Be Like Salt
Growing up in the country with a southern grandma living right beside us, Sunday lunches were something of an event each week. My grandma would get up early in the morning and immediately begin cooking. Fried potatoes, green beans, ham, gravy and biscuits, grits, pancakes, mush … you name it and we had it on Sunday afternoons. She cooked it all and she loved every minute of it. I’m pretty sure cooking food for her family was her love language, if that’s a thing. All of our family in the area would come to Granny’s house to eat lunch just about every week. Occasionally, the rest of the family would be busy so it would just be us - my mom, dad, and brother. That had no impact on the quantity of food she fixed.
Now, as a southern grandma, taste always trumped nutrition. Salt was always something that was used graciously. Pretty much anything tasted better with salt, a fact not neglected by Granny. The salt shaker at my mom and dad’s house is still the size of a soup can with a handle. Mom is gracious with the salt as well.
I enjoy salt on most things, but over the years I have realized some things can be over salted or may even not require any salt at all. It just depends.
Why Should We Care?
Leadership is much the same way.
The best leaders know just the right amount of salt to apply.
Too much salt and you become a micromanager that doesn’t foster growth in the people you lead. Overbearing and controlling creates overbearing and controlling. Leadership requires the opportunity to fail and try again. Dowsing the situation with salt simply covers up the mistake and while we may be able to get it down, we’ve learned nothing about how to get it right the next time. That’s the problem with overbearing and controlling, you have to keep doing it - forever.
Not enough salt isn’t any good either. We are left wondering ‘what could have been’. This is particularly frustrating to those pursuing excellence. They want growth and development more than anything. An absent leader fails to provide the structure and support to help move those excellence seekers forward. They will, rather quickly, move on and you will be left with people content with mediocrity.
Now, just the right amount of salt is amazing. It’s perfect. It keeps us coming back for more. As leaders, when we apply just the right amount of salt our people feel safe, appreciated, and vital to our mission. They bring their best self, and work, to the team each day out of duty and love for what they’re doing.
Oh, and as the leader, you are always responsible for the amount of salt added. Too much salt, it’s your fault. Not enough salt, it’s your fault. Just the right amount of salt … your team did that, you don’t even exist.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Granny used salt liberally, but she always seemed to get it just right.
Here’s a few ideas on helping you do the same.
The other thing about the perfect amount of salt, no one notices it. As is the case with great leadership, it operates behind the scenes and goes unnoticed as if it’s not there at all.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.