The Union Club of Cleveland’s Lawrence McFadden, CMC, GM/COO, was more equipped to lead through the COVID-19 crisis because of past lessons and sound processes.
What is it about the human psyche that we put off today what we can do tomorrow?
Earlier in my career, I made it a requirement for the cooks and sous chefs in our kitchens to make our pastry chef’s ice cream recipes before they left us for future stages. I created this requirement because the first phone call once they left was always, “Do you have Chef Monti’s recipe for the seventeen-bean vanilla ice cream?” (Yes, seventeen beans to a liter of base.)
They learned the hard way that when they became executive chefs, the entire operation and how the departments interacted were important. But in the moment, while they had the chance to learn, they didn’t. Many of restaurant chefs knew the pastries would mysteriously arrive from the pastry shop and that the line cooks would assemble them during service. But how many knew how to actually make all of those pastries?
When Arnaud Berthelier, CMC, Executive Chef of the Union Club, worked with Alain Ducasse, he would get a list of ingredients and measurements but no methodology for Ducasse’s recipes as his philosophy was until you make the recipe the ingredients are just a list of groceries. It’s a great way to secure and control your treasured recipes, but it also inspires commitment to learning the process and the outcome.
After hearing this, when he was my restaurant chef, I tweaked the philosophy to have him make a copy of the ice cream recipe and make it so he understand what he was doing and why. Only a few cooks have followed this advice.
Why don’t people follow instructions, advice, and mentorship? It’s always for their own best interest.
A mentor of mine often told us that until we were responsible for the profit and loss statement we would never completely understand it. My crass translation is as follows: Until your ass is on the line, you won’t feel the pressure or the pain. (Or, with a political slant, “If it’s not your job, it’s not your problem.”)
I worked with this mentor for nearly a decade. I sat in dozens of financial meetings. I never consistently went back to him with my notes that were filled with questions or conclusions about what had been discussed. Even I am guilty of procrastination.
Not until now, sitting at a table, with a dozen finance committee members, are we properly prepared for a two-hour complete review of the financial results. We carefully comb through the numbers, creating theories or securing conclusions that potentially might be requested while in the meeting.
My advice? Plan and record your action plans during the current CV-19 pandemic because there will be another crisis behind this one.
If you want to perform better in the next crisis, document the strategies, record each communication, consistently plan sessions, and over-communicate the message. The next crisis will not look the same as this, but there are plenty of lessons learned that need to be followed for a successful result next time around.
When I worked in a hotel in South Florida through many hurricane seasons, we always documented our strategies. Some of the same actions I learned then were put into place when the Union Club closed this March and then reopened weeks later to a new situation and future.
While we can’t quite see or predict the next phase of the pandemic, we certainly can keep our staff/members motivated and informed during this journey.
Turns out learning the ice cream recipe made me a stronger General Manager during CV-19.