The employees had commandeered his ship and were steering off course

March 7th, 2018 | hereschicago
JON Wool Chicago Hospitality

Jon Wool

I recently participated in a panel discussion before a group of hospitality executives on the topics of leadership and employee motivation. Following the discussion came a Q&A session where attendees asked advice on a run of familiar subjects: kitchen management, financials, sales people who don’t like selling, etc. One concern seemed consistent among nearly all these companies. As one restaurant owner shared, his employees had commandeered his ship and were steering off course.

I was reminded of the great line from the Herman Wouk classic, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial:

“…There are four ways of doing things on board my ship: The right way, the wrong way, the Navy way and my way. Do it my way and we’ll all get along….” Captain Phillip Francis Queeg,

Queeg has the right idea and years of hard fought experience to back him up. Trouble begins, though, when he compromises the safety of his own ship and loses the respect of his men. (Note that the first sign of Queeg’s demise comes when learning of a quart of missing strawberries. At least he’s on top of his food inventory). Eventually, those under Queeg’s command wrestle away control of the ship and subsequently stand trial for insubordination.

Switch this scenario to hospitality and substitute the word ‘Catering’ or ‘Restaurant’ for ‘Navy’ and we suddenly empathize with Queeg, even if, as caterers and restaurateurs, we are immune to any such dysfunction. In truth, we’ve all experienced leadership issues and discord at some point. This is largely because of the highly passionate, creative and often competitive personalities that our industry attracts. Those we lead may be well meaning and motivated. Some may also be selfish but most simply have different measures or methods for success.

What advice then, did I give to those sitting before us?

First, the business owner must reevaluate and restate the company mission and its pillars of success. He/she may consider involving key personnel in this process to promote unity and a shared vernacular. Next, adapt the approach celebrated by Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth; create clear job descriptions with measurable goals. Also design replicable systems that must be served by the individual rather than systems that serve the individual. Finally, host bi-weekly or monthly manager meetings to evaluate ways that the systems, performance and creativity are serving the mission and pillars.

With a strong leader at the helm and dedicated crew on board to help steer, the ship should find its course. Or as the great motivational coach, Napoleon Hill, once said:

“It is the set of sails, not the direction of the winds that determines which way we will go…”

Jon Wool – President

Jon has enjoyed a long and heralded career in the special events, restaurant and catering industries. Following his tenure as a Vice President with Wolfgang Puck Catering, he established one of Chicago’s premier catering initiatives, Finesse Cuisine. Throughout years of consulting, coaching, and sales training, he has helped scores of clients throughout North America to grow and prosper.

Contact Jon at 312-953-1102

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