Good cooking is like good learning in that both are a journey of simple-complex-simple. That’s part of our philosophy and the philosophy behind New York Times best-selling author and celebrated chef Samin Nosrat’s culinary approach. “Whether you’ve never picked up a knife or you’re an accomplished chef, there are only four basic factors that determine how good your food will taste,” Nosrat explains. “Salt, which enhances flavor; fat, which amplifies flavor and makes appealing textures possible; acid, which brightens and balances; and heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food.”
One of the most common things I hear from leaders working on ways they can be more effective is, “The problem is, the levels above me don’t work in this way. It’s very hard to implement these behaviors when the leaders at the top aren’t behaving this way.”
When most employees hear the word “engagement” they may immediately think of one of those onerous employee engagement surveys. The irony of these surveys is that they are typically wildly unengaging. In addition, despite employees completing the survey, there is often little movement in overall employee engagement year after year.
It was nice to see a playful kitten with the spirit of Curious George on the cover of The Harvard Business Review about a year ago. My colleagues and I have long touted “curiosity.” From my perspective, curiosity is critical. It’s not just the backbone of learning as an adult, it’s the backbone of being an interesting adult. Evidence based research is showing the importance of curiosity as a trait in those entering the workforce. It fosters agility and the ability to adapt in our constantly changing, increasingly complex world.
There’s a great article published by The Atlantic in 2017 that talks about the “why” of cooking. John Pinsker suggests that even though recipes are a wonderfully effective way to approximate a dish, it’s a shame that they’ve become the standard way of learning to cook. “Recipes, for all their precision and completeness, are poor teachers. They tell you what to do, but they rarely tell you why to do it.” Recipes are the science, but they fail to capture the human imagination or artistry of cooking.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed much about who we are, our resources, our strengths and limitations. We will be dissecting our responses for years to come and hopefully, doing some profound “lessons learned” analysis nationally and globally. Many of us are reflecting on what our reactions, individually and collectively, have exposed thus far. I’ve observed two things in our everyday lives that have been magnified by this crisis: how we receive and interpret data; and, the role empathy plays in decision making.
It’s clearer now, perhaps more than ever, that traditional training is ineffective. The traditional training approach is – write a book, start a training company, build learning that considers the model is the answer and then require participants to sit, listen and absorb the trainer’s wisdom. This approach does a disservice to the experience and skills learners bring to the table.
I was at a party this weekend and a gentleman complimented me on my multi-tasking skills. His compliment stemmed from the fact that I referred to an obscure fact he’d mentioned several moments ago, while presently focused on whether I should help the hosts pass food around. Also, from his belief that women are better multi-taskers.
By now we’re all tired of the word “unprecedented” even though it’s arguably the best way to describe what’s happening in the world right now. For those of us for whom remote, freelance work was already how we earned our keep, this is par for the course. We are no strangers to the daily grind of hunting for potential clients, working on a tight deadline, and navigating the uncertainty of contract work. We’re no strangers to working in our pajamas either. But for a lot of people, this is uncharted territory.
Leaders need to understand what’s happening on the ground in their companies in order to be successful in responding to and navigating challenges.