Learning from Toast

Learning from Toast

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We’ve all done it. Forgotten the toast under the grill and ended up with something less than appetising. So, what leadership lesson can we learn from the humble slice of toast?


Making toast could never be described as difficult. Could it? Even for people with the most basic culinary skills. However just because it’s a relatively simple process doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. There are some basics you need to get right. Do that and you are almost guaranteed tasty toast every time.


All too often in leadership positions we overlook the most basic elements of what we and our people need. Unfortunately, unlike burnt toast it’s not so obvious when things haven’t gone to plan. Have you experienced or witnessed any of these in your career?


  • People left confused about where organisations are heading.
  • People working on activity that doesn’t make sense to them. Or worse, they find out someone is doing the same thing elsewhere in the organisation. Or even worse, they find out someone in the same organisation is doing something in competition or conflict with their work.
  • People not letting you know how they feel about something because their appraisal discussion is being conducted in a busy public area.


So how can we check if we have the basics in place. Setting and being able to answer high-level questions is one way. Here’s some examples in three common areas. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity.


Quality of your vision

  1. Is it compelling to the people it is meant to provide direction to?
  2. Is it long enough to be meaningful and short enough to be memorable?
  3. Could you use it to make decisions?


Agreeing objectives

  1. Are they aligned to the organisation’s goals?
  2. Is there agreement about what success looks like?
  3. Is there understanding about the steps towards success and how you’ll assess them?


Running an appraisal session with a member of your team.

  1. Are both parties clear on what is being appraised?
  2. Have you got the right physical environment for the conversation you need to have?
  3. Have you given the right attention to time: when, how long and balance between feeding back and feeding forward?


You may well have your own version of what the basics are in the three examples above. I’d love to hear about them if you do. What’s more important than the number of questions is actually using them. To understand the basics at an intellectual level is not enough. It’s about the execution.


As always I’m interested in your views,






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