I often witness exceptionally hard working chefs get promoted and then struggle when their brigade (often consisting of former colleagues) don’t follow their lead. Although they’ve worked for this promotion tirelessly over a substantially long time, they suddenly wish they’d never accepted the position in the first place.
However, you can only succeed in your Executive Chef or Sous-chef role – if you have the ‘it’ factor.
Identify what it is for you and your brigade
In one of my recent workshops, I asked the participants, “After how many years in the workforce do you think people typically tend to get it?” I deliberately didn’t mentioned what I meant by it to see how they interpreted the question. The feedback I received ranged from “Some people never get it” to “There is no specific age to get it” to “Some people get it at a very young age.”
I continued with a follow-up question: “Who do you think is better off in their hospitality career, those who get it or those who don’t?” This time, all participants unanimously agreed that people who get it are much happier and better off. It was clear to everybody that those who didn’t get it would struggle in their career. They also believed that Executive Chefs and their brigade who get it and do it, have happier, more successful careers.
My final question to the group was: “In your career, what are the ‘its’ that people need to get to be happy and successful?” They concluded that there is an ‘it’ in every area of life; in your family, your health and well-being, your social environment, your finances and of course, in your career.
In the scenario in the introduction paragraph of this article, neither the newly promoted chef nor the business got it. They didn’t understand what was happening when the employee sudden change of behaviour occurred. And because they didn’t get it, blame and judgement was likely just around the corner.
Here are four tips to develop and build your ‘it’ factor:
It #1: No blame
I hope you agree with me when I say that blame and possibly even sacking or redeploying this chef is a very short-sighted “solution”. It doesn’t help anyone – not the person undertaking the new role nor the brigade. It is imperative that senior management support newly promoted chefs with their soft skills, such as communication strategies, conflict resolution, time management, group dynamics, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, leadership and more, so they can become outstanding leaders.
It #2: The importance of soft skills
Technical skills may get somebody a promotion, but their soft skills will make or break their career! In order to become a trusted leader of a kitchen brigade you must be able to lead a team, right? Therefore you need to understand that the importance of soft skills grows with each step on the career ladder. Those skills help you to effectively deal with people from any walks of life and lead them to success. This is ultimately what you are paid for, not to micro-manage people and perform their tasks by yourself.
It #3: The team vision
First of all, you and your brigade must understand the customers and their needs.
It is your responsibility to know the company vision including key people, and help them bring that to life within the brigade by ensuring everybody else understands the vision, goals and values as well as what is expected of them.
It’s like using a GPS. How can you find your way without knowing your destination in the first place? If a team member is unaware of the destination (vision, goals and values), he or she will choose one for themself. Down the track this will cost the hospitality business in lost productivity, staff turnover, reputation, and ultimately, has a negative impact on customer service and satisfaction.
Often it is not the hard work employees are afraid of, it is the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen tomorrow, next week, the following month or even next year. The secret? Work closely with key people in your business and your brigade to help create a mutual understanding and to align the vision throughout.
It #4: The human core needs
Human Core needs are quite possibly the most important ones for you to get. By implementing the five pillars of human core needs, you will assist your brigade to exceed expectations through strength and dynamism.
A fundamental survival instinct, something we all strive for. The certainty that:
• Each member of the brigade is looked after
• S/he still has a job next month/year
• Safe environment (OHS)
• Remuneration to support the family
2. Variety (uncertainty)
The spice of life must be in balance with the amount of certainty we can comfortable live with. Remember: Too much certainty leads to boredom, whereas too much variety in someone’s life creates anxiety. To keep the employment interesting, employees should get the opportunity to:
• Get involved in new projects
• Swap tasks or shifts
• Personal development and/or further education
• Being considered for internal promotions
3. Sense of achievement
Feeling special and appreciated gives us the drive to build and achieve:
• Production and delivery of deadlines
• Financial budgets
• Customer satisfaction
• Supporting the team
The sense of achievement is another reason why employees need to know what is expected of them. Furthermore, keep them in the loop for other benchmarks and when targets are achieved!
4. Sense of belonging
This is the ultimate survival instinct at the core of every human being. People will go to great lengths to belong. Employees increasingly rely on their employment to feel a sense of belonging, which can be fulfilled with:
• Team activities and events
• Team building workshops
• Team recognition and awards
• Team contributions
5. Growth and Contribution
“You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” – Ray Kroc
Humans are programmed to evolve and contribute. We are either growing or dying. Anything we want to remain in our lives (employment, money, happiness etc.) must be nurtured, developed and expanded, or else it will deteriorate. In order to maintain what you have, you have to keep growing it.
• Emotional problems and sources of pain disappear when focusing on serving beyond ourselves
• Contribution of energy (work, time, money, etc.) to family, friends, employer, work colleagues and the society
• Extension of ourselves into the society is an essential part of personal development and fulfilment
• Help others grow and create a “ripple effect” that goes beyond you
Summary: ‘It‘ is an infinite number
“There is no magic formula, but it’s magic when you apply it” As more you develop yourself and learn, as more you will get it!
The key to successfully leading and coaching teams is to recognise that there are an endless number of ‘its’, and the more you get it the better of you are!
Your responsibility as Executive Chef or Sous-chef is to get it and to ensure your members of the brigade get it too!
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