Cookie cutter anything, when it comes to working with people, creates half-baked results. Though the case may be made for having a structure, a clear model and a definitive process, being married to one approach, when working with more than one person, doesn’t work. In leading the development of the skills of others, always remember what matters most: those others, or the people on the receiving end of your leadership guidance or coaching approach. Rigid adherence to one common model with no room for adaptation or multiple routes to the same goal, will limit the value of your guidance and most certainly reduce the potential for great results. But why?
They Produce Half Baked Results
If one bought into assembly line thinking and believed producing leaders was a clearly defined, scientific process, one might struggle with this entire conversation and believe one consistent model would produce repeatable results. Simply said, it would mean that one believed following the same outline and using the same recipe ingredients time after time would produce the same type, strength, and style of leader. But what if the climate were different? The same sugar cookie recipe made in Florida would require far more baking time if made in Wyoming? Why? The altitude impacts time and temperature for cooking. When air pressure is lower, cooking takes longer. When skills are lower, learning takes longer. When the office environment is low on oxygen or nourishment and encouragement, change takes longer. As such, strict adherence to the directions in one’s homogenous recipe may produce half-baked results in that leader. Cookie cutter approaches do not take into account where an employee may have come from, what is their perspective, what is their history with certain people, or what is their experience in using that skill or showing that level of authenticity. Any coach or leader needs a multitude of approaches for different people if the goal is to develop that person’s individual potential.
They Get Lost Easily
The story of the Thanksgiving Ham recipe clarifies this point beautifully. A young woman wanted to make the traditional ham of her husband’s grandmother Elsa, so she requested the recipe. She dutifully recorded the details and followed them to the letter until she got to one portion of the directions that didn’t make sense. The direction said to cut off either end of the ham before placing it in the pan. It seemed like such a waste and her mother-in-law tried to logically explain how she thought each end’s removal improved the flavor and taste. Not wanting to break family tradition or seem ungrateful for the honor of hosting Thanksgiving, she did what was suggested. Half way through the holiday dinner, her husband’s great aunt, sister of the grandmother, said to the young woman “Did you have the same problem as Elsa?” Knowing that talk of any problem of their beloved Elsa who had passed a few years back, would be a sensitive topic, she delicately replied with a smile, “I wasn’t aware she had any problems. Did I miss something?” “No, no, my dear. I just noticed that your ham must not have fit in your pan either.” Sometimes directions and recipes passed down through generations get lost in translation with only the core ingredients remaining and not the essential reasoning for doing things a certain way. The same is true in your leadership guidance and role of coaching. What worked for the team you led last year may no longer apply in the new environment. What is more important than for those you lead to follow your exact process, is for them to understand the essence of your direction and how to apply it to their own situation. What do they do if they find themselves with a bigger pan?
In leadership, coaching is one of the most important duties of your role. Determine the desired goal with each person and then find the right action steps to fit with each person’s needs. You may start out by asking similar questions and over time find that you run into repeated, or a pattern of, common barriers, but don’t be fooled into believing that you must have one solid cookie cutter approach to leadership. There are of course, key fundamentals and skills, but the greatest results will be achieved when you’re flexible. The goal is to enhance their growth, not insist that they adhere to, learn from, or follow your one model.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!