Don’t forget your guests while toiling in the kitchen

The big headlines around reality TV at the moment are of course all about XFactor and Strictly Come Dancing.  But in my view the best reality TV on offer is Come Dine with Me which has been a real treat running regularly but quietly over on Channel 4.

Four or five members of the public host dinner parties nightly in turn.  They vote on each other’s performance and the winner gets £1000.  There is the occasional week where celebrities take over the show, but their motivation is so much more obvious and less interesting than the “real” public that for me that version of the show works less well.

It is made brilliant by the narrator Dave Lamb, who constantly voices the unkind thoughts running through your head as you watch night after night of excruciating “Abigail’s parties” modernised and brought to life.

In a recent show the lovely contestant Dave (who modestly contrasted himself with the other male contestant : – “I suppose I am just boring compared to him really”) failed to impress the two bossy female guests because he had got the gravy for his lamb main course from a friend rather than scratch cooking it himself.  Later as a guest he summed up the problem facing the fourth contestant Simon very succinctly: “It’s not just about Simon cooking, it’s about Simon keeping his guests happy”.

Simon, who also lost points with the ladies because his breadcrumbs were infused with truffle oil by a professional chef, had made the mistake of spending too much time in the kitchen and neglecting his very critical guests.

In this way Come Dine with Me is like the workplace.  You can easily exclusively focus on the product, or if it suits you better you can mainly focus on how everyone is feeling.  Neither works at the exclusion of the other.

You might win points in the short term by being ultra-competitive and doing down the competition (Simon had been attacking everyone else’s dinners all week) but at some point it will be your turn to cook and all eyes will be on you.

The new science of behavioural economics endorses this view, in contrast to previous economic theories which don’t emphasise the full range of people’s feelings in the workplace.  Behavioural Economist and author Peter Lunn concludes that the most successful workplaces cultivate “The culture of trust, loyalty and pride”.  This means that people are not risk averse and are willing to embrace change.  In his book  “Basic Instincts: Human Nature and the New Economics” he argues that you cannot separate human instincts and business theory.  People don’t behave according to simply selfish or rational motivation as economists have assumed for decades.  They respond to a sense of inclusiveness and emotional reassurance.

We need to balance time spent in the hypothetical kitchen crafting great work with time spent ensuring that our colleagues and clients are happy, motivated and have pride in our work together.

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