Coach’s Challenge for 7/18/11 “Chef’s Special”

Good day, team,

One of my clients used to work as a chef. He often speaks about the high pressure atmosphere that exists in high end restaurant kitchens, the commitment to quality and the amount of criticism that’s levied on most chefs and their assistants.  No matter how bad things get in his current corporate management job, it’s never as bad as what he experienced back in his days as a chef.  All of this reminded me of  a challenge I wrote back in 2007 that highlights the positive aspects of what it means to work in such a high pressure business. It is still as relevant today as it was then. Enjoy!

This week, I read a magazine article about top chefs in America. One of those interviewed, Thomas Keller, who started the famous “French Laundry” restaurant in Napa Valley and now runs “Per Se” in New York, is known throughout the world for his perfectionism. He’s one of the few chef’s who has earned a combined six Michelin stars.

In the interview, he said something that really struck me: “I tell cooks it’s about four things: awareness, inspiration, intellect and evolution.” When I read this statement, it occurred to me that these are four of the five traits I consider to be most important in a leader. The fifth is “clarity.”

Without awareness, people miss what’s right in front of them as well as the benefit of self-observation. Without inspiration, they themselves are unable to inspire others to want to do more and be more. Without the intellect that comes from book and street smarts, it’s hard to keep up in today’s global world. Without the willingness to evolve as things change, people lose their flexibility. And without clarity, it’s hard for people to see the truth in a situation and communicate it in such a way that most people understand it. All of the good leaders I know embody these qualities.

Your challenge this week is to choose one of these attributes and make an effort to enhance it within yourself. If the trait is awareness, try being more present in each moment. Just look out of your eyes and feel your feet on the floor. Or maybe you become present to your breath. Try using whatever brings you back to the moment so you don’t miss what’s happening around you.

Maybe you’d like to be more inspirational to the people you work with. What do you love doing every day and how do you let others know that it gives you energy? Try sharing what energizes you.

How about increasing your knowledge about a subject and finding a way to share that with others? Have you learned something new that you’d like to share with a colleague?

Consider your evolution. Are you growing as conditions change and as you mature in your current job or life situation? If you feel stagnant, how can you jump-start your evolution by approaching something in a new way and challenging yourself differently? Are you someone who acts as a change agent within your organization?

Finally, how clear are you in your thoughts and words? Are you able to see through many extraneous facts to the heart of the matter and then clearly communicate what you see? Ask a co-worker what he or she thinks of your communication skills. Find out whether people understand what you’re saying. It may be a lack of clarity that makes it difficult for others to understand what you mean.

Whatever quality you choose, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s through trial and error that we learn how to change the way we do things and thus gain a new perspective about ourselves and the world around us.

The article on top chefs noted that Thomas Keller had stood on a chair to sift confectionary sugar onto a cake to see if it would look more like fallen snow. Sure enough, the picture of the scrumptious-looking chocolate cake in the magazine looked just like snow had fallen on it. I was inspired by Kellers creativity, adventurousness and commitment to making the most beautiful cake he could make.

Have a great week!

Kathleen

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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