From Ann Arbor to Addis Ababa

Zingtrain travels to Africa

In May, ZingTrain had the privilege of being invited to teach in Ethiopia. And we’re not using the word privilege lightly here. Dr. Senait Fisseha is an inspiring and inspired doctor. Among the many roles Dr. Fisseha plays at the University of Michigan is the Executive Director of the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT). And it was in that capacity that she asked ZingTrain to be part of the life-changing work she is doing in her native Ethiopia. To quote from a University of Michigan press releases:

“Dr. Fisseha has learned that well-trained OB-GYNs work as leaders in the health system and generate positive public health impacts including increased family planning provision, better pregnancy management, more facility-based deliveries, and better surgical outcomes. Our center will help empower women to make their own decisions about their own reproductive health, thereby choosing whether and when to start a family. Our ultimate goal is to help train future generations of capable and competent health care providers in many parts of Africa and South Asia who can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, and also be advocates for the safest and best healthcare possible at every stage of a woman’s life. ‘Today, our center begins its new role in the developing world as we work with our partners in Ethiopia to ensure that incoming doctors, midwives and other health professionals are equipped to provide comprehensive reproductive health care that will save women’s lives,’ says Dr. Fisseha.”

Our contribution to Senait’s amazing work was to share our thoughts on Leadership, Change, and Organizational Culture with the visionary and determined healthcare professionals she works with in Africa. It is our hope that we contributed in some small way to their massive and much needed undertaking.

I interviewed Ari and ZingTrain’s Ann Lofgren who traveled to Ethiopia to teach. It was clear to me as we spoke that our conversation could have gone on for days. They were teeming with recognitions and realizations that came from this amazing opportunity. They saw how cultural differences play a role when you are training in a different nation, and came to understand the challenge in translating our values and techniques across that difference. They recognized the role that access to resources play in our success and were humbled by the honor of being able to contribute to such great work. What follows is a distillation of that conversation that could have gone on for days.
Gauri: What were you doing in Ethiopia?

Ari: We were teaching ZingTrain content in collaboration with the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) and the Center of African Leadership Studies (CALS).
We did 3 sessions at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC) and one session for the directors of all the Ethiopian government ministries—from Agriculture to Transport to Health.

On Day 1 we taught Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business to about 35 members of the St. Paul’s Leadership team. On Day 2 we did 2 sessions on Servant Leadership—one for all the head nurses and the second for members of the hospital administration. What we presented to the directors of the ministries was a mix of the 12 Natural Laws and Servant Leadership.

How were those training topics chosen?

Ari: Well, the answer begins a while ago. Teddy Araya, who founded and runs the Center for African Leadership Studies, came to the U.S. as a part of his work with the University of Michigan. This was about a year and a half ago. He attended my ZingTrain Speaker Series session on Creating Creativity and after the session we got to talking and Teddy said to me, “ One day I will get you to Ethiopia.” And he did.

Dr. Senait Fisseha and Teddy Araya

Dr. Senait Fisseha & Teddy Araya

Teddy teaches Leadership and has been working with the cohort at the hospital on Leadership. He is an incredible teacher and trainer—he practically co-taught the session with me. And he’s doing great work with the team at St. Paul’s Hospital. Recognizing that the team he has been working with has not had the opportunity for extensive Leadership training, Teddy wanted to widen the range of Leadership ideas and concepts that they were being exposed to, he wanted to bring in a new perspective. And that’s the role we were playing.

Teddy is very committed to service—both internal service that co-workers give each other and external service to customers. The Ethiopian economy is booming and Teddy believes that for it to keep growing in a meaningful way, the next focus has to be on Service. Being a visionary, he is also very bought into the idea of Visioning and how we apply it to projects of all scales. That’s how Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business became part of the training we delivered. Because they touch on everything from Visioning to Service to Organizational Change.

Ann: I would reinforce that an important aspect for Teddy was to bring in someone from the outside because people listen and accept differently when they hear a fresh perspective from what they’ve been hearing over the years.

What resonated the most with your audience?

Ann: Going in we were just not sure how our ideas would translate across culture and language. We know that the way we use Visioning here at Zingerman’s is a pretty radical thing, Even when we teach it here in the US, with no cultural or language differences, we present the idea, we talk about how we do it, we set it all up and then we kind of hold our breath and wait.

Ari and Teddy Araya

Ari & Teddy Araya

We did the same at St. Paul’s. Ari explained it to them. Teddy translated it into Amharic and helped with some of the cultural differences. And then we held our breath and waited, unsure that it was going to work at all.

But it did! Visioning was definitely what resonated with the group the most.

Yemisratch Abeje is a lovely woman who was in our training session on Day 1. On Day 2 she stood up and said to the team, “Yesterday changed everything.” And then she explained what she meant. She explained Visioning to her team. It was all in Amharic and we couldn’t understand a word she was saying but we all had goosebumps. She was almost crying. We were almost crying.

