The CEO should wash the dishes

by Corey Kohn

Years ago, okay maybe decades ago, I worked at the most successful Boulder restaurant that nobody even knows is there. This was back when Lucky, God rest his soul, would play Sax on the steps and say hello to everyone walking by.

I was always struck by the work ethic of the owner, he easily pulled 12 hour days, every day of the week. He would start in the garden harvesting the daily organic crop. And end each day pulling weeds. This was ten years before every Boulder restaurant had relationships with local organic farmers.

Anytime he could, he would be back in the dish room cranking through the dishes. Let's admit it, no one really enjoyed doing the dishes, but it had to be done. Seeing him do this, as well as take out the trash and busing tables had a real lasting effect on everyone who worked there. It made you want to work harder. It made you want to do the dishes as well. That was an easy lesson in leadership.

There was a hidden effect as well though.

It created an environment where he was super accessible to talk about anything. He got to hear new ideas from employees while they did their side work, he got to share with them his insight about life and the business, and he got to find out more about what was important to them. Through this simple act, he built partnerships with his employees.

So let go of the idea that your time is worth too much to stop in the middle of the day and take care of something simple. Re-fill the copier, take out the trash, do the dishes.

You will be surprised at the effect it could have.