“Is your team there to support you or are you there to support your team?”
This was the topic of conversation the other day between myself and a corporate VP. There are times when the work is mostly driven by the Chef and the staff is just there for support, but this tends to work only in small venues. Our conversation started with a comment about how well I take care of my guests, to which I replied that I don’t do much for the guests at all because my job was to take care of my staff. I then explained how it was my staff’s job to take care of our guests. My job focus, I went on to explain, is to make sure my staff are trained, equipped and part of a team, but most importantly I make sure my team knows that they have the power to do what is necessary to take care of our guests. Happy guests is how their job performance is based, mine is based on how well my staff performs their jobs.
I know, I know, not exactly a new approach to management. You can pick up dozens of books and find references to empowering your employees, becoming a force multiplier and of course being a one minute manager. What I want to know is, if this is such “common knowledge”, then why do so few managers do it?
I have my suspicions, fear, power, glory, control….but what I think it really comes down to is that people don’t know how. This has always been the hardest lesson for me to teach new Sous Chefs. They want to run around and try to do everything themselves. You can run a station on the line that way, but you can not run a team of cooks and still do everything yourself.
So what then do I do? I am first and foremost the Planner and secondly the Overflow. You will notice that both of my main duties are supporting roles. First, I plan. This means menus, schedules, duties, ordering supplies, managing the budget and setting targets for my staff to shoot at. This is the most important aspect of my day. If I take care of this, then my staff is free to take care of their jobs. Second, I am the overflow, someone calls in sick, someone falls behind, someone doesn’t know how to do something or someone is just doing it wrong, that’s were I jump in and help. How do I know when these things are happening? Because I am there! I’m not running around trying to do it all and I’m not busy being stressed out trying to hit budgets by shooting from the hip.
What does this all mean? If you manage your kitchen by supporting your staff in their jobs, you can not only accomplish much more, but you can actually try to have a life outside the kitchen. If your staff needs you to do everything, you can’t leave.