What we can learn from Balsamic Vinaigrette

balsamicBalsamic Vinaigrette – done well it’s made from good balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) with a couple minor players thrown in as needed. Balsamic – dark, rich, full of spirit, bold, big personality. EVOO – deep yellow-green, thick, unflappable, broad-shouldered. Separately, they have their strengths and they know what they’re good at. But together they’re magic – strengths amplified, weaknesses canceled – which is strange, because they really don’t like each other. When co-located, it’s grapes with grapes and olives with olives, circling the wagons for self preservation, like two teams in the same locker room, two sects in the same country, or two silos in the same company. For old grape juice and olive blood, co-location is not enough. An external force is needed – their bottle must be shaken a little.

When it’s game time, when it’s time to perform, when the shit hits the fan (or lettuce), grapes must make nice with olives and vice versa. But who makes the first move? How can an old grape reach out to a squished olive and still stay true to the Balsamic cause? How can they be mixed, shaken, and poured for the common cause? It’s all about the mixer/shaker/pourer.

Here is a little inside information about grapes and olives: Grapes don’t take direction from the chief of clan EVOO and olives don’t listen to the boss Balsamic. What’s needed is a mixer/shaker/pourer that is BOTH a trusted old grape who has lived through a good foot stomping AND a trusted old olive who has experienced the pain of a first pressing. Trust is essential. Look what we’re asking them to do: parachute from their bottle, hit the battle front together, and fight as one. That’s scary. Trust is needed.

The best mixer/shaker/pourers are an enigma – part olive, part grape, yet neither; sometimes misunderstood but always trusted; supportive of team members while pushing them out of their comfort zone. They earn their salt – they get it done. They bring people together and make it happen. They amplify strengths and shore up weaknesses to achieve the multiplicative effect where team output is greater than the sum of the parts.

These folks have an important and difficult job. And it can be a bit lonely, as they are never wholly part of any one community. So when you see them in the hall, give them a smile. They like to be understood.

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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