March 1, 2014

Learning from Guide Michelin awarded chefs about leadership

English Content



Cooking trainingYesterday I found an interesting article in the german economy newspaper “Handelsblatt”. Handelsblatt did an interview with the head-chef Christian Jürgens about his job, his 3rd Guide Michelin star and his understanding of leadership. It is astonishing how this guy changed from boss to leader in order to achieve better results with his team. Learn how he did that.

I have deep respect of star chefs in large and high quality restaurants. They produce awesome dinings for dozens or hundred people in the same time. They act like orchestra conductors, they need fantasy and expert knowledge about any kind of food. And they need a high-performance team in order to run the kitchen. A real high performance-team with high-skilled experts for meat, dessert, vegetables and so on. So how do you get highest performance out of the team?

Like a boss
Let´s come back to Christian. In the beginning of his job he said in the interview “he was something like “friendly-aggressive””. He thought he knows everything best and told the team members in harsh words about the “what” and the “how” of their work. Like a boss. Well this produces fire under the team members and for a while they run because they become afraid of the fire under them. The problem is that this behavior directly leads into nowhere: What if the team members need more push? As a boss you need to make more fire. It ends up in either the crash of the team or burn-outs.

A better way in leading
It seems that our star chef recognized that his way of “friendly-aggressive knowing everything best” is not the best way. So he began to work on his leadership style. He learned to behave more like a trainer. A trainer is not the best expert in meat or vegetable – the team member has this task. But a trainer knows the cooking strategy best. The trainer has the best overview. And the most important task of a trainer is to coach and support his players on the field to become the best experts in meat, dessert and vegetables. He produces fire “in” the team members by showing that they are important to the entire strategy and for the success. And this kind of fire is a long-lasting and motivating kind of fire – it activates passion and trust.
But there was one big challenge for our Michelin star chef Christian.

To transform from “expert-behaving boss” to a “motivational leader” you need to accept that you are not the best expert in everything any more. Your team members will be. You have to be clear that by supporting your best team members they may leave your team because they became successful and visible to others.
A boss primarily cares for his own success and glory. A leader primarily cares for the success of the team members. Between this step is your ego – Christian worked on his self-understanding and achieved to make the hard way towards leadership.

But isn´t that the highest achievement in leadership life to make other people successful and support their lives? My congratulations to his courage to go this way.


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Source: “Das ist hier kein Heile-Gänschen-Kurs” Handelsblatt 28.02.2014 Interview with Christian Jürgens.