Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Welcome to the 15th installment of Being a Chef Ain't Easy; where every Wednesday I explain everything that it takes to be a Chef in my eyes. This series will by no means be exhaustive, but I will certainly do my best. If you're a Chef and want to share your opinion I'd love to hear what you have to say. Aspiring Chefs: if you have questions feel free to reach out. I'm always looking for an excuse to talk about Chef Life.
Ok, so far in this series we have covered the importance of Passion as well as a commitment to quality in regards to your effort, a commitment to food quality, Menu planning, Temperature control, The Ability to Pass on Knowledge, Building a Recipe, Leadership, High-Level Communication, Cost Control, Roasting, The Ability to Handle Pressure & Patience. This week we are going to cover how important being motivational is important in a kitchen.
If I had to guess right now you have a job where you aren't as happy as you could be. Perhaps its a desk job and you hardly ever see the light of day that upsets you. Maybe its the deadlines you're facing on a constant basis as they constantly put more and more pressure on you and you are having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps its constantly being told the same message multiple times by different people about the same minute mistake you made recently. If I had to guess I'd say there's a good chance that you aren't getting the leadership you would have liked when you took the job.
A good leader is more than knowledgeable, more than organized. A good leader acknowledges you aren't a robot and that your energy ebbs and flows just like everyone else's does.
It's very difficult to overstate the importance of morale; not only on an individual level, but group morale as well. Morale is that "X-Factor" that helps an individual or a team overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Morale is what makes what would normally seem difficult become a breeze.
In the same breath if you let morale go down it oftentimes has lead to disastrous results. Poor morale is what makes the simple seem pointless, lowers your effectiveness and creates a downward spiral taking everything down right along with it.
A good leader should be able to take a quick assessment of the team and know where the team morale is in an instant. They should know who the energy leaders of the team are; which is generally easy to identify as they naturally rise up through the chain of command quite easily.
There are several ways to raise a team/ groups morale; some last longer than others while some have a stronger impact than others. The classic solution to poor morale is having a strong speech whether made-up in the moment or prepared on-the-fly. No matter what every leader should have public speaking as a skill (in-fact, that should be covered as well.) Oftentimes what's eating your teams morale isn't even something anyone has brought to your attention is bothering them. For this there is no substitution for having an open dialogue with your team which should be done regularly to keep ahead of any issues before they even get a chance to cause a disruption. My favorite option though short-term: music. Music is what bring soul and energy to the kitchen, but what's best is it provides a rhythm which lays the opportunity for "The Dance" (see: "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain for a short explanation for "The Dance") In the words of Thomas Keller "Don't forget music. It brings the soul to the kitchen."
So, if you're interested in being a Chef or any leader for that matter remember: make your rounds with your peers, superiors & subordinates. It's really difficult to gauge morale from behind a door. Remember that your people all have their own personalities and you much treat them as such and get to know them individually as well as how they work as a team.
Before you go I'm going to ask a favor; I want to hear what you think. If you think I don't know what I'm talking about say so, heck share it with your friends and say "look at this guy calling himself a Chef, he has no idea what he's talking about." If you agree let me know, share it with your friends, you know how we like to see that other Chefs see the world similar to ourselves, get a good laugh out of it.
Are you an Executive Chef, Sous Chef or talented line-cook looking for a cooking job near you that can give you a spring board into entrepreneurship? Visit https://www.digestthepassion.com/chef-setup to request information to join our Network of Personal Chefs and please don't forget to follow our Facebook Page!
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