Sometimes the battle against mediocrity has to be taken out of one’s own arena and fought on a larger field. Every day I can battle against my own weaknesses, but I don’t live or work in a vacuum. Sometimes the mediocrity of others bleeds into my own sphere. If I’ve spent a lot of energy getting poison out, I can’t really be expected to passively let someone else’s poison seep in.
I’ve always felt that the value of effort is in direct proportion to the resistance you encounter when pursing a goal. Sometimes it seems the first day you determine to go running it rains. You plan to go to the gym after work and you have to stay late, you decided to give up sweets and get invited to a friend’s birthday party the very first week. How you fight through these resistances is a measure of how strong you will become. Truthfully, when I face resistance, I seek to be grateful; it verifies I’m on the right track. The more resistance I encounter, the more likely I am do be pursing the most beneficial goals.
People are the same. When people get uncomfortable with me for pointing out failings, lapses, over-sights, and outright laziness, it proves to me that I am hitting nails on their heads. When people admonish me to “tone down” my criticisms, reserve my judgments, and not make people feel singled out, then I am sure I have found the stream of poison causing the problems. The people always most insistent that we “tone down” the conversation, not try to “blame” people for their mismanagements, or seek to smooth things over as quickly and quietly as possible, are the ones most stung by criticism. When I run into this kind of resistance, I know I have found the biggest challenge to improving and success.
Look, if someone comes to me, or even to a group, and calls me out for lacking or for carelessness or failure to plan, I welcome the discussion. Maybe they are wrong and don’t know it. Maybe they are right and I need to hear and absorb their criticism. But I square my shoulders and I face the challenge. So when I call you out and you dodge and twist and try to spin the criticism back on me by saying my criticism is too bold and hard and condescending (I say it is calling like it is), what that says to me is that you are wiggling like a worm on a hook because you know the criticism is correct, but you don’t want to accept it. You’d rather make excuses and shrug your shoulders. And soon it is washed over and the beach is smooth again, and you’ve slipped through the cracks again, convinced you could do your job better if only everyone around you wasn’t failing you.
I’m tired, so tired, of not being able to take big strides at work because other managers keep tripping and falling in front of me. I’m tired, so tired, of my own staff looking at me and wondering why every other department can get away with being late to work, losing their paperwork, not being organized or ready or on station when an event begins. Why can’t they just say “WTFE” and do as they like? Why can’t the kitchen fail massively and just chalk it up to “Oh well, in the end it all worked out”, only to have the cycle repeat itself?
I got a scolding email from the General Manager about my more vocal observations on how the weakness of some departments undercut ALL our efforts. What good is it to have the world’s greatest quarterback if when he throws the ball down field there is no one there to catch it? What does it matter if the coach sends in a winning play if the team can’t execute it? My GM’s message was that I should bring issues I have to him directly, and not broadcast to the team in general, and to keep my remarks regarding professionalism to myself. And if I would like to discuss this further we could sit down and talk.
So of course, we are going to. You bet your ass we’re going to. And the GM’s arguments are going to have to be pretty persuasive to get me to back down. Enough of this bullshit. Don’t sugar-coat the fact that we just hit an iceberg and tell the band to just keep playing. I’m going in to tomorrow’s meeting with my fist wrapped and hardened for battle. He is the GM; in the end I may not be allowed to openly point out the inadequacies of other departments, even when they affect my own. It is currently my opinion that he is merely seeking to cover his ass, since he’s embarrassed that my observations and criticisms are getting back to the owners, who are now, like, WTF? So he wants to shut me up and reroute my complaints so that they only go to him, where he can bury them.
The most likely result is that I am going to walk out of tomorrow’s meeting with confirmation of what I already know: It is time to move on. My ambitions are constantly smashing into the ceilings of limitations wherever I work. I start a new job, I rebuild the structure, I bring in and train staff, I write menus, I do a ton of foundation work, and then when I push for the peak of style, taste, and creativity, I crack my head on the mediocrity of the environment around me. If I have time to look around and see how other operations are letting our company down and how no one is saying or doing anything about it, then it is time to punch through that barrier and pursue another challenge. Let someone else who cares less, works less, thinks less, and is happy to be pocketed if any remark he makes draws the ire of those who are causing the problems. To me, this is nothing more that resistance training. Resistance is looking to see just how tough I am, how sincere, how committed.
Resistance is going to need some reinforcements. 4 months ago