As business owners, we long for the employees who are open and willing to learn, those who have an ideal mix of ingenuity and inquisitiveness, plus are team- and people-oriented to boot. Having seen the success that this type of attitude brings, not just for employees but for the managers and leaders who embrace it too, it can be disheartening when someone takes the opposite stance — as one who already has all the answers and largely wants to go it alone.
To the latter group, I’d caution there is always, always more to learn and many people willing to share their knowledge with you, if only you’d seek it out and gratefully accept it. The ancient proverb, Empty Your Cup, is an excellent reminder that we — as managers, entrepreneurs, employees, friends, and just plain humans — are best-served by remaining eternal students.
There are several versions of this proverb, but I’ve included one of the most popular below.
Empty Your Cup
Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.
One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.
The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served, the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally, the visitor shouted, “Enough! You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”
The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this teacup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”
Is Your Cup Overflowing?
So how full is your cup?
Have you been leading your team under the belief that everyone has something worthwhile to share? Do you value and openly seek the opinions and input of others, not to reinforce your own beliefs, but to expand them? Do you believe the greatest achievements are the result of the team instead of the individual?
Or have you charged ahead alone, making decisions independent of what others think and feel and the resulting impact on them, determined your way is likely the only way? Do you only reach out and connect when it can benefit you?
To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with brainstorming solutions and ideas on your own or being ambitious. But when you routinely favor your ideas, beliefs, and goals over those of others, like your employees and customers for instance, your cup is likely overflowing.
It’s just too full. There’s no room left to listen or learn, which means it’s probably time to dump out the remaining tea and find a new recipe.
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Legal Disclaimer: The information I publish is not legal advice but rather is intended to prompt a discussion on best practices in human resources. Further, federal and state laws are amended frequently and vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Therefore, the published information may not be current at the time that you read it or it may not be applicable to your jurisdiction. As such, you should not rely upon any of the published information without first consulting directly with Restaurant HR, legal counsel, and reviewing your local, state, and federal laws as well as any applicable industry practices and company policies.
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