My management style is evolving and adaptable. And I think this particular style is important not only to me but to other manager’s who hope to survive the current workforce challenges we all face.
In recent months, one of the more popular water cooler conversations around in my club zeros in on management of staff and just how different/difficult it is compared to three years ago. I’ve noticed a necessary and major shift in my own management style. With several factors to blame, it’s hard for me to pinpoint the catalyst.
Gone are the days where a chef can expect each one of his or her line cooks and production cooks to come to work with the mentality of putting your head down and getting the job done. Today, employees need more support than was ever granted to them in the days of simply, “Yes, Chef.” My employees look for more. Whether it be more validation or more conversation, it all comes down to their need for more direction. My sous chef is dumbfounded that stations are only cleaned properly when there is a checklist hung up for the staff responsible for any given station. While I understand his frustration, I’m happy to produce any such list as I know it will guarantee maintenance of standards as well as consistency—and if a simple list is all it takes to yield productivity, I’m all for it.
In learning to adapt to the various personalities that make up my team, I’ve found it’s difficult to be the HR golden child and treat every employee equally. If I were to treat “Delores” the same way I treat “John,” Delores would have fled long ago inevitably in tears. However, while I maintain the same level of standards in performance, I also understand that each individual has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. I choose to play on their strengths in order to maximize productivity. I also understand that there are certain individuals who require a little ego stroking in order to motivate them to continue on the steady incline of progress and achievement. While I myself believe that progress and growth should come from self-motivation, I realize there are some individuals who need an extra push.
Let’s take Delores, for example. Delores is a lovely woman who has been in this industry for several decades. She possesses an attractive skill level, talent and industry knowledge. She has the potential to be absolutely brilliant, but she has a mentality that keeps her caged. Her level of confidence is meager at best and it shows in her finished product from time to time. Her sense of exploration and gumption are enviable, yet when left on her own to overcome new challenges, her method of attack quickly turns into struggle. This leads to substandard quality. Her comfort level always forces her to retreat back to the productivity of day-to-day responsibilities in which she knows she can reproduce consistently and at her own pace. In year’s past, I would have simply dismissed her as not having enough initiative or drive. I would have also sought her replacement. But I’ve learned that by taking just a few extra moments to talk with Delores I can boost her level of confidence and inspire her to successfully complete a very well thought-out product.
John, on the other hand, is a young millennial who never takes his eyes off the prize. The prize being utter praise, constant validation and instant gratification for his efforts. While not as experienced as Delores, John emits the confidence and drive to do whatever is needed to succeed, even if he knowingly fails from time to time. Rather than allowing his confidence to take a back seat after each failure, he moves on to find the next challenge. He tackles these new challenges with zeal and pride. He shies away from day-to-day redundancies and looks for new tasks and lessons to be learned. He comes with some baggage—baggage that takes away from his ability to be 100% available.
The most effective way for me to manage John is to call him out, oftentimes while he is moving at a most desirable pace, quick and nimble. These are the times he forgets the fundamentals and needs to be corrected. Rather than personalizing anything, he learns from his mistakes quickly and quietly.
When it comes to new projects, I give him a quick description of what I’m looking for. I also ask for his insights on the dish and I let him run with it. His eagerness to produce goes into overdrive. Additionally, because of his talents and overall drive, I work with him when it comes to scheduling. Rather than adding any additional stress to his schedule as he deals with his baggage, I allow him the freedom to take care of his issues without it interfering with his job.
When I was a young chef starting out in this industry, I never sought out Chef’s accolades. As long as I didn’t end up in his office, I knew I was doing a good job. For years when I first became Executive Chef, I operated under this same mentality. I doled out the obligatory “good job” at the end of the night, but there wasn’t much more than that. In adapting and evolving over the years, I’ve realized how important my team is to my own successes and I make sure each and every single one of them realizes how appreciative I am of them.
I suppose I could add compassionate to my list of management styles. I enjoy working with my team to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Creating more strengths is my measurement for productivity. I am glad to be a motivator; it is my motivation to seek out and nourish the true strengths of my team.
*Names have been changed in order to preserve order in my workplace…