Lawrence McFadden, CMC, General Manager/COO of Cleveland’s Union Club, believes that continued education and collaboration are necessary tools for understanding new and different viewpoints.
“I mean you no harm; I seek your greatest good,” is one of my favorite quotes. This simple statement has become a mantra of mine and I often jot it down in the margins of my notepad during meetings.
Like most great tools, it was a gift from a boss who told me the phrase and concept allowed him to focus on facts and content, instead of allowing his pulsing blood pressure during important or antagonistic discussions to get the best of him.
Many people enjoy positive conflict. But conflict doesn’t come naturally to me. I realize that sometimes it is necessary in order to fulfill one’s potential and achieve excellence. With that, I often place myself right into the middle of confrontational conversation in order to create immediate solutions.
Early in my career, I was advised to always work with the best and learn lessons from each person along the way. Doing so has afforded me numerous opportunities and exposure to world-class organizations and exotic destinations. More importantly, it has helped shape a strong personal culinary view and management style that has largely impacted my professional journey.
Those who have worked closely with, next to, or above me, know that I am not averse to risking personal success for the greater good. I’ve learned that great organizations foster the ability for their staff members to risk without negative consequences that result in fault or blame. While I’ve shared common philosophies with most of my bosses in my career, I did have one who was the exact opposite in style, attitude and background.
On the surface we were the perfect odd couple. We disagreed on almost every viewpoint. But we each had core beliefs that neither ever asked the other to compromise. A lesser man might have tried to force me to change my opinion so that we could be more publicly aligned. Instead, his patience and strong core beliefs allowed me to see that differences can truly make a team—and a person—stronger.
There is a clear science of right or wrong in the technical aspects of the kitchen. There are no “Aha!” moments for an overcooked steak. The kitchen is very easy in that sense, yet it is simultaneously complex regarding vision and theory. Leaving the kitchen has forced me to ask more questions, instill greater patience, and allow individuals to learn from my strategy mistakes.
An individual who tries a non-discussion process outside of the kitchen will experience fatal consequences. This is probably why most chefs need to change location/property when they make a move to the front of the house. An assistant once paid me a great compliment years after moving to front facing positions. She said, “You aren’t the same person now, Chef.” Neither of us knew the exact meaning of her statement at the time. But we both recognized that something was different.
Before coming to the Union Club, I worked with a string of successful global companies where I had the opportunity to interface with some of the best in the world. I worried that this new opportunity might lessen my exposure to colleagues at the top of the game. Yet, staring directly at me, were a host of board and committee members representing many best-in-class businesses with considerable information and knowledge to be gleaned.
I realized that leadership is often the same regardless of product or service. And communication techniques, reasoning, and applied principals for business backgrounds can undoubtedly be applied to our club.
Opportunity isn’t always clearly defined at the beginning of any journey, but there is always the potential to learn, fail and transform into a richer, more self-developed individual and professional.