Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: Get on the balcony

May 1, 2024
By Colleen Cross

Do you find you’re working hard in the everyday tasks of your business but not spending enough time and energy planning and working on the direction of your business?

Understandably, it’s easy to become mired in the daily operations of your bakery. After all, there is no shortage of problems – technical, labour and operational – to occupy your mind and your time.

It’s a bit like being on the dance floor when you should be on the balcony. I did not coin this phrase. It is a well-known analogy in the world of business that I recently discovered after interviewing Karen Bornarth for our On the Rise podcast.

Karen is the executive director of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, with whom the Baking Association of Canada partners on education through which members of the BAC and the Guild receive a one-year free membership in each others’ organizations. 


She came onto the podcast to talk about a session she’ll be leading at Bakery Showcase called “Lessons from the Bakery Leadership Circle” about how to bring adaptive leadership into your baking operation.

The Bakery Leadership Circle is a new program from the BBGA and Bakers4Bakers designed to support bakery owners and operators in tackling some of their stickiest business challenges through education and peer consulting activities.

To get back to our analogy, being on the dance floor means you are directly in the middle of things. To mix metaphors, you can’t see the forest for the trees. In order to take in the big picture, you must move to the balcony where you have a clear overview.

The balcony analogy was coined in 2009 by Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow in their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World.

Karen is passionate about education and advocacy for frontline food production workers. Karen and British Columbian Mark Dyck of started the Circle earlier this year to help bakers work closely with their peers on their businesses. There has been great demand to be part of this initiative, and with two cohorts of 15 people each, the facilitators have had their hands full running the sessions. As Karen says, “It struck a nerve.”

According to Karen, “operating a bakery is an exercise filled with adaptive challenges. These challenges are messy and multi-dimensional, often involving people (who are decidedly not finite and knowable). To address them, real leadership is required.”

The Baking Association of Canada this year presents a value-packed Bakery Showcase, set for May 5-6 at the Toronto Congress Centre. The show floor filled with supplier tuned in to bakers’ needs and the education program focusing on future-proofing your bakery and connecting you with other bakeries and experts. It is the perfect place to step back from your operation and out onto the balcony to look at the big picture. See you there!

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