Recipes, Cookbooks, and Chef’s Mindset

The Art of Facilitative Leadership

Daniel Stillman
5 min readJun 20, 2022

I love a good recipe.

Take this one, from Food52, for Lemon Bars with a salty, olive oil crust.

I’m not sure how I first stumbled on this recipe, but I do know that I nearly never make it…or at least, not in full.

The crust, however, has become a trusted friend. It’s so easy to make compared to a traditional butter crust, and it’s really tasty.

I originally wrote this essay on my blog right before Thanksgiving, when my mind was on pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie cheesecake and pecan pie….but it makes a great summer berry pie, or crumble topping too!

You’re welcome. :-)


So…what does this have to do with leadership, transformation and facilitation? Leadership is about mindset as much as skillset — how you think, as much as what you say and do.

I’ve written before about how the recipe doesn’t make the chef.

What does make a chef is a willingness to pull things apart and to see how they’re made.

Also, the courage to try new things — to take a new recipe out for a spin, and see how it tastes, and to remix cuisines, flavors and techniques in unexpected ways, in pursuit of excellence.

Take a simple recipe for a group conversation, like “Integrated Decision Making” (IDM for short) illustrated below.

IDM comes from the Holacracy world…here’s the recipe, written out:

1. Present a proposal
The proposer states their proposal and the issue this proposal is attempting to resolve.

2. Clarifying questions
Anybody can ask questions that seek information or more understanding. These are not judgments or reactions.

3. Reactions round
Each person reacts to the proposal. Discussions are not allowed

4. Amend & Clarify
The proposer can clarify the proposal further, or amend it, based on these reactions. If it’s not possible to amend right away, the proposer can stop the process and go back to the drawing board.

5. Objection Round
Objections are captured without discussion; the proposal is adopted if none come up. Two questions are asked here: ”Do you see any reasons why adopting this proposal would cause harm or move us backward?” And/or “Is it good enough for now, and safe enough to try?”

6. Integration
If an objection is raised, the facilitator tests the objection for validity. If it is found to be valid, they can lead a discussion to craft an amendment that would avoid the objection. If several objections are raised, they are addressed one at a time, until all are removed.

The process is pretty straightforward and clear.

What’s NOT clear or straightforward is how to get a group of people to engage in this process.


This is where the work of facilitation and leadership shifts from the outer world (doing) to the inner world of thinking and being.

IDM is a nicely designed facilitation “game”…it has rules, it begins and ends…and if everyone on your teams knows how to “play” the IDM “game” it can be pretty effective.

But…How do you build up the courage to suggest a new process to folks and onboard them onto it?

How do you develop the storytelling skills to explain the value and benefits of trying a new model out?

How do you keep your impostor syndrome from collapsing in on yourself when the group hits a snag in the middle?

How do you herd all the cats when someone tries to break the process?

This is where the work of facilitation becomes the work of self-development, self-management and self-leadership. It’s where you push your edge and face your limits and your shadow.

There are two ways I can help with this inner and outer work.

One is the free course I made on developing your facilitation style, through a visual sketching exercise. If you haven’t checked it out, you can sign up here. If you have a co-worker or friend who you know needs to push their boundaries and expand into facilitation more deeply, feel free to send it their way!

The other offering I have is the Facilitation Masterclass I host. It’s 12 weeks deep dive into the inner *and* the outer game of facilitation.

In the Facilitation Masterclass, we explore recipes galore…but we don’t neglect the development of the inner skills you need to grow and develop as a facilitator and a leader.

It’s best for folks who are already leading groups and teams inside a company or as consultants and who want to nerd out with other facilitation nerds and find more community.

I’ve also found that folks who have dabbled in facilitation and want to go off the deep end are grateful that they said yes to coming.


When I look at the IDM process, I see the core of the process as separating the conversation about “What” from the conversation about “So What?” and “Now What?”.

“What” is the proposal or idea. It’s “what” we are considering.
“So what” are the clarifications and reactions.
“Now what” would be the objection and Integration steps.

This core idea is simple and straightforward, and it doesn’t require you to explain the whole process at once or to get over the hurdle of explaining what “Integrated Decision Making” means.

Saying “Let’s start using the Integrated Decision Making process” sounds like a chore.

Suggesting we share ideas and clarify them before corresponding to them or objecting to them…to me, that sounds like a nice, solid crust to build a pie on top of.


Remixing and layering group conversation modalities is my jam.

Take the “reactions” round.

One could lead this session freestyle — all reactions accepted however folks want to share them. IDM suggests sharing “in the round” with no crosstalk, which isn’t a bad recipe.

I prefer to add a sprinkle of Rose, Thorn and Bud (RTB) to this step.

People (myself included) love to skew to the negative. Asking for feedback on “what’s good” in the proposal first (a rose) as well as for “what’s missing or not good” (ie, a thorn) can help make sure that a reactions round is balanced, considered and more psychologically safe.. (You can read a bit more about RTB and other ways to split up a reflections process here. RTB as a way to cultivate safety is, in my view, a protocol of protection. Read more about those here.)


This is the heart of the chef’s mindset: You cook up a lovely meal and plop it down in front of a hungry crowd. They eat it, with joy and gratitude.

Cooking up a tasty team conversation is just the same. Explaining the entire process you used to make the food is not required. Announcing the courses of the meal and the next course up is a nice touch, though. (ie, explaining the next activity in plain and simple language, in the context of the whole experience).

This way of bringing people into a new conversation is inviting, not intimidating. It’s not selling or pushing…it’s inviting people in.

My dream is to have you all mixing and remixing, inviting and engaging team conversations, and helping your organizations make great things.

If you want to hang out at the chef’s table, definitely check out my Facilitation Masterclass.

If you want to live the chef’s mindset in your work and want more personalized coaching, you can get in touch with me here.