Why chefs should use SPEED when making decisions

chessboard_decision_making_Executive Chef Professional Development

Decision-making is a vital part of the hospitality world. Even kitchen hands and commis de cuisine make several decisions in a workday, and some companies even encourage decision-making among front-of-house staff. In fact, everybody makes decisions all day long, some of which we are not even aware of. It is crucial for a good Executive chef to master the art of decision-making. Employees notice if a manager makes tentative decisions. If a boss is decisive about his/her decision, chances are s/he is decisive about the whole approach to management, and employees will respect that. A wrong decision made with conviction often gets high marks from the brigade.

The first step to making smart decisions is to create awareness on what ‘making decisions’ actually means. How do we make them, and why we make them – or not. In my opinion: Making a decision is to do something with 100% commitment to achieve a particular outcome. Regardless of the effort you put into making a decision, you need to accept that some decisions will not be the best possible choice. Even if something does go wrong, your decision was most likely reasonable in the circumstance and given the knowledge you held at the time.

“A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.”
~ Rita Mae Brown[gap height=”30″]

So what if you make a wrong decision? How can you be sure you have all the facts before you make a decision? Is there an advantage in making a quick decision? The following pages will answer these questions and show you strategies to become a smart decision-maker.

Overcoming procrastination

Making quick decisions is not the same as making uninformed decisions or decisions without any substance. Making quick decisions is having the facts and being able to confidently take an action based on those facts and your analysis. There is no point lingering, questioning yourself over and over, and anguishing and tormenting over the facts. The facts are not going to change, and, likely, your first decision had merit to begin with or you never would have gone down that road.

The first step to making a decision is to overcome procrastination A fantastic way to track your success record on overcoming procrastination is to measure how many things you already acted upon and implemented after reading and working through these first two parts of the book. How many strategies are already serving you and bringing you closer to your goals? What made sense to you but were left ignored, and you are therefore procrastinating?

It is time to stop feeding your fears and doubts with negative self-talk, and to shift your focus on the goals and the habits (knowledge, skills and attitude) you require to get the desired outcomes. Making an informed decision will create the courage and trust to build a bridge to overcome fears and doubts.

Making smart decisions

To make better decisions, you need to first establish what particular outcome you want to achieve. Awareness around your vision and goals is crucial; you need to bring your values to the forefront and give them an important role in your decision-making. When you align your vision, goals and values in this way, your values become your needs, and your needs your motivation. When you consider your values in decision-making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right. It builds your authenticity and reputation as an outstanding head chef and leader.

“It is in your moment of decision that your destiny is shaped.”
~ Anthony Robbins[gap height=”30″]

You may wonder: “But what if I make bad decisions?” We all make bad decisions from time to time. Especially when we look back with the understanding of the consequences and the learnings, which we didn’t actually have when we made the decision in the first place. So, with that in mind, was it really a bad decision at the time?

Once we realise that a decision we made moves us away from where we want to go, here a few important steps to recover from it:

  • Take full Responsibility. Don’t make excuses, rationalise or pretend that for whatever reason, somebody else is to blame. If you want to move forward, you have to take responsibility for your choices and actions.
  • Understand your choices. Why did you make the decision? Again, this is not a time for excuses, just a time to understand why it happened so you can avoid making similar decisions going forward.
  • Apologise and explain. If you hurt somebody, it is best to apologise and explain. Again, do not offer excuses or play down the situation. Be honest and explain your decision with help from the insights you gained from the previous steps.
  • Focus on the present. Don’t dwell on the bad decision; it is a waste of time. Move forward and focus on what is happening right now. Focus on the positive things you are currently doing instead of the negative ones you have done.
  • Be proactive in the future. When you find that you have knowingly made a bad decision, find ways to be proactive after the fact. What can be changed or fixed now? What can you do in the future to ensure not making similar bad decisions?

Making quick decisions

I agree that for very critical, strategic decisions with high stakes or financial impact, you should indeed take more time and know your facts thoroughly. For the average day-to-day issue of a successful leader, however, you need to make relatively quick decisions once you gathered the critical information. Slow decision-making can murder your momentum, especially during developing opportunities and crisis situations.

