When I was promoted to Corporal in the United States Marine Corp. in August of 2010, I was told something that has stuck with me to this day. My platoon sergeant told me leadership is a privilege and the highest of honors one can receive.
I couldn’t have been more proud as my Captain and Company Gunnery Sergeant pinned the new rank on my uniform, which elevated me to the level of a non-commissioned officer. I remember thinking back to what my Platoon Sergeant told me about leadership. I had done the courses and put in the time, effort, blood, and sweat to earn this rank. I deserved my new rank, but even at the pinnacle of my military career, I still had a lot to learn about the privilege of leading.
Fast forward to the present day. After leadership stints in resorts and private clubs, including my current role as Executive Chef of Sycamore Hills Golf Club, I have truly started understanding what my Platoon Seargent meant.
In this new post-pandemic world, the burden of leadership can seem like a lot when you start to add up other responsibilities. Couple that with labor shortages, supply chain issues, and the hospitality industry where we constantly have to evolve, leadership becomes daunting. As leaders, we have the task of maintaining the level of expectation for our position and kitchen, on top of all the variables thrown our way on a day-to-day basis.
I am the first to admit that it can be challenging to stop and try to understand the personal and professional issues that our team members may have. Although we might not have the time to stop and help every one of our team members deal with every personal and professional challenge they face, how we react to challenges presented to us gives our team members a blueprint on how they should deal with them or obstacles they face. When you try and lead by setting an example that your teams can follow, the impact you have on your teams will carry from your club kitchen to their personal lives.
We must never forget that being the leader does not always mean just ensuring all shifts are covered or all invoices are turned in, but also that we take a mental check of our staff and ask an easy but sometimes overlooked question, “How are you doing today?” Then really listen to the answer.
Throughout my career, I have made sure to say hello to my team members at the beginning of their shift and then say goodbye and thank them at the end. Each time I do this, it shows that I care about them and their well-being, but it constantly opens the door to communication. You can learn a lot about your team by taking that extra time each day. It also opens that door for members of your team that might be reluctant to bring something to your attention without them having to start that conversation.
Everyone knows all the hot-button words used in our industry, including the terminology, like “We have an open-door policy when it comes to team members being able to speak with leadership.” It’s a great concept and one I am fully behind. However, if we stay in our offices waiting for them to come to us, we might leave behind some who aren’t comfortable with knocking on that door or simply walking in. The open-door policy can naturally lull us into complacency; we need to be more proactive.
Leadership isn’t just about the daily mechanics of our job. It’s about how we interact and treat the people that make our organizations run—by giving them that blueprint on how to better deal with adversity and showing them that taking the time to care about others can profoundly impact both themselves and the people in their lives.
A long time ago, my wife Deanna gave me a coffee mug that says “See the Good.” As I start my work day, I look at that coffee mug each morning. It reminds me to get out of my office and find the good with my team at the club and teach our team to see and find the good in their own lives.