What Community Managers Can Learn From Being In The Kitchen

As a community manager, it’s really easy to get stuck in a bubble of living and breathing the communities that you manage. It can be a good idea to step outside of that bubble every once in awhile to seek out other perspectives. As someone who is a voracious reader, I do this most often by reading all kinds of books and blog posts in a variety of industries with varying perspectives.

I stumbled across a particularly insightful blog post from Chef Chris Hill on Medium the other day. As someone who is a total foodie and hopelessly addicted to the Food Network, I’m fascinated to learn what it’s like to be a chef outside of the day to day glamorous side that we see on TV. Anyway, this post shared some insights into what this chef learned from being in the kitchen day in and day out. I couldn’t help but think about how many of these lessons are also important for community builders. Here’s a few stand-outs from his post.

“Show up every day with the goal of learning something new — a new knife cut, a more efficient mise en place, or hell, figure out a better way to tie your apron. Anything. Over the course of a year, which is then multiplied over a career, that is a hell of a lot of new techniques, hacks or ways of looking at things.” 

It’s so easy to get stuck in your comfort zone and just start to coast by day in and day out. That’s when you stop growing in your role. It’s so important to actively seek out new opportunities to learn and be a lifelong student. It could be simple things like shadowing a coworker for a few minutes in another department or taking the time to read a blog post about another topic completely outside of your role.  It can be anything. The important factor is that you take the time to learn something new often.

“Every kitchen has a weak link, and if you aren’t sure who that is in yours, maybe it’s you. As their boss, it’s important to take these folks under your wing and guide them.”  

This is so true and so easy to forget. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone is going to be strong at every task. Including ourselves as community builders. It’s important to recognize and be honest about our own weaknesses so that we can then delegate those to people in our community that are more skilled at them. Just like it’s equally important to be the cheerleader and mentor for others in the community.

“Managing a team is challenging, stressful. With that said, please, please, please, don’t be a yeller. Sure, it happens, but don’t make a habit out of it. Assholes in the kitchen aren’t cool anymore, and neither are power trips.” 

This  lesson is pretty self-explanatory, but easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Everybody has bad days. Things go wrong. Mistakes happen. However, being a giant jerk all the time who just screams at all their coworkers or deletes all comments in the community that go against their thoughts is a recipe for disaster.

“Show me the guy or gal willing to go out of his way for you and your company, and I’ll show you someone worth keeping around. To achieve this, though, you’ve got to give them more than just a job — give them something to buy into.”

We all strive to build lasting communities that are bigger than ourselves, our organizations and/or causes. However as a community builder, it’s your job to give members a shared purpose and value that they can buy into and contribute towards. Without that shared vision, the community will inevitably stumble.

“Remember that the people around you are human beings, just like you. They have feelings, relationships, goals, challenges, triumphs and heartaches — all things that make life exciting, but at the same time challenging, and often stressful.”

This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite videos, “We are Human.” (A must-watch, if you haven’t seen it before). Everybody is human. We all have a desire to be heard and connect with others around us. It’s a powerful thing. Don’t ever lose sight of that.