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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Compliments to the chef
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay didn't get three Michelin stars just by swearing at his staff. What's so successful about his management style?

He's famous for his four-letter outbursts and taking a tough approach to managing staff.

But for all his profanities, Gordon Ramsay seems to bring out the best in those who work for him.

He is not without his critics, but despite his reputation for hot-headedness he has held on to 80% of his staff for the past 10 years.

Viewers of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, currently in its second series on Channel 4, have seen him sharpen his knives - and his tongue - and dish out some tough love to rescue a number of failing restaurants.

He's succeeded in every case, so why is he so successful and what do the experts think?

WORKING AS A TEAM

It's an obvious ingredient of any successful business, but staff at some companies seem incapable of working as a team.

The ultimate test of a leader is their legacy
Professor Kim James
Relations between kitchen and restaurant staff at D-Place were non existent. Ramsay organised a guacamole cook-off between pairs made up of waiters and cooks, with the one cooking blindfold and having to take directions from the other. The kitchen and the restaurant effectively depended on each other.

Ramsay excels at giving his staff a sense of the story in which they play an important part, says Professor Kim James from the Cranfield School of Management.

"He creates a drama to identify with, convincing people to tie their future to that idea, and make sure they have opportunities to perform to the highest standard. The ultimate test of a leader is their legacy and Ramsay's greatest gift to the restaurants he turns around may be to leave them capable of good theatre when he is no longer the star."

BOSS NOT FRIEND

You don't achieve Ramsay's level of success by worrying if your staff like you or not. But he believes that showing staff who is boss is the way to get their respect.

Gordon Ramsay with Jonathan Ross
'His style is about coaching and encouraging the best'
At Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack in Brighton, East Sussex, staff costs were crippling owner Charita Jones, yet she was doing most of the work herself. Ramsay forced her to get tough and tackle staff's laidback attitude by writing a rule book. The more she set boundaries, the more professional her staff became.

Ramsay is tough, but his style is also about coaching and encouraging the best from his staff. They are all vital ingredients to be a good boss, says Mike Petrook, of the Chartered Managers Institute.

"You don't have to be everyone's friend but you do have to be a friendly boss," he says. "The best managers have to have the ability to lead but also talk to staff and aren't standoffish."

BACK TO BASICS

Ramsay always has a well-defined vision - delicious, simple food. He hates pretension and makes sure the whole team understands what his vision is so they are all working towards the same goal.

He offers no bland vision statements but tries to inspire
Kim James
La Riviera in Inverness, Scotland, had a crack team of skilled French chefs, but the menu was aimed more at Gallic connoisseurs than local diners. Dishes were over-complicated and pretentious, with too many flavours on each plate. Ramsay toned things down and demystified the menu to get punters in.

Ramsay cuts away the unnecessary frills, says Professor James.

"He looks at each restaurant in isolation. He goes back to the basics and researches customers and competitors and, crucially, assess the capabilities of staff to produce excellent cuisine. He identifies a successful formula for each individual restaurant."

STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD

In each restaurant Ramsay tries to identify its best selling point and make a feature of it.

Momma Cherri's Soul Food Shack had great food but few customers. It needed a gimmick to draw attention to its tasty Deep South, home-style cooking. Ramsay came up with the Soul in a Bowl menu. The 10-a-head buffet got bums on seats, showcased a wide range of food and was cost-effective for the restaurant.

Ramsay identifies what each business can do to the highest possible standard, says Professor James.

"There is no standard Gordon Ramsay formula that he applies to all. He identifies what it can do to the highest possible standard and works from there."

GOOD COMMUNICATIONS

His comments might be peppered with swear words, but Ramsay communicates clearly and continuously with staff. He lets them know exactly what he expects and provides them with both positive and negative feedback. The result is a highly-motivated workforce.

