Thursday, August 11, 2005

How Is It?

In my last job, I was in another state, acting as our company's representative, basically, as a consultant we had hired provided training for corrections officers. My company was going to be providing substance abuse treatment services, and the corrections officers needed some introduction to such treatment. Several people from the state were there, too, seeing as how the state was funding the treatment program--i.e., we were the contractors overseeing the state-funded program. At the end of the first day of training, one of the state people (who liked to stir shit up just because he could) expressed his unhappiness with the training to me. I, too, was unhappy with it--I don't remember my complaints, but it was not being done well. I immediately got back to my hotel room and called my boss--I might even have paged him, which I did not do except under extreme circumstances. I eventually spoke at some length with the head of the consulting group providing the training, and, despite his insulting demeanor toward me, managed to make some points clear. The second day of training was much better than the first, and the state people were happier, so I was happier. When I was back in the office the next day, shit started hitting the fan. I don't remember all of what happened--the asshole head of the consulting group was in the mix somehow--but I think the gist was that the consultants were peeved that I had said anything, the state guy was still sticking his fingers in the pot, though he's the one who started it, and so on. I wouldn't have done anything differently, except to take back one passing comment I'd made to the state guy early on (and it was pretty innocuous; I think I made the mistake of actually agreeing with him that the training was shitty). I certainly would not have NOT called my boss--that would've been the worst possible thing I could have done. Still, everyone was unhappy, it seemed. As a result, late on a Friday afternoon, I was in my boss' office and I was extremely unhappy. I said something to the effect that it seemed like everyone was mad at me about something--the state was still not entirely happy about the training, the consultant group was pissy about the whole thing, etc. My boss kind of narrowed his eyes and looked straight at me and said, "The only person's opinion you need to care about is your boss's, and he's fine with what you did." He and I had already agreed that I shouldn't have made my comment to the state guy--I knew it as soon as the words left my mouth--but it wasn't an egregious error as these things go. One of the many great things about working with and for him was that I got straightforward, honest critiques. He is better than anyone I've ever met at helping people be better at what they do best.

In order for that to happen, though, all the parties to the transaction have to be in on it. The speaker has to be willing to speak the truth, and the listener has to be willing to hear it. Sometimes you can brainstorm on ways to improve something that needs improvement; sometimes the more knowledgeable person can tell you how to fix something--as when the chef showed me how to fix the chocolate tart shells for the chocolate espresso tarts the other day, or how to fix my uneven puff pastry dough today. According to the chef, not everyone wants to hear these things. I do--for one thing, when he compliments me on something, it means even more, because I believe that he wouldn't lie to me about it, but, for another thing, there's no way I can get any good at this stuff without feedback from someone who knows what the hell he's doing. So I've been trying to get into the habit of asking him for a critique of each of my products, and I wish I'd done that sooner, not least because I think tomorrow is our last day with him, which bums me right out. (I've gotten passing critiques all along, if he happens to be walking by.) I also wish we could afford a digital camera, because I haven't been able to take a single photograph of my work.

Today was Puff Pastry Mania!, during which I made another pithivier, because I made such hash out of the last one. (I could have made the horns for cream horns, or vol a vent, but I thought I needed more practice on this one. I'll make palmier out of the leftover dough when we finish the Mania! tomorrow.) This pithivier came out much better--I thought it was a little lopsided, but the chef said it looked good (even though he laughed when I lamented that it was ugly in a whole different way from the last one) and wondered if I'm too hard on myself. I don't think I am; I think I'm as demanding as the situation warrants. Anyway, the pithivier, for those of you who don't remember, is puff pastry with almond pastry cream in the center; this time I managed to not hack all the way through the pastry, so the filling stayed put. We also made miniature fruit tarts (this IS the petit fours section of the class) and more macarons with passion fruit filling. Our macarons were much nicer looking today than they were the other day, and I thought my fruit tarts came out pretty well, too. They got a little smushed in transit, but they looked and tasted pretty nice. I'd sent the opera cake to work with C, and he informed me that his coworkers would probably carry me around on their shoulders, so enamored of the cake were they. I gave a few pieces to the bus driver this morning, too.


Blogger Chip Morgan said...

I came across your blog by accident....then was intrigued! Chip

6:50 PM  

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