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.

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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


The Power of Pamphlets

Small Booklets; Big Ideas

We all have a special place or two. You know, those semi-secret spots that we return to now and again to reconnect with meaningful experiences in our past. For me, the Labadie Collection, up on the 7th floor of the University of Michigan’s Graduate Library, is one of those spots—my secret garden of anarchist intellectual activity. Back in my student days, I used to spend a fair bit of time sitting quietly at the long wooden tables there, pencil in hand (no pens are allowed), looking lovingly through the country’s leading collection of anarchist and other radical writings.

I was particularly drawn to the old pamphlets: small booklets put out a century or so ago to convey the views of anarchist writers like Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, and Jo Labadie, the man who donated the original contents of this special collection. There are over 30,000 pamphlets in the archive (along with many thousands of books, posters, and other printed materials). Back at the turn of the 20th century, pamphlets served much the same role in society that the Internet does today. They gave writers a way to share strongly held views, quickly and at low cost, with a large number of people, many of whom had neither the time nor the means to buy an entire book.

In the spirit of those anarchist publications that I love so much, we’ve decided to print the individual “Secrets” from the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading series as pamphlet-sized publications. While of course I love it when you buy a whole book, I’m honored to make the essays available in this form. Though these booklets are small, I hope the ideas inside provoke big thoughts for you as you read in the same way that Emma Goldman and her compatriots did a century or so ago.

– Ari

Here are the first pamphlets coming out from Zingerman’s Press:

Secret #1

The Twelve Natural Laws of Business
The keys to running your organization in harmony with human nature.

Secret #6

Revisiting the Power of Visioning
An in-depth look at just how amazingly powerful the Zingerman’s visioning process can be.

Secret #7

Writing a Vision of Greatness
The basics of our approach to vision writing, including the four elements of an effective vision at Zingerman’s.

Secret #9

An 8-Step Recipe for Writing a Vision of Greatness
The recipe that we’ve used here at Zingerman’s for over twenty years and taught to thousands around the country and the world.

Secret #19

Fixing the Energy Crisis in the American Workplace
How working in violation of the Natural Laws of Business has created an energy crisis in the workplace and what we can do to help restore the natural human energy, creativity and intelligence of everyone in our organizations.

Secret #29

Twelve Tenets of Anarcho-Capitalism
A look at my views on how the tenets of anarchist thought can be put to work in the world of progressive business.

Secret #35

The Power of Personal Visioning
An in-depth essay on how to take Zingerman’s approach to visioning and put it to work to help you create the life you want to lead.

You can find the full Secret Pamphlet series at Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, ZingTrain, or online at the Zingerman’s Press website, or at the ZingTrain site.

See you soon!



Five Questions (+1) for Lee Meadows

Business Consultant Dr. Lee Meadows at the ZingTrain Speaker Series

We caught up with Dr. Meadows to ask him five (plus one!) quick questions:

What drew you to Zingerman’s?
As an Ann Arbor resident, I have heard of and enjoyed the culinary delight that is the Zingerman brand. In recent years, I became aware of Zingerman’s strategic focus on the training and development of its employees.

Why are you interested in participating in our Speaker Series?
Like those who have presented in this series, I was drawn to the Zingerman commitment to ‘serving’ (I couldn’t resist) the broader community through activities beyond satisfying the hunger cravings. The Speaker Series represents a strong statement by Zingerman’s, to the community, about developing people. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that kind of experience?

You are the Lull Doctor. Would you, briefly, tell us what the lull is?
The lull represents an ‘unrecognized opportunity’ that, when given just the slightest attention, can make a positive difference for the individual and the organization. The opportunities I speak of are, typically, found within the people employed by the organization.

How did you get into the business of helping businesses with the Lull?
Like most things that happen with us, circumstances dictated and directed my interest. Most of it came as a result of the layoffs and downsizing of the 90’s and into the 21st Century. Productivity was driven by mastering technology and along the way, we forgot that people

Diversity is a hot topic right now. How do you define diversity?
Diversity is a ‘hot’ topic, but my goal is to make it a ‘continuous’ area of ‘collaborative performance’. For now, diversity is defined as ‘identifiable characteristics’ that distinguish one group from another.

Would you give us a, brief, summary of what you’ll cover in your Speaker Series session?
I will present information that builds on the current reality, (Diversity has been and will always be a part of our lives) and focuses our efforts on building the best ‘performance-based’ collaborative teams that builds on the best skills of the diverse workforce.

