Thank You, Lunch Ladies and All Who Work to Help Others

“A thank you can change a life.” This assertion was shared by Jarrett Krosoczka during his 2014 TED Talk “Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes.” Krosoczka is the author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, and his talk and novels focus on the school lunch ladies who play an essential, but often overlooked, role in the education system. This reminded us of education data—essential for everyday district and school operations (such as planning, evaluation, and improvement), but often overlooked relative to other aspects of the education enterprise.

As emphasized in Krosoczka’s talk, lunch ladies do a lot more than serve chicken nuggets. More than 30 million kids participate in school lunch programs every day—that’s more than 5 billion lunches made each school year. In one district in Kentucky, where 67 percent of the students relied on schools to serve them meals each day during the school year, the lunch ladies retrofitted a school bus so they could feed 500 kids a day over the summer, when the children might not otherwise receive regular meals. Thank you, lunch ladies, for making the effort, and thank you to members of the data community for collecting the data that drives education decisionmaking and action.

Krosoczka’s presentation made us think about the unsung heroes in our lives. In the context of QIP, sometimes some of our staff become very busy with a large, important assignment. When we finish a big project, it is natural that we should thank the folks who worked on it—for example, the management planners, content leads, reviewers, editors, and graphic designers. But we sometimes forget to thank the people who didn’t work on that particular project, but carried the weight of all the other projects—also extremely important—that needed to be completed at that time, allowing others to focus on the large assignment. We want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone on the QIP staff—no matter which projects you happen to be involved in.

There are also many people beyond the work environment who deserve thanks. As Krosoczka states, “Before a child can learn, their belly needs to be full.” Who feeds your belly, literally or figuratively? Who helped you along your journey, but wasn’t noticed, or thanked, often enough because they were quiet and humble or, like the lunch ladies, didn’t have a high-profile position, even though their contributions to your life were real and meaningful?

Late November is a great time to share gratitude. Perhaps we should all reach out to the “lunch ladies” in our lives and share a heartfelt thank you. As shown in Krosoczka’s TED Talk, it can mean the world to someone, especially if they are feeling otherwise unnoticed or undervalued in our busy world.

[Source of TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/jarrett_krosoczka_why_lunch_ladies_are_heroes]

Leadership at All Levels Reaps Rewards

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It may seem paradoxical, but leadership is something that everyone should practice in the workplace. That’s right—leadership isn’t just for the designated “leaders” of an organization. It’s for everyone, from the recent college graduate starting his or her first job, to the experienced professional who’s been working in the field for thirty years. Leadership also isn’t just for large crowds and big meetings; in fact, it’s useful in work situations we experience every day.

American financier and presidential advisor Warren G. Bennis explains that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” At QIP, almost all of our staff are in the business of converting clients’ ideas into the products we develop for them—and, given Warren G. Bennis’s definition of leadership, that makes everyone at QIP a leader.

How might leadership play out in an individual’s day-to-day work? Here are a few best practices we use at QIP:

  • We schedule meetings with clients regularly and make a point of listening to their needs—which is an important, but often overlooked, leadership tool.
  • We share draft products with clients as a standard practice to make sure that our work reflects their needs. Being responsible for meeting clients’ needs is leadership, too.
  • Finally, it’s important to feel empowered to share assessments of client needs with senior management, project directors, and colleagues throughout the organization, so everyone can stay aware of how the team is helping clients achieve their objectives and goals. Collaboration helps to ensure high-quality outputs; this is leadership.

When you listen to client needs, incorporate their direction into your working drafts, and share ideas and project progress with your colleagues, clients will find your support critical to their success. If you do this on a regular basis, you are surely acting like a leader on your team, throughout your organization, and for your clients.

Teams benefit when everyone is actively leading: working to translate clients’ visions into the products and services they need. We’ve found this to be true at QIP, and it will also be true for you.

[Source of quotation: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Warren_Bennis]

Success: The Tip of the Iceberg

Success is something we all crave, and people seem to talk about it endlessly. But what is it, exactly? The Free Dictionary offers these definitions:

1. the favorable outcome of something attempted

2. the attainment of wealth, fame, etc.

At QIP, we’re more interested in the first definition than the second. But there’s another definition of success that resonates with the type of work we do: Success is the product of effort.

The image of an iceberg as a metaphor for success has been making the rounds through social media. The lower, and bigger, portion of the iceberg represents all the unseen attributes that contribute to the higher, and smaller, portion, which represents observable success.