Ari: That moment really reinforced the statistic that over 90% of what we hear and learn is not the words. It really was pretty great – when we presented Visioning, they said the same things people say here. “It changed my life.” “Nothing will ever be the same again.” “I can’t believe I got this far without it.” “I can use it for anything—even my personal life.”

What resonated the least? What was hard to translate? Where did you have to change how we typically teach something?

Ari: The hardest thing—and it wasn’t that different from teaching in Slovakia—is that the audience all speak English but they understand it better than they speak it. Learning new ideas in a group is awkward anywhere. Learning in a language that is not the language you speak in is more so. And on our end, teaching in a culture that is not our culture is challenging. Metaphors don’t translate well. You’re concerned about being respectful in a culture you don’t understand, even if you studied it. And the humor, the humor doesn’t translate well!

Ann: The way we introduce the Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business is by talking about the Energy Crisis in the American workplace. The Energy Crisis was a challenging idea to convey. The great thing was that when they got it they totally got it but we had to go about it a different way.

Ari: There’s also this. In any place that has a lot of poverty, the notion of Energy Crises and choosing to do good work is hard to translate because the opportunity for people to create good work for themselves is much smaller. Sheer necessity plays a much bigger role in your choice of work. Our support systems, our opportunities, our advantages here are just so much more significant. And consequently you find a lot of good energy being directed at the infrastructure rather than creating good work.

Ann: I think that despite the lack of resources, despite the language barrier, despite the cultural challenge, what came through to us was their determination.
They truly appreciated the opportunity to be at the training. Because their resources are limited, I sensed that they appreciated the opportunity far more than their American counterparts might have. And that was big. That made what they were hearing even more important and it is clear to me that they are going to do something about it!

Ari: The truth is that they are trying to change the face of healthcare in Ethiopia. Senait is an awe-inspiring person, a testimony to the what one single person can achieve with vision and determination and drive. As I was prepping to teach the Natural Laws, the obvious dawned on me. Senait is a living example of all the Natural Laws. She is living in harmony with all of them. She provides Vision. She does the hard work no one else wants to do. She envisions and values and brings together the contributions of really diverse resources. Under her leadership, they are clearly building a cathedral, not just laying stone. They are changing the quality and focus of healthcare in terms of both content and attitude. They are trying to treat patients with respect and competence.

And that is what we were contributing to.

group shot


Learning and Growing

A visit to Anson Mills

Chef Alex Young thinks a lot about Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, the farm next to his house in Dexter where we raise much of the food served at the Zingerman’s Roadhouse. He thinks about sustainable and organic farming practices. He thinks about growing heirloom vegetable varietals and saving seeds to improve the quality of the yield. He thinks about the future of the farm, and what that will look like for his son, Ethan. And he thinks about grain.

In the past year, Chef Alex has welcomed a long list of special visitors to the Roadhouse kitchens for the much-lauded special dinners. Most share his enthusiasm for high-quality ingredients, traditional foodways, and, of course, a full-flavored meal. But two visitors in particular reflected Alex’s commitment to a higher ideal when it comes to growing food for our tables: Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer, author, and creator of the Holzer Permaculture farming method; and Gary Nabhan, a founder of the modern seed-saving movement, author, and holder of the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center. Clearly, it’s not just about a nice meal made from high-quality food; it’s about the big picture.

Alex at RH

Chef Alex Young

Earlier this spring, Alex and son Ethan took a trip down to South Carolina to visit one of the sages of the sustainable farming movement, Anson Mills founder Glenn Roberts. The mill has long been touted as the epicenter of an heirloom grains revival, and Roberts its chief evangelist. Alex has been using Anson Mills grains for over 12 years, and thinking a lot about grain these past few years. He has a vision of Cornman Farms heirloom varietals used to create delicious breads at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. He wants to grow enough to feed the animal herds at the farm. And he dreams of producing enough to sell to Glenn Roberts and Anson Mills. So they went to the source, and traveled to South Carolina to meet Glenn at the fabled mill for a tour and a conversation.

The mill still does things in much the same manner as it was done a hundred years ago. Glenn takes in grain from all over the region (and the country!) from farmers who grow his heirloom, or “land-raised” grains, as the seed men say. The farmers agree to grow the grain using sustainable, traditional, organic methods. In return, Glenn guarantees a certain per-bushel per yield and price and for their harvest – no matter what kind of year they’ve had. In particularly bad seasons, this has been a lifesaver for some of the growers. It’s an incentive – a kind of subsidy – which helps balance out the costlier, more labor-intensive growing criteria that Glenn insists upon. The result is very good grain, and a dedicated and loyal community of farmers all over the country.