Dr. Lee Meadows

Dr. Lee Meadows’ other name is “The Lull Doctor”. And for good reason! Dr. Meadows specializes in helping organizations large and small, for-profit and non-profit, public and private, escape the Lull. He defines the Lull as a Missed Opportunity and has literally written the book on how to recognize missed opportunities and turn any situation into an innovative and dynamic experience. His book, “Taking the Lull by the Horns” outlines a philosophy of situational leadership that any individual can emulate and any organization can encourage!

In his studies of what prevents the Lull, Dr. Meadows has come to firmly believe that the growing (and well documented) diversity of the workforce represents a strength that enhances the competitive edge of successful organizations. He will tell you that maximizing a team’s diverse talents is a leadership opportunity that is anchored in a specific set of actions common to successful 21st century organizations. Please join us on Wednesday, October 1, 8 – 930 am.

Reserve your seat here

Food, Food Artisans

Askinosie Chocolate Founder Visits Zingerman’s

Shawn Askinosie Chocolate shares his story and his chocolate

Last week, we were very pleased to welcome our friend, chocolate maker Shawn Askinosie, to Zingerman’s. Shawn spoke first to an early morning audience at ZingTrain on the subject of vocation, then led an evening Chocolate 101 tasting for the public at Zingerman’s Events on 4th. The following day, he even stuck around to give a talk and lead a chocolate tasting for Zingerman’s staff.


Shawn Askinosie readies the projector.

In the hours before the public tasting event at Zingerman’s Events on 4th, I sat in Zingerman’s Delicatessen with Shawn Askinosie. In a soft-spoken voice, he told me about his realization that he no longer wanted to practice law. “I just couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “If I kept it up, I knew if was going to kill me.”

Hearing these words, I realized I wasn’t merely hearing a story about looking for a new job, but of a life shift of tectonic proportions. Shawn Askinosie had worked as a criminal defense lawyer for over 20 years in Springfield, Missouri, and by all accounts he was very good at his job. But two decades in a profession often filled with sadness and tragedy were wearing him down. As he put it, “It was time for me to do something else.” But what, he didn’t know. So he said a short prayer each day asking for guidance. “It was really simple, and went something like, ‘Dear God, please give me something else to do.’”

Meanwhile, he’d begun taking the steps needed to transition out of the business. He brought in a law partner to take the new cases coming to the firm, and started to wrap up his own declining caseload. He turned to grilling as his first new venture/hobby, and even shelled out for a Big Green Egg grill. Soon after, he moved into baking. “I made a lot of cupcakes,” he said. “I really like cupcakes.” With baking, naturally, comes chocolate, and Shawn was soon making a lot of chocolate desserts. As he got better, he noticed that some types chocolate delivered better results than others. He also realized that he really didn’t know where chocolate actually came from. So, he resolved to find out, and took his first of many trips to the Amazon basin. After that trip, he “went in full-force,” and traveled extensively to learn all he could about cocoa cultivation.

Sampling board for the tasting.

Sampling board for the tasting.

Askinosie spent the next few years building a network of cocoa farmers. From the very beginning, he dealt directly with the farmers and involved them in every aspect of the business. He calls this Direct Trade Sourcing. The farmers have to agree meet certain criteria, such as cocoa bean quality standards, cultivation and fermentation methods, etc. In turn, Shawn pays the farmers directly. No middleman. He visits each farmer once per year with financial statements, which he and the farmers scrutinize.

“The cocoa farming business is a cash business,” he says, “so they were always happy when I brought them cash. But when I showed up with the books, and started going through them line by line, it blew their minds.” Shawn is a believer in Open Book Management (something he practiced as a lawyer), a concept popularized by author and consultant Jack Stack, who also happens to be a friend and mentor to Shawn.

“I had this idea to take OBM one step further upstream and really give these guys a true share in the business.” Shawn went to Jack Stack with the idea and, “He loved it. We named the program ‘A Stake in the Outcome,’ which is named after one of the Jack’s books.”

Shawn talks chocolate with attentive guests.

Shawn talks chocolate with attentive guests.

Shawn is emphatic about not taking a “paternalistic” approach with the business. “The farmers receive their money to distribute, spend, or save as they see fit.” A great byproduct of this direct relationship with the cocoa farmers that Shawn deals with worldwide is that all of his chocolate is 100% traceable back to its origin farm. “I believe this way of doing business results in higher-quality chocolate,” he says.

Shawn makes a point about chocolate.

Shawn makes a point about chocolate.

