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5 Invaluable Lessons Chefs Can Teach Us About Life

5 Invaluable Lessons Chefs Can Teach Us About Life

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

– Yogi Berra

Nearly a decade ago I was hired by Le Cordon Blue College of Culinary Arts, sparking my fascination with the culinary industry. Suddenly, I was surrounded by insatiable food, creativity, and passion. As if I wasn’t sold already, one thing became clear: food is amazing! It holds the power to unite, nourish our bodies, and create lasting memories. Even a single bite can transport us effortlessly to years past.

After befriending talented chefs, it wasn’t long before I realized parallels between their work in the kitchen and the world at large. It became clear to me that we all can learn a thing or two from them.

Here are the top 5 invaluable lessons chefs can teach us about life.

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1. Preparation = Perfection

The ubiquitous French culinary phrase “mise en place” translates into “putting in place.” Before everyone engages in executing the nightly menu, chefs organize and arrange all ingredients required. Everything must have its place.

Cooking is the art of layering ingredients accurately and timely through a series of techniques and proficiencies. In the midst of production, there’s little time to ‘prepare.’ Hence, why preparation takes precedence above all else. Such organization allows plates to be artfully constructed, both timely and systematically.

If you want something executed to perfection, preparation is necessary. Whether you have a simple or complex project, preparing can reduce unwanted stress. Organize and arrange before you dive head-first. When things heat up, you’ll have the required ‘ingredients’ at your disposal. As they say, it will be “smooth sailing.”

2. Clear & Concise Communication

As it heats up in the kitchen, everyone moves with a quickness, and some are carrying hot objects or sharp knives, which can easily create hazardous conditions.

Timing, both in movement and cooking, is an important element for well-executed meals. A single minute too soon, or late, can cause illness or frustration from patrons.

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In these moments, clear and concise communication becomes mission critical. When a chef asks a question, it’s for a purpose. You typically only need to answer “yes chef” or “no chef.” Since chefs are making lightning fast decisions, backstories need not apply. For instances where a simple “yes” or “no” won’t suffice, keep it concise. There’s no time for verbal gymnastics or you’ll bottleneck production.

When you incorporate clear and concise communication in life, you enter a less complicated world by quickly getting to the root. Conversations stretch only to appropriate lengths, and people gather required information with enough speed to preserve momentum.

As you work through the day, think about reducing answers to a simple “yes” or “no.” When more complex answers are required, think about speaking with brevity to reduce bottlenecks.

3. Passion, Passion, Passion

Chefs are unique and thrive on their individuality. They have their secret recipes and techniques to separate themselves from their peers. However, there’s one commonality between them all: passion — dashes, sprinkles, cups, and canisters full of passion.

Chefs are passionate about their craft, take pride in their work, and they pour themselves into every dish or dessert. Since their work reflects their abilities, they work meticulously, in search of culinary perfection.

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It’s unfortunate when people work half-heartedly in life. They do enough to get by, only to pass time and embrace the weekend. Why? Because they lack passion (or purpose for that matter).

Quite honestly, this lesson could be the most profound. When harnessed, this lesson can alter your reality. Using chefs as examples, find and incorporate passion in your life. Use it to pursue excellence. When your work feeds your soul, it commands the best version of yourself, and you’re more likely to achieve excellence.

4. Adjusting with Addition & Attrition 

If you’ve watched a chef work in the kitchen, you’ve witnessed them taste-testing throughout the cooking process. At any given point, their palate may detect a flavor imbalance, thereby requiring ingredients to be added or subtracted. It’s part of the process. They’re quickly making adjustments with a simple mathematical formula.

Plenty of life’s experiences require adjustments. Though in moments when adversity strikes and we get knocked off kilter or paralyzed by fear, all that’s required is a simple mathematical formula and willingness to adjust. You can add or subtract something to regain your balance. It’s just that easy. I promise.

Now, a precursor to this lesson is eliminating the ideology that things will be perfect. Once you absolve this way of thinking, you are equipped for adjusting along the way. As a bonus, if you carved out prep time in the beginning, you’ll likely have everything at hand for your finished product.

