london

My Soapbox: Trust, Accountability, Empowerment: All that matters

Building relationships based on respect

People who have worked with me before have heard me on this particular soapbox quite a bit and for those I will suggest maybe they don’t need to read this particular blog. There will be nothing new here. That said, it is perhaps because I continue to hear stories from great talent I have met around the world that are working with people that still do not get it.

It is for these people that I write this blog.

Executives get busy and they get stressed. Markets start to squeeze and pressure mounts, causing many to revert to the old command and control techniques they used in prior decades. When the kitchen heats up, they forget the basics. I believe some need to be reminded of a basic principle that should be obvious to all: Organizations are successful when there is a strong relationship of respect among leaders at all levels.

Now, before I go further, let me be absolutely clear: effective leadership requires adapting your style from time to time to appropriately handle a given challenge. There are times for diplomacy, inclusion, and democracy (e.g., complex problem), and there are times for command and control (e.g., during an urgent crisis). However, underlying your leadership style, and regardless of the type of problem, the relationship of respect must prevail.

A relationship of respect requires three key elements: trust, accountability, and empowerment.

Every team that has worked with me over the past decade will have heard me speak explicitly of the three simple things that I feel are the most important elements of effective, increasingly global, teams. I sincerely hope that those that worked with me before that will see in this blog some of the elements of our team work that worked best even if we never put it to words.

Trust. Accountability. Empowerment.

You will notice that none of them involve bureaucracy, centralization, or added layers without added value! It also does not require being “nice”.


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Trust: We must build and maintain levels of trust across borders and business units, recognizing the unique strengths and backgrounds of each individual. In companies that are complex, especially with multiple business units and geographies, the absence of trust can cause money, time, and valuable resources to be wasted on duplicated efforts.

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Accountability: We must be a respectful organization and a collegiate one, but all of us must be held accountable as well. Accountability goes hand in hand with trust. When we all understand each other’s respective areas of responsibility and accountability, we create a culture of trust, and we can focus on the services and solutions we deliver and the goals we want to achieve without distraction.

It is important to note that accountability is as much about what is accomplished as it is about how it is accomplished. If you’re an a-hole, regardless of your delivery skills, people will find it hard to trust you and the relationship of respect will be difficult.

Empowerment-Zone.jpg.728x520_q85Empowerment: People must be allowed to make decisions and drive change without being micromanaged and without needing to get multiple approvals; they must be allowed to be leaders. Just as importantly, we must enable those whom we empower. Power without training is not a formula for success. Empowerment is about giving a person the ability to manage something tangible that adds value, but also about working with that individual to help him or her succeed.

Leadership is not easy, and successful teams are elusive to many people. But, with some basic focus on respect and these key principles, you will at minimum have the right foundation for success.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Collage by Adam L. Stanley

#Foodie Review: L’Anima (London)

photo from lacartes.com

Summary: Highly Recommended / Couples, Business, Special Occasions

How on earth did I not know about this place until I was one week away from taking a (brief?) hiatus from London? I leave to head back to Chicago next month and thought I had tried enough Italian restaurants in London to conclude that Chicago had better ones. Then a friend from the large international insurer with which I was recently associated recommended I try this place, merely minutes from my office on a street of which I had never heard, Snowden.

Thank you Heather!

Walking in to the restaurant, I will admit I was a bit put off. As much as I recognise that I am a “suit”, I try desperately to avoid restaurants full of other suits. And this one almost. Looked as if there was a uniform. Few women, all guys with button down shirts, blue blazers or suit jackets hanging on the back of the chairs. Not kidding. I even found myself taking off my jacket as I sat down to ensure I was conforming. LOL.

L’Anima
1 Snowden Street
Broadgate West
London, EC2A 2DQ

SERVICE: 5
From the entrance to the end, the team here knows service. And I’m not talking “better than typical London” but truly service on par with some of the finer restaurants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Greeting us were two hostesses who actually smiled as we entered. The quirky sommelier, the attentive, friendly and trendy servers, and the manager were all service oriented and focused on ensuring our experience was exceptional.

Bottom line: The servers were nice and not snobs that make me want to be mean while I should be enjoying my meal. Smiling means a lot and they actually smiled as they helped us.

FOOD: 5
Starter: Charcoal scallops
Exquisite food with fantastic displays, if just a tad spicy for me. (Apparently the norm for the region in Italy that is the focus of the restaurant). I started with charcoal scallops with an uber spicy crust and salted cod on the side. Well prepared and presented on a clam shell, taste and appearance were impressive (but hot). Second course was quid ink cavatelli. YUM!!!!!!! Fantastic and unique, the tiny bean shaped black pasta with the slightly crispy peas and succulent mussels was amazing. My partner had a spring salad followed by Linguine with crab for his second course. I barely got to see what was on his plate before it was completely devoured.

Sea bass mainMy main was a perfectly prepared sea bass that was not too salty as is often the case. It was perfectly seasoned and also the perfect size. With a side of spinach to share between us, and my partner’s Rabbit Siciliana, we were well and truly stuffed by the end of the dinner. Expecting the CS to start gently suggesting we wrap it up as by now it had been two hours, I tried to psyche myself up to dessert. But the team seemed to know just how long to let us sit and digest. Perfect! They kept our wine and water glasses full and just when I felt ready to tackle dessert, the menus arrived. I had the raspberry soufflé with a moscato and my partner had pistachio ice cream with an Espresso Martini. Talk about a sugar rush! Heavenly!

