My wife is a great cook. I watch her do her thing in her kitchen without getting too close as to disturb the creative juices and the momentum of the delicious smells flowing from pots and pans. Once I asked her how she got so good, and she shared that she started by following recipes, and then over time the recipes became second nature, and now she just flows with the fixing of food (that is my alliteration for the day). However, if she wants to try something new, a recipe appears on the kitchen counter and provides the protocol for perfect preparation (sorry the P’s just happened).
An organizational leader is so much like the recipe. Let me share what I mean by mixing three leadership ingredients together to bake this metaphor.
#1. A recipe typically starts with the list of ingredients needed to make the dish. It is very specific and detailed: 1 ½ cups uncooked rice; 3 cups chicken broth; 2 teaspoons margarine; 5 cups thinly sliced or bite-size pieces assorted vegetables; 2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese….. An effective organizational leader needs to know all the materials and resources needed to accomplish a task or a project. Nothing can be more discouraging than to run out of an essential resource halfway through or worse yet when the project is in its final phase. The leader must ensure that the specific needs are met with the precise materials needed. Having to sit and wait because the leader failed to be prepared is not a recipe for success
#2 The recipe provides the steps of execution. Rinse, boil in a 2-quart saucepan, reduce heat, cover and simmer, stir, sprinkle, All the needed steps of actions are listed for the novice or experienced chef. A good organizational leader understands and communicates the steps needed to accomplish the mission of the organization. I am not advocating micro-management or detailed mandates, rather I am emphasizing the big-picture steps. Assigning the right managers to the right tasks, creating a timeline that prevents train wrecks and traffic jams, and prioritizing organizational flow so that the cart does not find itself in front of the horses. Just as a recipe sometimes allows for flexibility and substitutions (replace 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour; use chocolate pudding instead of vanilla pudding), so leaders need to be creative and flexible in adapting the steps toward the goal, but the basic recipe (mission) should not be compromised.
#3 The recipe is careful to communicate how the chef is to combine the ingredients. Sometimes it is as simple as, put all the ingredients into a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. But most of the recipes call for a more sequential and strategic combination. Melt margarine in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat; add chopped garlic and cook for 30 seconds; stir in vegetables; cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently; etc. The organizational leader needs to be a master at combining the resources at the right time and in the right sequence to optimize the effectiveness of the company. Mixing all the ingredients (people, budget, programs, projects) together in the unique culture and climate of a particular organization can be challenging, but the leader, just like the recipe, coordinates the blending and mixing of all the elements to produce a delicious meal.
Photos: Check out the picture and the recipe for Juicy Meatballs at Juicy Meatball Recipe (VIDEO) – NatashasKitchen.com; Ingredients: The Rough Collection