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No Cake For Breakfast

Published: Thursday, August 8, 2019
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2019

Early in my current role I was working very closely with one specific department at my company; there were very few established standards, tons of irregularities, and numerous mistakes resulting in costly returns and reworks of product.  I was called into our "Leadership Meeting" (C-Suite individuals) to give a progress report. 

The conversation turned...not heated, per se, but very intense.  After about ten minutes I took a step back and realized that I was vehemently defending a position which I had no stake in- I was trying to push a project through simply because I enjoyed working with this group and wanted to do nice things for them.  I took a step back and regained my objectivity, then worked out a compromise that would appease all parties involved.

From that day forward, I've had a sign on my wall that states "No Cake For Breakfast".  

If you have kids, or have friends who have them, and they're asked what they want to eat for a meal, at some point the answer is going to be "Cookies!" or "Cake!" or "Ice Cream!".  Now, as an adult you know that any of those things will assuage their hunger; however, none of them will really provide much nutrition.  So, as an adult, you feed them foods which may not be as fun as cake or ice cream, but will provide the nutrition the children need to grow and remain healthy.


I view my role in very much the same terms - the sign is a reminder to myself and others that regardless of my personal feelings towards you, I am going to provide what is needed, not necessarily what is wanted.  Sometimes the two coincide, and my job is a breeze.  Most times, however, I'm having long planning sessions explaining how the "quick fix" someone requested doesn't address the underlying problem.

As training professionals, I'm sure many of you have faced the same dilemma- in what ways did you handle it?

1 Comment
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Shane- I'd like to say I always handled it the same way you did, by calmly explaining exactly why the "fix" wasn't right for the problem, and providing the better alternative to actually address the root problem.
There have been times where that option was not possible and I have gone on to develop what the client wanted even though I knew there was a deeper need. I rationalized that the "something" I was giving them was at least a little better than the nothing they had in hand.
Keith - years as a paramedic taught me how to close my eyes, bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and then proceed in a rational manner (when in reality I wanted to ask if they were either blind or ignorant). If I read your post right, we're in different circumstance- I'm working as an internal rather than external consultant, so my livelihood isn't directly tied to "giving them what they want". And, of course, it isn't always successful...I've had to work on a number of futile projects...
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