I just finished reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. The book just screams great communication lessons. For example, his observation that “right now you’re not the chef, your the toilet guy.”

  • Jack of all trades
  • One man band
  • Go-to guy
  • Wearer of many hats

That’s me.

If you are in business for yourself, an independent, or member of a small boutique firm, that’s you. If you are a one-person communication shop, that’s you too. It’s a role I accepted many years ago as a small business owner. When you aren’t surrounded by tons of support, you have to be willing to figure it out. Do the dirty work.

I have to be ready to jump in and fix the fact that we can’t receive the client’s electronic payment advice, or complete reams of forms to set us up for online invoicing. I am willing to be my own IT team to figure out why my email quit working. I am also willing to do the tactical communication implementation if I have to to support a client. The strategy is my favorite, but I’ll do the tactical stuff to deliver on client expectations.

Bourdain talks about it not just as a right of passage, but also a learning experience and a leadership development opportunity. If you don’t sweat the small stuff, how will you ever know? How can you provide great counsel, teach others, lead, be responsive, make good decisions?

I’m getting ready to embark on a new project with a new client. I’ll be working with the communication team to help them become more skilled strategic thinkers and counselors. To gain their trust, I’ll need to work some of the small stuff with them. As I do, I’ll always be teaching, but I have reminded myself that no assignment from the team is beneath me. As long as the client thinks the time is valuably spent, and I can make a contribution, I’ll do it. Every task is a teaching opportunity. And an opportunity for me to continue to hone my own skills.

Next week, I’ll tackle that toilet that runs on and on.