Get out of the kitchen?

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!  Remember that harsh saying?  It basically implied that if you couldn’t perform in a high stress environment, stop complaining and remove yourself as an obstacle for those who can.  While I agree with the “no complaining” part, I completely disagree with leaving the kitchen. 

When you’re starting to feel the heat, you are about to learn and grow. And collaboration is the key to surviving the heat.  I’m talking about collaboration in a teamwork sense; doing your part to the best of your ability and relying on the person to your left and right to complete the workflow. 

One of my part-time jobs in college was working the pizza kitchen at the legendary Arni’s in Lafayette, Indiana.  It may not be considered fine dining by you big city folks, but this was one high volume operation.  The dining room seated nearly 500 and the takeout pizza counter would churn out over 900 pizzas on a busy Saturday night.

I was crammed into a 15 x 15 space with 11 other guys, each one with a specific function on the assembly line… salt the board, form the dough, ladle the sauce, sprinkle the cheese and ingredients.  Then turn and slide it into one of 12 ovens cranking at full heat, with one guy rotating and sliding out the finished pizzas with a long silver paddle on to the front counter where they were chopped, bagged and rung up for the waiting customer.

There was plenty of joking around, but we all worked HARD to pull off this amazing operation.  What was really amazing was what happened when one cog in the machine was underperforming.  If a rookie got backed up on his task, the next guy down the line would offer to cheat back into his area and help him.  This allowed the rookies to learn from the veterans and catch up. 

It would not make sense to just kick the rookie out of the kitchen.  This would only stress the system for everyone.  It’s far better to temporarily adjust the point of handoff until the assembly line returns to normal.

Think about the workflow at your job. Are there times when one cog on your team is not delivering fast enough or with the needed quality?  Do you figuratively stand there and wait, or offer to reach back into their area and help them catch up?

Effective collaboration requires teamwork, especially for intense environments. Each person has to do their best and make sure each handoff is clean so nothing gets dropped on the floor. 

And if you think you can’t stand the heat, don’t bail on the kitchen.  It’s better to ask someone to lend a hand.

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8 Comments on “Get out of the kitchen?”

  1. Raj Says:

    Nice one!! Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Kristie Says:

    10 years ago, I was pulled away from HR Recruiting into a newly created I.T. Department as the sole employee with 0 years experience. I immediately felt the heat and wanted to get out of the kitchen! Also was informed by a new HR Manager that I was a square peg in a round hole in the I.T. job. Thanks to the patience of a contractor, who became my long-term mentor, I withstood the heat and have become a successful network administrator. Now as a veteran, I would welcome a newbie into the department and gladly serve in the mentor role. We need to carve time out of our overly stressful and busy day and help out the rookies. Collaborative teamwork is essential to success.

    • davidgoad Says:

      Thanks Kristie! You know… everyone is a rookie at least once in their career. Mentoring does not take a lot of time and it’s worth it… even fun… to see rookies make it to the majors 🙂

  3. John Lujan Says:

    Hey David,
    Yes working in a high pressure situation does take some time to get used to, and what most veterans forget to remember, is that they were a rookie at one time as well. We take for granted our acquired positions with a type of arrogance at times. Humility and compassion for another human being is the basis of all mentoring and coaching. If we took 10 minutes out of each day, complimented someone in our office and asked another how can I help you succeed, they may discover that the turn over rate in their high pressure establishments may be eliminated…..In the words of Louie Armstrong “what a wonderful world this would be”…..

    • davidgoad Says:

      Thanks John. Excellent points. And sometimes the mentor learns a thing or two in the process of teaching 🙂

  4. Nora Says:

    Excellent points on mentoring and asking for a hand, but the first thing that popped into my mind was the damn Arni’s waitress uniforms.

    Thick brown 1970s polyester bell bottom overalls paired with an orange poly shirt with darts – I’ve never needed a dart in my life and black shoes. In order to get the pants almost-long enough my uniform was at least three sizes too big so when I tied my apron there was an extra four inches around my waist.

    My fellow waitresses were not so compassionate about helping the new girl, in fact there way of teaching involved letting you do their “sidework”

    I vividly remember the handful of times that I had to wear my uniform on campus because I had to stay an sweep the floors in the whole Toys in the Attic.

    That said, it was an awesome job and I learned a lot of good lessons there.

    • davidgoad Says:

      Oh Nora… the memories 🙂 I actually signed up to do the early morning sweeping and vaccuuming in the whole restaurant and bar because I needed the hours. That was probably the hardest, loneliest job project I ever did. But like you said, we learned a lot… even humility.


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