This article was a letter responding to a top Chef who queried management interference in their kitchen operation . . .
It is human nature to want to survive — both as an individual and as a group. It is at the top of every manager’s thinking to preserve the safety and security of the team that they belong to. I have sometimes heard managers say that they are no more than a servant of the team — and definitely not its master — even though they may impose themselves over individuals or even the whole team when safety or security is at stake.
The primary purpose of any manager is to get every individual within the team to march together towards a common, united vision — in an economic and efficient manner. When the team functions as one, the financial and emotional security of both its members and the business owner is reasonably guaranteed. If it does not function as one then everyone involved with the team is under threat and the manager has an obligation to act decisively.
Managers are expected to be logical and consistent in their behaviour. Being human, they all have emotions, but must seek to put them to one side and act rationally. They are constantly frustrated by those around them who cannot grasp ‘the big picture’ or who pursue their own ends to the detriment of the team.
The opposite in life to the manager is the artist. The artist’s creativity comes from thought processes too mysterious to follow and sometimes too egocentric to tolerate. Ultimately, the manager must provide some boundaries for any artist who is part of the team or resources will not be available for other, equally important activities.
The artist will often see this as a stifling of potential and a savage blow to the ego. They want everybody to see their work and proclaim it as novel and important. They often see issues such as money and efficiency as beneath them and are convinced they work for a higher ideal. If the artist cannot accept the boundaries imposed on them, they must consider withdrawing to an environment that does not impose them.
Interestingly, they both pursue a similar end. Just as the artist wants the world to look in rapt admiration at their work, the manager wants the world to see the performance of their team as exhilarating and inspirational. The former says ‘look at me’, the latter says ‘look at us’. The manager believes ‘us’ is more important than ‘me’. Nobody can state for certain which is of them is ultimately right, but in business the power to prevail is given to the manager. A workable compromise has to be found or the benefit the artist brings to the team will be lost to them all, and the benefit of belonging to a team is lost to the artist.