Chocolate Cake and Leadership

Something both myself and Ken Blanchard have in Common.

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I posted a comment/response on one of Ken Blanchard’s Posts about what steps I have taken to accomplish my goals recently and he very kindly took the time to respond.

So, from now on when I see Ken’s posts, listen to one of his Podcasts, discuss his principals and teachings during client training sessions or re-reading one of his excellent books I will naturally associate him with great leadership and now – cakes.   

The past few months have been an ideal opportunity to stop, recharge, reflect and in most cases, bake cakes. In our house cakes (and bread) from around the world have been a great project, especially the tasting, eating and sharing.

“Wouldn’t it be great just to stop the business for a few weeks, retrain the team, take a break from the customers, re-focus the direction and get the paint pot out”.

At some point when running my businesses, I’ve thought wouldn’t it be great just to stop the business for a few weeks, retrain the team, take a break from the customers, re-focus the direction and get the paint pot out, but of course that would be ridiculous and detrimental to the business and then came Covid!

The company and team’s vision, innovation and creativity and channels of effective communication have always been at the top of my leadership list of things to do and actions to take.

With respect to the vision, that never changes.

What sometimes change is the route to get there (especially now), so I change my immediate goals when necessary but replaced them with new actions and goals to achieve the original vision, and you’re not restricted to just one vision either.

I Have A Vision Covering the Following:

1.     Business

2.     Financial

3.     Community

4.     Family

5.     Health

6.     Personal and professional development

Not all were shared with the team, the last 3 are personal, although I always implemented a vision and a plan to protect the health (physical and mental) of my team members, customers and suppliers, and that was before it became a buzzword.

Now is the time to implement a financial target and an individual performance management plan for each team member to help them ‘re-stable’ at work and individually and as a team grow and develop for whatever the future brings.

Effective leaders set high standards for performance and values, validate efforts and contributions, and ensure cooperative interaction and performance in a trusting, respectful work environment.

As well as leadership I’m fascinated by the concept of innovation and creativity. Whilst reading Phil Dobson’s book ‘The Brain Book’ I learnt that there are four brain states:

  • Beta brainwaves associated with concentration and alertness and produced whilst working
  • Alpha brainwaves associated with a relaxed and open mind. You experience these whilst out walking, reading, in the shower for example or baking cakes for example
  • Theta Brainwaves which you experience as you drift off to sleep
  • Delta brainwaves which occur during deep sleep

When you produce Alpha Waves, this is when you have your ah-ha moments. Have you ever had a ‘brain wave’ in the shower? Or a solution to an issue when baking a cake at home?

This is why lockdown has been beneficial (not ideal) but beneficial for those that have embraced it. Rather than have a pity party on the sofa drowning themselves in Ben and Jerry ice cream pots, they have put their energy into focusing on the vision, the team and the future.

So, What’s Leadership to Do with Baking Cakes?

Talk about becoming a resilient, situational, strong and servant leader. My daughter has just turned 18 and this year she’s had her A level exams cancelled, her last day of school (ever) cancelled, her school prom cancelled, her first holiday with mates experience cancelled, her 18th birthday party cancelled, her first legal drink in a bar cancelled, her driving test cancelled and when she did receive her A level exam results they were lower than they would have been if she had sat them (thankfully we had them amended).

So how does such a young person cope – like everyone else, they refocus on the vision (in her case to study at University), change the goals and mission steps to reach her vision - and bake cakes (and bread).

That’s her chocolate birthday cake she made (with all her favourite goodies on the sides).

By concentrating on the end product, following the recipe (the steps needed to reach the end product) she was able to put her negative issues aside and concentrate on the job in hand and us adult leaders need to take note of that. Too many times I witness clients concentrating on the negative and being pulled down into a pit of self-despair.

She’s Not the Only Baker in the House

My wife is a degree qualified classically trained French chef and has clearly influenced my daughter as a future leader and in her culinary skills.

Below is the cake that my wife made for my 50th birthday party, and yes, it’s a chocolate cake!

It represents my passion for hiking in the mountains and my recent successful solo hike around Mont Blanc covering 170 kilometres in France, Italy, Switzerland and back through France.

That was my goal to achieve to commemorate my 50th birthday and it took me a year to plan and get fit for it and then just do it, no excuses (and boy could I have come up with some, especially whilst doing it – but if it was meant to be easy everyone would do it).

A cake like this doesn’t just happen. The hours of planning, preparing, altering, verbalising, patience, tasting, labour and love that went into it ensured that it was a success.

There was never any question as to its success. My wife (and now daughter) have the picture in their head and then sketched out as to what the finished piece will look like and they crack on with it and that’s how you should be now with your team and vision.

Preparation and Planning Prevent pretty poor Performance!

Following are my top tips to help you as we slowly emerge from lockdown and government/business supported furlough.

My Advice to Leaders

If you haven’t already

  1. Create a message that includes your vision that you can share with your team that is brief but comprehensive. This message needs to be the beating heart of everything that you and your team do. It needs to be measurable and the entire team needs to be accountable for achieving their part of it.
  2. Be prepared to be flexible in your approach to communicating the message and in the steps you take to achieve the vision
  3. Structure your approach to the vision you set. For example, if you have a 10-year vision you need 10 annual statements of intent. And to achieve these statements of intent you need 12 monthly mission steps to aim for.

Cheers, to all the managers and leadership teams out there.

Stay focused, stay positive, drive the optimism and let’s create an environment where it's normal for the new generation of leaders and aspiring leaders to lead and manage their teams with compassion, empathy, drive and enthusiasm and to not feel trapped by the old ways of leadership that no longer work.

Adrian Close – Lover of leadership and cakes (Like Ken) 😁