Thought 1 – You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion
An avid student of Ryan Holiday, Joni shared that the idea of having the power to hold no opinion is a good thing. This seems a bit contrary to what most are saying as many demand that a brand, for example, must take a stand. The meme culture we live in almost requires that you have a platform. The additional fear of today’s cancel culture adds to the overwhelming need to make sure your opinion is heard.
Perhaps our society has a belief that not having an opinion shows you are uneducated. However, consider that it is a powerful choice to not have an opinion on something you may not have all the facts on. Opinions are typically created by taking in information from the opinions of other people. Not surprisingly, this can lead to a vicious cycle that can wind up dangerous when people are willing to share an uneducated opinion and it takes off.
In addition to studying the stoics such as Ryan Holiday, the author behind this idea that an opinion isn’t really necessary, Joni has been studying for several years the impact of social media on ourselves, our mental health, and most definitely our workplace. As we have progressed through the pandemic, all the political and social unrest, constant news cycles, and hyper-activism in society have reached a crescendo. This idea of not needing to hold, defend, or endlessly debate an opinion now has some real power.
Joni points out that this is not to say you should not have beliefs about specific things and honor certain principles. Being passionate about something can be the catalyst for a process of hard work and research that can lead to some type of action. Joni pulls from her example of working on ending child hunger to illustrate this.
There will always be a place for uncomfortable discussion. To pull from the wisdom of Steven Covey, the antithesis of blasting opinions is to first seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Especially when you do not have all of the facts or education on a certain topic.
But this brings up the question, how do you not share or have an opinion when you have the proof?
To bring in the restaurant industry as an example, it is extremely fragmented. There are a plethora of opinions on all kinds of issues. Joni shares how Black Box Intelligence approaches this idea by finding the unifying values, things everyone can get behind. The goal is not to give an opinion, it is to provide research and then dig into the insights that lead to a resolution.
Thought #2 – The Highest Form of Knowledge is Empathy
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form is knowledge is empathy for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” Bill Bullard
The ability to be quiet is an under-appreciated and overlooked skill set. We are taught the opposite of this with classes on how to write or speak in public, for example. But we are never really taught to listen. If we haven’t learned how to listen by the time we reach adulthood, it becomes a really difficult skill to change. But if there is any time to focus on listening, it is now.
We are facing the most difficult workplace issues of our lifetimes with nothing else to compare it to. Joni postulates that the only way restaurant industry leadership will be able to navigate the complexities of what we are dealing with is “empathy on steroids.”
“If empathy is not one of your superpowers, get out of hospitality.”
Everyone has experienced the last 18 months differently. On top of dealing with so much uncertainty, many of our employees lost their jobs only to return to hostile environments or even abusive customers. There is trauma that has been experienced by so many of our workers on so many levels. It’s understandably difficult to navigate. The good news is some companies are doing well… those that started with empathy.
Even still, those companies that are doing better than others are still dealing with turnover at all-time highs and a staggering lack of applicants. If we are to keep moving forward, a dramatic shift toward radical hospitality is needed.