Over the years, we have noticed that six foundational attributes lead to success within our company:

  • Persistence – We keep trying, even when the road is difficult.
  • Failure – We all fail at times, but do we learn from our mistakes and keep trying? As Thomas Edison said, “Many of life's failures . . . did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
  • Sacrifice – Putting energy into one thing means that we are forgoing the opportunity to put it into something else. This is inevitable; we work to make good choices about where to invest our energy.
  • Good habits – For most of us, success is the result of good practices and routines, not flashy ideas, charisma, or brilliance.
  • Hard work – Very few things come easily; you must work for them. To quote Thomas Edison again, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
  • Dedication – Sticking to a winning formula is important. We focus on the attributes that have led to past successes as reasonable launching points for future successes.

When teams display these attributes, it’s amazing how powerful the results can be. Focusing on the six foundational attributes is much more efficacious than striving for wealth or fame. The former goes deep; the latter is too shallow to build real results.

However you choose to define success, it always seems to emanate from deep down. Dig deep, and you will rise high. That’s our philosophy at QIP.

Teamwork: Greater than the Sum of the Parts

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If you are an athlete or theater goer—or both!—you’ve seen how a coordinated group effort can produce an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts. Coaches, stage directors, task managers, project directors, and other leaders recommend a wide range of sometimes competing philosophies for inspiring and improving teamwork, but here’s how we approach the concept at QIP.

The Business Dictionary defines teamwork as “the process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal.” That sounds right, but we think there’s more to it. In fact, we like the way artist and author Zero Dean explains the concept in more interpersonal terms:

Teamwork is the combined commitment to overcome obstacles. It’s support. It’s encouragement. It’s working together.

It’s rising to the challenge of bettering yourself for the benefit of the whole. It’s providing the support & encouragement necessary to help others better themselves and succeed in their endeavors.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, many experts believe that, after identifying a shared goal or purpose, the most important aspects of teamwork center on relationships: effective group communications, efficient collaborative processes, and positive interpersonal interactions. We consistently put these ideas into practice here at QIP.

No matter what your workplace role is, it’s a valuable exercise to consider how you contribute to the teams you work within—internally, with business partners, and in client settings. What is your role? What do you contribute? What could you contribute? To evaluate yourself, you can ask questions such as these:

  • Am I a consistent contributor?
  • Am I a person my colleagues can count on?
  • Do I volunteer to pick up the slack when I see opportunities to do so?
  • Do I share credit and acknowledge good work in others?
  • Do I encourage others?
  • Do I treat others with respect?
  • Am I a person other people want to work with?

If your assessment suggests that there’s room for you to improve in your team skills, why not give it a try? No one is perfect, but people who collaborate as teammates can do great things together. Up your game in the teamwork department, and see how it improves your professional products, interpersonal relationships, and job satisfaction! That’s what all of us at QIP are continually striving to do.

Making Work-Life Balance a Priority

At QIP, we don’t just hire employees. We work to build a team of people who know they matter and who’ll stay with us for the long run. The productivity of our company depends on having a steady team. We know that if our company operated like a revolving door, we wouldn’t be able to maintain the high standards we’re known for. A long-term team of committed workers translates into an efficient business with long-term success.

So, when we tell our team to balance work and life, we mean it.

Sure, exciting things are happening around here on the professional front. But it is our current team of people that is the secret ingredient behind our accomplishments. Since founding QIP in 2004, we have seen that good people with good skills and good clients with good projects make for a wonderful workplace, and a successful company.

As we continue to develop our business, we aim to sustain our QIP culture. Our philosophy is that while business success is important, fulfillment in life is even more crucial. That’s because when things get out of balance, workers tend to either leave or lower their standards. On the contrary, workers who feel fulfilled in their personal life will bring the best of themselves to work each day.

We therefore honor work-life balance and adhere to a 40-hour work week. Yes, if our employees have a big deliverable or proposal due, they may be asked to commit more time that week. However, on a routine basis, we expect that employees will strike a healthy balance between QIP needs and personal needs.

We tell our team, on a regular basis, two things:

  1. You matter and we are happy to work with you.
  2. We want to be in this with you for the long run, so be sure to fit work into your life—and not the other way around.

This healthy perspective on individuals, teams, and life beyond the office continues to make QIP a great place to work. We are thrilled to continue to have happy employees who successfullydeliver to our clients, year after year.