• United States



Chef Ramsay will see you now

Oct 18, 20122 mins
IT Leadership

Sometimes agents of change have to turn up to volume. And sometimes not.

If you’ve never seen chef Gordon Ramsay in his early television appearances—the original UK Kitchen Nightmares in particular—they’re really spectacular.

There wasn’t nearly so much screaming and posturing in the beginning as you’ll find (alas) in his later, U.S.-centric work. However, there is still plenty of conflict and pointed criticism, with some swearing and insults and raised voices in the mix.

As a child of the mid-South—that’s going to be my excuse—I found blatant displays of aggression very off-putting. Emphasis on good manners and appearances, that’s what I absorbed growing up, regardless of whatever else people were trying to teach me. “Catch more flies with honey” is my preferred model for discourse.

[Also read What I learned when I left security for communication lessons from former CISOs]

Perhaps it’s a result of growing older, perhaps it’s my move to New England, or working in publishing, or perhaps it’s a steady diet of Gordon Ramsay and court trials (I’ve just finished jury duty on a Superior Court civil trial, a contract dispute) and political commentary—whatever the cause, I’ve come to appreciate the constructive elements of criticism and conflict.

There are simply times when pleasant discussion and positivity don’t bring about change with the required speed.

That’s what I’ve learned about Ramsay: In each episode he only has a few days to get a restaurant train-wreck back on track. This process invariably requires changing the behavior and mindset of an obstinate owner or chef. If Ramsay tiptoes in, the restaurant won’t change and won’t be saved.

Now it’s interesting to consider this point of view in the context of security leaders. I don’t think security is overpopulated with delicate flowers, failing to make their points loudly. (An opinion I’ve formed after 10 years’ observation and interaction.) There might even be a select few who should try turning the knob down, not up, when making their views known or pointing out how others need improvement.

Rather, I bring up the Gordon Ramsay style of management to ask this question:

Do people have to shout at you to get you to embrace change?