Edit ModuleShow Tags

Chef Laura: The geranium effect


Published:

Last year, I moved to a new home and was blessed with nice neighbors who lived in a not-so-nice house.  Robert Frost knew that “Good fences make good neighbors," so I had one built – just in case.

They were happy, I was happy, and that should be the end of the story.

But the fence I had built was kind of spectacular.  The kind of craftsmanship that makes random pedestrians say “Nice fence!” when I’m out in the yard. 

A month later, I heard some banging next door.  I couldn’t see the source of the noise – thanks, Fencey – but I knew something was up.  My neighbor proudly summons me over to see the commotion.  With his chest puffed up, he showed me that construction had begun on his house to spiff up the exterior.

I was shocked.  All this time, I assumed he was vying for first place in the “Sanford & Son Salvage” look-alike contest. 

“You know what inspired me?” he asked, smiling, “Your fence.”

This summer, he put in a new above ground pool.  In secrecy, his wife excitedly told me, “I’ve been asking him to fix the pool for years.  It’s all because of your fence!”

Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t new. You hear about it in the ‘burbs all the time.  Even in dilapidated urban settings, cleaning up graffiti and planting flowers has a wonderfully contagious effect.  My psychology professor called this phenomenon The Geranium Effect: a tiny red blossom in a window box can spark a chain reaction of betterment throughout the neighborhood.

The same would be true at work.  No, I’m not suggesting you install planter boxes in your cubicle.  People, not plants, can be The Geranium Effect. 

Recently, I was sharing best boss stories with a colleague.  Coincidentally, we both recalled bosses from our impressionable teen years.  While I wore checked pants and an apron, his uniform consisted of Speedos and zinc oxide.  This tells you three things: it was summer, it was the mid 1980’s, and he was a lifeguard.

Every day, the lifeguard staff had a list of maintenance duties to complete, in addition to working on their tans – I mean – saving lives.  The tasks ranged from slightly unsanitary (cleaning out the lockers) to downright disgusting (removing tangled hair, and Lord knows what else, from the pool filters).  

Like a fantasy football draft, the staff picked their job du jour at the end of each day.  The order of the lineup was based on seniority, so the head lifeguard got first pick.  Everyone assumed Boss Man would select “fluff n’ fold the towels” or something equally cushy, but instead he happily volunteered to clean those funky filters.  

What did the next guy pick?  Laundry duty?  Nope – he chose gag-inducing Hubba Bubba removal.  And so on down the list.

That boss created The Geranium Effect with his positive and unspoken peer-pressure to do the right thing.  It rippled down the chain of command. 

So whether you intend to create positive change by rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty, or it’s just a happy byproduct of putting up a pretty fence, people notice.  Set the right example and you can enjoy blooming geraniums year-round.

Edit Module
Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

Get more of our current issue | Subscribe to the magazine | Get our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

From side business to powerhouse: The Emerald Isle story

Bill and Sandy Lamberton founded Emerald Isle Landscaping the same year – 1977 – their son Rory was born. In the intervening years, Rory grew up, took over the family business and turned it into a statewide landscaping dynamo with 140 full-time employees.

Coloradans talk "innovation nation" at the White House

Colorado leaders in business, policy, technology and education met with federal policy experts Tuesday to brainstorm ways for Colorado to take the lead in the successful formation of an “innovation nation.”

The CTA brings tech-savvy Colorado to Washington

The Colorado Technology Association plans to meet with leaders in technology and innovation during a three-day trip to Washington, D.C. that will spotlight actionable business goals, initiatives and insights.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Thanks for contributing to our community-- please keep your comments in good taste and appropriate for our business professional readers.

Add your comment: