“No Reservations” When It Comes To Leadership Coaching

I am willing to admit that I am not a big movie-goer, but this past week, I accommodated the wish of my spouse and joined her at the cinema to watch the film “No Reservations” starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.

I set my expectations low, but gradually I became intrigued by the movie. Now before I go any further I have another confession to make: I have a difficult time separating my work life from leisure. I am always looking for connections & lessons from life that applies to the world of work. As the story line in “No Reservations” unfolded, I couldn’t help becoming caught up in the leadership styles of the two lead actors. Without giving away the story, let me just describe the basic situation from a leadership point of view.

You see, the movie revolves around a high end restaurant and how the kitchen was being ran and operated by Catherine Zita-Jones’ character Kate. It was interesting to watch the effect of her leadership style on the team she worked with.

Kate was talented, hard working and dedicated to the business, however, she was also a perfectionist, hard driving, and micro-manager. Her interpersonal skills specifically her ability to be accessible, humble and authentic with her team created a real rift between her and her team. She ran a tight ship, demanded quality in her product but she would not allow herself to relax and create an engaged and motivating place to work. Her co-star enters the picture when she needs some time off to take care of some important personal business for a few days. While she is gone, the owner of the restaurant hires a temporary head chef to keep things together in the kitchen. The new head chef is a polar opposite of Kate (Catherine Zita-Jones).

The new chef, Nick (Aaron Eckhart), is more approachable, communicates with the workers in a personal way, brings some creative ideas to the kitchen and revitalizes the staff. The kitchen team is more engaged and when he has to demand and push his team hard during peak times, the team responds with added zeal & zest. He still has high standards but adds in some fun, sensitivity and creativity that were missing in Kate’s style of management.

Nick gained the loyalty and admiration of everyone working in the kitchen. He related to the customers and wasn’t so “task focused” that he forgot who made the restaurant great. It would have been fun to conduct an engagement survey or do a leadership 360 degree survey from employees, peers, owners and customers on the leadership styles of these professionals.

While the story in this film ended on a positive note, it illustrated just exactly how much a leader’s style affects the success of an organization. It eventually goes straight to the bottom line! It determines whether, good or not, they will choose to elevate their performance when it is needed most. It even impacts customer loyalty. A study a few years ago suggested that employees tend to treat customers the way they are treated by their management.

The moral of the story is quite compelling. If you want a high performing team of people behind you, you need to establish clear expectations, coach them with tact, relax and have a little fun, don’t micro-manage them, give them credit and recognition. Be willing to seek out feedback from your team, making adjustments so that they can fulfill their needs or yours while satisfying the needs of the business.

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About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth. Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries. Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans. The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.