A half-baked idea, like a half-baked cookie, isn't a pleasant experience.
My daughter, Jessie, loves to bake. One of the favorite things she loves to bake is cookies. The type of cookie doesn't matter, chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal, peanut butter, to name a few. To her, it's about the experience, knowing that she is going to make someone's day special when she hands them a zip-lock bag full of delicious cookies.
Now there are three ways to bake cookies. It’s an art form, really. Overcooked, undercooked, and just right. If you get it right, you're a hero. If you get it wrong, you're the goat.
And NOBODY wants to be the goat.
So, you’ve got to get the cookies right when you’re baking them from scratch.
Today, my daughter’s cookies are always in demand, as people she’s baked for can’t wait for her to bake cookies for them again. However, when Jessie was younger, and just starting out as a baker, she had a tendency to undercook the cookies she was making.
This left them crispy on the outside but somewhat gooey on the inside.
While they look good on the outside, they’re not quite as delicious as you hoped once you bit into them. A half-baked cookie lacks consistency in texture, can be gooey and runny on the inside, and doesn’t quite taste as good as it should.
It’s lacking…and leaves you feeling disappointed.
It doesn’t quite hit the mark.
And, YES, there’s a leadership lesson here.
As Jessie would say, “Yes, Dad, I know. There’s always a leadership lesson.”
So, what do half-baked cookies have to do with leadership?
Quite a bit, actually.
Leaders lead, that’s what they do. But, like a half-baked cookie, the quality of leadership can sometimes be lacking. While Black Belt Leaders are kinetic, people of action, they should also be prudent. Half-baked ideas, not fully thought through, can be disastrous for the leader and those who are following his or her lead.
Sun Tzu, perhaps one of the most brilliant military strategists of history and the author of “The Art of War” said of planning, “Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.”
You’ve heard the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Yet how often does an overexcited leader run off, half-cocked, pursuing a dream or idea with the belief he or she will simply figure it out along the way.
How often does that turn out well?
Nothing could illustrate this adage better than the story of Alex Honnold, an American rock climber best known as the man who free-soloed the iconic El Capitan in Yosemite.
Rock climbing is a dangerous sport, and free climbing (climbing without a rope or safety gear) is even more dangerous. El Capitan, standing 3000 feet above the valley floor, is a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts. It is world-famous for what is known as big wall climbing. It is a treacherous, unforgiving climb to the top, taking the lives of over 30 climbers (many seasoned veterans) since 1905.
For perspective, El Capitan is three times taller than the Eiffel Tower and two and a half times taller than the Empire State Building.
Alex well understood failing to plan is planning to fail. So, Alex spent months in preparation for his solo, untethered climb up this iconic granite face. He mapped out each leg of the journey, choosing the route up the sheer rock face he would climb, analyzing options, identifying alternative routes, and thinking through his options.
Why would Alex Honnold, one of the greatest mountain climbers of all time, not simply start up this massive granite wall and rely on his past experience to get him to the top? Perhaps he understood the wisdom of Sun Tzu, who also said,
“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.”
If you’ve not seen the National Geographic movie, “Free Solo” which chronicles Alex’s historic scaling of El Capitan, it’s an excellent documentary that highlights planning, preparation, dedication, tenacity, thoughtfulness, and commitment. Spoiler alert…Alex summits the mountain and his entire journey up this iconic wall of rock is captured on video.
Half-baked would not have gotten Alex Honnold to the top of El Capitan, and it won’t get you to the heights of possibility and opportunity you are capable of summiting yourself.
I remember as a young man free climbing some smaller mountains in Arkansas where I grew up. One in particular, Dardanelle Rock, was a 360-foot climb to the top. My first attempt was almost my last. I successfully scaled to the top of the mountain, but on the way down, as an inexperienced climber, lost my grip and my footing and started to slide down a moss-covered rock outcropping toward a ledge.
Fortunately, I was able to stop my hasty descent, with the help of a small tree growing out of the side of the rock, gain my composure, and find a safer way back down to the ground.
That was one of those half-baked moments I will never forget…and never repeat.
