What the French Toast Do You Know About Team Development!?

One show that I like to watch is Hell’s Kitchen, featuring the premiere chef, Gordon Ramsay, and 18 other ambitious restaurateurs. These competitors are put through a rigorous and intense regimen in order to test their abilities and leadership skills. This time the grand prize is a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Paris Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hell’s Kitchen is a great example to relate to project and team management. There is a catch though—it is like none of the chefs have ever heard of project and team management. You have 18 different personalities trying to work together as teams but also trying to compete personally for the grand reward. What does this cause? Conflict! Conflict is flying all over the place, especially with fiery Chef Gordon Ramsay screaming and cussing in their faces. It becomes obvious that producers pick individuals that have great culinary experience, but lack in team building or leadership skills. And that is where the fun comes in. Chef Ramsay’s authoritative approach is to break these leaders down and then build them back up. Very military style, wouldn’t you say?

For now I want to focus more on the team development aspect. There are four different stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. According to a military lesson from the United StatesCoast Guard, all groups and teams go through these stages. Identifying and understanding these stages will help the team leader move through them and create a more cohesive team.

  • Forming–team members usually appear tentative and unclear on what is expected of them. There is excitement and anticipation, but little work is accomplished and team commitment is slim. Lack of trust is apparent.
  • Storming—team members may become defensive and hostile toward one another as they attempt to get consensus on group decisions or exercise personal power. Negativity and competition is high. And again, little work is accomplished.
  • Norming—characterized by a sense of belonging and a shared commitment to mutual goals. Cohesion develops and conflict is resolved. Confidence is high, work performance accelerates, and productivity increases.
  • Performing—the team is fully functional, self-organized and works well together. Levels are high on commitment, performance, and leadership. Communication and teamwork are conducted more effectively.

Now let’s take a look at this. Do you think the 18 chefs competing go through each of these stages? Most definitely! Are any of these competitors trained in project and team management? Maybe. But that is what makes this entertaining—as well as a learning experience. It is literally a crash course! Team members do not trust each other. They may even deceive each other to win. But, as the teams progressively decrease in size through elimination, more unity is formed and the true leaders are brought to the light.

What do you think of Chef Ramsay’s commanding leadership approach? In my opinion, I admire it. It’s not exactly my style, but it works for him and for certain situations. However, we have to keep in mind that while Chef Ramsay has a high shark-like characteristic (being goal-oriented, intimidating, authoritative, and using aggressive behavior to resolve conflict), he will tend to show his teddy bear characteristic (values relationships, cooperative, and harmony and stability are important). We can see this by the team building activities that are conducted. The rewards and incentives provided help build teams in a more positive light, while the punishment is not so fun. However, teams need to be able to operate together through thick or thin. Projects and tasks are not all going to be stress-free. Frustration causes irritability, which usually leads to confrontation. This is where leadership, experience, and attitude come into play. The ability to not only manage your own emotions and actions, but your team’s as well.

So, what do you know about team development?

 

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