I don’t consider myself old by any stretch, but one thing I know for certain is that I’m old fashioned. I believe that simple goals and simple expectations allow people to succeed.
The best leaders (read: coaches, managers, chefs) put people into situations in which they can be successful. When you present someone (a cook, prep, sous, or dishwasher in my world) with too much responsibility at once, you put them in a precarious situation with the potential risk of failure.
Often in the workplace we are handed goals that are unattainable. If you’re of reasonable intelligence and know your craft, you know when you are being saddled with those unrealistic goals. It inevitably frustrates you and becomes a negative, which is a bad way to motivate a person. In addition, we sometimes set goals for ourselves that are bigger than what is reasonable. Rather than set goals for ourselves in small steps that are achievable, we set big goals for ourselves and set ourselves up for failure.
Let’s take a cook as an example. Cooks are almost always eager to move up and are often wanting more responsibility. Too often though what they really want is instant gratification. What I’ve learned over the years is to hold that individual back. It‘s tough but it is the key most times – to slow the advancement but increase his or her exposure and learning. I think it’s a recipe for building a better cook. It’s why rookies will usually ride the pine in the NFL, learning while being hungry to start. Too much exposure too soon without the proper supports can destroy confidence and hinder success.
In addition to developing strong, talented staff, getting quality candidates to apply is another challenge. I am without argument a small fish in the pond, so to speak. Young cooks are not looking to get my name on their resume. They’re looking for names like Maws, Bisonnette, Oringer or Lynch – luminaries in our community, and rightfully so. But in my opinion it makes successful lesser-known chefs even more endearing when they hit it big.
Accepting this, it means an even greater challenge to getting a great staff. It’s better now for me than it has been in the past, but that’s due to a lot of hard work, and a credit to those cooks in my previous posts who have performed well. How can a Chef succeed if his cooks do not achieve?
So now taking all of my past experiences into account, I build a team once again. Only now there are a lot of familiar faces in this kitchen for me, a testament that maybe my own food and management style is beginning to have its rewards…