Cutting Onions: Leadership Lessons Learned From the Restaurant Industry

book review Dec 27, 2019

This is a fantastic book. It talks about leadership, team building, and building cultures. I will start my summary/review by introducing the author. If you master the concepts in the book, there is no limit on how far you can take your leadership skills. Do not read the book, study it. 

Who is Bobby Shaw?
Bobby Shaw is the author of this book. He worked in the restaurant industry his entire life. He started cooking burgers at McDonald's and moved all way up to the executive level at Chipotle. His journey is inspiring and motivating. That is not what I loved about the book, what I loved the most is his ability to relate to his readers through his writings. He summarized my entire approach to life in one sentence “I am work in progress.”

This author has accomplished a lot and continues to work on himself. This book is his attempt to tell his readers what he learned and what he is working on right now.

The Art of Cutting Onions
The title of the book is an attention grabber and not to be confused with a cookbook. Let me rephrase that. It is a cookbook about life and leadership. The author takes small pieces from different aspects of his life and assembles them to life and leadership lessons. These lessons are critical for everyone to know.

Leadership and Making Magic
Bobby defines leadership as influence and stewardship. He uses Andy Stanley and John Maxwell's approach to leadership. He talks about the impact of leadership on life and business. He moves on to talk about making magic. The magic of discovering and developing talented people and help them become better leaders.

Building the Best Team and Teamwork
He moves on to talk about building teams. He believes that building a good team is critical to your success. Then, he starts to refute the fact that no one can be self-made. Do not throw stones at him or me yet. Read the section to understand his perspective and mine. He proves to his readers that behind every successful person, there is a team or a person who believed in them. No man is an island. He goes on to talk about teamwork, roles, responsibilities, and the importance of selecting the right people.

Communication and Digging Deep
Bobby makes it very clear that communication is not about exchanging words with someone across the table from you. Most of the time, the best communicators are not the best orators. They are great listeners, and they know how to ask the right questions.

He also emphasizes the importance of communicating using written words. To make a case for writing, he mentioned a concept called clearing the deck. Clearing the deck is about transferring your thoughts from your mind to papers. Your mind is a thinking tool and not a storage tank. Transfer your thoughts to notebooks, this habit will change your life.

To motivate and inspire your team, you must become an efficient and effective communicator. Dig deep and understand your team hopes, fears, needs, wants, and desires.

Invest in Yourself.
Bobby proposes surrounding yourself with people who can act as your board of directors. I assure you that it is one of the most effective approaches to leadership and business development. Adopt this approach and you will start moving your life and business forward. Invest in yourself and join a professional organization or a mastermind. If you find a professional mastermind, you should join as soon as you can. I founded one of the most effective professional mastermind groups, check it out.

Become a Top Performer 
Bobby recalls stories from Chipotle throughout the book. He shares Chipotle definitions of top performers. Top performers are individuals who can elevate everyone around them. He provides his readers with a framework to become a top performer: effort, ability, and desire. Read this section twice. It is very important, and it is worth it.

Emotional Intelligence and High-Touch
The author explains emotional intelligence. He uses Daniel Coleman's framework. I must admit, you cannot be a good leader without emotional intelligence. He warns his readers not to rely on technology completely. Relying 100 % on technology to communicate with your team can lead to disasters. It destroys your culture. You will lose touch with your team and impact morale. He demonstrates how technology should be used as an accelerator and a connector. It should help you connect people to people and not hinder your ability to communicate with them. The key here is people.

Culture and Asking the Right Questions
He ends the book by talking about culture. His passion to build healthy cultures shines through his words and examples. Culture is important, leaders should always aim to build a culture based on trust. Culture is a collection of everything that you say and do. People are watching you, and they will emulate you.

At the end of the book, he provides his readers with four questions. If you use these questions, you will shift your culture in a few days. The first question is this, “ What seems to be happening here? “ Read the book to discover the other questions.

Great book, I recommend that you read it.


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