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Today\’s Menu: World-class Culture

By Rob Wolff, Senior Consultant

My wife and I recently had the unique (for us) opportunity to have dinner at a 3 star Michelin restaurant. I really didn’t have an idea what to expect other than some great food.  What we actually experienced was just that – an experience.  The food was among, if not the best we ever had, but the experience itself was what left an indelible impression on both of us.  The word “flawless” comes to mind – from our arrival at the restaurant, every interaction with staff was gracious, unobtrusive, and just what we needed at the moment.  Dishes appeared at just the right moment with a detailed explanation of that course, and when each course was finished, there was a server there to whisk away the place setting. Any and every need was seemingly anticipated and addressed before we could express it. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but wonder how this could all be pulled-off with seemingly little effort.

What’s the Recipe?

After our meal, we had the opportunity to tour the kitchen and to meet the chef.  At that point many of my questions began to be answered.  I learned that the selection process for every single employee is exhaustive and very discriminating, as was to be expected. Additionally, as I looked around the operating room-clean kitchen, I noticed two distinct elements:

  1. Every work station had a page with the same specific behavior posted to each table (Learn from each other’s mistakes or we’ll never reach our full potential!), and
  2. There was a huge flat panel monitor connecting them live to their sister property in California.


As regular readers of this blog know, we approach workplace culture through the articulation and practice of specific behaviors (or, as we call them, Fundamentals.) So, seeing the specific behavior expected of the entire team prominently displayed, made perfect sense.  I later learned that they focus on a different behavior each night – what we at High Performing Culture call a Ritual.  Without prompting and without knowing what I do for a living, the chef mentioned that they need the constant review and reminders of critical behaviors in order to maintain their high standards.

The video monitor, I learned, was an extension of their focus on team support and success.  At these two equally famous restaurants, rather than compete with each other, they actively support one another.  They’ve in essence doubled the size of their local teams to create a stronger, larger support network for each of the individual employees. There are frequent check-ins throughout every dinner service, and the monitor is there to reinforce and support the overall concept of focusing on the team vs. the individual.

Setting Your Table

At High Performing Culture, our goal is to help business owners and leaders identify the behaviors that drive success. At these restaurants, two of those behaviors are ‘learning from mistakes’ and ‘supporting the larger team.’  Understanding that it takes time and support to change and align behaviors, we help our clients develop Rituals in order to practice those success-driving behaviors. Rituals involve regular, systematic, and repetitive teaching and exploration of those success drivers so that they become internalized – so that they become natural and reflexive.  For these restaurants, one of their rituals involves the daily focus on a different success-driving behavior, and ensuring that everyone is focused on it for the day. There are no days off from teaching or learning.





Any business has the potential to become the best in its field/region/market.  It requires a committed leader, and a relentless focus on teaching and coaching everyone in the organization what is required, necessary, and expected.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become your best, give us a call or shoot us an email, or join us at this year’s Culture Summit.