“Hot! Behind you!”

I have been rewatching some old seasons of “Top Chef,” the reality show where chefs compete over several weeks, and one wins, and they cook lots of amazing-looking things.

There is a lot of activity, and hustle, and there’s a deadline, just like in a real kitchen. You need to get your dish cooked and on a plate and out to the diners, or in this case, the judges. There’s a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. 

Something stood out to me about how these professionals communicate in the kitchen.

They don’t waste words. If you’re carrying a very hot dish from the stove to the counter, and you’re crossing behind people who don’t know you’re there, you say something like, “Hot! Behind you.” You are locating yourself in space, you’re letting people know what the potential danger is, and you’re protecting yourself and others from getting hurt. 

This is powerful to me because this communication does exactly what is needed, no more and no less. Because it’s generally accepted as the way people speak to each other in this circumstance, no one apologizes for being abrupt. No matter who’s speaking, their volume is appropriate to this busy space.  The alignment between what the words need to do and how they are delivered is totally integrated. 

What’s the “Behind you!” where you work?

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