Book Report: Potluck Culture

As I progress through the course on systems, organizational structure, and culture, I find myself thinking, “Okay, but how do I actually start changing culture?” One of the assignments, Dr. Ranjit Nair’s book, Potluck Culture, gives you actionable advice for modern workplaces. He doesn’t give you the exact answer but he helps you get there with questions to ask yourself and suggestions since every workplace is different.

A standout concept from Potluck Culture is that millennials are a positive addition to the modern workplace. Most books harp on millennials and focus on the negatives but Dr. Nair presents cases and examples where millennial employees can really make a difference and spark positive changes.

One of those positive changes is the need for meaning in our work. Millennials, more so than any other generation, want to have meaningful work. I think this demand has benefited all workers across the board as companies deliver on this need.

One of the ways companies give their employees meaning is through storytelling. Uniting behind a story ties people to their work and helps build camaraderie while helping companies connect to their customers. It’s win-win and millennials are helping to drive that connection.

Potluck Culture: Five Strategies to Engage the Modern Workplace
Dr. Ranjit Nair
Available on Amazon

Reflecting on systems

As part of my masters program in Leadership and Change, I’m currently taking a course about systems, organizational structure, and culture. I’m very interested in the topic because I’ve worked at places with great culture and not so great culture.

I think of culture as a cloud, it hangs over everyone and if you try to catch it, the cloud moves just out of reach. You can’t grab it and force it to your will but with creative management, you can use the wind to push it in the direction you want to go. But how do you start to shape culture?

Before shaping a company’s culture, you need to understand the system that contains it. As the first assignment, I reflected on the systems I am a part of. There are obvious ones like work, school, the class, but the one I pointed out as the most important to me right now is my personal relationship with my partner. I’m a very big believer in manifesting and the power of positive thoughts. Our relationship microsystem is a living lab for the ways in which positive inputs lead to positive emergence. Translated to a larger scale, it helps me to understand that the positive inputs I feed into my work system are producing positive effects, even if I can’t pinpoint them. Just like a stone thrown into a pond, my positive inputs and thoughts are radiating out and affecting my coworkers and workplace in small ways while not altering the makeup of the pond or who is swimming in it.

My favorite (mostly free) productivity tools

Part of living a more sustainable lifestyle is making sure that the work you are doing is actually sustainable. Burnout is real and in my case, it creeps up on me. When I’m organized and letting technology help me, it’s easier to feel in control and on top of things, keeping burnout at bay.

Gmelius

When I was in sales, I used the email tracking feature all day but Gmelius is so much more than that. Schedule your email sends, create templates, and set alerts for yourself to follow up on emails. If you think you can’t use templates outside of sales, think again. I created templates for sending invoice copies and my expenses for approval. Gmelius launched sequences to take even more work off your plate and allows for different responses based on the actions of the recipient, as in one email response for an opened email and another follow up if the email wasn’t opened. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m excited to check it out. Of my favorite productivity tools, this is the only one I pay for. However, there is a free version and since they are adding more and more to the free version, I’m going to go that route when my subscription expires.

Asana

This is my favorite app to organize everything from large projects to my daily to-do list. Once you have projects set up, you can add images, files, notes, and subtasks The app is even more powerful when you add your coworkers to your projects. You can limit what projects your coworkers have access to in case you like to add your personal items to projects like I do. The free version has everything I need and there is an app you can download to your phone to access your projects when you’re out of the office.

Notes

An oldie but a goodie. I’m a big note taker but sometimes my phone is all that I have available. It’s easy to use and you can’t beat how accessible it is. I work from a PC but icloud.com let’s me access my notes when I need them.

Momentum

This is a free chrome extension that lets you enter in a goal for each day and to do items . Every time you open a new tab, you see a different beautiful image and your priority task for the day, reminding you to stay focused. It definitely keeps me from opening a tab and getting lost in a wikipedia rabbit hole.

Sustainable fashion shops in Austin

I used to be a clotheshorse. Some still might consider me to be one. When I worked in e-commerce for an online fashion boutique, I had an amazing discount. On top of it, I was one of the first to see each product as I was responsible for editing the photos and adding them to the website. That’s cute, add to cart. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to curb my consumption and step away from fast fashion.

I no longer shop to “get my fix” and I’m more intentional about what I add to my closet. I look for natural materials like cotton and silk and avoid poly – polychiffon, polysatin, polyester. Sure this means I need to drag out the steamer more often but it reduces microplastics when washing and my clothes last longer.

I like shopping locally so I can try on the piece and make sure it will work for my body and to see the construction quality. Austin is a casual city but you can find some polished pieces that would be right at home in a NYC closet.

MOSS

A high-end consignment store with labels like Isabel Marant, Equipment, Mother Denim, and more. The store is beautifully merchandised and the assortment skews contemporary. The prices are higher than most consignment stores, however, you are getting quality pieces that show little to no wear. This is one of my favorite stores for work wear and shoes. If you feel overwhelmed about where to start, ask the sales team to help you with pieces in your size. They know what’s in the store at any given moment and are great at pulling together looks.

UAL

This isn’t a consignment or resale store though you do need to shop it like it is one. You have to go in with an open mind. UAL specializes in purchasing samples from designer showrooms and I hear they purchase items that did not sell from stores like Bloomingdale’s. This store is the last stop in the retail cycle of stores but you often can find clothes that are just hitting stores and some great staples like classic tops and sweaters. They carry everything from shoes, accessories, and apparel to home goods and beauty products.

Baubles & Beads

This consignment store is a more traditional consignment or resale store and is no frills. But you will find great labels from brands like Kate Spade, Theory, and even newer labels like Tularosa. They carry shoes and accessories as well but the apparel is where you should focus. Check the store hours before you go as they are not open as late as most stores.

Goodwill

What list is complete without Goodwill? In Austin, my favorites are on Lake Austin Boulevard and South Lamar. The Lake Austin Boulevard store is filled with natural light (great for seeing what you really look like in clothes) and is great for finding lightly used workout apparel from Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour. The South Lamar store is surrounded by a neighborhood of young professionals. You can find great casual outfits and accessories like beaded handbags. One of my best finds was a BHLDN dress for $15 that still retails for $198. I was able to wear it to my sister’s wedding in December!

Image via Austin Monthly.