Why I forgot what I knew to lead a 250-strong team

Executive Head Chef at Tottenham Hotspur FC, Mark Reynolds reveals how his leadership style has changed and how he keeps his large team motivated.

How did you start out?

My dad bought a pub when I was 15 so I grew up working in kitchens. I left to join the army, but found it wasn’t for me.

By 19 I was a sous chef at The Langham. I got into private catering through a stint of film and TV work and then moved to catering at larger premises.

How did those jobs compare to running contract catering at Tottenham?

As a private chef you’re on your own. I had to be very self-motivated. In the end I missed being part of a team. Now I can be working with as many as 250 people on a match day.

How would you compare your early experiences to the kind of leader you are now?

I used to be the typical chef. Frustrated and holding a lot of anger. There’d be a situation in the kitchen, I’d go mad and blow off at everyone. At the end of a shift, I’d often take the pressures of the day home to my family.

One of the companies I used to work for gave me a life coach. It completely changed my view on life and how I manage teams. It also changed how I felt at home, and I’m able to leave work at work now.

Since then, I’ve learnt to have patience and be open and honest with the team. My brigade is no longer shouty and we work together with front of house as one which is key for a smooth operation. There’s no them and us and we have a motivated, efficient team.

How do you build a relationship with a team so large?

I try to learn everyone’s name, even with casuals. At the end of a shift I make sure either I or one of my heads of department are on the exits to thank people and say goodnight. Small things like this can make a big difference. 

During the shifts I do a lot of walking around, see how everyone is and spot where problems might be starting. Being around shows interest, but I also want to let them figure things out themselves.

I also have an open door policy. There’s a sofa in my office where anyone, front or back of house, full time or casual, can take a seat and have a chat. Once given the opportunity, people are a lot more open than they used to be about their wellbeing.

 How do you keep your team motivated?

  1. You have to manage the brigade consistently, not show favouritism and treat everyone fairly.
  2. It’s also important to give feedback, both good and bad. I try to say it constructively and give solutions on how to move forward.
  3. I make sure everyone is rotated. Once someone’s been doing the same job for a day or two they can lose enthusiasm. 
Mark Reynolds and Team