Take Time To Make The Chili

Have you ever had a month when the same themes keep coming up over and over?  It happens to me often…not sure if that is because I am looking for it or if the universe is trying to get a message to me.  This month has been like that.  The theme seems to be…take the time to focus on relationships, not tasks.  The first evidence of this theme was a story by Pam Berg that I read on Instagram:

Make the Chili
“A good friend of mine unexpectedly lost her husband.  A couple of months later we were running together chatting about nothing.  She asked what my dinner plans were, and I told her my husband wanted chili, but I didn’t feel like stopping at the store.  We ran a few more minutes when she quietly said, “Make the chili.”  It took me a few minutes to realize we were no longer talking about dinner. It was about going out of your way to do something for someone you love because, at any moment, they could unexpectedly be taken from you.

So today I’m sharing with you that wisdom handed to me by my dear friend, that I’ve thought of many times since that day.  Next time someone you love wants to go for a walk or watch a football game or talk to you about their struggles or just put your phone down and give them your undivided attention, just do it.  Make the chili.  Love deeply and selflessly.”

Post Malone 
A couple of weeks ago, Layla and I traveled to deliver a leadership program at an LNG company in Houston. The fourth business quarter is always a race to the finish as a consultant.  We are completing work that needs to be delivered before the holidays (everyone using their budget when they can) while also ramping up to deliver the needed work in the new year.  We often refer to it as “semesters” where sometimes there is a little more leisurely pace and other times it is finals.  It is easy to get burned out at this time and we all take a breath during our time off over the holidays.

The last couple of months had been incredibly busy so I knew I wanted to do something fun so that we could relax and re-energize together.  We were going to be staying downtown which just happened to be within walking distance of the Toyota Center.  Fortunately, there was a concert – Post Malone… which we both love…so I purchased tickets for us with dinner and drinks before the concert.  We had SO much fun.  We had a great dinner, the margaritas flowed, and we got to sing and dance, cutting loose to one of our favorite artists.  And you know what Layla said to me while one of the last songs was playing?  “I really needed this”.  So grateful we took the time because guess what?  So did I.  This was my second piece of evidence that a theme was developing.

Hanging Out and Feeling Loved
Opening up the mail one evening, I received an invitation from a friend to a “Girl’s Night Out”.  That friend, Candice, is an amazing woman in the community whose family has always been dear to me.  They are a hard-working family whose son played basketball with my son and, since graduating high school, has had an amazing professional career.  I’ve always been incredibly happy for their success and, at the same time, admired Candice because of her authenticity and dedication to the community.  Of course, I immediately texted her and told her I would be there.

As I approached the front steps of her house, I still wasn’t exactly sure what this evening was about.  Fundraiser?  A longstanding party with women I didn’t know?  I wasn’t sure, but I was up for the adventure.  I was greeted with a hug, a glass of wine, and a quick spin around the room.  There was amazing food, a fresh flower station where you could build your own bouquet, a permanent jewelry booth, a tree with a present for everyone, a photo booth, and a room full of about 50 new friends.  Once all of her guests arrived, Candice clinked a glass for attention and shared a story about a dear friend of hers who had ended up ill in the hospital.  She spoke of the regret she felt standing at her friend’s bedside.  The truth was, they were great friends, but with small children and a busy life, they had not made enough time to get to together.  She talked about how busy all of us get…moms, wives, and daughters… and how her intention for the evening was to create an amazing night for each of us to get to know one another, get a bit pampered, and build a community of strong women.

As Candice spoke, I teared up.  Here was my friend taking the time to make a difference in our lives. She was reminding each of us how much we mean to one another and how little we value it enough to slow down and take time together.  During that evening, I met new friends, felt loved and valued, and, overall, was inspired!  She had done an incredible job of making people her priority with a generous spirit and a few beautiful indulgences that touched our hearts.  The third evidence of a theme, do you see it?

Why Making People Your #1 Priority is Your #1 Priority
Now, why am I telling you about these little reminders that I seemed to be getting this last month?  Well, first, because I care about you, and second because I care about the people you are called to serve.  As a leader, I want you to get the same message I have been getting – slow down and be intentional in how you spend your time – especially these last few weeks of the year.  I know we all fall into the hustle and bustle of the season…but how can you relax a little and make it more meaningful with those you care about?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” including the capacity to identify emotions, harness emotions, and apply them to tasks like problem-solving, and the capacity to regulate emotions and support others in the regulation of their own emotions.  I’m sure you have heard this before, but it is a very important concept for people who are in positions of leadership.  Our belief here at Steople is that as a leader you need EI to handle the time and energy that you must invest in your team.

Leaders must develop the capacity to care for and support team members as they encounter personal and professional challenges, from failed initiatives to failed marriages. This capacity changes the lens through which a leader looks at every meeting and interaction. Instead of approaching time with employees as solely a business-oriented strategy conversation, high culture/high-profit leaders focus on the support they provide to the team members involved. Certainly, much of that support is strictly professional (what resources do I need to expend, for this effort to be successful?) but a significant proportion is emotional as well (what support can I expend, for this person to be successful?). There is a business case for truly caring about and investing time in those who stand by you day in and day out reaching for your combined goals.

Being Intentional with a Plan
To me, it is great news that studies have found that CEOs (and all leaders)  who spend more time with their employees lead more productive companies.   It makes our job so much easier as we speak with each of you in your respective companies making the case that keeping people the priority pays dividends.  So what can you do to be more intentional?  Well, my recommendation is to start today and consider implementing the following:

  • Do your people know how relevant they are to the success of the team?  Do you take time to get to know them on a personal basis?  It should be part of your vocabulary and routine.
  • Prepare for each meeting on your calendar by asking the question, “Who is in this meeting, and how can I help them succeed as an individual and as a team member?”
  • Review your routine: does it reflect an orientation toward people? How would you get feedback if you are unsure?
  • What new habits could you start to make clear your prioritization of people? Office walk-throughs? Handwritten notes? Informal time together?
  • Among your executive team, who is the best at caring for people? How do they illustrate this care? Has it made them more successful? How could you celebrate their approach publicly, to encourage others to do the same?
  • Do you ever have someone say “I know you are busy…” Do you impress on people how busy you are which then somehow sends the message you don’t have time?  Do you leave “white space” on your calendar?

I’ll be totally transparent, much of the time, I choose what I write about based on what I am “feeling” now.  I’m working on this “slowing down” right along with you.  It is SO easy to get pulled into the running of the business and delivering to our clients.  Even as an organizational psychologist who knows all of this, I must continue to work on it.  It is easy for me to tell myself that people are busy, they don’t want interference, they don’t value the time to pause, and that I have other things that take precedence.  But even worse than that…one day can just roll into another without INTENTIONALLY making the time.  I believe that being honest and normalizing what our tendencies are is the first step to changing for the better.  So my question is, what are you going to tweak over the next few crazy weeks either personally or professionally?  Let us know how we can help continue to build those great leadership habits as we close out this year and move into 2023.  Remember, the next time someone you love wants to go for a walk or watch a football game or talk to you about their struggles or just put your phone down and give them your undivided attention, just do it.  Make the chili.  Love deeply and selflessly.