No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.
-Julia Child

Finding that great local spot is an adventure that I enjoy during all of my travels. A national chain is good for consistency, but a quality local place really puts its heart into its food and experience to create a memorable time for their guests. I will take a local dive over a national chain any day. It’s not easy for that local chef. They have to create the magic by having the right amount of ingredients, cooking time and preparation. Let’s see what we can learn about leadership from food.

You have to have the right ingredients.
I’m often amazed when I see recipes that call for very small amounts of an ingredient or an off-the-wall ingredient. How many times did the creator tweak the recipe until they found the right balance to make the perfect meal item? Likely dozens to over a hundred times. They didn’t give up until they found exactly what they were looking for.

Think of your team as the ingredients for a perfect meal. (Not that you are going to eat them!) Each of them brings their own flavor or style to the group, but none can complete the recipe on their own. You are likely going to need a techie kind of person, someone with creativity, someone with empathy, someone with strong business knowledge, a future thinker, and a strategist just to name a few. No one could fill all of those roles, and if they could there would still be too much work for the one person to complete.  Think about your team today. Are you missing any ingredients to make that magic happen? Identify what those things are and then make a concentrated effort to add people with those traits to your team. It could be talent based or diversity/perspective based.

You have to prepare the ingredients.
You can’t just throw in a bunch of unprepared food together and expect anything edible to come out as the outcome. An unprepared and untrained team can expect to achieve the same results; a hot mess that will go in the garbage. Ensure that your people are well prepared for what’s ahead of them. They need the right amount of communication, training, and investment in order to be effective. When cooks show up for their shift, the chef will often tell them what the special is for the day, what they are running low on and what other tasks they need to complete during their time in the kitchen. You would hate to receive your meal without a key ingredient because the cook forgot or ran out of an item. Make sure your team has everything that they need to be effective, otherwise expect to get mediocre results.

You have to cook the ingredients.
When I was in college, I cooked everything fast. Why wait when you could crank up the heat and get it done faster? I eventually learned my lesson after eating dry and bland food all of the time. You can’t treat all food the same if you expect an excellent meal. In the same way, you cannot develop your team at the same speed. Some are going to need a low and slow approach. Some will thrive under a little pressure and heat every now and then. Be mindful of your tactics when developing and pushing your team for growth. The same pressure that you apply to one person for growth can very well push someone else out the door. Change and adapt your style and tactics so that each person can be successful.

You are the chef of the kitchen no matter the size of your team. Continue to learn and grow until you perfect the right recipe for that perfect team.