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learning from toast!

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

We’ve all done it. Forgotten the toast under the grill and ended up with something less than appetising. So, what leadership lesson can we learn from the humble slice of toast?

Making toast could never be described as difficult. Could it? Even for people with the most basic culinary skills can do it. However just because it’s a relatively simple process doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. There are some basics you need to get right. Do that and you are almost guaranteed tasty toast every time.

All too often in leadership positions, we overlook the most basic elements of what we and the people we work with need. Unfortunately, unlike burnt toast, it’s not so obvious when things haven’t gone to plan. Have you experienced or witnessed any of these in your career?

  • People left confused about where organisation is heading.

  • People working on an activity that doesn’t make sense to them. Or worse, they find out someone is doing the same thing elsewhere in the organisation. Or even worse still, they find out someone in the same organisation is doing something in competition or conflict with their work.

  • People not letting you know how they feel about something because their appraisal discussion is being conducted in the wrong environment.

So how can we check if we have the basics in place? Setting and being able to answer high-level questions is one way. Here’s three examples to illustrate.

Quality of your vision
  1. Is it compelling and clear to the people it is meant to provide direction to?

  2. Is it long enough to be meaningful and short enough to be memorable?

  3. Could you use it to make decisions?

Agreeing on personal objectives
  1. Are they aligned with the organisation’s goals?

  2. Is there agreement about what success looks like?

  3. Is there an understanding of the steps towards success and what a sensible duration for them looks like?

Running an appraisal session with a member of your team
  1. Are both parties clear on what is being appraised?

  2. Have you got the right physical or virtual environment for the conversation you need to have?

  3. Have you given the right attention to time, when, how long and balance between feeding back and feeding forward?

What’s more important than the number of questions is actually using them. Understanding the basics at an intellectual level is not enough. It’s about the execution. You may well have your own version of what the basics are in the three examples above. I’d love to hear about them if you do.

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