I Need To Eat

Kendra and I were travelling this week for a really great family event.  My side of the family doesn’t get together very often, and this one was special as we joined with a branch of our family that we hadn’t had contact with for 28 years.  On top of that my kid sister Karen had turned 50, giving us the reason to get together and celebrate. The day before the festivities started, Kendra and I decided we should try out a highly rated restaurant in Toronto known for its tasting menus. 

Kendra and I are foodies so the prospect of five courses of fine food, each a surprise limited only by any allergies or strong dislikes of certain ingredients, was really compelling. Not only did we consume five unique and beautifully presented dishes, but the chef prepared each of us a different tasting at each turn meaning 10 different dishes were presented throughout the evening.

We swapped plates half way through each course so that we experienced all of it. It was quite an event overall. An exercise in choice, variety, uncertainty and novelty.  I’m glad I did it, but it somehow I felt unfulfilled.  The interesting thing about it is I’m not quite sure why I say that. I think there is some lesson in this as to how it feels to be learning experientially in a space that we already know how to exist in.

Every plate is a surprise
Every plate is a surprise

When we think about it, we have been trained for years how to eat a meal.  We sit down and generally follow the same rhythm every supper.  The salad comes first (or not), then the main course, followed by dessert (or not).  If we choose to have wine, we choose a wine for the dinner and have our glass.  A key to this whole process is that we are generally in control.  At home, we know what is coming.  In a restaurant, we order what we want. The tasting dinner was the exact opposite. We couldn’t ask for what we want.  We could only say what we don’t want. We didn’t face uncertainty once, we faced it five times (10 if we count each other’s plates). We also had no control over the wines we were served as we opted for three ounce pours to match a course or two.  In other words, we were out of our comfort zone.

So how did that feel? Exhilarating but strange would be my answer.

The variety and surprise were enlivening. The idea of not knowing what was coming next really got a sense of adventure going, doubled by the fact that the wine pairing would appear shortly after.  There’s an energy that comes with a novelty.

The strangeness was really about doing something very familiar in an unfamiliar way.  We take comfort in our routines.  There is a safety in them.  There is certainty attached to them. In Tony Robbins’ terms there is something here that makes us be aware of our most basic need of certainty. In Maslow’s terms there is something very basic about the need for food, and thus I think when someone messes with our mealtime patterns we feel it at the core of our needs/self.

When we change something as basic as the way we consume food, perhaps our subconscious mind questions whether we should be focused on higher order needs.  In the Robbin’s model, variety comes after certainty.  In the Maslow model, security comes after basic physiological needs such as food. In some way, is it possible that our various levels of needs were at conflict with each other throwing our subconscious into confusion?

I'm certain the sun will rise
I’m certain the sun will rise

As leaders, are we aware of the levels of needs at which our team member are engaged? Do we recognize when they feel threats to their most basic needs such as security of income to the mortgage or certainty of what their job will be tomorrow? I think that is the first trick. If our team members don’t feel we care about their security they will do it for themselves, which might include choosing to work somewhere else.

The second trick is to understand that when our team members feel that those needs are completely fulfilled and they start to look for the next level.  Do we get so focused on ensuring our team feels secure that we forget that they have a need for variety, for significance and for growth?

In terms of the metaphor at the beginning of this post, do we ensure that our team knows that a good, solid, traditional meal will be there for them when they need them, but on a regular basis tasting menus will appear when they want them, and perhaps even the opportunity to be involved in the preparation of the meal?

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

14 thoughts on “I Need To Eat

  1. Great minds think alike today and we have both even remarked how the sun will always rise 🙂

    I have found that the staff members who hate a change of routine are the ones with unstable home lives, as if the chugging along of a simple routine at work provides a sense of stability they are not getting at home. Likewise I had noticed how one staff member, who ended a poor relationship, suddenly rose to a higher ability of taking on more challenging work.

  2. Hmmm…. definitely food for thought Ian. 🙂

    I’m wondering if some of the discomfort of the tasting menu profile wasn’t all about trust — you were trusting someone you didn’t know with something that is very important to you — your food experience. That causes its own anxiety….

    Same with teams — if your staff trust you to always turn up with fairness, kindness and consideration — they will take risks.

    If you are unpredictable — it is hard for them to trust you enough to turn up without fear….

  3. I have never heard of tasting menus. I think that would be fun!
    To follow up on what Louise said above regarding ‘if a leader is unpredictable – it is hard for them to trust you…” makes me think of integrity. A characteristic of integrity is consistency. Consistency in the way you handle situations, fairness, kindness and consideration. I would add genuine care or love. In that environment, adding new things can be fun and exciting, yes?

    1. Tasting menus are fun! That’s a great way to describe them! They are a flash of variety for us. Just not dependable, or certain!

      I like your thoughts on what makes leaders dependable. I agree that is the base of strong leadership. However I think once in a while people expect their leader to offer up a “tasting menu” of opportunity to their team to add dome variety.

      Thanks for the contribution!

  4. never heard of a tasting menu but sounds like fun–the italian restaurant u picked for the gathering was great thanks again for the party–from the kid sister lol. Food is a basic on the hierarchy of needs –feeds need for organization and a routine at work just as food feeds us and sustains us.

  5. Fascinating intro (a tasting menu) to a deep topic. What are our fundamental needs? What happens when they are unfulfilled? I’m reminded of the SCARF model which posits that our brains are more finely tuned to see threats rather than rewards — even in social settings. The acronym stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

  6. Hi Ian
    Have fun with your family adventures. I agree with all that is written above. Change without a solid trust base can be chaos. Using your analogy with the tasting menu, if you know the chef and trust his or her cooking you can approach the menu with confidence…personally I would never order a tasting menu unless I’d previously eaten that chef’s food. That brings me to, there are many times changes come to us with out our asking or wanting it, so learning the skills to roll with the changes is so very important in everything we do in life. As leaders I feel it important to create an environment of trust and present changes to the team often. This is easy to say and difficult to do in alot of situations with strict controls and policy’s…that is your challenge 🙂

    When I was changing my health and fitness my did a 2 week exercise where my trainer said change one thing everyday, it can be a very small thing but a different thing every day. It’s harder than it sounds…eg. use your opposite hand to take something out of the fridge…overtime I reached for the water jug all day I used my left hand, next day I opening the door with opposite hand etc….it is a powerful exercise in making your brain think differently.

    So much can be written on this subject. Thanks again for making me think on my Sunday.

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