In this mini series I will share some of my leadership savvy which I have learned and successfully applied during the past 27 years in international kitchens around the world. If you want to know more then click here: Leadership skills can be learned, that's the good news!
The counter table in the cold kitchen was filled with lots of yummy snacks on this December afternoon. Chicken and beef sate, mini burger, cookies, strawberry cream cake and heaps of other food was sitting there. I had something to celebrate.
“Come on guys, let’s have a feast”, I shouted.
My entire kitchen team gathered around the table. We were around 25 chefs in this 200 room business hotel in Batam, Indonesia. A rather small kitchen crew, but with a great spirit.
Two months earlier. It was October. I conducted my daily morning briefing as usual in our cold kitchen. I picked that place because there was a huge square table right in the middle of the kitchen. That allowed us to gather all around the table. It was the perfect setting for a meeting. This morning I had something serious to share with my team. It went like this:
“Guys, we are facing some very busy weeks ahead. Our hotel will be fully booked. We will get hammered for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The room service will be busy and we also have huge banquet events coming up. One event is going to be for 1500 people, a Chinese set dinner. Another one is going to be for 1200 people for the Indonesian government. Some high-profile people will attend. In between we will have everyday good banquet business. That’s the situation. I know that our manpower is limited. That’s why I like to inform you that everyone will have to work overtime. There might be long hours ahead of everyone and I might have to cancel some off days. It’s going to be rough guys. The next 6 weeks will feel like going through a thunderstorm.”
I looked into everybody’s face and checked their reaction. My boys and girls were calm and focused. They listened.
“It is like being on a ship”, I continued, “knowing that we will face a serious storm. We have no choice other than to sail right through it. It’s going to be tough and nasty but we have no other choice boys and girls. And here is the good news," I continued,
“We have a strong and dedicated team. I know that you guys can work hard. I know that you are disciplined because you have proven it so many times. I have seen it with my own eyes. I am very proud to work with such a great team. I can honestly say that you are one of the few teams I ever worked with which has showed such a great spirit. Thank you in advance for helping. Any questions guys?”
I had finished my little speech. I looked around. Everyone was quiet. Then Asri, my chef in the hot kitchen said,
“No problem chef!” he said with a smile.
Suddenly everybody else agreed. They looked motivated.
“Thank you, guys!” was my short answer.
I wrapped things up quickly and wished everybody a pleasant day. The meeting was over.
Now, 2 months later we had gathered around the cold kitchen table again. We had something to celebrate. Actually, I had something to celebrate. I wanted to celebrate the great spirit of my team. What they had pulled of the past weeks was just phenomenal! No one ever complained about the overtime they had to work. Nobody ever cried their heart out to me because he or she could not take their weekly off day.
The attitude my staff showed is even more remarkable when you look at the strange overtime rule which was applied in our hotel. This regulation said that the first 4 hours of overtime worked will not be compensated, neither with time off in lieu nor with money. To be frank here, I called this cheating. The hotel was cheating the staff. It is simple as that. My team knew about this unpopular overtime rule. They kept going to work. Since I could not pay them, I still gave them their well-deserved time off in lieu. I did not care at all about some unfair and stupid hotel policies.
As we were gathering around the table, I said:
“Guys, thank you very much for your hard work! I am proud of everyone in our team. Remember our meeting two months ago when I was talking about our ship sailing into a heavy storm?”
I looked around and everyone smiled and nodded their heads.
“You see, we have made it! We sailed right through this storm. It was not easy. We all got wet. It was really straining, psychologically and of course physically. We all were tired in the end, but we survived. We made it. And do you know why we made it?”
I asked around. My team was kind of shy to come up with an answer.
“We made it because you guys have shown great attitude and spirit. Without this no success would have been possible! Thank you very much again.”
I started to applaud and everyone followed. Now it was time to eat our snacks. The guys and girls looked hungry already.
Thanks for reading my post!