How to win the Great British Bake Off
As rain hits Britain today and the leaves suicidally fall to the ground, it signifies the end of summer and the final of the Great British Bake Off. We’ve been hooked in the office this year, and I’m sure everyone around the country is waiting with baited breath for the final this evening (that is, unless the world hasn’t ended before then).
The three finalists, Nadiya, Tamal and Ian have fought off stiff competition to get to the last week and we’ve come up with some career lessons that you can learn from these excellent bakers:
We’re not going to lie, Nadiya is our favourite contestant, perhaps in the history of bake off. We didn’t think we could find a funnier contestant than Norman but Nadiya has surpassed his wit and she is a much better baker. Nadiya has been star baker three times so far (tied with Ian) so she is in a strong position going into the final. However, her journey there has not been easy. In the beginning, Nadiya struggled with the technical challenges, often coming last or near the bottom. When faced with unknown situations, it can throw us off guard. When we’re out of our comfort zone, having to work with new clients, or having to clear up someone else’s (or your own) blunders, it can be hard to stay cool and get a suitable outcome for your business.
Nadiya has, at times, been anything but cool under pressure (the paperclip and soufflé incident from last week, for example) and she has a tendency not to believe that she is capable. However, Nadiya’s creativity and willingness to take risks has got her to the final. As with any strong leader, capability is everything. You can only fake it for so long and, trust us, your employees will know if you are ineffective when it comes to making tough decisions or coping when times get tough.
Ian, like Nadiya, is going into this final with three star baker titles to his name. He is competent and able to cope under even the toughest of pressures (and he was the first to receive the Mary Berry wink this season!) However, Ian’s stars were all awarded towards the beginning of the series, he peaked too early it would seem. Either that or his competitors were able to improve quickly and catch up with him. There are also rumours that he has been getting specialist training from a professional chef to up his game (we are not endorsing these rumours, nor are we endorsing Ian to be honest). When you’re competing with your colleagues or other businesses, it is important not to burn out too quickly. Ian’s arrogance is also something that could cost him the title.
One of the great things about Bake Off is the camaraderie between the contestants (well, except for bin-gate, but we won’t open that can of worms) and yet Ian seems to have remained a lone ranger in the tent. Perhaps his strategy is to keep his skills to himself, or to remain apart so that he can focus on making his bakes better than anyone else’s. However, when you’re in the ruthless world of business, sometimes buttering up (pun intended) the competition can be beneficial for both parties. Finding a way that both companies can work together and sharing knowledge is not always a bad thing. Though Ian’s chocolate well was a bit, well, anticlimactic, one can’t deny that Ian has great initiative and creativity, demonstrating his ability to make his own cake moulds. Seeing the problem from another angle and knowing what you can bring to the table can be great when leading a team and being familiar your strengths when times are tough can help get you out of a jam. But they could also alienate you among your colleagues, which may lead to mutiny in the ranks.
Tamal is our favourite anaesthetist and our second favourite finalist of this year’s Bake Off. Tamal has been the lucky recipient of the Hollywood Handshake (not quite an Oscar!) and is adept at his baking skills. However, Tamal’s weakness is timing. When you’re up against the wall with a particular project, time management is everything. Being a successful leader is about how you manage your employees and delegate to make things work as efficiently as possible.
Tamal is this year’s unlikely heartthrob (we wouldn’t say no to one of his vol-au-vents) and has taken it all in his stride. In business, like with everything, there will be peaks and troughs in your success. Tamal never let his successes or disasters go to his head, and he certainly isn’t signing up to be the latest Cosmo centrefold. Being able to juggle his high-pressured job with baking every week and still coming out on top is a skill that we can all learn. Sometimes, though, it’s best to keep things simple.
Though we really liked Flora, it was clear that time and again, she didn’t listen to Mary and Paul’s advice and gave herself too much to do. Superiors try to guide you in the right direction and having too much on your plate can be catastrophic for your career and your personal life if not balanced well. Dorret was eliminated in week three after she had scraped through the first two weeks. She was the recipient of the Mary Berry scowl when she confessed one week that she had bought her cookie cutter (rather than make it herself) and the next week that she hadn’t even practiced her bake. Not preparing is essentially, preparing to fail. Showing up is only half the battle, when presenting, working in a team or just working on a solo project, being prepared is key to survival in the cut throat world of business.
Whoever wins tonight (go, Nadiya!) it’s definitely been a great series and we have been lucky enough, this year, not to have had too many baking blunders ourselves. There are many lessons we can take away from watching people bake cakes in tents each week, and Infinite Ideas has lots of advice on leadership, management and other ways to run your business. Perhaps you need help on how to Cultivate a cool career or you would like to learn more about Authentic leadership, we have a whole library waiting for you.