What could Masterchef possibly teach us about leadership?

masterchefIt’s not taught me anything about cooking. My signature is still a Morrison’s frozen pizza. Masterchef has yet to inspire me to pick up a pan, yet it remains my guilty pleasure. But what can it teach us about leadership?

The spin off show for professionals sees the contestants cooking in Michelin starred restaurants.

The restaurant owning chefs are always present and most are scared witless that one of the contestants is going to ruin their reputation with a plate of food that’s not up to scratch.
They’re stressed out. No wonder. I’ve watched countless episodes of this show (and Ramsay etc). Kitchens are stressful places. They’re hot and noisy. Food gets spoiled.  Workers don’t turn up. Restaurants aren’t easy businesses to run.

Given all that it’s no wonder so many chefs are stressed out tyrants. Especially in the Michelin starred places where the egos are even bigger and there’s even more to lose.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And that’s the lesson I learned from a recent edition of the programme.

Tom Kerridge came across as totally different to the other chefs. He inspires his team in a positive, encouraging atmosphere. Helium does for people what helium does for balloons, lifting them to achieve more and having a great time at work. It’s simple but it clearly works because he got his first Michelin star within just one year of opening his own place. He won a second Michelin star in 2012, the first time ever a pub has done so.

Watching him praise the contestants for great cooking, I could almost feel them glowing from his positive comments. The approach of another Michelin starred chef (Marcus Wareing) brought home to me just how different Tom is. Marcus was displeased with one of the contestants snapping at him “You’ve identified what’s wrong with the dish WHY are you still here?”.

What if all workplaces could be like Tom’s? What if all managers could catch their people doing something right. Wouldn’t that get better results? Wouldn’t people enjoy their work more? Don’t we owe our teams that? Happiness at work is the third biggest determinant of people’s happiness after our romantic relationships and our friends.