If you look at successful people you notice that they…

…make decisions quickly and change their mind slowly.

And by contrast, unsuccessful people…

… make decisions slowly and change their mind quickly.

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
~ Arianna Huffington[gap height=”30″]

There is a very interesting documentary called ‘The Pit’. It describes and shows first-hand the financial chaos and the world of commodities trading on the floor of the New York Board of Trade. One very successful trader stated: “Guys that make it down there, believe it or not, never went to college; they have to have street smarts. They have to react. Guys following charts and everything…. they’re not risk takers; I don’t even see how they make money. All they do is read what it says on the sheet and go fifty bid. By the time you figure out what this is worth, I’ve already sold it or bought it and made my money or lost my money, and by the time you figure it out, it’s not there no more.”

This is a great example of quick decision-making. Those who take action have a shot at being successful, not those who hesitate to the point where the opportunity may not even exist anymore. Now this may be an extreme example, but keep in mind, these traders are not simply gambling – yes, there is risk, but they’re making rapid calculated decisions. Most importantly, they’re taking quick action on the decisions they make.

So how can you avoid over-examining pros and cons, and start making quicker decisions? One method could be the adaption of the SPEED formula, as described by Laura Stack in her ‘The Productivity Pro’ blog:

  1. Stop just long enough to gather the intelligence you need to get a handle on an emerging issue
  2. Ponder what the issue means for you or your team. If the issue won’t affect you at all, stop here.
  3. Educate yourself on the issue as quickly as possible if it does have an impact or consequences.
  4. Evaluate what you’ve learned. Talk it over with your inner circle if necessary, but don’t give it too much time.
  5. Decide your best course of action and implement it without delay. Usually your first instincts are correct if you’ve been in your role long enough; don’t second-guess yourself too much. You’ll soon learn whether you’ve made the right decision; if not, you can take corrective action.

A word of caution, though: Avoid being influenced by others around you; otherwise you will never succeed in any of your undertakings or worse, end up having no desires of your own. Also, never base your decisions on advice from people who haven’t already achieved what you want to achieve, and who don’t have to deal with the consequences. Also, NOT making a decision means you already forfeit, or as Wayne Gretzky once said:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”[gap height=”30″]

Having said that, you need to realise that not making a decision is already a decision in itself, because you decide not to make a decision, which is entirely your choice! People often confuse choices with excuses. If you decide to think about it and choose to do nothing, then you are saying (without saying it) that you are quite happy with the way things are. And that’s fine if that is the case.

Ultimately it all boils down to choices and there are only two types of it in business; ‘Now or ‘Too late’. So, you can either have excuses, or you can have results. You can’t have both, which brings us to the next part.

Making powerful decisions

As Anthony Robbins outlines in his book ‘Awaken the Giant Within’, the following are the key elements of making powerful decisions:

  • Remember the true power of making decisions
  • Realise that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment – a true decision
  • Make decisions often
  • Learn from your decisions
  • Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach
  • Enjoy making decisions

Another approach I often take is to focus on how I will feel once I’ve achieved the outcome, rather than how I feel while I make the decision. Visualisation is the key in this technique. Focussing on the achieved, positive outcome is a very simple yet powerful strategy to overcome the fear involved at the time, and helps me make quicker, smarter and more powerful decisions, rather than being affected by and being the victim of my current situation.

Want more tips like these to improve your decision making, please contact us or subscribe to our mailing list. We are here to support you…

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By Martin Probst

In a nutshell, Martin Probst is the Managing Director of LEADING CHEF ACADEMY. He is not interested in teaching you how to suck eggs and is convinced that you are a top banana if it comes to your cooking ability. His mission is to add to your existing kitchen experience a blend of innovative LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT & ORGANISATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills, so you can taste the success you deserve for all the hard work you put into your career over the years. His vision is to connect modern chefs around the globe and take them to the next level with our online education & training solutions.

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