5 Holiday Dinner Leadership Lessons

Prepping the Big Holiday Dinner – Five Ways to Serve Up the Work

We’re well into the holiday season and all the preparations that go along with the festivities. Needless to say, it can be both a joyous as well as stressful time of year.

holiday dinnerI’ve always found it a combination of both – from trying to get suitable gifts for family and friends (who’s on the giving ‘list’, how many $$ is enough, big box vs. local purchase, practical vs. whimsical) to preparations for the big holiday dinner (who really needs to be at the table, where to sit folks to ‘smooth out’ the conversation, what allergies are in play –real or imagined).

My role has typically been ‘sous chef’ in these holiday dinner preparations and I must say, although I’ve still got lots to learn, I’ve had some great teachers.

One thing I’ve noticed consistently is that these coach/mentor chefs engage me in very different ways depending on the context – such as the dish that’s being prepared, my knowledge and expertise, other items underway, who else is assisting us, and complexity of the recipe. And they use these engagement approaches in quite distinct ways and situations.

Over time, I’ve observed five approaches that these kitchen ‘leaders’ apply successfully to get the best results:

  1. Telling — when we’re in a hurry, there’s something urgent to do, something must absolutely be done a certain way or I’ve never actually done the task, I’m basically told what must be done. There’s no time or knowledge from my side to contribute to the final dish. And I’m fine with this approach – scary to think about what might occur if we deviated from the plan – even gentle Aunt Jess might toss some unfavourable ‘zingers’ our way.
  2. family leadership mealSelling — sometimes, I need to be convinced that something should be done in a certain way or a different way than I’ve previously experienced. This time, the talented chefs will do a little ‘selling’ of the benefits of the alternate approach so that I quickly engage and get things accomplished according to their vision and ‘ground rules’.
  3. Testing — as I gain knowledge and experience, some of my chefs reach out and test their final selection of ingredients, approach and presentation with me before moving to final stage of production. Not much usually changes but at least they’ve heard my suggestions and adjustments are sometimes made to make a better, or more interesting, dish.
  4. Consulting -– once I’ve got some solid knowledge and some practical experience in relation to a particular dish, my ‘boss’ in the kitchen actively solicits my ideas and opinions. I’ve noticed that this strengthens my sense of ‘ownership’ and pride around the resulting dish. And what’s neat is that they acknowledge my active input and contribution.
  5. Co-creating -– here’s where the magic occurs! I’m reasonably skilled and can bring my full knowledge and experience into the creation of something truly excellent. Both myself and my mentor chef work together to modify a particular recipe or create something totally new. Quite often this is even better than the original recipe or previous approach. This is exciting, energizing and good fun!

Telling, Selling, Testing, Consulting and Co-creating – key leadership strategies for successful ‘people’ involvement in both the kitchen and the workplace.

Happy Holidays!!

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

User Comments

There are 2 comments on this post.

  1. Nice story. As a foodie the analogy resonated and the development of relationship along the continuum of telling to co-creating is as valid in the corporate kitchen as it is in front of my stove 🙂

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