I’m sure we’re all happy to have arrived at Foodie Friday. What a week! In my local paper this week was a story about the local food critic retiring. He’s 65 and has been writing his reviews for 25 years. There were a number of things in his farewell column that I think are relevant no matter what business you’re in and I’d like to share them with you.
“When I sit down for a meal, I’ve always wanted them to succeed,” Cox said. “If you’re not excited about it, I don’t know why you’d be a restaurant critic.”
Some folks might think that the word “critic” implies someone who is negative. In fact, a critic is a professional who communicates an assessment and an opinion of various forms of creative works, according to Wikipedia. Managers are critics too. We evaluate our team members’ work and job performance as part of our responsibilities. Unfortunately, many of us seem to forget what the above quote says. We need to want them to succeed and to be excited about that success. I’ve worked with managers who hardly ever had a good word to say about their staff, and when they did have something nice to say it was usually a reflection on their excellent management skills and not on their team’s talent.
It’s been fun reading this guy’s reviews. Like many of my North Carolina neighbors, he’s very plain-spoken and without pretense, not exactly the vibe I used to get from the food critics in NYC. He’d invest as much energy in a review of a local mom and pop place as he did in the reviews of James Beard-nominated chefs (yes, we have quite a few here in the Triangle). That’s an important thing too. Not every project is fascinating. In fact, most of the time, we’re doing rather mundane, repetitive work. Was working in TV fascinating? Yes. Was pulling together sales packages and ratings data? Not after the first 10 times it wasn’t. To be successful, we have to treat our pet projects and the drudge work as equals. And lose the attitude, folks. You’re not your job so don’t confuse who you are with what you do. As many folks have found out the hard way of late, the title, salary, perks, and status can be gone in a hurry.
Think about what being a food or other kind of critic entails. It’s not enough to be a subject matter expert. You can know everything there is to know about food or wine or film or art. That’s not enough. You have to be able to formulate coherent opinions based on that knowledge and express them in written form. That’s where I think many business people fail. They’re smart, they have great ideas, but they can’t express them to others clearly and cogently in writing.
I suppose all critics are critical – it’s their job, right? But critical thinking – analyzing facts to form an opinion – doesn’t mean negative thinking. A good thing to keep in mind!