Dennis Culloton, President and CEO

How would you motivate the dishwasher?

It makes no sense out of context, but this is an important question to ask a candidate for any leadership position. Bill Keena, a client of ours, was once tasked with interviewing several MBA students for a management job at a hotel. In addition to asking the traditional questions prepared by HR, he asked a question that the candidates hadn’t prepared for in order to truly get a read on their management skills: “How would you motivate the dishwasher?” In other words, how do you lead and motivate an operation from the ground up?

Of all of the candidates for this hotel job, only one applicant understood how to lead and manage from the ground up – a former military officer.

CEO of my firm sounds like a pretty important title.  But at a small firm like ours, it means head chef and bus boy too.  I can’t act like a big shot when everyone here is working at full capacity writing press releases and client strategies. I have to jump in when the grunt work is overwhelming the staff, roll up my sleeves and get to work.  It is important for my colleagues to know that I am not asking them to do anything I haven’t done before or do right now.  Pitching media, writing press releases or cleaning up the break room needs to be done and if no one else has time, I have to jump in and help.

Bill’s lesson applies to all of us in leadership and management roles. How do you motivate your dishwasher?