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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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Published on September 18, 2018

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

1. Show your appreciation

In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

2. Communicate effectively

Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

3. Be open to dialogue

Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

4. Provide constructive criticism

Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

5. Conduct one-on-ones

Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

6. Build training programs

In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

7. Offer growth opportunities

Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

8. Reward them

Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

9. Encourage team outings

Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

10. Involve them

Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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11. Set meaningful goals

In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

12. Empower them

You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

13. Deal with conflict

A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

14. Implement a flexible work culture

Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

15. Host engaging activities

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

16. Maintain a positive work space

Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

17. Avoid discrimination

Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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