The first Foodie Friday post of Spring, or maybe I should be calling it “Boozie Friday” given the topic. Either way it seems as if Spring has taken forever to get here. Now that it has arrived so too do some of my favorite sporting events, one of which is the Kentucky Derby. There are many beloved traditions associated with the first Saturday in May but the one in which most people seem to indulge is the Mint Julep which of course means bourbon, Kentucky’s whiskey.
Bourbon is aged in barrels, specifically new, charred white oak barrels. That’s right – charred. Before the raw whiskey is put into them, the barrels are “toasted.” The heat burns the wood which imparts flavor to the end product. Which is, of course, the business point today.
Many managers spend an awful lot of time trying to avoid conflict. In some cases, they legislate the conflict away – they make all the decisions and the staff is there to follow orders. I disagree. I think businesses need to be more like bourbon barrels. No, I don’t advocate burning them down. Applying heat to them in a strategic manner is, however, something in which I do believe. People need to bat ideas around. They need to have a good debate about product, marketing, resources, and anything else that affects the business and, therefore, them. Those discussions will, by their nature, generate heat. It can’t be allowed to set the entire enterprise ablaze (you want to char the barrel, not burn it up) and that’s part of the manager’s role. Heat imparts flavor – you don’t hear of any foods that are frozen to impart taste (you cook ice cream before you freeze it, wise guys).
Don’t be afraid of conflict. People will disagree and that friction can lead to better things if it’s managed properly. Letting your team know that it’s ok to have differing points of view brought to the surface is important. Ultimately the supervisor needs to help everyone reach consensus and if that’ not possible, to make a decision as to the final direction. But even if a team member’s desired course of action isn’t the one taken, knowing that they had input which was considered as one option strengthens the team. A little heat for a brief time added flavor and made for a better product.
Now where did I leave the mint?