The balance between doubt and confidence

I was reading an excellent interview with René Redzepi over the weekend, where he discussed how he changed the culture of his kitchens. He’d always stayed true to the classic kitchen culture of machismo, but staff attrition had led him to instill a more respectful, humane spirit into his restaurant.

“I’m not talking about cutting out discipline or the pirate ship–like camaraderie of the kitchen. The kitchen needs discipline, codes of conduct, a clear chain of command. Cooks need to feel like they’re part of a group that’s pushing together. A restaurant needs organization and quality control.
And when people feel more confident, people cook better. They make good decisions in critical moments, and that is what cooking is. Does it need a little more salt? A little less? That’s the difference between success and failure.

His point rang true for me. Unbridled confidence in the workplace has always sat uncomfortably with me; it needs to be tempered with organisation, an end goal that confidence can be directed towards. There is so much that we don’t know, to be overly confident or without doubt seems silly to me.

At the same time, doubt can be a corrosive force. When someone is faced with doubt, you can be almost certain they’re not bringing their best to the table. Doubt undermines confidence and assumes the worst, leading to nothing but bad decisions (or worse still, indecision) over time.

The best teams work alongside this perfect balance of doubt and confidence. Confident enough to drown out the fear, but humble enough they don’t ignore what’s really happening around them.