Over all, the food was superb, the sizes good, and the wine pairing suggestion (Nero Di Lupo) was excellent.

DECOR: 5
I liked the fact that the bar is separate, so if anyone wanted to come for a drink they could enjoy cocktails without standing over diners as is the case in so many London restaurants. The dining area was pristine white and quite minimalist, almost uncanny given the mostly business clientele. I expected to see actors and fashionistas sitting in the low white leather chairs. I noted with a chuckle the intensity of the sommelier as he went table to table ensuring there were no wrinkles.

photo from edsmagazine.com

photo from edsmagazine.com

Music was low (enough that we could hear the singer in the bar area just a tad. Amazing vocal chords on that one…) and whilst fairly loud, you were able to have a conversation with those at your table without also participating in the table over’s discussion. Finally, the bathroom was fabulous. Stylish without the gimmicks of soft porn, transparent doors, or the like so many places are now trying to do.

Oh yeah: HUGE kitchen and well designed so you can see it without it being “in your face” or, worse, smokey!

VALUE: 4
I would say this place is certainly not your everyday meal spot. Our bill came to about £240 including four courses, a small side, a reasonably priced bottle of wine, two cocktails, water, coffee, and “optional” but well-earned 12.5% service. Pastas and risottos were quite reasonable, with small or large portion options. Mains ranged from £20-£40 if I recall and nothing seemed ridiculously out of line. I would suggest, however, that a Tasting Menu would have been nice. £75 per person or £100 including wine would have resulted in a bill pretty darn close to what we paid but somehow tasting menus always make you feel better about the bill!

I rate this restaurant against higher end restaurants but must also consider Italian food options in general. And I will admit that L’Anima is knocked down just a notch because I would not typically expect to pay this much for Italian food. Interestingly, the cost was comparable to rather touristy places I tried in Rome and Florence earlier this month.

OVERALL: 5

My meal - 25 June 2013

My meal – 25 June 2013

I am giving L’Anima my first 5 star for an Italian restaurant and thus also naming it my best Italian restaurant in London or Chicago. I highly recommend it for couples, business diners, and special occasions but not for children or the budget conscious. While great for food and exceptionally high standard of service, and a nice environment in which to dine, it is still too expensive for an everyday meal or even a splurge meal for many.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

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ALS

mandarin, chiclen liver and foie gras parfait

#Foodie Review: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (London)

dinnerbyhestonblumenthal

Summary: Highly Recommended / Special Occasion

Because the food is exquisitely near perfect, decor is fabulous, and service is exceptional, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental for a special occasion. A bit pricey (£30 – £40 for a main; £15 – £20 for a starter) and thus less of a value than somewhere like Avenue or Vivat Bachhus, it still is a much better experience for the money than Galvin La Chapelle. And you will only spend a bit less around the corner at Buddha Bar, an overpriced, overly trendy, good but not great food, disappointment.

I would be more than happy to go to “Dinner” again, with friends or colleagues, and especially to celebrate a special occasion or a visitor from the States. You will love it, I’m certain. Let me know what you think!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Mandarin Oriental
66 Knightsbridge
London, SW1X 7LA
Above photo from restaurant website.

Long Version

FOOD: 5

mandarin, chiclen liver and foie gras parfaitStarters included this amazing Meat Fruit dish, a gastronomic pleasure that looked like an orange but was a chicken liver & foie gras parfait wrapped in a mandarin cream. It tasted as good as it looked.

I had the Rice and Flesh, a saffron rissotto style rice with calf tail and red wine. Our mains were fantastic, starting with my spiced pigeon which paired perfectly with my sommolier recommended 2010 Buio Buio Isola Shiraz. The pigeon, and I will admit I do not often do the rat bird thing, was so well prepaered I didnt even think about Trafalgar Square’s missing flocks once! Tender, juicy, goodness. Two friends had steak, one the ribeye and the other the fillet. Both looked, smelled and tasted exquisite. I tried the Herefore Ribeye and then stole another bite. May come back for that one night. The light eater amongst us had a rather standard cheese tray but shame on him for doing that at this place. (He had a dinner party just before our celebration meal, unfortunately)

tipsy cake

Tipsy Cake (c 1810)

Sides were perfect, including wonderfully prepared, clearly unhealthy, triple cooked chips along with buttered carrots, and finally green beans with shallots. To end the meal, we had coffees and the Tipsy Cake with spit roast pineapple, which was orgasmic. Not one person dining with me was less than blown away by the food from start to finish.

DECOR: 5

Open Kitchen allows you to watch them work.

Open Kitchen

My favorite part of the decor is the fact that the entire kitchen is visible through huge all the way to ceiling windows. Throughout our meal, we watched large pineapples slowly roasting on a spit and a well disciplined kitchen team working their magic. It was actually strange after a while, watching them completely ignore us. I almost thought it was a two-way mirror like in police stations. (too much television).

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe colors of the walls and furniture, the unique lighting, and the general ambiance of the restaurant (warm, inviting, comfortable) made this a fantastic place to dine. (As an aside, this was a complete change from the absolute rubbish Mandarin Oriental Bar just outside, which was like a Marriott Courtyard lobby bar. Shamefully boring and shockingly plain in its decor, given this is a Mandarin Oriental.)

