[Life Back West] Early Summer 2014 – “Save Water: Drink Margaritas”

Clever won’t guarantee success though it might get you noticed.shutterstock_192535826

C. S. Lewis once noted “No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet” and that’s a pretty smart way to size clever by itself.

So I chuckled as I saw the slogan on the back of the wait crew shirts at the recently re-opened La Rondalla restaurant in my San Francisco Mission neighborhood.

Shuttered since 2007 when the City pulled the plug on a place that had been open since 1951, I missed their killer margaritas, the year-round kitschy Christmas decorations that looked like they’d been up since the restaurant’s founding and the pleasant long-time wait staff.

I did not miss the food, something which earned a quick shutdown seven years ago when rat poop was found in the serving area of the kitchen.

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone outline in their excellent new book, Thanks for the Feedback, that there are lots of ways to look at feedback. One way is to separate feedback that’s appreciation from feedback that’s coaching and feedback that’s evaluation.

When cockroaches tank your sanitary score – an evaluation – all the appreciation and coaching feedback in the world is not going to keep you open.

Following the closure, second generation owners Carlos and Esparanza Barrios passed the revival torch to their kids, Jasmine Barrios and Betty Luna, who have led the relaunch of La Rondalla.

Stone and Heen –  I meet Sheila last month at Kelly and John Close’s excellent CPS Lectures series last month–  do a terrific job of unpacking all the various elements we call feedback in a way that is extraordinarily helpful.

They cite Carol Dweck’s work on performance. Turns out people with what’s called a “growth mindset” are significantly better at self-perception: they ask for feedback in an unusually helpful way –  “Tell me more” – and see growth and change as part of the normal deal. Perseverance is higher because it’s expected that it takes time and work to master new skills.

People with a “fixed mindset” see themselves as complete, and disdain feedback (unless it’s positive) and have less perseverance because time isn’t needed if you’re already great.

Barrios and Luna took their growth mindset and dared to tamper with the look and feel of La Rondalla  – “we can change the place to make it better”  – by soliciting feedback about ways to improve the new place. As a result, the stale Christmas decorations are gone, a large screen TV now sits in the bar area, and the place has an open, easy feel for the younger adults and families of all flavors that will become the new regulars.

And Jasmin and Betty showed that perseverance counts: seven years is a long time to bootstrap a relaunch to opening, even if cash from their parents helped fund some of the work.

So while clever might get you noticed, perseverance – including seeking feedback in helpful ways – will set you on the road to success.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

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