By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to inspire more collaboration. Reading time: 4:14
“This was a tough nut to crack,” the leader declared in launching her staff meeting to celebrate the successful product launch on time and under budget.
“In fact, this was such a tough nut, I thought we should have some fun this afternoon cracking a few nuts to celebrate your achievement.”
Her staff seemed perplexed if not confused.
The team leader then passed out a bowl of unshelled nuts to each of her seven team members. Then she distributed a nutcracker –the metal vice-like hand tool—to each staff member.
The staff looked quizzically to each other. They wondered if their team leader had cracked under all the pressure.
But then the leader led by example. She began cracking the whole nuts. There were almonds, brazil nuts, hazlenuts, pecans and walnuts. And with all that nut-cracking, the staff meeting room erupted into a cacophony of snaps, crackles and pops.
“Let’s see who can be the first to crack the shell without damaging the nut inside,” the team leader said. “That’s what you did on this project. You cracked through the barriers without destroying key relationships or wasting resources. And that’s not easy.”
She scanned the room and called out the obvious. There were a lot of cracked shells –and cracked nuts. But at least half of her staff cracked open a walnut perfectly in half revealing the heart-shaped walnuts.
The team leader stirred her leadership with Half & Half. She seized on her symbolic message with a question for her staff. “How come the walnuts seemed to crack open so precisely in half when most of the other nuts cracked or at least were damaged in shelling them?
The staff surmised the shape of the walnut shell had something to do with how well it protected the nut inside without cracking on the outside.
Others pointed to a seam-like feature between the halves of a whole walnut. And still others surmised the larger size of the walnut has been instrumental in its protective performance.
The team leader affirmed all of her staffs ideas on the merits of a walnut shell to protect its contents better than other nuts. Then the leader was ready for her teaching point.
“Okay, let’s try a little experiment. Take one of your whole walnuts and place it into your nutcracker. Now before you crack the walnut, let’s see if we can do this together. Instead of quickly squeezing the nutcracker, try to apply a slow, steady gradual increase in pressure, okay nice and easy and steady, steady, steady.”
All seven staffer opened their walnut without damage to their shell and revealing the heart-shaped halves. “You were able to crack this nut because you focused on a specific nut with steady pressure,” said the team leader.
“So too in completing our project on time and under budget. You cracked this tough nut by first focusing on areas where you could make a difference – not on any proverbial nut that you found in your proverbial bowl. And you applied steady pressure over time to get it done. “
After her team enjoyed a coffee and cake celebration, the team leader closed the staff meeting by handing each staff person a shiny shellacked walnut half-shell. “I just want you to remember how well you all did in achieving this success –even if I do run the risk of all you thinking I’m nuts.”
They all laughed as they exited the staff meeting room.
At the next staff meeting, the team leader opened the meeting by placing her shiny shellacked walnut half shell on the table in front of her. “That’s just to remind me how good you all are at cracking the tough nuts.”
At the next staff meeting, some of the staff also showcased their shiny shellacked walnut half shells as soon as the leader prominently displayed hers as she had done the previous meeting.
And at the following staff meeting, all staff joined in the Shell Game. After all none of them were NOT about to crack under the pressure.