SERVICE: 5

Our primary server was Jonas and he was fantastic. But from entering the restaurant, service was perfect. Wine glasses promptly filled, food served on point and well coordinated, and food described exceptionally well. Jonas was patient as my partner kept discussing whether Amber came from the whale’s arse (waste) or his regurgitation. Long story there but clearly the remainder of our party of four had zero interest in this story, though apparently Dinner uses some Ambergris in cooking to add flavour. Ambergris is also an aphrodisiac so not sure if that adds more credence to one side of the debate or not …but I digress. (If interested in finding the conclusion of the debate, click here.)

Service was not pretentious and the staff seemed genuinely interested in our enjoyment of the meal and overall dining experience.

VALUE: 4

Clearly, we did not go to this place with a pretense that we would be getting a cheap meal so I compare its value to a group of restaurants in London with similar options, decor, and reputation, if not with a Michelin star as Dinner received in 2012. A bit pricey (£30 – £40 for a main; £15 – £20 for a starter) and thus less of a value than somewhere like Avenue or Vivat Bachhus, it still is a much better experience for the money than Galvin La Chapelle. And you will only spend a bit less around the corner at Buddha Bar, an overpriced, overly trendy, good but not great food, disappointment.

For those of you in Chicago, I would compare Dinner at Heston Blumenthal to Naha, Takashi, or Sepia more than Everest, Graham Elliott, or Les Nomades. Great food for moderately high prices that one can splurge on occasionally as opposed to ridiculously high priced indulgence that makes you feel guilty for not donating more to your favorite charity immediately after dinner.

Our meal for 4, had one of our friends not eaten beforehand, would have been roughly £400 including service and VAT. That’s steep given we only had 1 bottle of wine with the meal and that it excluded cocktails before dinner at the crappy Mandarin Oriental Bar. Mains were well prepared and presented, but I think you pay for the labour to put together such a presentation. Same food, of course, would be cheaper at most other restaurants. But, for a special occasion, I would suggest this place over Galvin La Chapelle without hesitation.

OVERALL: 5

Because the food is exquisitely near perfect, decor is fabulous, and service is exceptional, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental for a special occasion. It’s pricier than some but not all fine dining spots in London, so the only ding it got from me is in Value (4 out of 5). That said, I would be more than happy to go to “Dinner” again, with friends or colleagues, and especially to celebrate a special occasion. You will love it, I’m certain.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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Happy New Year!

Cheers!

#Foodie Review: Avenue (London)

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Summary: Recommended

Because the food is pretty good, decor is nice, service is really good, and most importantly because it is a darn good value where one meal here will not break the bank for most people, I RECOMMEND Avenue Restaurant and would be more than happy to go there again, with friends or colleagues, if in the neighborhood. Would I go out of my way, likely not. Should you try it out? I think so. Go for it, and let me know what you think!

Avenue Restaurant

7-9 St James’s Street
Mayfair
London
SW1A 1EE
Above photo from Avenue website.

Long Version

FOOD: 3

Before starting our meal, we had a glass of champagne to excite the palate and, well, we had just watched “Skyfall”, the latest instalment of the James Bond 007 franchise. Champagne just seemed right! We enjoyed the champs with some amazing brown bread with nuts that threatened to fill us up before our first course arrived. yum!

20121118-184750.jpgFor my starter, I chose a rather unique dish I actually may try for breakfast one Saturday morning. Wild mushrooms seasoned and sauteed in about a pound of butter were ladled over a heavy chunk of sourdough bread then covered with a slow cooked hen’s egg. While it was a tad salty for my taste, my stomach loved what my heart could later regret. My partner won this round with the venison carpaccio however, which was perfectly prepared, tender and juicy bits of perfection.

By this point, we had a bottle of the house white wine, acceptable yet completely unremarkable. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

My main was a simply grilled plaice with prawns and capers on a bed of greens. While the fish was good, I must say it certainly did not wow me. And the prawns were a bit tiny and dry. That said, it was an interesting presentation albeit with only ok execution. My partner again won the round with fish and chips which were devoured before my eyes. “It was ok” was all I was able to get from the other side of the table, but there was no sign food have ever actually been on the plate so I think it must have been better than ok. 20121118-184801.jpg

For dessert, I had to continue in my search for the perfect sticky toffee pudding, having now sampled the treat at at least a half dozen restaurants. My favourite remains that of Fishworks on Marylebone High Street and the Avenue version did nothing to change that. In fact, recalling the pudding at Fishworks reminded me, alas, that I also could have gotten fish of the same quality there as well. I also tried my partner’s Bramley Apple Crumble, also pretty good but not memorable. “It was fine.”

Overall, I must say that the creativity in the meal declined as each course progressed. Appetiser was unique, main was fairly standard, while dessert was just common. That said, for the record I love basic desserts. so bring in the brownies, apple crumbles, and sticky toffee puddings. Just make them spectacular please. 😉

SERVICE: 4

The team here seemed happy to welcome us and the other guests. The place was not very crowded for a Saturday but busy enough to suggest they could handle the larger crowds as well. The host that greeted us was helpful, the server consistent. They were friendly and prompt and able to keep things on track and flowing smoothly. The courses were well timed and our glasses were always filled. Minor annoyance: server asked if we wanted our coffees with dessert and we said hello. Our coffee arrived as we were finishing dessert. Adam pet peeve!

