On the couch: a blog on running a successful kitchen from performance psychologist Mike Duckett

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2015
This is the next instalment in a series of blogs from performance psychologist Mike Duckett of Coaching for Success, helping chefs to raise their games in the kitchen. image-11To remind you, in this series of blogs we're talking about what it takes to be at your best and do something really well. To help figure out all the factors you can consider we're using this simple model of performance or getting in the 'zone'. So far we've used the model to clarify thinking about several elements of performance from setting very clear goals to assessing what you're capable of doing now or learning to do in future. This time I want to go one level deeper because knowing how to do something and actually performing at your best are two different things. We all have the capability to perform, or learn to perform, many more skills than we ever demonstrate. I would be rubbish as a sniper, even though I have the skill to hit a target over long distances (I used to shoot competitively). The reason I would be a poor sniper is because I don't value that ability and I hold some strong beliefs that would stop me performing at my best. What else are you capable of if you could be bothered to learn and practice? What about head or executive or group executive chef, or perhaps restaurateur? Whether you were going to perform really well in any of these roles depends largely, in the end, on what you see in the role that truly matters to you - what you could get passionate about, and these things are usually held unconsciously. Your set of values will drive the way you perform e.g. as head chef. Imagine two head chefs with exactly the same culinary skills but one values 'developing people' more highly than the other - you can imagine the difference in leadership style. You’ll notice from the model that to fully think through what it takes to succeed we need to take into account your belief system. Beliefs are closely woven at the same psychological level as values and together largely determine whether we succeed or fail. As a sniper I'd fail because I value life and believe it is wrong to kill. What do you have to value highly and what kinds of beliefs do you need to hold to be a great head or executive chef or restaurateur? Of course it will depend on the fit between your values and those of the particular organisation you're working for (in our model, the Context) but probably includes people oriented values along with beliefs that you can get the best out of others if you encourage them. If your goal is to be head / executive chef and you believe that getting the best from others is not as important as culinary skill you are unlikely to perform well at the leadership aspects of the job.C/3-21 Fire Team LFX So how does knowing your values and beliefs help you perform well? The simple answer is that once you're aware of how you measure up to the ideal profile you can begin to make some changes to match your capabilities. As a performance psychologist ‘I would say this wouldn't I’, but the truth is you can re-think a lot of these ideas that you’ve carried around unconsciously for some years if they're not helping! If you take the time to reflect and be mindful of what truly matters to you about the kind of work you do, you’ll be in a much clearer frame of mind when you come to choose the right role for you, and indeed, the right place for you to work. When you get this ‘fit’ right, chances are you'll re-discover your passion and naturally perform at your best. On the other hand this model could help from the organisational point of view to get the right fit between it and new staff at selection interview. When all the people ‘fit’ well performance takes off. For someone to whom being creative is important you could equally choose between being a photographer or a chef at The Fat Duck. The industry seems to be having difficulty attracting and keeping good people and I wonder if it would help to be much clearer about the kinds of values a particular restaurant holds and so what qualities will fit and be encouraged. These elements make up the thing called ‘culture’ and head-hunters at senior level say they look more for this ’fit’ than job skills, which are either taken as a given or can be trained.

>>> Read: So what is to blame for the apparent chef shortage?

As I was always told when I held a corporate job, “Recruit for attitude and we’ll train the skills”. Mike DuckettMike Duckett has a degree in psychology and is a member of the Occupational Psychology division, the Sports Psychology division & the Coaching Psychology Special Group of the British Psychological Society. He holds a diploma in Hypnotherapy & Cognitive therapy and is a certified NLP coach. With over 20 years experience he was one of the pioneers of applying performance psychology to coach people in the hospitality industry to get the best from themselves, in areas such as creativity; leadership; optimism etc. As a certified NLP Coach and ANLP Accredited Master Practitioner, Mike has clients ranging from world renowned chefs, restaurateurs & sommeliers to up and coming staff in both the kitchen and front of house. You can see more of Mike's blogs at coachforsuccess.wordpress.com

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2015

On the couch: a blog on running a successful kitchen from performance psychologist Mike Duckett