Blog post

I’m Just the Chef

8 September 2020

A few weeks ago my husband and I decided to order dinner from one of our favorite restaurants. We have long patronized this particular culinary establishment because the food is consistently excellent.

Because I had some difficulty placing the order online, I called the restaurant for assistance. As I explained my plight to the individual who answered the phone, the employee said, “Let me get you to the manager. I’m just the chef.”

I expressed gratitude for this individual’s assistance, but before he passed on my call to the manager, I shared the following: “Let me encourage you to stop thinking of yourself as being ‘just the chef.’ My husband and I are loyal customers of your restaurant, and YOU are the reason for our loyalty. YOUR excellent food is why we continue to return for more.” It seemed he was caught off guard for a moment, and then he shared, “Wow! I really appreciate that!”

This experience resonated with me. Throughout my career as I have assumed new roles, I have encountered employees who demonstrated similar, self-deprecating attitudes… “I’m just a Housekeeper”… “I’m just a Facilities Tech”… “I’m just an Administrative Assistant”… and on and on. I cringed with horror and sadness when others would say to me, “I’m just a peon.”

You might wonder what is wrong with individuals who demonstrate such self-effacing beliefs. I would argue that the problem is not with the employees, but rather, the problem is with leadership.

It is the responsibility of leaders to connect the dots for all employees so they can see the direct link between the necessary, important work they do every day and the overall mission and goals of the organization.

A hospital cannot provide safe care to patients unless the Housekeepers are carefully and faithfully cleaning the rooms, the equipment, and every space where patients and guests will visit.

A facility is not going to function efficiently and effectively unless the Facilities Techs are proactive in preventative maintenance and consistently loyal when they are called to come in at 1:00 AM for the repair of unexpected outages.

As for Administrative Assistants, these employees are crucial to the success of leadership and the organization at large. Whether the Admin is ensuring the optimal coordination of the assigned executive’s schedule, soothing the angst of angry customers or organizing the logistics of special events for employees, these vital individuals make a deep imprint… positive or negative… upon the reputation of the organization.

The same can be said for all employees regardless of their respective roles. Every employee has an impact upon the organization’s reputation and success.

As for the Chef… I’m certain that customers don’t choose restaurants based upon the site leader, but rather based upon the food’s quality.

And so I invite you to ponder how much you are doing every day to ensure your employees do not think of themselves as being “just a ________.” It’s your opportunity and indeed your responsibility to ensure that all employees understand the importance of the work they do and that they see the direct connection between that vital work and the organization’s success.

My experience has shown that when employees hear from leaders that what they do is valued, they will turn cartwheels of great performances that can help to further the success of the organization …. and its leaders.

Within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before, I share how my father taught my brother and me early on in life that every person is to be respected, valued and appreciated… regardless of their circumstances. Yes, every person matters!


  • Teri Bussey

    September 12, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Janet, this is so true. It takes everyone doing their part well to make their organization function at its very best. You and I have seen this in real life situations. Thank you for walking the talk!

    1. graciousadmin

      September 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      Teri, I couldn’t agree more! We’ve both seen incredible outcomes when all employees understand and are passionate about the importance of their roles… regardless of their job content or title!

  • Greg Harrod

    September 13, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Great post, Janet.

    I agree that leaders must ensure that every member of the team recognizes the value of their role and the importance of doing their work in that role with excellence. Every person in an organization is valuable.

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