DECOR/AMBIANCE: 4

This restaurant is apparently one of a few owned by the DandD team that I believe is affiliated with the Conran Group, but definitely includes Orrery, one of my favourites yet to be reviewed, and Coq d’Argent. I am a sucker for accent walls, especially when of a warm and vibrant colour. Avenue did not disappoint with a nice red wall with quirky yet subtle (and reasonably priced) artwork hanging. It was a bit loud yet still allowed us to have a decent conversation, get a decent amount of people watching in, and sit relatively comfortably. Privacy was fine and I didn’t feel as if they tried to cram every inch with seating as at Asia de Cuba. And despite the recent trend of restaurants with DJs and blaring lounge music, Avenue was reserved. No disco with dinner!

The restaurant was well suited for the quiet area of Mayfair that is St James and the crowd seemed there for food and service versus to be seen; a welcome change. One miss is that I could not see the chef or kitchen.

VALUE: 5

For reference to those who have not read my other reviews, I have dined at La Chappelle in London and Graham Elliott in Chicago, Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia and Le Bernadin in New York. Yet, my greatest joy comes not from proving world renowned restaurants deserve (or do not deserve) acclaim. Rather, it comes from finding fantastic value restaurants where food is great and value for money worth noting. London provides ample opportunities for this with toptable and other websites always offering discounts.

This meal was booked via toptable.co.uk and I signed up for the 3 courses with half-bottle of wine offer. I reviewed the full menu upon arrival and am confident in my review ratings for regular meals or for those taking on the offer.

I have been excited to spend this year finding contrasting restaurants that offer similar quality food and much better prices. I found one such restaurant in Vivat Bacchus, and now in Avenue. The meal was approximately £100 for two, compared to about 3 to 4 times that much at La Chapelle and it was a bit cheaper than the bill at Balleria, the last restaurant I reviewed. Vivat Bacchus remains the top value for service, food and decor for me thus far in London.

OVERALL: 4

I love great food and great service. Avenue had pretty good food and really good service. I want to know the place in which I dine is attractive and cozy enough for both business dinners or romantic nights out. I would take a date or colleague to Avenue. However, as I eat my way across London’s amazing options for dining, I find myself rarely repeating unless a place is really stellar. Alas, Avenue was good, no attitude, good service and a nice space. But it was not stellar.

Because the food is pretty good, decor is nice, service is really good, and most importantly because it is a darn good value where one meal here will not break the bank for most people, I RECOMMEND Avenue Restaurant and would be more than happy to go there again, with friends or colleagues, if in the neighborhood. Would I go out of my way, likely not. Should you try it out? I think so. Go for it, and let me know what you think!

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

Follow me on Twitter 
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Adam Stanley

Adam Stanley

Change Ahead

Yet another blog about Change!

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Building Airplanes in the Air

EDS (now part of HP of course) ran a fantastic ad campaign years ago that highlighted how they help businesses manage through periods of major transformation. My favorite was called “Airplane” and showed a team of employees working on building a new airplane in the air. Yep, I wrote that right. In the commercial, filmed reality show style, there are several people who are discussing their pride in what they do. What do they do? Build airplanes while the planes are actually flying. Despite being a bit awkward in post September 11 times, the ad has always been such a great metaphor for what so many of us in Technology leadership roles have to do.

Transformation is never easy to begin with, and is made even harder by the mere fact that business does not stop and wait for you to finish with your initiative. While building the future, you must still keep the present up and running. Like building an airplane that is still flying!

The only way you can be successful in an environment like this is by remembering these principles:

1) Surround yourself with good people.
I can’t believe I am quoting Oprah Winfrey in one of my blogs but one must admit she clearly knows how to lead and drive change. One of her popular statements was “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” I completely agree this is essential. People who surround themselves with positive people naturally become more positive. Likewise, surrounding yourself with depressing, negative people leads to adopting their attitude.

But your team members can’t simply be positive thinkers. You need talent! I worked with a manager once who truly seemed intent on only hiring people who were not as smart as he was. Perhaps it was ego, perhaps insecurity, but it seemed that he was always needed to make decisions, solve problems, and break impasses. His people were neither empowered nor enabled to drive effective change. If you hire down, your organization dies. Period. I strive to always surround myself with people who are complimentary. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so why would I hire someone with the same strengths and weaknesses?

Find people that are intelligent but flexible, driven but not mercenary, loyal but not naive. Your change will be more successful. In the airplane example, a pilot only needs one co-pilot. The rest of the crew know more about customer service, cabin safety, in-flight entertainment and dining. They speak with clients more regularly and can get a sense of satisfaction. The team is made better because there are lots of good people doing their part to make the whole better. That should always be our goal!

2) Think like the successful automakers do. When I recently tried to explain how I think Technology shops should run with respect to relationship between Service (run) and Change components I thought of Mercedes Benz, my beloved car company. The change teams at Mercedes, those designing new cars and features, get a lot of glory when the next big thing is announced. Yet most people buy Mercedes both because of the design and styling of the car AND the fantastic service experience of owners.

