How to decorate a Cake – an Assessment Exercise

Photo Credit: TheBakingLaboratory at WordPress


Weekend and a little dream came true.

She was invited to a three-day ACADEMY event of a large consulting company. It’s about getting to know the company (and vice versa, of course), no matter what you’re studying or what previous knowledge you have.

On Saturday, after the first day was over, I received a surprising call from her.

“Bernd, I got out. It was unbearable!”,
” Whaaaat? Why is that?”

I listened to her. She had noticed that it wasn’t about saying what you think, but what you think the company wants to hear. At least that’s what the vast majority of the approximately 40 participants did.

“Bernd, we were given the task of decorating a cake. Creativity, inventiveness and spontaneity were in demand. The result: I saw my cake and then thirty others, all of whom had processed the emblem of the consulting company in some form. How much do you want to ingratiate yourself?”

From her point of view, she found only a few interesting interlocutors among the other participants and drew the conclusion. It was not for her. She signed off. Goodbye.

I once gave her the advice that she could follow her intuition in difficult decision-making moments. And she had done so.

And now, my reaction:
“Be prepared for what you say when you get a call from the consulting firm next week. Your drop-out was as unusual as it was consistent. That will meet their interest, I guess.”

Three days later, the next call.

“Bernd, you were right. The consulting firm has actually come forward. A partner from a German city office. I was prepared and it was a surprisingly good and open conversation. After I explained the situation and my reasoning, I was immediately offered a job if I wanted to change my mind.”

I learned a lot from my mentee from this situation. Saying NO when there are many YES-sayers around you is sometimes (maybe even mostly) a worthwhile affair. And that is honest and mindful to yourself.

➡️ What is your strategy for saying NO?

I am Bernd Scharbert and my task as a mentor of executives, leaders and students is to pass on my experience after more than 30 years of leadership experience in the corporate world. If you are interested, please feel free to follow me at LinkedIn, #prepare4landing or contact me directly.

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