Starred restaurants and Management styles

The story

A starred restaurant, just below my flat, offers the “chef’s table”: four places sitting in the kitchen that allow guests to appreciate the “behind the scenes” of a great gastronomic experience.

At the same time, it gives the opportunity to follow live the management of a winning team in a fascinating field that, despite my enormous talent, I have never had the opportunity to practice.

Theory

Theory teaches that there are 4 possible management styles depending on the degree of autonomy left to the Employee and the emotional involvement of the Manager: autocratic (zero autonomy, zero emotional involvement), coaching (zero autonomy, maximum emotional involvement), delegating (zero emotional involvement, maximum autonomy) and participative (maximum emotional involvement and maximum autonomy).

Each figure is generally accompanied by a value judgement in line with the fashion of the moment.

Currently, if you are autocratic you are too hard (and also forty years out of fashion like men with ponytails), if you are delegating you are too soft, if you are coaching you are too conservative (and boring too), the participative style, instead, that fits the new millennium dream (the liberated company) is perfect.

“And you (who want to work with us), which management style fits you better ?” is the rhetorical question of the human resources gurus who love to share these irrefutable truths on Linkedin. Just to check if you’re on the same page.

Hum, let me think about it…

Practice

In short, influenced by the various television broadcasts I expected to find myself in front of some angry despot, obsessed with control, capable of flying knives, slaps and insults.

In my job, you can meet Managers who come to dispute some undisputable stuff such as “numbers” that, when they don’t like them, “are not the right numbers…”, “I don’t know where you found them…”. (yeah, guess where), “you have to check them again…”

So, I feared the degree of alienation that an “artist” who is forced to rely on a small group of amateurs to perfectly replicate his works in loop and in a limited time, can reach.

Instead:

  • The kitchen is a rectangle divided into three sectors: on one side two people take care of sauces and other preparations, in the middle four collaborators take care of blocks of six stoves each, at the other end two pastry cooks stand and wait (“they also serve who only stand and wait” – not sure Milton was talking about pastry cooks though).
  • The cook turns his back on his collaborators and not once does he control what they do. He has his orders in front of him and the few times he opens his mouth is to get things going: “2 marinated trouts”, “a well cooked lamb”, “cheesecake for 3”.
  • Assisted by his sous-chef, who was also the only one who said “yes chef!” when he passed the orders (I don’t know if it was for real routine or for show), he received the different cooked foods, put them on the plate and added a few final touches, without any comment.
  • Those who are not busy stand up straight, composed with their arms folded and await instructions.
  • Each one takes care of the tools at his disposal and cleans the area of competence between services and then at the end.
  • The result is perfect

I concluded that the Management style of the category of those crazy people who animate the various Masterchefs, Kitchen Nightmares, etc. should eventually result between delegating and participative and, puzzled, I asked for confirmation from the concerned person.

And he, in fact, showed me how all styles are used for good management.

With the possible exception of the participative style that, apart from a few scholar nostalgic for the glories of the Paris Commune and the experiences of 1968, faces some hesitation in practical application:

  • In the choice of ingredients and in the preparation phase (before the service starts) he is autocratic.
  • In the post-service debriefing, teaching.
  • During the service, delegating.

Conclusion

So, what I learned from this experience, once again, is that theories in Management rarely have general validity. Despite the beautiful packaging in which they are often wrapped.

“Who knows does, who does not know teaches” is an old saying that is always current to me.

In Management the important thing is to have passion for one’s work and respect for those in front of us.

And you, (please be careful not to let down your fellow headhunters on Linkedin) what style of Management suits you best ?