Leadership lessons from a bowl of porridge

Posted on May 9th, 2013 by Chris Gaborit

Let’s face it, change is a pain. My wife loves to cook and decided she wanted a Thermomix for her birthday.  Although there is no appliance she doesn’t already own, a Thermomix was what she wanted. If you are novice like me, buying a Thermomix is like buying a BMW for the kitchen (almost as expensive), however we gave her what she wanted.  “Happy wife, happy life” has been a long held motto of mine after I learnt it from our local Italian deli owner.

Since then we have been experiencing amazing quality cooking like I have never had before. BUT (and there is always a but), I didn’t understand this German technology at all. There it sits on the kitchen bench all shiny and proud, but to me scary as hell. Like a loyal blue heeler cattle dog, who loves its owner but bites any stranger who approaches it.

Just after it’s arrival my wife, a born and bred teacher, attempted to show me how to make scrambled eggs. There were more keystrokes to remember than attempting to join two photos together using Adobe Photoshop! In the end I promptly made a mental note – “avoid the blue heeler”.

The other day I set a new goal; start eating a healthier breakfast.  Was that me deciding that or my doctor? Hmmm. Anyhow I decided I wanted to cook some porridge. I have been cooking porridge since Adam was a boy, the old fashioned way: cup of porridge, cup of water, cup of milk, place in pot on top of stove, turn on heat.

Watching like a hawk as I entered the ‘training zone’ of the kitchen, my wife thought it was time to teach me how to make porridge using “The Beast”.

My wife was giving instructions like Captain Kirk sitting in the Bridge of the Enterprise under attack from the Klingons. I was madly fumbling about struggled to find the correct buttons on the dashboard. The end result: a hot creamy, exceptional tasting bowl of oats, a hundred times better than what I’ve ever made before. But could I repeat this performance without her?

I immediately took a photo of the directions she had written out for me and stored it in my Evernote App.

It’s weeks later and today was porridge day again. I, a mere mortal man without my Captain Kirk was about to tackle the Kitchen BMW; The Beast; the Photoshop of Cooking Utensils to make my porridge.

I turned The Beast on, which in itself is a challenge as the button is nowhere any “on” button has ever been before. I then found and pressed the scale button once to weigh the porridge, pressed it again to weigh the water, pressed it three times to weigh the milk and then put on the lid(s). Timer adjusted. Check. Temperature button pressed. Check. Speed button regulated. Check.

For a moment I had become the Captain Kirk of the Thermomix. Nine minutes later I had my masterpiece, Voila! Perfect porridge.

So now I reflect on this experience. Change is a pain.

I prefer the tried and true old ways. The old familiar ways are established, painless, yes they take longer but I am used to that. Like an old T-shirt, they are comfortable, familiar and smell good. Plus with change there is more time required. Learning takes time and brainpower. I am an impatient man, I want to learn fast but I can’t.

There is the unfamiliarity and frustration of the new way. Added with the exasperation that comes when the new way initially has challenges or doesn’t work as well because I don’t know it well enough yet. It’s not in my subconscious mind.

But when I do persist and breakthrough a miracle occurs. There is an exhilaration of success when the new way does work, and better still, it works easier, it works better and it will continue working because I have mastered a new and effective process.

Thank God for change – it brings reward!

How many times in our business life do we find the same thing?

  • People resisting change because they are comfortable with the old process
  • People rejecting performance improvement because its hard to learn, takes effort and energy
  • People frustrated with the new software, PM methodology etc. because initially it is taking longer to work with

However the lesson learned from my Thermomix experience is that as humans if  we persist and breakthrough we often discover many more rewards for ourselves.  As leaders our job is to inspire and show our teams the vision of what they could be after they embrace change!! Hmmm, something to ponder over as I eat another bowl of porridge.

Author: Chris Gaborit – Director, The Learning Factor



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