Leavening Talents

Written by Jordan Pieschl
“Every moment spent in the kitchen with my mother has prepared me for this moment.”

Not a revelation I ever thought I would have in the middle of a conversation with a client, but I said it.

The organization’s aim was to further develop the capacity of its employees to represent the organization’s mission. The organization had a wonderfully diverse range of talents on the team, and these individuals needed to consistently share the message of the organization’s mission in an equally diverse range of settings — large-group presentations, one-on-one stakeholder conversations, networking events, and so on. The challenge was that one team member might be exceptionally talented at relating to those they are engaged in conversation which made it easy to wear the “networking” hat. Another is uniquely equipped with the ability to sell an audience on just about anything when in presentation mode so the “large-group presentation” hat fit just right. Another’s “background knowledge and experience” hat is a perfect fit, so with some practice in how to communicate the message, those conversations could be particularly fruitful. But, all of these team members needed the confidence to wear each of these hats — sometimes all at once.

“This is where my mother’s cooking lessons came to mind.”

Leavening TalentsShe didn’t follow recipes. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but I grew up just far enough from the nearest grocery store that if the recipe called for baking powder, and we didn’t have it, we simply had to figure out another way to make the cookie dough rise in the oven. The other option was to wait until the next trip to town to stop by the store which, in the case of cookie dough, was really never a viable option.

It’s really a similar conversation when we think about how we help others meet an expectation in their roles. I recently participated in a professional development opportunity that focused specifically on how we can help others truly engage their natural talents so that they can do their best work. One of my top five favorite takeaways was that, sometimes, the talents a person has the chance to use in a particular role might not be the most obvious talents that could set them up for success.

Sure, most cookie dough recipes probably list baking powder or baking soda as the primary leavening agent, but that doesn’t mean a person can’t make a really good cookie if those aren’t in the cabinet. It’s simply an opportunity to figure out how an ingredient already in the kitchen can accomplish the same goal. In the same way, if a person is really good at relating to others in one-on-one settings but less comfortable in large-group presentations, that doesn’t mean this individual won’t ever feel confident representing the organization in front of a large audience. Perhaps it has just never been viewed that as a chance to relate to a larger number of people in one setting — something this individual would actually likely be exceptionally talented at.

This presents another lens through which we can think about how we can help others build the skills they need to be most successful in their roles.

Number 1

What are they already really good at?

Number 2

In which area(s) do they want to grow?

Number 3

How can they use what they’re already really good at to more effectively pursue those areas of growth?

Sometimes, the best learning comes from putting away the recipe card and, instead, starting with the ingredients that are already in the cabinet. And, maybe, it could lead to the sweetest result.
Jordan Pieschl
Learning Designer
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