trying new things
Corporate Culture

Challenging the Norm: Salads A to Z

Terri Jensen
Terri Jensen
Holmes Murphy Corporate

One summer when I was growing up, my mom received an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine that held a treasure — an article titled “Salads A to Z.” Sure enough, there were 26 salad recipes that spanned the alphabet. Mom was determined to try them all. I don’t remember the specific salads we ate that summer, but I do remember how she went to multiple grocery stores looking for exotic ingredients that were sometimes difficult to find in western New York. But, she did it. In one summer, we ate more strange salads than any other kids in the neighborhood — or maybe even the state. We teased her mercilessly for years about that summer, but secretly I think we were all proud of her for this accomplishment. And of course, we were proud of ourselves for at least trying everything she put in front of us. Some of the salads were delicious. Others…well, we always had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to fall back on.

I’ve always respected my mom for her sense of adventure and her willingness to experiment. With seven children, it was probably just her way of getting out of the house, but it left an impression. She was never afraid to try new things or to fail and try again. She never settled for what had always been. Instead, she looked for what could be.

This attitude certainly applies to our work lives. So often, we work the same way day in and day out. We repeat a process simply because we were trained that way on our first day of the job. We didn’t ask ‘why’ then, and we haven’t asked since. My advice? Start asking. Look at your daily activities and challenge the need. Is what you’re doing helping your customer, creating an efficiency, increasing the bottom line, or improving someone’s workday? If the answer is ‘no,’ why keep doing it? It’s time to find what could be instead.

If you have a leadership role, encouraging employees to challenge today’s state and offer suggestions for improvement will bring about innumerable organizational enhancements. These enhancements can often be measured in cost savings, but they can also create a cultural change that boosts morale and empowers employees. Be open to the suggestions and ask your employees to lead the charge. Some of these changes will fail. Learn from the misstep and encourage your employees to try again. In the end, your organization will reap the rewards.

I still love salads to this day, and I will eat almost anything under the sun. My mom’s sense of adventure has reached beyond my pallet and has taught me to continuously challenge the norm. As a member of the Holmes Murphy staff, I look for ways to improve our organization, and as a leader, I encourage others to do the same. If you haven’t challenged your norms lately, give it a try. Remember, there’s always peanut butter and jelly if things don’t go as planned.

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