(Four things that Making Polenta and Developing Leaders have in common)
Today I made polenta for the first time. It’s an Italian version of grits, only better.
A few weeks ago I enjoyed osso buco; It’s the Italian version of roast beef, only better, served on polenta, at my favorite Italian restaurant. It was so good I decided I would learn how to make it myself.
The internet was more than happy to provide all kinds of ways to make polenta but they all had the following in common:
- 1 cup of polenta to 5 cups of water.
- Soak for 1 to 24 hours.
- Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.
- Reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes and stir frequently.
- Add a ton of butter, salt and season to taste, then serve.
Soak, boil, simmer and stir, that was pretty much it. I followed the instructions and it turned out tasty!
Then it occurred to me, this is also a great recipe for developing leadership!
Immerse your potential leaders is great leadership concepts. Here’s a simple model: have a clear vision, get others aligned with that vision, and then execute that vision.
Constantly remind them of the crucial importance of developing and continually clarifying their vision. This needs to be modeled. If your leaders are consistently creating and articulating clear vision they will model the way for the entire workforce.
Be an example of practicing continuous alignment, rather than waiting till the annual review to get people aligned with the mission. Instead, engage in continuous alignment—the process of constantly helping your team realign with stated goals. Making small, frequent adjustments in alignment ensures they never get too far off the path to the stated vision. A small correction in course is a lot less expensive and less painful than waiting too long and having to take radical action to restore alignment.
Finally, they need to see us executing. Lead them through the process of getting the job done. Be an example of asking “why” when execution doesn’t go well. Also be an example of asking “why” when the project goes according to plan.
When your workforce is continuously exposed to great leadership practices of creating vision, getting others aligned and executing your vision, you’re soaking them in an understanding of what it means to be a great leader.
The next step is the boil. Put your potential leaders through an intensive training focused on best leadership practices. Reiterate in the classroom what you’ve introduced and modeled in the workplace. The intensive training gives them the opportunity for exploration and self examination so that they can discover their strengths as well as their challenges. The boil is very brief in proportion to the simmer that follows. The boil is that intense, focused training session that clearly defines the role of a leader.
After the intense session keep them simmering by ongoing conversations about their challenges and how they are applying what they have learned in the previous session. Research indicates that the person they report to has the greatest potential to influence the development process by initiating ongoing conversations about their discoveries during the intensive training. The Simmer is short, informal conversations about best practices in leadership
During the simmering process it is crucial to stir the polenta to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. While leaders are continuously learning about leadership, it is important to stir them, challenge them to stretch. Congratulate them for learning, but challenge them to go deeper by continuing the learning and development process. When reviewing what they learned, always ask them what more could they learn about this, how can they be even more effective. The Stir is challenging them to be even better, challenge the process, and to strive for more.
Soak. Boil. Simmer. Stir. It is just that simple both for making polenta and developing great leaders.
So be happy, make some polenta and develop some great leaders!
Stay in touch. Contact Tim firstname.lastname@example.org