Resources: Tools and Products That Help Me Be a Better Leader: Coffee

Coffee RoastingWhy do I think that talking about coffee as a leadership resource is important? Well, there are several points to make:
  1. I am a coffee snob and look for any opportunity to talk about coffee. I select types of green beans that I like and roast them to perfection for my taste for the type of coffee bean. I enjoy the flavor and the whole experience. Going the extra mile, so to speak, makes a huge difference in the final product…leaders who go to the extra effort always produce a higher quality result.
  2. The knowledge and experience of coffee is like that of wine or single malt scotch. Tasting in itself is a great experience and a social, spiritual, and emotional experience. Just like leadership.
  3. Knowing how far to go to get a desired result is crucial. There are terms, but knowing the impact of these terms is the secret to success. Many people don’t know the difference and fail without even knowing it.
Let’s talk leadership in those 3 areas in reverse order:
3. Selecting and roasting coffee beans is like developing leadership skills and leading teams. First, knowing what the final result can be and then defining a pathway to get there is key. I read about the differences in coffee beans and then purchase a test batch. I roast each bean to several places to taste test. I settle on the bean and roast that pleases me. I have had to learn the language of roasting to be able to tell the difference and then describe it. I think this is like training people on the team. We can’t treat each person the same and we must consider taste (theirs and ours), as well as temperament. Each of the roasts below has a different effect with a different bean. Here are just a few of them:
    • Light Cinnamon – very light brown. It kinda tastes like grain. Not in my palate.
    • American – Mostly what we get with restaurant or commercial coffees. Just ordinary and not desired.
    • City of City Plus – A medium brown with some oil or more oil (plus) that gets my interest for tasting the character of the bean.
    • Espresso – Moderate dark brown with lots of oil. My favorite, especially for lattes.
    • French – Dark brown, lots of oil, starts to taste burned. Sometimes good for me.
    • Italian – Burned and very shiny. I get this when I’m not careful. It’s too far for me.
2. I attended a scotch tasting session once…it ruined my taste for cheap scotch. I’m really fond of specific types of single malt scotch now that I know the difference. When tasting coffee, know what to taste. Here are some of the definitions: acidity, aroma, balance, body, complexity, and some other terms like earthy, spicy and musty. In leading people, we experience them differently when we understand how they function and how their values are manifest. These are not bad or good. These values just are. We gravitate to some and tend to avoid others. I still drink lots of types of coffee besides my favorites. They are all valuable.

1. The type of bean is crucial. I have settled on several that please me. Beans from different locations are processed differently, the soil is different, the climate is different, and I’m sure that the source of the bean is different. The wide variety is great, however there are far too many choices to test each one. I have settled on a specific type of bean from Kenya, Tanzania, and Timor as my favorites and have a unique and proprietary blend for espresso. We lead people with different backgrounds, different experiences, different knowledge and different cultural backgrounds. They are all good. Some fit our culture better than others. Knowing how to select the right ones is the key.

My resources:

I get green beans from Coffee Bean Corral.

I roast small batches with the Fresh Roast SR 300 Roaster.

I make my coffee with the Aero Press Coffee and Espresso Maker.

Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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Hugh Ballou (Author)