  • The Design team constantly thinks of service while designing: periodic service alerts, inboard monitors, quality control, etc. They do not sit in an ivory tower in Stuutgart making stuff up! They talk to Service, Sales, and others to seek out ideas for what comes next.
  • The Service team, while striving to deliver quality service when you visit for service, also continuously feeds back to the design team things that need to be improved. And sometimes they advise the customers on how features in newer models go even further to address certain issues. Service is frequently the best source for add-on sales and upgrades!

Think about it! What if everyone in Technology worked in this mutually beneficial relationship structure? Applications would be designed for performance, infrastructures would be built to last, and customers would have a better overall experience “driving” the best solutions for their unique needs.

If we never forget the important relationship between change and run, we can effectively manage “building planes in the air”.

3) Communicate with your customers
Think about the last time you were on an airplane, or perhaps even in a taxi. Often the pilot or driver will inform passengers at the very start of the journey of pending problems. Turbulence ahead! A lot of traffic in one particular area may delay arrival! The light above your seat does not work! But on United Airlines in particular, you are also greeted at the beginning of the flight with a video from the CEO. In his intro, he highlights changes being made, explains any temporary issues that may frustrate clients, and thanks them for their loyalty and patience.

How many of our internal clients would be shocked to hear such messages?
Dear Clients: 1) We are going through a period of change that will bring enhanced stability, service, and innovation to better enable your success. 2) We know there will be some times of disruption and instability in the current environment and of course we will do all we can to minimize impact. 3) Thank you so much for your patience and support. Please know that everything we do is to add value for you.

Don’t surprise your clients with change, or downplay the risk so significantly you lose credibility. Be honest. Be open. Be consistent. And, of course, if the change is not something that adds value, rethink doing it at all!!

Let me know what you think. How do you effectively handle major changes while still managing to keeps things going? How do you build airplanes in the air?

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

This blog was originally posted Feb 2012. Reblogged Sept 2012.

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswhartonAdam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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#Foodie Review: Bellaria Restaurant and Wine Bar (London)

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Bellaria Restaurant and Wine Bar

71 Great Titchfield Street
Fitzrovia
London
W1W 6RB

Overall Verdict: Neutral – Not recommended, but I would not suggest you avoid it.

DECOR: 3
From the other reviews, I surmised that the basement was nice and quaint. I guess that depends on what you prefer. I did not sit down there but I did see the basement when I went to the Gents. overrated would be my conclusion, looking a bit like a dungeon and perhaps causing a mild claustrophic reaction. The upstairs was fine, albeit plain and boring, but the tables were WAY too small. We had to request a table sized for 4 guests to actually fit the starters, mains, and wine we ordered.

FOOD: 3
20120812-122923.jpg I had a calamari and zucchini starter that was quite well prepared and lightly floured. My partner had the crab and passion fruit starter that was bland and boring. And we think they may have forgotten to add the passionfruit. For our mains, we both had the sirloin steak with Parmesan shavings over rocket. The steak was prepared okay. They are a bit to the over side on temperature so if you want medium rare, order rare, as my medium rare was more medium and my partner’s medium looked kind of well done to me. Besides the temperature, I was not impressed by the thin steak nor the lack of flavour. If it were a thicker cut of meat, it likely could have held its own with little seasoning but the thin steak was rather flavourless. Dessert was fantastic for my partner (tiramisu) and acceptable for me (strawberry cheesecake).

SERVICE: 4
Perhaps I expected to be treated like a second class citizen after reading the reviews about discount diners, but I would say that service was pretty good. Very attentive staff, but not overly so. I don’t think they poured our wine after the first pour but our food came hot and things were timed fairy well.

VALUE: 3
Based in the average quality of the food, and considering the Neighborhood, I would say this place is about average. The discounts you can easily get via the reservation sites and dining clubs give you a bit of wiggle room for wine and extras. We spent £125 for two people including the automatic service charge of 10% plus another 3-5% service gratuity we added. This included the red wine of month, a nice Barbera d’Asti, plus two starters, two mains, two sides, and two desserts. Given I know that I could have had the same meal on Marylebone High Street for about the same price without the discount, I’m giving Balleria a 3 for value.

OVERALL: I would not recommend this restaurant but would not turn people away from it either. There are too many nice restaurants in London for me to tolerate average, but if I lived nearby and wanted a quick Italian dinner, I would certainly visit this place.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

 

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Notes: Booked via toptable.co.uk and signed up for 50% off offer (why would I ever choose the “no thanks” offer?). Whenever I book these types of offers, I take the opportunity to try more of the menu and always have a bottle of wine or cocktails. The little card they put on your table when you sit down does make you feel a tad low class, especially if you happen to be on a date. Luckily, I was not! The card stipulates rules for the discount and the items on the menu that are not fully discounted like tuna, sirloin steak, and other specials. Not a big deal, actually, and I’m not sure there would be an easier way to make this clear without the waiter having to actually say it out loud.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

Follow me on Twitter 
Connect with me on Linked In 
“Like” me on Facebook
Or visit me online at http://www.alswharton.com/in

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Adam Stanley

Top Traits: Fun to Work With

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Defining the perfect employees

Let’s face it, for most people work is a means to an end. You work so that you can eat, keep your brain active, connect with other people, learn, or reach some apex in your ambitious plan to take over the world…. Whatever the reason, for very few people work is about finding intense joy and personal satisfaction every hour of every day. That is simply not reality. But, like any other required part of our lives, we can choose how we want to handle work. We can come in every day, do what is required, talk to nobody, and leave. Or we can bring a smile into the office, do our jobs and encourage others to do theirs, and try to bring fun into what can be otherwise mundane or stressful.