On the morning of the Young’s visit, the mill was busy allocating various land-raised grains to their network of growers. The allocation process is fairly intensive, and involves a complicated set of metrics. These figures take into account such diverse elements as the system of crop rotation a farmer uses, and the geographic location of the farm, among many others. These allocation criteria are often crucial to the heirloom’s ultimate survival, and therefore taken very seriously.

Glenn then walked Alex and Ethan through the milling process. The grain is offloaded and sucked up through a complex drying machine which aerates the grain. The grain is “live,” which means that it’s a whole grain, and still contains the active germ, source of the grain’s vitamins, proteins, minerals, and healthy fats. It’s important that the grain’s temperature not be raised, as it can cause the seed to germinate or spoil. After the grain has been aerated, it’s ground and simultaneously blasted with CO2 to freeze it. The cooled grain is ground as close to its harvest time as possible, and kept frozen all through the packaging and shipping process. This helps preserve the grain’s nutritional value and robust flavor, the very reasons people seek it.

Alex and Ethan spent several hours talking with Glenn about the growing process, types of seeds and grains, and what might work best in Michigan, then moved on to visit a nearby 800-acre farm that sells to Anson Mills.

The farm was an impressive operation, with a huge drive-in barn dedicated to grain processing. The trucks come to the barn from the grain elevator, and the cargo is pumped to the top of a sorting tower roughly 15 feet tall. The tower uses gravity and a series of screens with sized openings to separate chaff from grain. The chaff goes back out to the field as compost, while the separated seeds go into a huge walk-in cooler filled with stacked pallets, each containing heirloom varietals awaiting shipment to the mill.

One of the farming practices that really caught Alex’s eye is Glenn’s use of polycropping, or polyculture, to help build and sustain his field soil. Simply put, polycropping is the cultivation of multiple crops in the same field. As plants use different micronutrients from the soil, they also create different micronutrients, thereby enhancing the soil with a greater overall nutrient density. Thus, polycropping is a sustainable, organic way in which a conscientious farmer can improve the fertility of his land without the use of chemical fertilizers. The result is healthier, stronger plants with more flavor in the crops themselves.

Alex will use this season to build the nutrient value of the soil through polycropping with several “cover crops.” A cover crop is a beneficial plant used to prevent soil erosion, build up the soil, and eventually act as “green manure” for planting season. Alex plans to use Abruzzi rye, dwarf sunflower, wild flax, native legumes, and dutch white clover. These cover crops will help restore the land, which has not been organically farmed for decades. It’s a rebuilding year, and these plants will grow, nourish, and ultimately provide fertile, organic matter for the soil.

After the farm tour, Alex and Ethan headed over to St. James Island, part of the Sea Islands archipelago, and home to the Clemson University Coastal Research and Education Center. While there, they were introduced to Dr. Brian K. Ward, a research specialist who focuses on crop rotations that benefit soils, grains, and vegetables. The research center applies modern science to help further the benefits of traditional agriculture, and provide more information about the building blocks that make up crops. Alex and Ethan were shown a robot that splices grafts to tomato plants, watched as scientists freeze-dried a slice of broccoli then analyzed its nutritional makeup, and were introduced to composter that utilizes bovine enzymes to break down plant waste into liquid fertilizer.

Then they were treated to a demonstration of a flame-weeder, a propane system that shoots a small, directed flame at the roots of weed plants, but fast and precise enough not to burn the crops themselves. Next up was a “roller-crimper” which is used to flatten, and crimp (or break) the cover crops into a fertile biomass prior to planting. The contraption looks like a big steamroller drum faced with 3-inch zig-zagged pieces of steel. The farm would then use a “vacuum drill” to punch through the green manure and plant seeds in the protected and nourished soil. The advantages to using this process are the fertilizing aspect, increased water retention for the soil, and weed-suppression. Both Clemson and Michigan State University are woking to adapt this method for widespread use. Alex and Ethan came away from their day of tours and education with heads full of ideas for Cornman Farms.

But the time had come to push work aside and enjoy the evening repast. There are numerous oyster beds surrounding St. James Island, and as the sun dipped low over the tidal flats along the coast, the Youngs found themselves seated in a small shack awaiting the arrival of the day’s catch. The boats came in, and delivered their bounty. Bushels of sea-fresh oysters were pressure-washed on a wide slab, then put into enormous pots to steam-cook. In a little while, the steamed oysters are spread over another wide slab to cool a bit, then scooped up with a flat gravel shovel (truth!), and delivered to the table. Clearly, they don’t stand on formality here.

Alex and Ethan feasted on oysters that had been in the water an hour before, thinking about what they’d seen and how it would work at Cornman farms. The ideas are laudable, a wonderful vision of a self-sustaining farm, and by extension a community that nourishes the people, the economy, and the future. Ethan says he wants Cornman to grow to rival that 800-acre farm they visited – but with the cutting edge research of the Clemson Coastal Center. “I’ve got big plans,” he says.
And Alex smiles.