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5. Recipes = Reliable Results

Recipes are a staple in the culinary industry. The value of a recipe is the consistent product each and every time. Whether the meal is produced for the tenth, or hundredth time, the beauty is it tastes identical.

In life, we all strive for consistency, whether it be personally or professionally; however, we fall short of possessing and following ‘recipes’ which allow for consistent results continuously. We often ‘wing it’ with some imaginary expectation of textbook results.

When you desire consistent results, find a recipe. It doesn’t require your authorship either. You can easily find someone who embarked on a similar journey or someone who created a system for the process. When you find these recipes, compile them in your ‘cookbook,’ and keep them handy to use each and every time.

In closing, I’ll keep it simple. Find a chef today and give them a hug (or kiss) to thank them because they add so much flavor to our lives!

Featured photo credit: Courtesy of Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 15, 2019

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

This is an article I didn’t want to write. Even if it appears that way on the surface, few things are black and white. Between the two colors is a world of gray. Notwithstanding the bosses who behave criminally, some of the people who carry the “bad boss” label have possibly been, or have the capacity to become, a “good boss.”

This is an article I didn’t want to write because I understand that depending on whom you ask, many of us could be labeled either a good or bad boss.

Perhaps another reason I didn’t want to write this article is because context matters. Context for the organization and context for the individual. What is happening in the organization? What is the culture? Is the “boss” in a position for which the individual is equipped to do the job? Is the person in a terrible place in life? The office culture, the relationship a team member has with a boss or board and the leader’s personal life can all influence how the person shows up and leads and how others perceive the individual.

But since I am writing this article, I will share a few signs that bosses are bad and in need of a timeout.

1. Bad Bosses Don’t Know and Haven’t Healed Their Inner Child

If you plan to lead people – well, if you plan to effectively lead yourself – you must get reacquainted with your inner child. Just because you are in young adulthood, middle age or the golden years doesn’t mean your inner child matches your chronological age. If you experienced trauma as a child, your inner child may be stuck at the point or age of that trauma. While you walk around in a woman’s size 10 shoe, your behavior may showcase an inner child who is much younger.

In a June 7, 2008, Psychology Today article, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., observed,[1]

“The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older … But, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to ‘grow up,’ putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child—representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness—must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers.”

Sometimes the key that your inner child needs tending to is conflict with someone else’s inner child.

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Good bosses are aware of the ups and downs of their childhood, have worked or are working to heal their inner child and are aware of their triggers. Good managers use this awareness to manage themselves, and their interactions with others. Bad bosses are oblivious to how their inner child impacts not only their life but the lives of others.

2. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Accept Feedback

Bad bosses are not intentional about creating an environment where their peers and colleagues can share feedback about their leadership. They don’t solicit feedback. Given the power dynamic that managers, CEOs and others in leadership yield, they must go out of their way to solicit feedback, and they must do so repeatedly.

Before being completely honest, most team members will test the waters and share low-stakes information to get a sense for how their boss will respond. If the boss is angry or retaliatory, team members are less likely to risk being candid in the future.

So being unable to accept feedback takes on two forms: failing to proactively and repeatedly ask for feedback and reacting poorly when feedback is shared.

3. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling to Give Timely Feedback

The flip side of accepting feedback is giving feedback. Both require courage. It takes courage to open yourself up and accept feedback on ways that you need to grow. Similarly, it takes courage to share honest feedback about a team member’s or colleague’s performance or behavior.

Since not everyone is open to accepting feedback, whether they’re a manager or not, having an honest conversation about areas a team member or colleague has missed the mark, is not always easy. Still, good bosses will find a way to share feedback, and they’ll do so in a timely fashion.

Withholding feedback and sharing it months after a situation has unfolded or in a snowball fashion is unhelpful to the employees. One of the ways we grow as leaders is through feedback. When people have the courage to tell us the truth, that information allows us to progress.

4. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Acknowledge Their Mistakes

Owning their mistakes is like a disease to bad bosses; they do not want it. Instead of being risk averse, they are accountability averse. The problem is that they can only gloss over their weaknesses or failures for so long; the people around are able to see their flaws and weaknesses, and bad bosses pretending they don’t exist is not helpful. It is infuriating.

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However, bad bosses are masterful at reassigning blame. They are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes — small or large. But career expert Amanda Augustine told CNBC “Make It” in May 2017, that “good managers also admit their mistakes.”[2] They don’t pass the blame or pretend they didn’t make a mistake. They own it.

5. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling or Incapable of Being Vulnerable

Vulnerability is an underrated leadership skill. But well-placed and well-thought out vulnerability enables employees to see their leaders’ humanity, and it creates a way for leaders to bond with their teams.

Bad bosses may talk about vulnerability, but they don’t practice it in their own lives, particularly in the workplace.

6. Privately, Bad Bosses Do Not Live Up to the Organization’s Stated Values

Bad bosses may publicly spout the values of the organization they work for, but privately they either don’t believe or don’t embody those values.

If they work for an environmental group, they may not practice sustainability in their private lives. Their words and actions are incongruent.

7. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Inspire Others

When bad bosses are unable or unwilling to take the time to inspire others, they lead through fear or command. Neither are helpful.

A culture dominated by fear will stifle creativity and risk taking that can lead to innovation. An autocratic management style will have a similar effect in that team, members will not feel they have the space to step outside of the box they have been placed in.

A good boss is someone who takes time to share the big picture and time to inspire their teams to want to be a part of it.

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8. Bad Bosses Are Disinterested in How Their Behavior Impacts Others

They are narcissistic and focused on self-preservation. In “19 Traits of a Bad Boss,” Kevin Sheridan said,[3]

“Terrible bosses are endlessly self-centered. Everything is about them and not the people they manage or what is going on in their employees’ personal lives. It is never about the team, but rather all about how good they look. Conversely, great bosses lead with integrity, honesty, care, and authenticity.”

Rather than seeing their team’s talents and seeing people’s full humanity, bad bosses believe their team exists to serve them. Families, personal life and priorities be damned. Bona fide bad bosses believe that their comfort should be prioritized over their team’s needs and desires.

9. Bad Bosses Have Likely Received Negative Feedback

Bad bosses have likely been told that they are poor supervisors. They have likely been told time and time again that their behavior is harmful to the people around them.

Perhaps they do not know how to change or are unwilling to change. But bad bosses certainly have received clues, insights and direct feedback that their management style and behavior are harmful to others.

Even when someone hasn’t explicitly said, “Your behavior is harmful to me and others,” the absence of feedback indicates a problem. It can mean that the leader’s team doesn’t feel safe enough to share feedback, that people do not believe the leader will act on what is shared, or that people have determine the best strategy is to avoid the boss as much as possible.

10. Bad Bosses Are Perfectionists

Bad bosses are driven by an internal urge to be perfect. Perfectionists don’t just want to be perfect; they want everyone around them to be perfect as well. This is a standard that neither they nor their team can live up to.

Since perfection is illusive, they spend their time chasing their shadow and being frustrated that they cannot catch it. They are unable to enjoy the journey and often block others from doing so as well. They let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Rather than embracing a growth mindset that desires to learn and improved, they are compulsive and toxic.

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If you are like me and you see yourself in parts of this list, do not despair. A bad boss can change. The key is seeking honest feedback and being willing to work through that feedback and your triggers with a therapist or coach.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your age and the mistakes you have made, you can change and become a healthier leader whom others respect and appreciate.

Conversely, if you are employed by a bad boss, do everything in your power to take care of yourself. Understand that your boss’s behavior, even if directed at you, is not about you. Your boss’s reactions, if and when you make a mistake, is a reflection on that individual, not you.

To survive the work environment, think about the lesson you are meant to learn. You can do this with a trusted therapist or capable coach. However, if you deem the work environment to be toxic and harmful to your health, seek employment elsewhere.

In the end, this is an article I did not want to write, but I’m happy I did.

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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