Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Of Butlers and Hot Dog Eating Champions

Do you really have ten years of experience in your job, or do you have one year of experience that's been repeated ten times?

As I'm guilty of doing, you may think of a hot-dog eating champion with an image in your mind of a large person who eats similar foods as the normal course of his diet, which then naturally would seem to make them a talent for eating large amounts of food and winning the contest.

And as I've done, you may also think of those providing really great, efficient service in a home with an image in your mind of someone who's been at their job for a number of years, someone who's been through the same weekly routines for so long that they're just naturally the best.

But what if both of these assumptions could be not only unfair stereotypes to both those persons who did and also those persons who didn't fit the stereotype - but also if the idea of years of practice was just plain overrated in the first place?

The hot dog world champion unfair stereotype...
What if becoming great at something wasn't necessarily how many years that someone's be at it, but if what they've  done has been that of highly focused attention - with the goal of looking for the very smallest of their errors during any of their tasks and then correcting them immediately and moving forward to locating the next error, then correction, etc., thus improving their talent with equally small, incremental advances?

And what if those small, incremental advances then added up over a relatively small amount of time, to the real champion?

Fair to say I don't have an interesting story to tell about Butlers becoming champions of their performance by focusing on finding and correcting small errors throughout the day -- but I think it could work. I think that the best staff training and learning possibly does not come from the ubiquitous 1-day industry seminars, nor even the more intense 8-week Butler schools, nor even the larger 10,000 hours of practice which author Malcolm Gladwell has insisted is needed for anyone to be good at just about anything.

I think the best learning and improvement could come from the same mindset which champion hot-dog eater Takeru Kobayashi has demonstrated, that of someone who had never done this before yet decided to approach the process with a highly self-critical approach of the smallest of details and thus advancing his efficiency one second (or hot dog) at a time, making the corrections needed to move forward one little notch, and adding up all improvements... thus winning the real championship: improvement and attainment of excellence based upon real, demonstrated performance instead of simply an arbitrary number of years which is guessed and assumed to create a talent. 

It's usually "three to five years experience" we see regularly on the online job board ads, but what if a truly great domestic worker could be created in just three to five weeks, or even three to five days, by themselves adopting this same mindset, discipline, and concerted effort?  

Takeru's challenge to the traditional measurements of proficiency reminded me immediately of the old saying, "Do you really have ten years of experience in your job, or do you have one year of experience that's been repeated ten times?"  

And if it really does take ten years, or three to five years, or some other totally random selected number of years to become proficient with a skill, how does that explain those who dedicate themselves fully to learning and then become expert within just a few days?

And what if you saw this hot dog contest world champion walking down the street and would never have guessed in a million years by seeing his physique that he's the world record holder for not just hot dogs, but also for several other foods such as pizza and
...and the hot dog world champion 
reality, Takeru Kobayashi
grilled cheese sandwiches? What if instead of the stereotype we'd expect to see, this massive food eating champion was actually quite, um, well... athletic?

Would you then begin to question both the traditional physical appearance, background, and most of all - the training methods - for most anyone engaged in any endeavor, especially those who become evident as... "the best"?  

Including... the domestic staff industry?

Here's the fascinating story of how Takeru did it:

But! Not so fast here.. some of us may sniff and turn our heads... this was a hot-dog eating championship for the unwashed masses, after all, and not within the fine, ultra luxe environments where we find ourselves plying our trade. 

Yet, what if it were true that the context made no difference, and we could approach our own domestic service jobs with the same, critical evaluation of each task to advance performance, instead of just moving along year after year, toward that magical three to five year period, or that amazing 10,000 hour plateau, and just assuming that we're getting better at our game? What if, instead of just assuming that because someone has been serving wine, or cleaning a marble floor, or managing a service team for twenty years and this automatically creates great talent, we instead take a closer look is taken at how much can be learned in a very small amount of time, given a very honest, critical look by ourselves at how we perform during each second of the task

What if proficiency in a domestic skill could also be more about the mindset and dedication of the domestic worker to become proficient, and less to do with the training program?

And more importantly... what if you could recreate this hot-dog eating contest at your next staff meeting, for both fun and inspiration of this approach to continuous improvement on your estate?  

Now there's a staff meeting I'd gladly attend. I'm in!

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