This summer, I took a month off. I spent time with my mother and with our daughter who was spending a summer on campus, but I also decided to take part of the month entirely for myself. Through research, I’d learned about a series of silent meditation retreats held around the world. I was intrigued by the thought of ten days of silence, by the idea of combining a search for relevance and serenity, and certainly by the opportunity to be completely electronics-free for an extended period of time. I chose a location in Oregon and packed my bags.
Like most in our industry, I’m an intrepid traveler. We know where we’re going, plot out the most efficient way to get there, and expect certain perks and niceties along the way. This trip felt more daunting than the most foreign of countries. Among other things, I’d have to give up the one thing that most planners cling to: control.
Initial challenges came in the ground rules for the retreat: no music, no reading, no writing (how, I wondered, am I going to remember any of the insights I come across?). I could, however, look forward to a completely vegan diet – but only for breakfast and lunch, because the evening meal consisted of tea and a piece of fruit. The familiar and the unfamiliar were side by side: I was ostensibly at a meeting with 50 people – and had a roommate – but could neither talk to nor even make eye contact with any of them. Given those limitations, how does one pass the time? Answer: with 10-11 hours of meditation each day.
Kinsley: The name of your company is the Leadership Difference and you speak on a variety of leadership topics all over the world. Do you find that there is a correlation between leadership style and the type of wine someone drinks?
Dave Mitchell: Well, I think being in a leadership role can certainly drive someone one to drink! I actually do a seminar called What is Your Wine Personality that compares a person’s leadership style to a type of wine. The program was inspired by the content of my new book The Power of Understanding People. In the book, I refer to four types of leaders: Romantic, Warriors, Experts and Masterminds. For example, emotionally sensitive leaders – Romantics — tend to be quite attuned to the morale of their team and work hard to make the organization’s culture fun to be in and for the group to have a comfortable unity. I think a sparkling wine, with its effervescence and inherit celebratory nature, is a nice reflection of this style. On the other hand, analytical leaders – Warriors – are direct and results oriented; sometimes even perceived as brusque. A big Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly captures their style with the bold flavor profile and substantial tannins. Having said that, one of the most aggressive leaders I know drinks White Zinfandel. Go figure.
Kinsley: You travel the world doing keynote speeches and seminars. What is your favorite wine region?
Dave: Oh my! That’s like trying to pick your favorite band. Several wine regions have left me with amazing memories. My lovely bride and I were lucky enough to visit Valpolicella and tasted some amazing Amarone de Valpolicella at Le Salette Winery. It was just us and the winemaker. It was incredible. We visited a charming winery outside Madrid, Spain. Unbelievable! We love the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Columbia Valley region in Washington, too. However, based on the number of visits we make there, I would have to say the Dry Creek AVA in Sonoma is our favorite. They have a huge range of varietals and it is not as crowded as the rest of Sonoma and Napa. It is a beautiful area, lovely people and a real foodie vibe to boot.
Kinsley: During the holidays, do you have specific wine recommendations that pair with the traditional foods?
Dave: While I have some favorite pairings, I have found that everyone’s palette is unique. My motto is, “if you like it, drink it. If you don’t like it, drink it fast!” Here are the four wines I recommended in my November newsletter for Thanksgiving and I would feel comfortable serving them all through the holidays. Again, I broke the selections down to reflect the style of the person and I focused on my favorite region (with a bow to the Willamette Valley).
No celebration can begin without popping the cork on some sparkling wine. A lovely brut rose works great for the holidays. I love J Brut Rose for its floral and raspberry flavors and elegant bottle. At $38, it’s at a moderate price point for high end sparkly and worth it to start the party off with class. It is wine in the style of the Romantics: fun and effervescent
For the Experts, I recommend one of the great food wines in the world; Riesling. The combination of acidity and full mouth feel makes it perfect as an insurance policy against overcooked white meat. The best version I tasted this year was the Trisaetum 2013 Estates Reserve Dry Riesling at $32 (Trisaetum also offers less expensive Rieslings that are wonderful, too). It is the Experts version of wine; traditional, safe and exceptional quality.
For those Masterminds out there, I found an exceptionally unique wine in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma County at Preston Vineyards. It is the Preston Vineyard 2012 Marsanne. Marsanne is rarely made into a varietal wine and even more unusual to find in this wine region. It is definitely unusual on the palate, but the first time I tasted it I was overwhelmed with holiday flavors. This one is a love/hate wine. You will have an opinion, but you won’t be bored; much like talking to a Mastermind. $30 and probably only available through the winery: www.prestonvineyards.com.
Finally, for those Warriors, we need a red wine. I don’t like big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon with the traditional holiday fare. For my money, I pick Zinfandel. Zinfandel is made in a variety of styles ranging from huge fruit bombs to delicate food wines. Porter Creek makes an old vine version that strikes just the right balance. ThePorter Creek 2011 Zinfandel Old Vine Sonoma County is priced at $34 and is bold enough to satisfy any red wine fan while not overpowering the food.
Kinsley: What is your favorite wine and why?
Dave: You’re killing me. I almost said, “whatever is open,” but you are probably looking for a more thoughtful answer. Well, I am fond of saying that the appreciation of wine is 90% context. It is more about who you are with, what you are doing, where you drink it and how you feel at that moment. So, given that, my favorite wine right now is the Red Car 2009 Sonoma County Syrah. We bought a case of it and got a crazy, great deal at the winery. When we tasted it in Sonoma we were having a great day in wine country and now it is our Friday night pizza wine. Friday night pizza and wine is my favorite thing, so the current wine pairing would stand to reason as being my favorite wine. I reserve the right to change that answer on Saturday.
