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Excellence Through Persuasive Persistence
Restaurateur Danny Meyer learned an important insight early in his career: Getting mad about the low standards held by his staff was not a pathway to raising them.
When his standards of excellence were ignored by his staff, Meyer learned to persistently show them the way he wanted things done. He chose not to lose composure or bemoan people who didn’t sweat the details. But it wasn’t easy.
Meyer’s insight came from a meeting with a long-time mentor who listened to him chastise a server for placing a salt shaker in the wrong place on a table. His mentor took him aside to another work surface and asked him to clear the setting of everything except the salt shaker.
He then asked Meyer to place the salt shaker in the middle of the table exactly where Meyer thought it should go. Meyer complied, placing the shaker dead center on the table. His mentor then moved the shaker about three inches off-center. “Now where do you want it?” Meyer was asked. He slid it back to dead center. His mentor now moved the shaker six inches off-center, again asking, “Now where do you want it?” This went on for several more iterations.
The mentor explained to him that his staff and his guests were committed to always moving the salt shaker off-center. “That’s their job,” he said. “Your job is not to get upset but instead to move the shaker back to where it belongs. Let them know what excellence looks like.”
Meyer learned in that moment the power of persuasive persistence. Leaders who insist on excellence through their own actions persuade others to follow. When leaders are highly persistent, team members pay attention and understand the difference between what they’re doing and what the leader prefers. Persuasive persistence requires restraint and patience, but it gets the job done without emotion and noisy confrontation.
How persuasively persistent are you regarding your standards of excellence? The best leaders insist on excellence without ever saying a word. Now that’s a salty way to lead.