I worked with someone for years that was by far the very best at a particular function. This individual was 1)Both talented and hard working, and 2)showed a true pride in the products he created…..good so far, right? If you’ve read my two preceding “Top Traits” blogs, you’d say he is a perfect employee. But wait! This person was so depressing, so negative, and so, well, just not fun! There were days where despite the value I could get out of a conversation, I could simply not do it. It would drag me down into a depression instead of inspiring me to be better. Like the Dementor guards of the Azkaban prison in the Harry Potter movies, this kind of person can simply suck the soul out of a team, an office, or a company. Which brings me to my third top trait ….

… Trait # 3 – Fun to Work WithFun People

If you’ve done interviews, you’ve perhaps been asked to assess “fit” with the culture of your particular company. When I started my career, I thought those interviews were inappropriate. Fit translated into Golf Club network, family connections, and politics. But as I advanced, I realised more and more that fit can make or break a leader. A leader whose style is perfect at one place will bomb elsewhere. So, to be clear, being fun isn’t always going to make you successful. You still must deliver. This is my personal opinion and what I personally look for. I want employees that are fun to work with. Period.

What I like

There are some people that simply bring joy to the office. They bring smiles, jokes, the occasional cupcake or brownie …. They bring personality and just enough of themselves to break down barriers and create a culture of openness that makes work more rewarding.

I’m not talking about class clown, chronic joking, or distraction. I’m talking about balancing the “what” with the “how”. Say you have a complex team challenge that must get done in 24 hours. You have to work pretty hard to get it done and, especially as a leader, you can be a humourless tyrant and slave driver. Or you can be an inspirational and personable motivator. I’m choosing to be the latter.

I recently spent time with some of our colleagues managing technology in Europe. During the evening, we had a team dinner and drinks and I had the opportunity to get to know the Poland, Spain and Italy leaders. We laughed, joked, and had a really great time but occasionally someone would bring up a problem facing our firm and I would ask for a recommended solution. What amazed me is how smart the team was at coming up with ideas but at the same time they were having fun and enjoying being together. That’s the kind of team I want!

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable

Smile.

When I’m having a funk of a day, I either stay home or avoid meetings. Smiles are contagious, I truly believe that. So if I can’t bring a genuine smile to the office, I try desperately to avoid contact with people! We can’t expect everyone to be happy all the time, but as a manager I need to both set an example and reward those that also bring fun to the office.

Last week, I woke to yet another rainy London day and, frankly, I was disgusted. I was so sick of rainy weather that I knew I would be in a bad mood. I went back into my kitchen, made a huge breakfast with a large strong cup of java and read a low intelligence required novel. Then, I went to the office. I was later than intended but by the time I got to the office I was refreshed and able to deal with another grey day.

Solicit feedback from team.

Talk to your teams on a regular basis to determine what makes them happy. What motivates them and when they smile, ask them why they are happy. Find something that brings them joy and do that.

Support and understand that some people just have bad days.

Recognise that some people will have bad days. Support them. Make sure they feel comfortable detaching if necessary. Make them leave if you must. If they need help, try to get it for them. And reward those that bring joy to the office and perform with a positive attitude.

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as top employee traits? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members? Are you working hard on something worth doing?

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Be sure to view all of the Top Traits:
Trait 1: Hard working AND talented

Trait 2: Pride in work product

Trait 3: Fun to work with

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
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Top Traits: Pride in Work Product

Pride

Defining the perfect employees

I had a whole home audio system installed in my Chicago home a few years ago. I spent more than I have ever spent on audio equipment and hired a team of twenty somethings to install it for me. I remember when they came for the install and opened all the boxes. You honestly would have thought they were installing for themselves. They were so excited about the install, and kept telling me how I really got the coolest equipment out there. Their excitement was contagious. I truly felt like I was “the man” and could not wait until my first party. When done with the install, they beamed with pride and showed me the system, how to use it and some of the fun stuff. They also discussed potential upgrades coming down the road and ways I might consider expanding.

… Trait # 2 – Pride in Work Product

How often do employees show this kind of pride in the work they do? When you shop at a mall, or work with your local telephone company, do you get the sense that the people working with you are actually proud of the services they are providing? I’m doubting it! Definitely not the case with BT given my recent experiences with them, but I digress …. Shouldn’t you be proud of what you do? Pleased with your work and the value you bring? Nurses comfort people. Teachers change lives and prepare our futures. Your particular job may not be as obviously impactful but you’re driving value by helping clients either directly or indirectly. And if you have chosen to work at a particular place, you should have pride in what you do. My maternal grandfather was a garbage truck operator for almost 30 years. My paternal grandfather worked at the US Post Office for 25 years after serving his first five adult years in the army. Neither of them ever made very much money. But each had a pride in their work that was inspirational.