Kinsley: Are there any life lessons you have learned that relate to your training as a sommelier?
Dave: I really wish I could provide a pithy remark to go out with, but the truth is that my love and appreciation for wine has taught me to pay more attention to the simple joys that surround us all the time. I think it is easy to keep looking forward to something big in our lives while missing the fantastic details that are happening now. Is there anything so amazing in life than a glass of wine and a moment in time? Oh, wow; that was pretty pithy.
About Dave Mitchell, Founder/President, the Leadership Difference, Inc.
Since founding the Leadership Difference in 1995, over 250,000 people have attended Dave’s “enter-TRAIN-ment” seminars on topics that include leadership, customer service, selling skills, and personal performance enhancement. His clients include Allstate Insurance, Bank of America, Universal Studios, Hilton Worldwide, Sub-Zero Wolf Appliances, Electrolux Appliances, Trek Bikes, Walt Disney World and the CIA. Dave has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and designated as a Certified Advanced Wine Sommelier by the International Wine Guild.
Dave is the author of the book Live and Learn or Die Stupid! The book focuses on personal contentment and performance excellence. His second book, The Power of Understanding People, was released in December 2013 and was immediately named Best Business Book of the Month by Amazon.
“Dave’s ability to keep people engaged and laughing and truly teach something is incredibly powerful.” — Kimberly Janson, Vice President of Global Leadership of H.J. Heinz
“Investing in Dave Mitchell has been the best business decision I have ever made. He is the mos
t entertaining speaker I have ever heard, which is why he is so effective getting his message across to the audience.” — Willis Chrans, Chairman, Avitus Group
This month, Dani Rickert provides our monthly must-try recipe, Lace Cookies.
With the holiday season right around the corner, the first recipe that came to mind is our favorite family cookie recipe, Lace Cookies. Whenever the first batch of these cookies comes out of the oven at my mom’s house it is always a sure sign that Christmas and all of the family gatherings are only a couple of weeks away! My mom started baking these oatmeal and chocolate cookies when we were young and they have become a tradition ever since. I hope you are able to try this recipe in your holiday baking and enjoy them as much as our family does.
- 2 sticks of butter (melted)
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2 cups of Oatmeal
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp of baking soda
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 4 heaping tsp of flower
- Nestles chocolate chips
- Aluminum foil
- Preheat oven to 375
Mix all ingredients together and use the melon baller to scoop a drop of batter on to an aluminum foil lined pan. Bake for 4 minutes and they should be done or almost done (do not leave the kitchen). Remove from oven and leave on foil until completely cooled and then peel cookie off. Melt nestle chocolate chips and sandwich between two cookies. ENJOY!
THE CLIENT: A global workforce management company, serving more than half of the Fortune 1000, that provides the tools for their customers to help them control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity.
THE CHALLENGE: The client hosts a 2-day networking and education event for 50-100 of their top clients to learn about best practices in their respective industries. Attending the event are senior executives for industry leaders such as Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks and Marriott. The participants’ expectations for this annual event are that each year surpass the previous in creativity, networking opportunities and education, as well as incorporating the destination’s culture and local flair.
The 2011 event was scheduled at the Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Our client needed Kinsley’s experience to develop an event that would provide their customers and executives with a memorable experience that allowed them to network in a relaxed environment.
THE SOLUTION: North Carolina is known for barbeque, so Kinsley created a BBQ sauce teambuilding event. To foster friendly competition and add to the excitement before the event, the participants were encouraged to bring their own “secret” ingredient to use in their award-winning sauce.
To facilitate the competition, and to judge the entries, Kinsley brought in Top Chef All Stars Fan Favorite Carla Hall. Carla, cohost of the new daytime series “The Chew,” is known for her southern-style cooking, as well as for her fun and quirky personality. Participants received a BBQ apron signed by Carla, and the How To Cook Like a Top Chef cookbook.
Challenge participants were divided into 12 groups of seven, each with its own distinct team apron color. Teams gathered around one of twelve work stations equipped with propane burners, paring knives, cutting boards and other necessary BBQ tools. Set in the center of the action was the Ingredient Table which included over 40 eclectic ingredients and seasonings from which to choose.
The challenge began and the 45 minute clock started ticking down, as it does on Top Chef. Half of the team worked on the sauce while the other half worked on the logo and branding of their sauce. Carla counted down the clock and teams scurried to get the last bits done before time was called.
All the sauces and tasting items were placed on the formal Tasting Table. The feisty and opinionated crowd watched as Carla and the three other judges smelled, tasted, savored and savored again, each of the 12 sauce creations, using proteins the teams chose to showcase their sauce. The secret ingredients were revealed, including tequila & dark chocolate. The awards went to the Best Overall Flavor, Most Creative Use of Ingredients and Best Product Name & Branding. Following the awards it was off to dinner with the 12 BBQ sauce creations in tow for tasting during dinner.
A successful team-building event will be memorable for those involved. For our BBQ event, the keys were:
- Experiential interaction – active participation as opposed to passive observation;
- Personal takeaways – experiences to share with family and friends. Interaction with and learning from a celebrity;
- Creativity – injecting personality and fun through the opportunity to bring a secret ingredient.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” So, keep playing and find a way to inject fun into meetings with team building events.
Are you now craving BBQ? Below are a few fun links to get you started: