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Washing & Drying The Dishes: A Story of Leadership

When I was a little girl “loading the dishwasher” meant making sure that my sister and I had a sufficient amount to eat for dinner!! There was no machine to fill with semi-rinsed off dishes. We had our four hands, two tubs, soap, hot water, a dish rag and a scrubby, a dish rack and cotton towels.

After dinner we would clear the table, put left-overs away, and wipe all of the food scraps off of the plates into the garbage. The dishes were stacked on the right side of the sink – dinner plates topped with bowls. All of the silverware was piled together and the glasses were set closest to the sink.

The tub to the right was filled the HOT water and soap while the one on the left was filled with clean HOT water. When I say HOT – I mean HOT – burn your skin and turn it red HOT!! Why, because HOT water cleans and rinses the best and dries faster.

Whoever washed would clean the glasses first in order to make sure that no grease from the dinner plates left a residue on them. Once they were washed they were either handed to the other of us for rinsing, drying and putting away – or simply set into the tub of rinse water to be pulled out and set in the dish rack. After a sufficient amount of glasses were rinsed, they would be dried and put away.

Next, the silverware was placed into the bottom of the wash tub (this allowed them soak, softening any crusted on food.) The bowls were set on top of them and washed, followed by the plates. Last of all would be the serving bowls, pots, pans and/or casserole dishes. Finally the silverware was washed. Each of these items went through the same “rinse cycle” as the glasses!

It was the job of the rinser/dryer to inspect the dishes for missed food so that nothing was put away dirty. Sometimes the dishwasher, distracted by other thoughts, being tired and/or in a bad mood, would be less than diligent about getting all of the food off of the dishes before putting them into the rinse water. The general rule in our home was that the one rinsing would simply clean the few random specks of food off of the plates into the rinse water, dry them and put them away. However, if she found that too many of the plates were not being sufficiently washed, or one in particular was really dirty, she could put it back into the wash tub for a more thorough scrubbing. Depending upon the mood of the washer, the response to this act could range from an apology to a full on war!!

If a “war” ensued, Mom would intervene. She would determine whether or not the washer was being lazy or the rinser was just being too picky. Usually the one determined to be at fault would end up having to do the entire job alone the next night. Sometimes it was a problem with both of us and we would be “sentenced” to equal nights of completing the chore alone.

Obviously, it was our immaturity, self-centeredness, and inability to foresee the results of our actions resulting in each of us having to do the entire job alone that lent us toward ‘waging war’ against each other rather than resolving the matter in love. Today, as adults enjoying occasional family events, we are able to help each other load the dishwasher in peace!

What does this story have to do with us? I’m sure by now you have made the connection. First of all, there is a lot in the way of processing and procedures that goes into our work here at the studio. We need to make sure we all understand and perform them each in the same manner. Consistency not only keeps peace, it also ensures that any one of us can take over where another left off. If there is any area for which you feel insecure or inadequately trained, please ask someone for training or direction.

Secondly, it is imperative that we have each other’s backs. Just like in my dish washing/rinsing scenario – if one of us is completing a project which was begun by another, we need to “cover them” by taking care of any missed aspects as a team member. This means fixing errors (or discretely finding someone who can) then carrying on as if nothing happened. Unless, of course, there is found to be an abundance of similar errors, or a multitude of differing errors by the same staff member; then we need to address the matter. This means going to that staff member to see if everything is okay. We need to show what we have found and ask if they are possibly (1) in need of more training, (2) overwhelmed with other projects, (3) distracted by something work or home related, etc. The attitude should be one of wanting to help them figure out the best way to eliminate or at least reduce the errors. An example of what to say could be, “Hey …., can we talk in private for a moment? I noticed that this “error” is happening often. Is this your hand writing/initial/etc.? Is there anything I can do to help you so it doesn’t keep happening?” Only when this approach does not work should I be approached with the matter. (Nothing should go to Faith unless it cannot be resolved between Front Desk Staff and my mediation.)

Lastly, we need to all be humble enough to receive correction. We are a team which is made up of humans who are prone to make mistakes; and we all make our fair share of them! How we deliver correction/criticism is just as important as how we receive it. If I want someone to receive help and/or constructive criticism from me, then I must be able to take it from them. Rather than react with defensiveness; we need to respond with acknowledgment and maybe even an apology. Something like, “Oh my, thank you for pointing this out to me; I will definitely try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The most important aspect of leadership is service. Even though there is a hierarchy among us, we are all leaders of particular procedures none of which are more or less important than any other. Whether it is our job to “wash” or “rinse and dry the dishes” we need to serve one-another being willing to ask for and/or receive help. Just as a slack rope cannot hold together that which it binds; one that is bound to tightly will eventually, because of friction, break. When we pull against each other we weaken our support. Let’s be a strong support for each other, the instructors, the studio and Miss Faith.

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