What I like

Steve Jobs - pride of productI want employees to show a sense of pride in what they do. In what they create. The best recent example of a leader that exuded pride in the products he offered was Steve Jobs. You just knew he thought that every product he allowed out the door was AWESOME! In my current role, I have a principle that I call “pretty red bow” that is based on pride of product and service. In short, I demand that my teams think about the entire package when building a new service. Not just the technology, which may be cool as ever, but the service, the support, the way it is sold and the training provided for users. You can build the very best mousetrap but if everyone thinks it is an appetiser with crackers and cheese …. Well, you get the picture. I want them to build a service, package it well and tie it up with a pretty red bow. Get it?

My favorite employees are the ones that call or email me to tell me when a client is really pleased, or even better, when no client has said anything but they know the service they have built will excite clients. The emails that show progress on solving a complex problem, the random drop by to my office to show me a prototype of a new collaboration tool, or the demo of a new “awesome” iOS application, this is what excites me.

If you do not feel pride in the work you do, why would your boss, your team, or your client?! If you don’t feel you can be proud of your work, perhaps you aren’t in the right field. Or perhaps you are simply not working hard enough to deliver something with which you can be proud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable

Provide. Praise. Promote.

  • PROVIDE. If you hire an employee and ask them to build a Bentley, then only give them a thousand bucks, a Bentley you will not get. Set guidelines that are achievable and provide your teams with the resources needed to be successful. The greatest morale killer in most technology shops today is the constant badgering on costs. We must provide opportunities for employees to shine. A great example of this within Aviva is our mobile apps competition. We’re encouraging people around the world to create prototypes of great new app concepts in friendly competition. We encourage all of the contributors and it is FANTASTIC seeing the pride of ownership among the teams that is evident in their submissions.
  • PRAISE. Give credit. Give credit. Give credit. Employees, especially those in service industries, operations functions, and technology, get PLENTY of complaints and abuse. When someone creates something amazing, you MUST acknowledge it. I have seen so many managers take credit for their team members work without adequately praising them. It is shameful. As I said with respect to all hard working and talented employees (prior blog), ensure those who show pride in their work and deliver excellence get the recognition they deserve.
  • PROMOTE. This should be easy for those of you with children as well as for those who remember when you were a child. Think about how proud a kid is when their artwork is displayed on the refrigerator or on the school bulletin board. Create THAT environment. Showcase the amazing products and services your teams have created. If they have pride, and it is deserved, their leaders should also be proud. And showcasing their products will encourage others to create great things as well. Be a “proud mama” or “proud papa”. You will encourage more people to take pride in their work. And when you take pride in your work, you do better work. Simple, right?

I’m proud of the folks working with me now and proud of the things we accomplished while I was in my prior roles. I will continue to seek out, provide for, praise and promote those around me who take pride in what they do. It takes all kinds to make a great team but the perfect employees demonstrate pride in work product. And I want the perfect employees along on the journey with me.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as top employee traits? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members? Are you working hard on something worth doing?

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Be sure to view all of the Top Traits:
Trait 1: Hard working AND talented
Trait 2: Pride in work product
Trait 3: Fun to work with

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
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#Foodie Review: Bishopsgate Kitchen (London)

Bishopsgate Kitchen
230 Bishopsgate
London EC2M 4QH

Summary: NOT Recommended / Abysmal Service with subpar food.

SHORT VERSION:  I have reviewed DOZENS of restaurants and out of over a hundred reviews, I only have 5 places rated one star. I can only guess the reviewers of this place are either friends of the staff or owner or infrequent diners. Or I was just here on a VERY BAD NIGHT. This place is awful and I would recommend you walk right on by.

Service: 1

The great host that greeted me and took order, a guy that was friendly and fast, seemed to disappear and leave two amateurs on the floor. He left two women who walked around and chatted to the two guys who were hitting on them while ignoring everyone else.
After a half hour of trying to use their butter knife to cut the overlooked steak, one of the servers finally brought me a steak knife.

After ignoring me for the hour I was eating, a different server, the one that was chatting it up with the likely married but ringless diner, came over to ask me if I wanted anything else. Get this: the kitchen was closed by then so if I wanted either of the hot desserts I was plum out of luck. First of all, the fact that the restaurant’s posted closing hour is 10pm and they close the kitchen at exactly 10pm is pretty pathetic. That basically means they should stop accepting patrons at 930 pm latest. Second, if chatty Cathy had actually come over during my meal perhaps she could have gathered my dessert order BEFORE the kitchen closed.

Food: 1

My meal consisted of quite possibly the worst steak I’ve had in a year. I’ve had better steaks at Disney World and strip mall food courts.  Absolutely no flavor and if this is medium, well done must resemble a charcoal briquette. Incredibly bland food. Even the bread was just ok.

Decor: 2

A nice space except whereas I typically enjoy seeing the kitchen, seeing the cook open a container of uncooked food and smell it was less than appealing. One of the cooks approached what looked like a more senior guy and appeared to suspect something was off. The other guy smelled it, looked at it, and smelled again. I was sick wondering if he concluded it was “acceptable”.

Value: 2

Really bad food at moderately expensive prices. Fail.

Overall: 1

I suspect this is the type of place that gets clientele who don’t feel like walking farther than across the street RBS. There are WAY too many restaurants in London to waste time or money on a place like this. In Chicago, this would be one of those places I would predict would be out of business soon. Not sure if here in London a crappy restaurant can survive due simply to convenience of location. Maybe so!

