What is the facilitator cooking?

The other day, my cousin called me on Skype, she talked about her new job as a pastry chef in some upper-scale bakery in Vancouver, BC. Because her training was more focused on cooking, it was initially hard for her to do baking. I asked her what the difference was. She mentioned how baking is very “scientific.” and formulaic, you have to follow the recipe and use exact measurements, put it in the oven and wait. There is not much you can do once the cake is in the oven. With cooking, on the other hand, you can make changes mid-course.  This got me thinking how much a facilitator is like a chef.

I like to cook something new all the time. I look up new recipes that I have never tasted, I start cooking them, I imagining how they would taste like and correct for this image as I go. Similarly, in facilitation, there is always an emerging aspect that you can correct for if you know the process and have a good understanding of individual behavior (the merit of each ingredient,) and group dynamics (how the individual ingredients taste when they mix together.) When someone is angry you can add a bit of humor, questions, and breaks. These are the sugar, the salt, and the spices of the facilitator.

During the facilitation there are unexpected challenges; consensus can take longer than expected, the “meat is tough,” so just like the cook, you let things simmer a bit and work on something else (the sauce.) At the end you add the garnish of reflection, and everyone goes home with some good food for thought.

How could cooking serve as a metaphor for leadership?  What would your leadership look like if you were cooking, or baking for that matter? Let us know.

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