
And so the story goes:
A woman who prepared ham every holiday would purchase a whole ham,cut each side of the ham when preparing it, and then bake it--never really thinking too much about the process. It's just the way it was always done. Until one year, her daughter–-eager to learn how to prepare the holiday ham–-asked her mother, “Mom, why do you cut the sides off of the ham?”
The Mom shrugged and replied to her daughter, “Because honey, that’s how Grandma always made the ham, and it was the most delicious thing ever!”
Later, at the dinner table, the daughter asked her Grandma, “Grandma, why do you always cut the ends off of the ham when you make it?” The Grandma replied that her mother had ALWAYS cut the sides off of the ham, and her ham was always delicious, so she repeated the process. At that time, a meek chuckle from Great-Grandma erupted from the other end of the table.
All three women turned to Great-Grandma and said, “What’s so funny, Great-Grandma?”
She replied, “I cut the sides off of the ham because I didn’t have a pan large enough to bake the entire ham!”
It’s unfortunate that portions of perfectly good ham were presumably left to waste for a number of holidays due to the fact that Grandma never asked Great-Grandma the simple question, “Why?” Much like in the business world, if we fail to ask questions (no matter how minute), we may miss an integral part of the learning process. Ensure you're asking the difficult questions in your organization to make for better business performance by taking a lesson from grandma's cooking.
One of the worst, most-frequently, overused phrase to the question “why” is “because we’ve always done it this way.” If you, or anyone in your company are using these dreadful words, it’s time to stop immediately. Why, you ask? Because it’s merely an excuse that doesn’t give an explanation. It would deem appropriate to suggest that Great-Grandma’s ham was always the most delicious because of a secret ingredient or additional seasonings but not because of the way meat was sliced.
If employees don't feel their question has been answered correctly, they should feel comfortable enough to raise the question again. The daughter wasn’t satisfied with the reason Mom gave her which is why she asked Grandma herself. Grandma couldn’t answer the question, and Great-Grandma unwittingly chimes in with a reasonable explanation. The daughter in the story needed to go to three different people to get a logical explanation. You can prevent your employees going from coworker to coworker if you just explain the process correctly and precisely.
If your company continues to do things “the way they've always done them” and it’s not effective, new procedures need to be implemented. Examine your employees' business performance and see if they can't "learn a few lessons from Grandma." What lessons have you learned from your grandma?
Want to learn more about improving your business? Check out this post: Five Stupid Human Tricks Guaranteed to Make Your Business Fail