As the executive chef, your comments carry significant weight, and your team members tend to interpret them as definitive directives. They use these comments as a basis for their actions, often responding to changes they believe you desire. How frequently have you encountered instances where someone says, “Chef told me to do it this way,” only to later realize that the change stemmed from an off-the-cuff comment you made, which was then extrapolated into a procedure change?
I’ve personally learned the importance of being mindful of my casual remarks through experience. It’s essential to avoid inadvertently causing confusion in our day-to-day operations. I now aim to impart this valuable lesson, among others, to our junior leaders—specifically, our sous chefs and chefs de partie—so that they can establish their authority and effectively manage their respective teams.
At the San Antonio Country Club, we are committed to nurturing the growth of our junior leaders by teaching them how to assert their authority. Within our organization, chefs de partie oversee various facets of our operations, supervising and leading teams in their respective outlets or shifts. These individuals have all risen from the ranks of cooks to take on leadership roles, and they must navigate this transition with a dual identity.
We have observed that many of them grapple with the challenges of asserting their authority and implementing corrective measures. Their approaches range from excessive bluntness and aggression to a tendency to avoid conflict until issues reach an untenable magnitude.
Here are 11 strategies we employ to teach and reinforce the concept of authority at the San Antonio Country Club:
- Mind Your Comments: Encourage your junior leaders to be mindful of their remarks, as these can significantly impact day-to-day operations. Emphasize the need for clear communication and avoid casual comments that may be misconstrued as procedure changes.
- Balancing Friendship and Leadership: Acknowledge the challenge of maintaining a friendly rapport and a leadership role. Encourage junior leaders to balance being approachable and maintaining control over their teams.
- Effective Authority and Conflict Management: Junior leaders often struggle with when and how to assert their authority and address issues. Guide them to find a middle ground between being overly aggressive and avoiding conflict until it becomes unmanageable.
- Adjusting to Changing Conditions: Recognize that during challenging times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, leniency may have been necessary. However, with the ability to attract and hire staff more easily, it’s time to re-establish strict standards.
- Teaching Authority Through Day-to-Day Situations: Instruct junior leaders to assert their authority by addressing day-to-day issues as they arise. They should be empowered to correct problems promptly, even resorting to sending someone home if necessary, though this should be a last resort rather than a threat.
- Starting with the Basics: Begin with foundational expectations, such as enforcing uniform and timeliness standards. Emphasize the importance of clear communication and adherence to recipes and prep lists.
- Addressing Issues Respectfully: When addressing issues, encourage junior leaders to take a respectful and constructive approach. For example, if someone is not in proper uniform, they can start by providing the missing items and having a courteous conversation about the importance of adhering to uniform standards.
- Conducting One-on-One Conversations: Train junior leaders on how to have private one-on-one conversations with team members. Stress the importance of remaining factual and unemotional during these discussions.
- Seeking Support: If issues persist, junior leaders should not hesitate to seek support from a sous chef. This involves the leader maintaining control of the conversation while having a trusted colleague present for reinforcement.
- Documentation: Stress the significance of documentation. Require junior leaders to email the leadership team following any significant conversation, including the date, time, staff involved, discussion details, and expected outcomes. This documentation helps in tracking progress and resolving issues if they escalate.
- Consistent Support and Growth: Continuously support your junior leaders in their development. Avoid intervening in their issues unless absolutely necessary. Encourage them to take ownership of their leadership roles, and remember that the more you emphasize these skills, the more they will grow and earn respect within their teams.
Effective leadership requires ongoing guidance and support, and by following these steps, you can help your junior leaders assert their authority while fostering a positive team environment.