At D-Place in Chelmsford, Essex, relations between head chef Philippe Blaise and maitre d' Dave Bone had reach such a low they hardly spoke. Their stand-off was affecting customers so Ramsay forced the pair to confront the problem, and each other, acting as referee. It cleared the air and re-opened communications.

You have to look beyond the swearing, says Professor James.

"He offers no bland vision statements but tries to inspire. He is generous in bringing people on and instructs the inexperienced."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Watching Gordon Ramsey on TV two things become abundantly clear. The first is that he expects the highest standards from his staff, the second is that he is prepared to put in the time to help them achieve those standards. The overall effect is a completely inspiring boss. If I was a chef, I'd walk over hot coals to work for him.
Terry, Harrogate

Perhaps we could have a few more like Gordon Ramsay in the public sector in the UK. Truth is though he would never survive, most public sector management would sack his type within weeks.
Barry Eaton, Birmingham

What Gordon does is no different from any other business troubleshooter. It is easier to look from outside the box and identify the problem areas. Troubleshooters have been doing this for years. You have to have knowledge of the industry, marketplace and product of the business.Although Gordon is no different in this, what his USP is, is passion. Find me a chef in the UK that would not want to spend a week with Gordon and benefit from what he has to offer.
Parker, Edinburgh

It's a pity he can't do all this without the four letter words! This debases his skills to the lowest (very) common denominator!
Geof Martin, Figeures Spain

I think it would be a good idea for Gordon to try his hand at other fields of work... for instance office/factory management. despite the lack of food, managment of staff is the same across the industries. I feel that people generally dont have much leadership from managment any more. The corperate brand values are brandished by managment with no insight in how to communicate these values and how to impletement them in day to day work to their staff. Leadership i feel is going to become the biggest issue the british industry will face.
Julie, Cardiff, Wales

I'd break his neck if he spoke to me like he does on TV
Steve, London

I was fortunate enough to spend two years (1983-85)at Banbury technical college with Gordon when we had just left school and were both training to be chefs. I also worked with him at Folkestone army camp during the summer of 1984 cooking for the military. Even then he made it clear he wanted nothing less than his own place with three Michelin stars. He was quite prepared to put in the 16 plus hour days and take the abuse young chefs get in order to fulfil his ambitions. He is quite right when he says that is what's required to produce food to the highest standards. True he was a bit of a nutter then and he was either going to end up in prison or make a million. I for one am please it was the latter and believe he has earnt every penny.
William 'Minty' Murray, Aberdeen

A very inspiring series and Jamie Oliver has similar skills (look at what he did with those kids in Fifteen) It helps of course, that he brings his reputation with him (along with a film crew !!) But I have noticed how he takes time to look at individuals and their issues and focuses them on the key task of delivering a great product (food) to the customer. Not all situations are like a restaurant kitchen but I am sure we can all learn from seeing how motivated people make for an effective team.
Paul Byrne, Stockport

I encountered a totally expletive-free Gordon at a book signing recently. What came over was his obvious energy and genuine enthusiasm for cooking properly. He loves being a chef, a celebrity and a teacher. That's simply it.
Leon French, London

For all the criticism that Gordon Ramsay receives, he's one of the best people managers ever seen on TV. He knows how to empower his team and brings out the best in them through passion and desire to be the best.
Martyn , Manchester, UK

As much as I hate to watch the guy - I'd love to exchange him with my current boss!
Lee, Northampton

The one thing this article doesn't mention is Ramsay's approach of not being over-effusive in his praise. By only dishing out the compliments when it's appropriate (but making sure he does compliment people when they do deserve it), and keeping the compliments proportionate to the achievements, he creates an environment in which his praise is the most valuable coin for his staff, and when they get it they know they deserve it. Of course, the converse is also true. It all makes for self-aware and keenly motivated workers.
Al, Birmingham, UK

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VOTE RESULTS
Would you like your boss to be like Gordon Ramsay?
Yes
 69.37% 
No
 30.63% 
444 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
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