But chocolate is not Shawn’s only vocation. There is also Chocolate University.
“Our factory is locate in a part of the community that’s being revitalized,” he says. “Theres a homeless shelter a block away, called the Missouri Hotel. There are 80 kids a night there. From the day we started, we wanted to engage the kids in the community, including the kids in this shelter.” And so they developed Chocolate University to do just that.

“The kids in the elementary school come and tour our factory and we visit their schools, and we teach them about our business. It’s a sort of back and forth relationship.” he says. The middle school program is similar, but some of the kids get involved in our community work and learn a bit more about chocolate making and the business. But it’s the high school program that takes quite a bit of time because Shawn takes those students to Tanzania.

Shawn at the Zingerman's staff tasting.

Shawn at the Zingerman’s staff tasting.

“It’s an every other year thing.” says Shawn of the program. “Juniors and Seniors in any Springfield high school – public, private, homeschool – are eligible to apply. They write essays and go through an interview process. And I partner with a local university near the factory to help me evaluate the applicants. We narrow it down to 13 kids out of about 70 applicants.” The students who make the cut then take part in summer intensive program, ‘Bean to Bar Chocolate,’ at the local college. “They spend a week on campus, and get to know each other. They learn about our business model, about profit sharing, about Open Book, the history of Tanzania, its language, culture, and sociology. And they learn about chocolate making, and evaluating cocoa beans. At the end of this week, they go for a day and pack. And then we take them to Tanzania.”


“Flavor begins with knowing the farmers.”

Shawn, the students, a teacher, and a college professor all travel to Tanzania where they get a first-hand look at how cocoa beans are cultivated and fermented, then prepared for shipment back to the U.S. They live with the farmers in a local village, and everyone pitches in.

“Over half the kids are funded by us, and the rest is made up by donors. It really ends up being a life-changing experience for these kids. When you help drill a water well for people who don’t have clean water, and you then drink from that well…you don’t forget that.” He then tells a story of overhearing a student texting his mother back in the U.S. that “this is the best day of my life!”

Shawn speaks with a ZIngerman's staffer.

Shawn speaks with a Zingerman’s staffer.

...and another.

…and another.

Shawn is smiling as he’s telling this story, and there’s a bit of a hitch in his voice. This is the real work. The vocation, as Shawn calls it.

“As I was telling the folks at ZingTrain this morning, meaningful work is not necessarily derived from the status of the work, or the kind of work. It’s derived the thought and attitude we give it. So we derive the dignity of the work from what we put into it, not what it gives us.” He pauses.

“If you have meaningful work, its a calling. Truly a vocation.”

Later, as I think about Shawn’s words, I take a small bite of his Tanzania Dark Chocolate and let it slowly melt on my tongue. I swear it tastes even better than I remember…



Five Questions for Jeff Janssen

Sports Leadership Expert Jeff Janssen at the ZingTrain Speaker Series

We recently caught up with Jeff to ask him five questions:Jeff Janssen mug low-res 2013 (1)

How did you get into the world of Sports Leadership?
I have always been fascinated by the impact that leaders have on a team, especially in the sports and business world.

Do you think Sports Leadership is different from leadership, say in a business? If so, how?
I think effective leadership principles are mostly the same in sports and business – both deal with bringing out the best in people, both involve competitive situations, both rely on building and sustaining championship cultures.

Could you tell us a little bit about the work you do at the Janssen Sports Leadership Center?
We help coaches and captains become world-class leaders who are committed to a lifetime of service, success, and significance. We develop leaders who win on and off the playing fields by teaching them to effectively lead themselves and others.

Could we ask you to name-drop a little for us and tell us who some of your most exciting clients are?
My most exciting clients are Michigan, North Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Arkansas, NC State, and Colorado.

What will your speaker series session focus on?
We’ll focus on 7 Leadership Lessons from sport’s legendary coaches that can be applied by leaders of all walks of life.

John Beilein, University of Michigan Men’s Basketball Coach said,

“Jeff Janssen’s work with the Michigan Leadership Academy has been tremendous.”

We agree! And we’re tremendously pleased to offer a session with Jeff Janssen in this season of ZingTrain’s Speaker Series. If you are looking to build a Championship Culture in your business and help your team consistently perform to its full potential, then this is the session for you!

In this session, Leadership Academy Director Jeff Janssen reveals the seven Leadership Lessons he has learned from consulting with 25 NCAA National Championship teams at top athletic departments including Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Arizona, Notre Dame, and many others. Jeff’s program is designed for leaders who want to build a winning team – no matter from which walk of life, or what level of an organization! Please join us this coming Thursday, September 25, 8 – 930am! 

Reserve your seat here