3 reasons all managers should bake

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I love to eat. I love to bake. I call that ‘hobby-harmony’.

Today, whilst kneading bread, I was reflecting on my latest clear up exercise and all the management training information I discovered in the cupboard.

I must have spent at least 3 months of my life in rooms with current or potential managers, doing exercise after exercise to reflect on and improve our collective management skills. I’ve also read (well, skimmed in many cases) 100s of books on the subject. Type ‘management’ into Amazon and 100s of 1000s of books pop up; enough to light a bonfire that could blast an enormous hole in the ozone. And yet, I’ve never seen one that told me what managers could learn from baking. 

Why not?

As today’s bread required a ten minute knead, I had plenty of time to think about the link between baking and management. By the time the dough was stretchy, I’d formed my opinion on what a management book based on lessons taken from baking would cover.

I believe it would cover:

Lesson 1: Wait to get a rise

Treat dough right and it will rise beautifully. The kneading initiates a growth process, but you need (no pun intended) to back off and let nature do its part too. In the same way, management is about putting solid effort in whilst giving people space and time to digest the learning and put it into action.

Some things just can’t be rushed. Battering the life out of dough for 1 minute won’t necessarily make it rise any faster or higher, and some half-hearted sporadic prodding over a few hours won’t do the job either. If the bread requires 2 ten minute kneads with a few hours of rising time in-between then that’s your best approach. There are fast-track breads that require less kneading or rising time than others, (just like some people) but don’t assume that all breads and people are the same. Either give the time and energy required or be prepared to accept the consequences.

There are people who can help you work out what you’re dealing with, me included. If you’re not sure what to do, just ask. 

Lesson 2: The mix makes it

New and diverse ingredients can make an average bread special. That doesn’t mean you need to spend over the odds to get the best flour that money can buy to make good bread. You do however need ingredients that are in date and full of flavour. Those ingredients can be white, rye, granary or any other origin.

Yes, you don’t need equality legislation to tell you that you can get amazing results from a variety of different team members. Think of knowledge, skills, attitude and personality in a team as ingredients. Some real magic can happen when you mix things up a bit. I’m thinking artisan cranberry, apricot and muesli loaf! Yum. 

Go on, you know you want the wow factor in your team, not just in your diet.

Lesson 3: There is no shame in using a recipe

You are not the first person ever to bake a team… I mean bread… so there is no shame in acknowledging that some lessons have already been learnt or that there can be too much to memorise. That doesn’t mean that you can just pick up any recipe you come across on the internet and produce a masterpiece. If you are new to baking it’s best to start with a recipe that’s tried and tested or at least from a reputable source. With a good recipe, the right equipment, working conditions as well as some helpful tips, tricks and feedback you’ll soon be proud of the results.

You might be the best manager since sliced bread, (sorry, had to get that in) but even you need systems, processes and feedback.

If that hasn’t made you hungry for a piece of freshly baked bread or a baking related team building day, maybe this will help?

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