Zingerman’s Independence Day Hours

Independence Day is this Saturday, July 4th.

Some of our businesses may have limited hours on the holiday.
Check the list below for hours of operation:

Zingerman’s Deli
7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse
9 a.m – 11 p.m.
(Roadshow opens at 7 a.m.)

Zingerman’s Bakehouseamerican-truck
7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
(Wholesale 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.)

Zingerman’s Coffee Company
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Zingerman’s Creamery
9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Zingerman’s Mail Order


Zingerman’s Cornman Farms
7 a.m. – 1  a.m. (regular hours, private event)

Normal business hours resume Sunday, July 5th.

The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses wishes you a relaxing and happy Independence Day! 


Z-Pic of the Week

June 19, 2015




Five Questions for Anese Cavanaugh

Business strategist and collborator Anese Cavanaugh at the ZingTrain Speaker Series

We recently caught up with Anese to ask her five questions:

Why are you so certain that everyone has a presence? Don’t some people have “bigger personalities” than others? 
Everyone has a presence and we’re always always always having impact. We’re either contributing to or detracting from the energy of a room/situation/etc. even if that means we’re quiet and just holding space. You can have huge impact in a room, simply by the way you show up and the intention and energy you bring into that room. Yes, there are bigger personalities than others,and I find that’s only a very small part of presence —  what I’m always interested in is how do they use that personality intentionally and so that it is a contributor vs. a detractor. We’ll be talking about this and how you use your presence super powers for good, not evil, no matter how big your personality or presence is.

Why do you think this notion of “presence” or “showing up” is so important? What kind of impact does it have? 
It is the difference between us influencing others and getting the results and relationships we wish for – or not. And it is the difference between creating sustainable joy and fulfilment in our lives for ourselves or not. you have to show up for yourself well first in order to sustain being able to show up for others well too.

How did you come up with the IEP method?

There are 50,000 books out there on leadership and many approaches, I saw in many of them and so many of my clients that the tendency was to put self-care and energy as a last thing to pay attention to because they’re “soft stuff” and not “true leadership” skills. I couldn’t disagree more. To me a leader’s IEP is the difference between being a happy alive leader who people follow because they want to, vs. being burntout and followed because they have to. The latter doesn’t create life giving impact. So I blended my back ground in kinesiology and energy work (I used to work with athletes) into business and leadership practices and a bunch of other stuff over the last 14 years and created a methodology I thought would help create stronger and happier energized leaders.

How did you test the IEP method? 
It’s tested everyday by me personally and it works. But besides myself, we’ve had thousands of people use it and integrate it into their life – in a way that’s authentic to them – and find that it serves beautifully. We’ve also had people who’ve gone through my programs who have their MBAs from Stanford and Harvard and others who’ve said this was the most powerful, meaningful, and effective leadership experience they’d ever had. “More valuable than an MBA.” We’ve integrated this content into schools and organizations around the globe, from Singapore to London to NYC, and everyone finds something from it they can align with and use for good in their leadership/life. The thing I like most about it is that while there is a “method” – it is truly up to each human to use the components of the method in their own authentic way – which is a core part of IEP – authenticity and alignment.

What is one take away that people can expect from your Speaker Series session? 
A new relationship with what presence and showing up really means to them so they can use it to optimize their own impact and joy.

anese cavanaugh

Anese Cavanaugh is the creator of the IEP Method (Intentional Energetic Presence) as well as a leadership and collaboration advisor, strategist, and thinking partner for business leaders in the design, service and innovation spaces. Through her speaking, writing and creative leadership programs, people learn how to optimize their leadership and presence, bringing their best selves to the table for greater collaboration, impact, and cultural success.

Anese Cavanaugh is a dynamic, highly sought after speaker who has been called “transformational.” Anese has appeared on stages across the country – Stanford University, the Inc. Women’s Summit, the Education Equals Partnership Annual Conference, and many others – all in service of Showing Up well and creating positive impact in the world. In addition to appearing in publications like The Huffington Post,CEO.com, and the NY Times, Anese writes regularly for Inc.com in her column “Showing Up”, has just released The IEP Survival Guide: First Aid for Your Presence”, and has a book due to release in late 2015 with McGraw-Hill. Anese will join us for the last ZingTrain Speaker Series of the season on Wednesday, June 24, 8-9am. See you there! 

Reserve your seat here


Zingerman’s: A Short Film by Google

This past spring, the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses was visited by a film crew from Google. These nice folks braved the frosty Michigan March to make a great short film about Zingerman’s, and we’re very pleased to present it here.

Thanks very much to Matthew, Karina, Rachel, and all of the other fine Google folks who made this project a reality!