Gordon Ramsay is the enfant terrible of the television culinary world. From the profanity laced ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ to the tough judge of MasterChef, Ramsay has seldom been an audience favourite. Bullying staff, swearing at colleagues, bringing them to the verge of tears; he has done everything that a good manager should not do. And while nobody should take him as their role model, there are certain aspects of his path to success from which we can imbibe valuable lessons. After all, he has launched over 19 restaurants, earning a total of 13 Michelin Stars. Hence, keeping aside the crude behaviour, let’s look at the values that brought him into the global spotlight and, we believe, make him an extremely unlikely champion of effective leadership.
Focus on the People
Throughout Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay encountered restaurants that were barely breaking even, and were looking at the impending doom of closing down. Even in all the competitions that he judged, contestants would often break down and lose motivation. In such a scenario, rather than trying to find the right ingredients or come up with a new dish, Ramsay focussed on the individual and tried to get them back onto their feet. Most of the failing restaurants that he came across were helmed by people facing personal troubles. And while Ramsay had little control over their personal circumstances, he always tried his best to lend an ear and help them through whatever problem they had encountered. He always motivated contestants who were falling behind on their tasks and risked losing their spot in the competition, and while his ways of motivating were mostly, well, debatable, the intention was right and it often worked out as planned too. Ramsay personifies tough love, to say the least!
Employees will not be able to contribute productively at a level that is expected of them if they’re dealing with individual problems. Ideally, they should be allowed to take care of pressing concerns so that they can get back to their ideal level of efficiency. Doing so makes the employees feel valued, thus inspiring stronger loyalty towards the company. Taking care of employees is a fundamental step in improving overall productivity of the organisation.
Back to Basics
A lot of times even talented chefs can get confused in trying to be innovative and unique. In trying to do too much, they can get ahead of themselves and ignore the basics. This is another recurring theme throughout Ramsay’s shows, where he urges the participants to go back to the basics and rediscover what exactly brought them back to their present level. Be it doing away with fancy and complicated menus to overhauling the entire restaurant design, participants have always come up on the better side after such a refurbishment. Instead of forcing innovation, it is sometimes better to stay faithful to the basics after which innovation is likely to follow, as evidenced by the innumerable Ramsay success stories.
Similarly, companies often lose sight of the real target as they try to constantly maximise their productivity. In this push for the maximum, companies risk employee burnout and exhaustion. While a team should certainly be focused on improving productivity levels, this should not come at the cost of employee satisfaction. It is important to keep in mind that sometimes doing less is more and having a more relaxed approach is likely to prove more beneficial in the long run.
Even in his own career, Gordon Ramsay has faced a lot of challenges. A knee injury that put an abrupt halt to his growing football career, dealing with the closure of his restaurants, having to fire the CEO and another important Executive under suspicion of embezzlement of funds; he has been dealt a shorthand several times in his personal and professional lives. Yet, he did not give up and persisted to reach the level that he is at today. His belief in persistence is something that he has pushed the participants of his many shows to espouse and has been key in getting several troubled restaurants back to safety. Similarly, even if your team is in a difficult situation and finding it hard to get out of the rut, persisting through the trouble is likely to reap rewards. Giving up should never be an option, and no matter how difficult the challenge, organisations should persist through them, keeping faith in the abilities of its employees.
While Ramsay’s style of management is undoubtedly far, FAR from ideal and leaves much to be questioned, his no-nonsense hands on approach combined with his motivation skills help him create an atmosphere of highly driven, if slightly terrified, employees!