Bran is the perfect ingredient for this story because we need movement. Our lesson includes poop or get off the pot wisdom mixed with practical advice about how to be less annoying while preparing for the big promotion. White chocolate amaretto cream rescues these muffins because bran is as tasteless as the imaginary story of what is holding us back from actualizing our dreams.

You’re going nowhere fast. Everyone aspires recognition, rapid promotions plus maxed-out bonus dividends, but if your personal fast track resembles an unrelenting traffic circle, a pause for self-reflection is in order. Reflection does not imply commiserating with sympathizers nor blaming others for frustrating circumstances; rather, let’s review the genuine state of affairs. The goal, direct access to the freeway and putting that roundabout in the rearview for good as you zoom off to the next chapter of your career.

Let’s begin with a couple questions about the final destination.

Are We There Yet?

For all the Antony and Cleopatra’s, this story celebrates the end of our trip down DeNial so you may find your true inner pharaoh and avoid being bitten for ineffective leadership. Cleopatra’s pound cake is filled with a chocolate r-asp-berry filling. 

Vanilla Pound Cake

Be it known that we, the greatest, are misthought ~ Cleopatra

Perhaps in our case however, we are not exactly the greatest yet and could use a bit of leadership coaching to elevate our game. An inconvenient truth is that we often enable sub-par performance by managing ineffectively. While everyone would wholeheartedly agree in theory, many leaders are in denial regarding their own management short-comings and assign blame to a variety of scenarios and subjects. Believing I was protecting my team, I was once overly meddlesome impeding progress out of fear of failure. Of course, this only hastened the outcome that I was so diligently attempting to avoid. If you are struggling with leading your team, then you may be overdue for the valuable lesson of getting out of the way.

Sticks and scones may break your bones but bad hires will get you fired. That may be a tad dramatic, but recruiting really is serious business and so are good scones for that matter. Let’s review how to take your interviewing skills to the next level.

It’s all about the people. Sorry for the tired cliché but selecting the right talent is undeniably paramount to our success as well as our sanity as leaders. Below are common challenges I’ve encountered over the years as well as ideas to assist hiring managers with avoiding painful pitfalls.

First, don’t be over-confident about your interviewing skills. No really, you are not half as good as you think you are; that’s the place to start. While you may have had successful hires, nobody is immune from recruiting mistakes. Taking a humble approach, you are more likely to do the extra work to get it right instead of using the ever-popular but dicey wing it method.

Your buttercream is currently under surveillance. The competition just ate your lunch and has come back for dessert. The question is are you going to let them have your chocolate cake and eat it too? Let’s talk tough about keeping your adversaries at bay.

Competition, what competition? Banish this phrase from your professional lexicon evermore and assume that rivals are lurking everywhere. We are probably all guilty of letting our guard down due to being either disinterested or completely naive about the strength of a competitor thereby giving up market share for easy grabs. In short, we were temporarily oblivious allowing the opposition to get the better of us.

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Pink Panther Cake

Fried dough, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Leave a position open too long and you’ll end up fried yourself, but not in a happy donut with sprinkles kind of way. This is a cautionary tale regarding the crucial internal communication that is often overlooked during the recruiting process.

Open positions will put you in the proverbial hot seat with just about everyone but particularly the powers that be. Turnover is part of business life so a well-thought out system to manage the recruiting period is invaluable and will be an excellent test of your managing up skills. Managing up? Yes, while running the office short-handed, recruiting, providing extra support to your now over-worked and cranky team, you must also demonstrate the capacity to make everyone feel comfortable and confident that everything is fine, just fine. Nothing to see here…

You have worked hard to earn your current position, having scratched and clawed your way up to the bottom of the middle. You are important-ish. Just look at your inbox overflowing with…well, unorganized stuff. Today we are exploring our email communication style while we enjoy a chocolate treat that has been aptly named an InBox Cake in honor of the nostalgic box cake with pudding in the mix, of course.

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Your email inbox is out of control. It seems that everyone, regardless of position, is receiving hundreds of emails a day. What is all the excessive communication really about? You are likely being cc’d to oblivion, drowning in mind-numbing minutiae and perhaps participating in a few inefficient habits yourself. This is an exit strategy to escape the dark abyss that is currently your inbox.

Tequila probably won’t fix your training issues, but it’s worth a shot. An extra heavy pour of Patron, in the glaze of our cake, will make reviewing your team’s last shop call scores a bit easier. The orange and chocolate are excellent carriers for the 80-proof alcohol in cake form and the ganache filling has been whipped into shape, which is more than we can say for your team.

Your training isn’t working. You are officially up you-know-what’s creek because your team’s closing ratios show decline. A decline? How can they go to training and come back less capable you ponder to yourself on the verge of meltdown. Your grandiose dreams of total market domination have been crushed under the heavy weight of nightmarish mediocrity.

The Gods have obviously turned against you and not even the sacrifice of your self-esteem will appease their wrath.

Today we are exploring dysfunctional team dynamics, while we sip chocolate cake in liquid form. A hot chocolate detox of barely pourable bittersweet ganache with a gigantic marshmallow is in order because the team isn’t getting oolong. Don’t let the marshmallows fool you; this is no lightweight Swiss Miss story. 

Fancy Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Cake Hot Cocoa

Let’s start with a gut check. Please say the names of each member of your team mentally and calculate how much success you hope they have. As much as you want for yourself? Hmmm… How are you feeling about your boss? We probably all have a wee bit of cleaning to do while some teams may require hazmat level intervention due to the toxicity levels of unchecked dysfunction and outright extinction of team cooperation.

It never gets easier, you just get better

A high-octane chocolate cake offering a double shot of espresso will be our dessert today because it’s time to wake up those meetings that are presently asleep at the wheel. Get ready for the instant sobering realization that your routine meetings, affectionately known as nap time to your staff, are in dire need of a jump-start.

Chocolate cake with coffee butter cream
Chocolate Espresso Cake with Coffee Buttercream

In a word, your meetings are narcoleptic inducing agony. The comfortable cruise control mode you’ve set is silently killing your career aspirations and choking your team’s productivity while you erroneously believe that you are accomplishing something. A quick analysis of what your meetings are truly achieving will undoubtedly reveal that adjustments are in order.