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The Daily Grind

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Leadership, One Drop at a Time

As followers of my LinkedIn articles know, I typically write about management advice that can be found in the office and the boardroom, but I had a recent experience outside of the workplace where I identified a real leadership opportunity for many of today’s executives. That opportunity centers around ordering wine at a work dinner. I know, that sounds like a bit of a stretch at first blush but hear me out. 

How many times have you attended an important business dinner and felt that anxiety about hoping you would not be asked to choose the wine for the group? After all, it is a big responsibility – what if you pick the wrong kind of wine with the meal, your choice tastes terribly, etc.? Now, let’s imagine the opposite where you take command of the task that nobody really wants to do and then you nail it. As any experienced executive knows, these kinds of dinners are more than just an opportunity to eat; they are the proving grounds with teams, clients, and potential business. It is a minefield of unspoken tests

Below are few easy steps any wine novice can take to flex his or her leadership muscles.

Research the Restaurant

A restaurant’s wine list is usually available online, so be sure to study it the night or morning prior to your gathering. This will give you a sense of what to expect before you go to the function. Now, you can prepare to choose the correct white wine or the red wine. 

Know Your Colleagues

This is a little bit tricky, but if there is a way for you to find out what kind of wine your dinner mates enjoy then you should gather that information. You could recall from previous meals, conversations, or even just simply ask, depending on your relationships. 

Call the Restaurant

This is, by far, my favorite technique. Assuming you already know the location of the meal, call ahead of time and ask to be connected with the sommelier. You can talk through the evening and the meal, explaining the importance of the event. Together, the two of you will come up with a game plan beforehand. Tell him or her about this special situation and that you need his or her help. You may even want to visit the restaurant alone before the get together to taste and pick the wines. 

Picture this: you are at the dinner and in front of everyone in the party the sommelier knows you by name, saying something along the lines of “Hello, Mr./Ms. Smith, your wine is ready. Would you like us to serve it or would you like to taste it beforehand?” 

This situation shows serious presence on your part, all the while hitting all of those unspoken cues that so many people look for in their leaders. This is subtle and powerful message to everyone at the table that you are comfortable taking command of uncomfortable situations that result in success.

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