Lessons from MasterChef Junior
My wife is a big fan of TV cooking shows. You name it, she likes to watch it: IronChef, TopChef, Great American Food Truck, and MasterChef, just to name a few. Since she owns the TV remote control in our house, I’m pretty much forced to watch all these shows with her (I know, I should turn in my man card now!). Might it be I secretly like watching them as well? The answer is ‘yes.’
While recently watching an episode of MasterChef Junior, the show featuring young children displaying their culinary talents in competition with each other, I was struck by how the show illustrates the three fundamentals of effective performance management: goal setting, coaching, and evaluation.
The young chefs are presented with various challenges that test their culinary expertise. The challenges are all unique. One may require the contestants to create an exact replica of a dish made by an adult chef, another may be to create a dessert using a few specific ingredients, or yet another may be to create their own signature dish that follows a certain theme. Regardless of the unique challenge, the goal is clear. All good performance starts with clear goals. When goals are fuzzy or non-existent, energy is diffused and productivity suffers. But when goals are clearly defined, people’s focus is sharp, effort is purposefully directed, and productivity accelerates.
MasterChef Junior Example of Clear Goal Setting
Once clear goals have been established, the second fundamental of effective performance management is day-to-day coaching. People need direction, support, and feedback in real-time to help them address competency gaps, make course corrections, or consider alternative approaches. In MasterChef Junior, this is illustrated when the judges connect with each of the chefs during the preparation of their dishes. They ask questions that get the youngsters thinking about the vision and strategy of their meal, or give advice if they notice something is not up to par, or offer warnings of things to pay attention to or avoid. The goal of coaching is to help the individual produce the best outcome possible.
MasterChef Junior Example of Coaching
Dumping the once-a-year formal performance evaluation is all the rage right now. What gets lost sometimes in this popular trend is the need that remains to do some sort of performance evaluation with your employees. The timing, frequency, and format of the evaluation may change, but evaluation is still a critical component of the performance management process. It allows both the leader and employee to assess the effectiveness of the employee’s efforts, what worked well, and what could be done better.
In MasterChef Junior, the judges offer each contestant a critique of their dish. I’m surprised, yet pleased, to see the candid nature of the judges’ comments. Rather than falling into the trap of over-praising effort to the neglect of constructive criticism, the judges deliver feedback in a factual, straightforward manner. The young chefs know clearly what they did well, where they came up short, and how they can get better in the future. Isn’t that how it should be in our workplaces?
Example of MasterChef Junior Performance Evaluation
Life at work doesn’t fall into the neat 1-hour edited format of a TV show, but the principles of effective performance management we see in MasterChef Junior are still valid. Good performance starts with clear goals that enable individuals to understand what they’re trying to achieve. Good leaders provide real-time coaching on an as-need basis to help employees stay on course, get back on course if they’ve strayed, or consider ways to improve their performance along the way. And finally, once the goal or project has been completed, the leader and employee review the performance and celebrate things done well, and if needed, discuss how to improve performance in the future.