But how often do you start out with great energy and zeal to chase a dream, pursue a passion, or see an opportunity and jump at it without pausing for a moment to plan, in advance, for what is to come? For what will be required? For what it’s going to cost you?
I can’t tell you how often I’ve visited with entrepreneurs and small business owners who get an idea, start a business, and when they start to experience challenges and struggles say, “You know, I never thought of that.”
Had they followed Sun Tzu’s advice, they would have taken the time to plan for what is difficult while it is easy and do what is great while it is small.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly HALF of all new businesses fail within the first five years. One in five don’t even make it past year one. And only twenty-five percent of ALL new businesses are still around 15 years later.
Sadly, that’s often the case.
Patrick Lencioni wrote in his book, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” that goals drive results. Yet many business organizations I speak to, and many entrepreneurs I interact with, often see a need, a niche, or an opportunity, and wanting to be the first to capitalize on it, they rush forward to start a business without giving any thought to what success really looks like.
Yet, half-baked goals and planning permeate many organizations and businesses today. It’s why as many as ninety-five percent of all businesses perform well below their potential. Studies done by the CKIG Inner Circle have found that only five percent of all businesses are truly successful, and only about one percent are super successful.
Half-baked goals and plans are often the culprit.
They put an idea in the oven and rather than giving it the time that’s required to fully develop that idea to its maximum potential, ninety-five percent of businesses pull that idea out of the oven early and serve that to their clients and customers.
And if the customers don’t like what you’re serving, there are always other options available to them that aren’t serving things half-baked.
A lot has been said about S.M.A.R.T. goals over the years, yet I find that many individuals and organizations are still totally unfamiliar with this powerful, effective planning concept. Everyone understands the concept of goals, and I’ve written, spoken and even developed training content (available on my website, beablackbeltleader.com) around this topic.
But S.M.A.R.T goal planning helps individuals and organizations really drill down on their goals, dreams, and aspirations. S.M.A.R.T goal planning helps to define what a WIN looks like and the action steps necessary to achieve it.
Simply put, for any goal, aspiration, dream, or objective you want to achieve, you need a plan to achieve it. And, the steps in the process to define that plan are based on the acronym, S.M.A.R.T.
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is SPECIFIC. It’s clearly defined so there is no ambiguity. It’s like zeroing in a scope before you shoot at a target. Specificity is aligning the scope so it hits the bullseye every time the trigger is pulled.
Secondly, it is MEASURABLE. There are metrics in place to track progress and results. This helps to identify the steps in the process, again eliminating ambiguity and clearly defining what needs to be done.
Thirdly, it is ATTAINABLE. A goal that cannot be achieved is nothing more than a dream or illusion. Black Belt Leaders understand the goals they set for themselves and for others have to be attainable. Sure, it needs to stretch you (as this is how you learn and grow), but it can’t be so far out of reach that no matter how hard you try, you always fall short.
Fourthly, a goal must be RELEVANT. It must have a real-life application to whatever is is you are seeking to achieve or accomplish. It should also align with your values and the objectives you set forth for personal or professional success. Incongruent goals that don’t align with one’s mission and values only cause followers to ask questions and become disillusioned.
Lastly, a goal must be TIME-SENSITIVE. There has to be a deadline for any goal to be achieved or there is no motivation to get started, keep going, or finish. Time is an accountability metric, along with measurability, to make sure that those who are tasked with the completion of a goal, task, or assignment do so within a specified time to keep things moving forward.
Now all this discussion of cookies has me craving some of Jessie’s famous chocolate chip cookies, so I better wrap this teaching up with a closing comment.
Every day, you and I get to choose whether we will give to our family, friends, clients, and customers a half-baked version of ourselves or one that’s fully prepared. The same can be said for our businesses.
Are you, and the employees who represent you, operating as a half-baked team, or have you taken the time to fully develop and prepare them to serve up only the best? Are you willing to settle for less than the best, when you could be serving your clients and customers at a much higher level of satisfaction?
Let me leave you with two quotes from Sun Tzu:
“Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.”
“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.”
Remember, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
No more half-baked cookies, please.
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