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Leadership in crisis

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

“We need to talk” are not words a hospitality leader wants to hear from a co-worker. As we walked into the office, I braced myself for what perceived emergency needed to be handled now. Instead of a specific problem to solve, I heard, “Your stress is being felt by everyone here and we are all thinking it’s us.” This was a complete punch in the gut, not what I was prepared to hear.

In the hospitality industry, senior leadership has a profound impact on cultivating work culture having an immediate impact on performance. What happens when this balance gets out of whack? Is it acceptable for leaders to talk about their stress or is it still a modern taboo?

My leadership was in full crisis mode and being “that boss” who was disconnected from my team. I felt a mix of shock, empathy, and sadness when my co-worker approached me. I saw them muster up the strength to explain how the team, I cared so passionately for, was being divided by my own doing. I was emotionally upset and felt like I was a huge letdown. I had a million thoughts racing through my head of “how did I let this happen?”, “why didn’t I see this coming?” Instead of uttering those words, I apologized and acknowledged my actions. “I am sorry that you did not feel comfortable coming to me sooner and it took this

long to bring it to my attention.” I was disconnected from the team and disillusioned with my stress level and its impact on the team.

It’s difficult for leaders to talk about their own personal stress for fear of being judged or scrutinized. We go out of our way to find solutions for our team members that are in crisis however when it comes to finding support and resources for ourselves, we need to be just as concerned about ourselves as we are with our team members. The internet is a huge resource with self-help short reads, videos, and blogs all at our fingertips. In fact, we are inundated with information but is it always the right information we need to hear?

It is a known fact that the hospitality industry is a fast-paced and demanding environment as a career choice. Hours are long, conditions are stressful, and if you’re not multitasking, you’re in the weeds. Despite how arduous the work is, there is beauty and strength found within. We have the ability to connect with people from all walks of life and build deep connections. These connections enhance the development of a high-performing team with shared values and a sense of belonging, making challenging times easier to handle. As much as a leader is required to look out for their team, a highly valued team will look out for each other, including the leader. When done right this level of concern can be echoed through all levels of responsibility. As for me, this was my saving grace.

After that conversation, I made a phone call and scheduled an appointment with a therapist to regain control of my stress. Through my bi-weekly sessions, the focus was to understand my cognizant behavior patterns. It was important for me to understand triggers, have the opportunity to unravel the moments, and retrain my brain to do that. It’s amazing what a 2-second pause can do.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have a team that cares for themselves as much as they care for those around them. If we as leaders are to be as effective and efficient in guiding our teams to new levels, we need to learn how to take care of ourselves and be a little vulnerable with our teams, showing them, we are human too. The results are limitless.

If you are having issues reach out and listen to those around you. They may not always express their concern in words but in actions and body language. Be accountable, show up, and ask for help when needed. No matter what position you hold, if they say check yourself, listen.

“If we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others.”


Jamie Wyckoff

Ambassador - The Burnt Chef Project

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