Leadership is Basically just Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is all about combinations. Whether it’s the variety of flavors and fragrances on the table, or the warm connections shared by the loved ones who gather around it, it’s a holiday that combines so many striking elements together to make something truly memorable.

It’s the same thing great leaders do. In fact, stare close enough at your plate, and you might just notice that your favorite Thanksgiving dishes are actually just leadership lessons in delicious disguise. Don’t believe me? Pull up a chair and dig into these tasty teachings:

Even the Green Beans are Having Fun

Vegetables might not be the most popular guests at a dinner party, but the crowd-favorite green bean casserole seems to buck that trend, finding a special place on the table this time of year. Why?

The answer is balance. What makes this casserole a hit is the combination of what’s good for us (fresh green nutrients!) and what we crave (fried onions and cream – oh my!). Look, we’ve all got our “green beans” at work, whether it’s a deadline that needs to be hit or a difficult decision that needs to be made. While these issues must be addressed, we can take a cue from America’s favorite casserole and even out the less appealing parts of our jobs with positive incentives. Employee recognition initiatives – such as team awards or enhanced workplace benefits – or just a simple “thank you” can go a long way towards making the tough times go down easier!

Cranberry Can Lines

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest ones. No Thanksgiving side dish demonstrates this better than the classic cranberry sauce from a can. Sure, you could spend time making a sauce masterpiece from scratch using fresh cranberries, but for some reason it can’t compare to that infamous, jiggly mainstay.

There’s more going on here than just sugar and gelatin! Complicated details can bog down even the best teams. Every complex problem requires a complex solution, right? Wrong! If you feel overwhelmed, consider cranberries from a can; often, the simplest solution is the sweetest.

Stuffing or Mashed Potatoes?

Why not both? It’s true that there’s a rivalry between these two decadent comfort food classics, with hungry diners picking sides and declaring their favorite every turkey day. However, that’s the beauty of Thanksgiving – you can have it all!

At work, don’t force yourself or your team into false choices. Many times, it’s not a question of “this or that?”, but rather a case of “why not both?” The best resolutions often come when leaders find a way to include multiple perspectives and ideas. So, go ahead, have your stuffing and mashed potatoes, too!

There’s Plenty to Go Around

If you’ve ever been the last in the passing rotation at the Thanksgiving dinner table, you know the true meaning of anxiety. Sweat beads start to form as you watch in horror as your loved ones spoon out more and more of your favorite dishes. “Oh no, there’s not much left. We’re not going to make it!” your internal monologue screams.

Yet, somehow, there always seems to be enough to fill everyone’s plate.

As a leader, it’s up to you to make sure that everyone feels like they have a seat at the table, and that they’ll all get their fill. Make time to check-in with each member of your team, see how they’re doing and provide clear communication on what they can expect now and in the future. In our heads, at both the dinner table and the office, it’s all too easy to look around, see others enjoying themselves and think, “what about me?” Leaders are in a unique position to put these concerns to rest. After all, there’s plenty to go around (heck, take seconds!)

Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating until you fall asleep; it’s about being thankful for the people in our lives that fill our world with meaning. As a leader, you have the unique opportunity to inspire a team, and that’s more priceless than the look on the faces of your hungry table when the turkey finally comes out.

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