Getting the Licorice Out of Your Teeth

 By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you become more aware of how others see you. Reading time: 2:49

         You look marvelous. It’s date night. You’re feeling good. You’re looking good. There’s the doorbell. “Oh, he’s here already,” you gush.

        box of toothpicks  You open the door and you’re thrilled at your discovery. He looks great. You feel great. Then he smiles. And you wince.

          He has a piece of black licorice candy wedged between his front two teeth.

          The vice president opened a staff meeting with that story and then said, “Effective leaders carry their own toothpicks of sorts – just in case,”

       She passed out a box of 250 toothpicks to each of her direct reports. Not that they needed it, she cautioned.

        toothpicksThe staff seemed offended at the lesson in personal hygiene until the vice president clarified her teaching moment.

    “I keep a box of these in my desk drawer, not so much for the food I eat, but for a little food for thought,” the vice president continued.

   “This box of toothpicks reminds me how important details are especially when you aren’t in a position to see everything. Then I have to check with others.

   “How do I look? How am I doing? What else do I need? Who else can help me get a better picture of this problem?”


        Tooling Your Toothpick Power

       The vice president added that the box of toothpicks also reminded her of the capacity of the human mind for creative excellence.

Toothpick model of the Queen Mary on display in a Chicago museum.

Toothpick model of the Queen Mary on display in a Chicago museum.

        She recounted seeing the result of 814,000 toothpicks arranged into a 25-foot replica of the Queen Mary,  the largest passenger ship in the world at one time.

        She  marveled at the thought of the 194,000 toothpicks it took to build a 16-foot replica of the  British ocean liner, the Lusitania or the 75,000 toothpicks it took to build the 9-foot replica of the Titantic.

      And she seemed in awe of the 246 toothpicks fallen on the floor that Dustin Hoffman’s savant character immediately counted in the movie Rain Man to the surprise of all.

      The vice president added that her box of toothpicks in her drawer reminded her of the importance of championing talent and fostering diversity not only in her department but around the company.

        She also emphatically asked her staff for their feedback on “what I can do to improve my performance.” The vice president also welcomed their feedback “especially when I have licorice in my teeth.”

       She acknowledged that her staff would probably not store the box of toothpicks in their desks.  They would more readily take them home at best or throw them away at the worst.

      Either way she noted how easy it is to forget to use our proverbial toothpicks– even on date night– because we are too busy doing the urgent. She reminded the staff that the proverbial licorice is an “equal opportunity destroyer” of relationships.

     At any rate, the vice president felt like the box of toothpicks gave her savvy staff something to think about in their own leadership development.

    And a whole lot more to CHEW on! Besides licorice.

Today’s ImproveMINT

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