The “Icing on the Cake” Approach

December 18, 2023

Cake is good.

Icing on the cake makes it even better.

Pexels jill wellington 302552 the "icing on the cake" approach

For those who say, “I don’t like cake,” know that this post is not at all about cake. (And, also, what is wrong with you and why are we friends? Cake is delicious!)

This post is about needs vs. wants, wants vs. utmost desires, and why we tend to create a backup Plan B rather than our A+ wildest dreams.

The idiom “icing on the cake” is the unexpected or desirable addition to something already good. The “icing on the cake” makes it even better (all the more so if it is mocha or salted caramel or lemon coconut because I’m not picky with yum…)

For me, the “cake” fulfills my business appetite. The ingredients are simple: Meaningful paid work with a client or audience my material will benefit.

A well-made cake includes respectful conversations during which we set goals and objectives and use both open inquiry and creative ingenuity to meet them. Processes and outcomes are defined. Contracts are signed. Retainers or bills are paid. Audiences are engaged. I see the light bulb go on above their heads and know I am making an impact.

That’s the cake.

Good smiling speaking shot the "icing on the cake" approach

The icing on the cake sweetens the deal.

The client can be in a location that’s easy to get to, or one I’ve always wanted to visit. Perhaps they want me to provide attendees with a copy of my book: Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life. Testimonials are given and referrals are made.

I don’t necessarily need these things to do my work, but each is icing on the cake.

Heck, while we’re at it, maybe this client retains me for multiple yearly engagements so we can create long-term impact for the organization. Maybe they book me for their corporate retreat on an island somewhere. Maybe they fly me first-class to said island where I facilitate for a day but can stay for the week with guests of my choosing…

I mean, if we’re going to create our icing on the cake, why not layer it on thick?

Me on a beach the "icing on the cake" approach

A Girl Can Dream…

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.” – The Rolling Stones

What can you do with the “Icing on the Cake” approach?

Use it to confirm your baseline for success or happiness and fulfillment (which “ingredients” are necessary to bake the “cake”?), and then explore the possibility of every indulgent icing available!

🍰 You need a raise to keep up with inflation and your standard of living. Cool. How about an unexpected bonus or title change on top of that?

🍰 You want a remote work arrangement two days a week. How about the ability to work wherever you want as long as you complete your tasks?

🍰 You want to have cordial relationships with your co-workers. How about finding a bestie in the bunch?

Maybe this flavor of coaching doesn’t speak to you. Maybe you’re stuck on the sugary sweetness of this exercise.

That’s fine. Call it the “added bonus,” the “perks,” the “finishing touch,” or “crown in the cap,” or “cherry on top” (if you like cherries but not cherry icing…)

Pexels tim douglas 6210745 1 the "icing on the cake" approach

Ask yourself:

🧁 What do I need to feel successful / happy / fulfilled?

🧁 What are my core values and strengths?

🧁 What energizes me / drains me?

🧁 What matters more right now – challenge and growth or balance and stride?

Determining your own “extra layer” requires understanding your personal interests, goals, desire for growth, and activities that bring you joy.

Revisit this strategy regularly as needs and wants evolve. Adjust your priorities as needed. Regular reflection on your own “icing on the cake” will help you determine the personal slice of pie (or cake!) that satisfies.

And don’t be afraid to make it a little bit sweeter for yourself.

Img 8405 the "icing on the cake" approach

Valerie Gordon, the founder of career and communications firm The Storytelling Strategist, is a former Emmy-winning television producer who brings the power of storytelling to audiences and corporations looking to grow future leaders and build strong, collaborative teams. She baked a cake – just once – and this is what it looked like though it tasted just fine. 

Blog Archive