Thursday, November 18, 2010

Banning Toys in Unhealthy Fast Food Meals

With increasing concerns of childhood obesity, consumers have been voicing their demands for healthier foods.  Michele Obama has rolled out a campaign against childhood obesity, with a main focus for schools to provide healthier choices.  This is a great start, but the popularity of fast food restaurants needs to be taken into consideration as well.  According to the article Fast Food Toy Ban Gets OK in San Francisco, preliminary approval of a law prohibiting toys in kid’s meals unless those meals “include fruits and vegetables and limit calories, fat, sugar, and salt.”  Children develop a like/dislike for foods at a very early age and if fast food establishments can aid in teaching younger children to eat healthier foods, this is a huge step for battling the childhood obesity epidemic.  Skeptics may say that children learn more from what they eat at home or school, rather than from fast food “treats”, however it is estimated that children get 29-38% of their meals from fast food sources and this number is only expected to rise (Pakhare, 2009).  The article states that franchisee owners of fast food establishments are claiming that this will hurt business and make turning a profit even more difficult.  The food cost percentage of QSRs (quick service restaurants) is extremely low, which is what makes them so profitable.  I am not seeing how QSRs will lose any money because of this.  When a consumer chooses to go to a fast food restaurant it is for convenience and low price, and because of these reasons they are unlikely to go elsewhere or eat at home.  If the child does not want the healthy meal because it does not contain a toy, the money will still be spent at the same establishment on other items.  This legislation is a great start to educating children about eating healthy.

image from: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/york-councilman-toys-banned-unhealthy-happy-meals/story?id=13310267

Pakhare, J. (2009). Fast Food and Obesity in Children. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/fast-food-and-obesity-in-children.html

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Leadership in Business & Sustainability

Many businesses and organizations are busy focusing their attention and resources on identifying negative aspects of operations and fixing problems. Many businesses have intensive disciplinary procedures in place, but no means of appreciating employees. Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as defined by Copperrider and Whitney, is “about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them”. This approach focuses on accentuating the positives within an organization rather than mirroring in on the broken parts. AI is effective in aiding organizations to realize their long term and inherent goals, while building a foundation of positive interactions with employees, consumers, and shareholders. Appreciative Inquiry, as opposed to problem solving, goes through the following steps: appreciating and valuing the best of ‘what is’, envisioning ‘what might be’, and dialoguing ‘what should be’ (Copperrider, p.29). The steps lead to the basic assumption that “an organization is a mystery to be embraced” rather than the problem solving technique leading to “an organization [that] is a problem to be solved.”

In most, if not all, of my workplaces, the theme has been to solve problems. Upper management, in my experience, has always had a tendency to focus on the negatives and pushed the managers to identify the problems that needed fixing: why is food cost up or check average down, for example. It seems contradictory in a setting that allows for immediate consumer feedback, but the restaurant industry focuses little time on praise. Ever since I became a manager, I recognized this within the restaurant field and told myself that I would lead differently, making sure to appreciate my employees and get to know them on a personal level. As the article Leader as Inquirer states, “problem-solving approach to inquiry creates a cycle that brings people down rather than propelling them forward.” I recognize now that the cold management styles in restaurants where I have worked have had the characteristic cycle of bringing people down, it is clear that part of the reason why was due to their problem solving atmosphere.

I have never worked for an organization that focuses on the Appreciative Inquiry approach. AI is unfamiliar ground to me, making it all the more intriguing. Using the fundamentals of AI would enhance my leadership ability. Although my leadership style includes allowing time to appreciate employees and focus on the positives within my organization, my management style is big on problem solving. In taking the extensive quiz in the book Strength Finder 2.0 for a employment leadership class, one of my top five leadership skills is “restorative”. I have a knack and a passion for finding problems and repairing them. Because I like the task of solving problems so much, I realize that I must not be focusing on the positives enough in my organization. Although being a good problem solver is an important skill, refocusing my efforts to identifying the positives and building upon them will make me a stronger leader and one that others will have more of an affinity toward, making the entire working atmosphere a warmer environment.

The AI approach can greatly benefit the view and quest for sustainability. AI uses a 4D cycle in which the elements are: discover, dream, design, and destiny. The cycle, explained by Salopek, “includes identifying problems, analyzing causes, searching for solutions, and developing an action plan” (2006). These steps will aid in identifying areas of opportunity for sustainability. In order to move forward with sustainability techniques, we cannot only focus on what is going wrong with the movement and what actions are aiding to climate change. Of course, a well-rounded background is needed to understand the problems; however to really make an impact, leaders in sustainability must look at what is going right with the sustainability movement, gear in on why certain aspects are working, and build upon them to make further positive change.