This weekend I was loading my dishwasher and I found myself taking the time to flip the forks, so the tines were facing up and moving the plastic to the top rack. I suddenly realized that I was doing this because for years, when my dad loaded the dishwasher, he would make sure the fork tines were up and the plastic was on the top. I was just a kid, so when I asked him why he did that, he explained the forks would be cleaner that way and the plastic wouldn’t melt. He was right and somewhere in my young brain I stored that information and I use it to this day.
My dad passed away in 2018 after a tough battle with cancer so I appreciate the little moments where he’s in my kitchen and helping me load the dishwasher. It makes me smile because it’s weird how I remember those little lessons he taught me as I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, he taught me several big lessons too: respect, humility, and integrity. He was such a good dad! I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the gushing.
The point of the story is this; the way we communicate, as parents and as leaders, makes an impression. Caring about the details, coaching people along the way, taking the time to explain why something matters can impact their approach and performance in the long term.
As leaders, we may not be teaching people how to load a dishwasher, but we should be communicating how even the smallest tasks they perform helps create a better experience for employees, customers, or the community and how it rolls up to a bigger goal.
If not, they’re flipping forks and moving plastic just because you said so, which means that someone is going to eat off of a dirty fork or drink out of a melted plastic cup. Why? Because doing anything just because someone said so, without context for the why, is easily forgotten or deemed unimportant.
So be aware that if you ever come to my house, the forks will be clean, and the plastic cups will not be warped from the heat. Not because I’ve blindly followed my dad’s instruction, but because he told me why it mattered.