I was looking for my first failure of a restaurant in London and, alas, I’ve found it. Not only do I not recommend this place, I urge you to go out of your way (which really is only about 4 blocks toward Spitalfields) to find a decent meal. Do not go to Bishopsgate Kitchen. It should be closed.

Note: while waiting for my bill, I overheard another guest tell the server he ordered lamb and got tuna. She laughed and he laughed. Interesting. I wouldn’t actually find that funny.

AVOID THIS PLACE.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For all reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

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ALS

#Foodie Review: Vivat Bacchus (London)

Vivat Bacchus

47 Farringdon Street
Holborn
London
EC4A 4LL

Overall Verdict: Highly Recommended

YOU: Have enough money to eat pretty much anywhere in London or other major cities. You love great food, fine wines, and great service and want to know the place in which you dine is attractive and cozy enough for both business dinners or romantic nights out.

OR

YOU: Money is not running over but you want to have a great night out from time to time. You love good food and wine and are proud to say you know some of the best values in town. You want a nice spot without attitude.

OR

YOU: Can only afford to go to one or two “really nice” restaurants a year and have a special someone you wish to take on a romantic date. You want it to be special, memorable, have amazing food, and not completely break the bank.

Message to ALL OF THE ABOVE:

Go. To. Vivat Bacchus. Now. Really.

Long Version:

I actually dined here on Valentine’s Day so am way overdue writing this review.

FOOD: 5

Before starting our meal, we were given a bottle of sparkling wine to excite the palate. Good stuff but the smells in the place were already stirring up my taste buds so the champagne just went straight to my head.

Pan fried scallops paired with Quinta de la Rosa Branco 2010 from Portugal came next, with the first and only hiccup of the night. The wine did not show up at our table until the scallops were almost done. This was the only major show of amateur service though I will get to service later. That said, the scallops were great and we forgave her for getting out of sync with the wine as the next course came.

The main course consisted of Grilled venison cutlets with squash and beetroot gratin. The venison was bone in and this was the first time I ever had it like that. JUICY. FLAVOURFUL. PERFECTION. The sauce complimented the meat splendidly and the venison was prepared to just the right temperature. At this point in the meal, I started checking out the chef and making eye contact. Really, can we be friends? You cook for me, and I will …. Buy the ingredients? Wine? Serenade you and run a bath with rose petals?

For dessert, I had the MOST amazing chocolate trio with a decadently rich torte and a gluttonous stem ginger mousse. It was paired with a Banyuls from Roussilon. This French version of port is absolutely perfect with chocolate and the choice of this bottle was inspired. …. Banyuls Rimage ‘Les Clos de Paulilles’ 2008. … I seriously considered asking the chef to marry me at this point but thought I was way unworthy so decided instead I would just have to become a regular!

SERVICE: 4

The team here seemed happy to welcome us and the other guests. They were friendly and prompt. While there were a few signs of amateur servers, the manager continued to oversee the meal and typically was able to keep things on track and flowing smoothly. The courses were well timed and our glasses were always filled. Even when she screwed up the wine match with the first course, we actually still had water and champagne so were ok.

DECOR/AMBIANCE: 4

This restaurant is apparently one of a few owned by the same team. I am very interested in seeing the others. The layout of this place was quite odd, with a long and narrow column of tables somewhat crammed in like a bowling lane. (yes, I go bowling sometimes). It was a bit loud yet still allowed us to have a decent conversation, get a decent amount of people watching in, and enjoy watching the chef work kitchen magic. It was a unique restaurant that did not follow the format of other restaurants. Rather, it seemed content to be unique, a bit quirky, a bit disorganised, and full of good wines. As is my preference, the open view of the kitchen less the flames and smoke was a nice addition.

VALUE: 5

Having recently dined at La Chappelle in London and Graham Elliott in Chicago, and especially after my Michelin Quest of 2011, I have been excited to spend this year finding contrasting restaurants that offer similar quality food and much better prices. I found one such restaurant n Vivat Bacchus. The meal was approximately £140 for two, compared to about 3 to 4 times that much at La Chapelle.

Would I go to a Michelin starred über expensive fine dining establishment again? Of course! Those places do tend to offer a level of service unparalleled by most places, interesting and innovative cuisine, and enough posterior region kissing to impress your guests without turning them off. But, and I find myself somewhere between person 1 and person 2 above, this is where I would go for a guaranteed good meal at a good price. I have enough money to dine at the finest places but why do that when I can dine at great value spots and donate more to worthy causes? Happy stomach. Happy heart. Happy Adam.

In short, this place is a great value.

OVERALL: 4

I love great food and great service. Vivat Bacchus had great food and good service. I want to know the place in which I dine is attractive and cozy enough for both business dinners or romantic nights out. I would take a date or colleague to Vivat Bacchus. I am proud to say I know some of the best values in Chicago and am excited to build my list for London, my new home. Vivat Bacchus has made that list early in my transition. There is no attitude, they have amazing food and one meal here will not break the bank for most people.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Vivat Bacchus and would be more than happy to go there regularly, with friends or colleagues. And I look forward to getting to know the chef. If you are reading this, Chef, you are welcome to come over to my flat anytime. I will provide the wine if you cook! But, no bath. That might be awkward. Smile.

In relationship with #foodies,

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

For more reviews, go to my yelp profile here or find me on TripAdvisor with username ALSWharton.

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Adam Stanley

Adam Stanley