Friday, May 22, 2009

Michelle Obama and the Importance of Knowing the Names of the Kitchen Staff

Knowing the Cleaners
At a leadership workshop CEOs and others in power were asked if they could tell the group the names of the cleaners in their workplace.

It was a way of testing to see whether the leaders were humble, approachable, among their people, and those who truly regarded the worth of every member to their organization.

Michelle Obama on Leadership
An article that accompanies an interview in Time Magazine (The Meaning of Michelle Obama) with the First Lady begins in this way:

“It was just two days after the Inauguration when an e-mail went around to Michelle Obama's staff, instructing everyone to be in the East Room of the White House at 3 that afternoon. The First Lady's advisers arrived to find the room filled with ushers and plumbers, electricians and maids and kitchen crew gathered in a huge circle, and Michelle in a T shirt and ponytail, very casual and very much in charge.”

“‘This is my team that came with me from Chicago,’” Michelle said, pointing to her communications staff and policy people. ‘This is my team who works here already,’ she went on, indicating the ring of veterans around the room. Many of the household staff had served for decades; some had postponed retirement because they wanted to serve an African-American President. And so the two groups formed concentric rings and spent the next hour or so making sure that everyone had a chance to meet everyone else. I want you to know that you won't be judged based on whether they know your name, Michelle had warned her advisers. You'll be judged based on whether you know theirs.”

Source: The Meaning of Michelle Obama, TIME, 21 May 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Michelle Obama (Photo courtesy of TIME)