The Courage Cake: A Delicious Concoction for Workplace Harmony


Rocket Fuel Coach Bill MasonBy Bill Mason, Rocket Fuel Coach

In the bustling workplace, we are constantly shuffling between projects, deadlines, and, yes, people. These interactions often form the crux of our work joys or woes. How do you handle those moments when a mere conversation feels like wading into a battlefield? It could be a dispute with a colleague, a struggle to deliver constructive feedback or the perennial issue of feeling misunderstood.

Imagine this:

You and a colleague stand at an impasse, ideologies poised like knights on a chessboard, each awaiting the prestigious move that would render them victorious. It’s not a question of who is right or wrong, but how game-changing the next interaction could be.

I love a tool I learned from RARE Leadership in the workplace, by Jim Wilder and Marcus Warner. They call it CAKE. I call it the ‘Courage Cake’—a blend of personal courage and interpersonal finesse, wrapped in a confection of relationship management.

Picture it — a cake with layers of complexity, where every slice tastes like a new hope for team unity. Each ingredient serves a unique purpose, ensuring that when served, it is not just the taste but the afterthought that lingers.

The Ingredients

To bake the perfect Courage Cake, we need just the right mix of ingredients:

Curiosity: The yeast that allows us to rise above our initial presumptions and truly understand the other’s perspective. It’s not about immediate condemnation but the eagerness to explore deeper. Ask yourself, do you have the humility needed to cultivate genuine curiosity, or are you content to billow in the hot air of your own conclusions?

Appreciation: The sweetener that coats even the bitterest morsels of conflict with a glaze of warmth. How hard is it to simply acknowledge that, regardless of the situation, the other person’s intentions were partly noble, at least from their own lens? Are your interactions with colleagues seasoned with a pinch of gratitude, or are they simply bland exchanges of utilitarian dialogue?

Kindness: The most overlooked element that can make or break a professional relationship. In the quest to prove our point, we often forget the human behind the professional facade. Are you kind in your approach? Do you take care in the way you structure your conversations and your feedback, ensuring that the recipient feels respected and valued?

Eye Contact/Envelope: The oven that bakes the courage elements into the core of our being. Maintaining eye contact can be a simple yet powerful way to anchor respect, especially looking into the left eye, which connects you relationally to the person. Envelope the issue, ensuring that the conversation unfolds within the bounds of the issue at hand.

This is the one time you did this, not every time in the past that this has happened.
Think of these elements not just as the components of a CAKE, but as the ethics of a master chef. They dictate how we put these elements together not just for my good, but for the good of the relationship, team, and company at large.

The Baking Process

Creating a workplace where ‘Courage Cake’ is a regular on the menu takes more than a dash of willingness. It requires a culture that actively nurtures the seeds of courageous conversation, one interaction at a time.

Recognize the fear: Before any growth can occur, we must eradicate anxiety’s weeds. Fear can be the biggest adversary in interpersonal conflicts, crippling our ability to engage constructively. By recognizing that fear you’re preempting that weakness. FEAR is often simply False Evidence that Appears Real. It’s a ghost!

Create a framework: Every good cake has a recipe to follow, and a courageous conversation is no different. Develop a framework — perhaps CAKE — as a guide. What goes where, when to bring in the ‘icing,’ and how to ensure the layers remain distinct yet cohesive.

Cultivate the environment: A workplace that nurtures open dialogue, respectful challenge, and a commitment to growth will always bake the best cakes. Nurture an environment where everyone, regardless of rank or role, feels their contributions and concerns are worthy of the table.

Encourage indulgence: Courage Cake will not bake itself. Encourage your team to engage in the ‘cake-chat’. Indulge in the delightful discomfort that comes with addressing issues head-on, and watch as your team becomes more robust, innovative, and united.

Serving Slices of Resolution

Now imagine the joy of slicing through a Courage Cake. Each bite is a step towards resolution, a moment of triumph. It’s more than just a sweet treat; it’s a celebration of the will to engage with the world, even when the world seems pitted against you.

Are you ready to take a slice? Are you prepared to lead your team through conflicts with the culinary prowess of a seasoned chef? The Courage Cake is waiting to be tasted, and the following conversation might be the most delicious morsel of your day.

In the end, remember, the Courage Cake isn’t a remedy for all conflicts — it’s a call to harness the bravery within each of us to shape our workspaces into collaborative sanctuaries. Take each slice, one interaction at a time, and relish the growth that comes from being courageous in conversation. Your workplace is not just a field for professional endeavor; it’s a kitchen of human interaction, a place where we bake the realities we want to live.

Did a colleague come to mind as you read this? Get started today, set up a time for coffee or a lunch with that colleague this week to eat some cake together! It’s time to indulge in those conversations you’ve been putting off for too long. It’s time to take that first bite of Courage Cake.

Bill Mason, PCC, CPL C, Executive Leadership Coach, Rocket Fuel Coach,

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