Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: June 2016

May 18, 2016
By Laura Aiken


There are many things that make a great baker, pastry chef, chocolatier or cake designer. One needs a certain natural talent and inclination for making food magic, alongside a passion for it. One also needs an understanding of ingredient interaction and recipe process.

These are the building blocks, but as most bakery owners know, these things alone do not ensure a great employee. Nor, a great entrepreneur, and you can read about one who surely fits the bill in our cover story on Fancy Pokket owner Mike Timani on page 10. The fundamentals of industry stars are harder to pinpoint, but arguably it’s a mix of devotion and discipline that outranks passion (and could usurp talent alone) when it comes to qualities you want to foster in your team, and yourself.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study in 2007 titled “Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals” by Angela L. Duckworth, et al. Grit is generally characterized as one’s ability to stay the course in reaching a long-term goal. The abstract summarizes: “Grit did not relate positively to IQ but was highly correlated with Big Five Conscientiousness [conscientiousness is one trait in a Big Five personality traits model used by psychologists]. Grit nonetheless demonstrated incremental predictive validity of success measures over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness. Collectively, these findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but also the sustained and focused application of talent over time.”

Perseverance, that ability to sacrifice in the short term for long-term gain, is a key trait to look for when hiring because if you are part of their long-term goals, the persevering person is likely to stick around. Figuring out who has got it is the tricky part, and even more difficult to ascertain, where does the trait come from? The Association for Psychological Science published an article in 2015 called “Hard Work or Hard Times?” by Wray Herbert. The author points to a recent investigation by psychological scientist Michael Daly of the University of Stirling, U.K., that looked at two British cohort studies following more than 15,000 children over many decades with a focus on their perseverance, attention skills and early development. A definite link was seen between poor self-control as a youth and joblessness as an adult. The results of the combined studies are clear, writes Herbert: “It appears that poor self-control is a fairly stable aspect of personality, one that brings a host of disadvantages over the long haul…It’s not shocking that adults who never outgrow these traits – who lack concentration, break rules and do sloppy work – find fewer job opportunities.”


Conscientious traits like grit (pursuing goals over years) or self-control (resisting temptation in the moment) help rally morale when your team is feeling defeated by the competitor down the street. It is a trait to value highly within yourself, and remember: it is as much, if not more, of what keeps the doors of your bakery open as your delicious products. While Herbert’s indication of the British studies suggests that a lack of self-control tends to be a stable trait, there is much evidence to suggest self-control can be improved. Perhaps, in training employees and in personal development, where how-to often strikes so high in importance, more emphasis should be put on improving and understanding willpower and how to harness it more efficiently. There is a wealth of information on the topic, with tips covering the gamut of meditation (science has been paying a lot of attention to this technique in recent years), to self-talking mind tricks and getting better sleep, more nutrition and exercise. Encouraging and teaching self-discipline in a formal way could just pay off on your bottom line. And in a competitive industry like baking, that’s where the going gets best for the grit.

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