Wednesday, January 1, 2014

S'Mores Learning

Although the task seems simple, it's actually pretty hard because it forces people to collaborate very quickly.  - Tom Wujec, marshmallow consultant

It's amazing what you can accomplish, if you don't care who gets the credit.  
- Harry S. Truman

It takes a village marshmallow.  - Hillary Clinton, corrected


Nothing says Happy New Year better than a fresh approach, in whatever way that's most meaningful to you. Of course, there's the well-worn paths of beginning an exercise program, vowing to spend more time with family, or pursuing educational and career goals. All admirable, yet equally so could be who inspires us along those journeys, in addition to what they actually are?

Staff training, whether on your own or with your team, could be a great journey as much as a goal, as the new year welcomes a new hope for higher standards, higher performance in both ourselves and others. Just maybe,with no shortage of options to satisfy our appetite for learning, from books, to seminars, to workshops, to academia, could a fresh new approach in 2014 be inspired from what we observe in the finest scholastic institutions of, well, for instance... kindergartens?

Well, just maybe! Young children, before they're taught to be afraid of failure, naturally give themselves permission to keep trying over and over again, getting better at just about anything they set out to do. And, there's really no downside to this approach, because, at their age, there's been no shame yet attached
Future butlers - training with marshmallows.
to creating a version of something which is less than perfect, or, even more horrific in our adult society, creating something perfect which we cannot then be awarded full credit. As a result, most kids are remarkably successful learners ~ and superior team-players. They even seem to grasp basic project management skills, albeit through trial and error, which, on us adults, can appear to other adults as just incompetency, instead of the diligently working together toward a goal, which it often, actually is. Is it any wonder then, the study of teamwork and organizational development is such a huge industry? It's as if we're now spending a lifetime learning what we already knew as kids, yet somehow got discarded at the point when being right started to matter more than being successful.


The time has come, then, to build a soft and squishy bridge over the collaboratively dysfunctional collective gap. Enter now, shall we...  the marshmallow challenge!

Now that you've watched the video, what are all the marshmallows disguised as on your estate?  Are you now thinking about the dinner parties with all those last minute changes to the guest list?  How about those renovation projects with the ever shifting priorities of time, quality, and budget?  Or,
"When the student is ready..."
the marshmallow will appear!
maybe the too-toasted marshmallow has been, all along, the installation and maintenance of a performance management system which really, truly works to establish both support and accountability within your staff and unique workplace culture? Could it also be those little, billowy pillows of staffing complexities, drifting across multiple properties to effectively meet the quickly evolving needs of the principals, yet ready to topple down without warning and collapsing on top of all those well-intended five-star efforts?  


And for each of these jet-puffed challenges, are your staff relying on the narrow focus of only one, right way to succeed, with the guidance of only one, right leader? 

Or, are staff given opportunity to learn how to quickly prototype and lead alongside each other, together, while creating something new at a moments notice... something that is strong enough to keep the team proudly standing?

For those estates who can invest the valuable time and energy into learning together, consider these experiences to be your ultimate prototype play-lists. Is your training playful? Is it collaborative, sharing and fun? Do you have a safe space where you can innovate, build, jump right in and fail, and then to start all over again and push repeat-play? At the end of the day... regardless of the destination... how did your domestic staff team find and create its own version of sweet, delicious, towering ta-da moments?  

And just keep in mind... If you ever need help figuring it all out this year, you can always ask a kid!