My husband is a foodie – he loves the Food Network, and occasionally I’ll hang out and watch a show with him. Friday night, for the first time, I watched Gordon Ramsey on “Kitchen Nightmares.”
While I expected to be regaled with amazing food combinations never before experienced that would transform dull, lifeless restaurants into overnight successes, instead I was amazed at how the show focused on relationships. Relationships between family members, relationships with employees, and relationships with customers.
After tasting several items from the menu, Ramsey talked with the chef and kitchen staff about the food (which was usually very poor quality and in some cases rotten), and observed the reactions of the chef and staff. He then watched the interactions of the entire staff as they ran their business and quickly identified the problem people, behaviors, and systems.
With one particularly dysfunctional Italian family restaurant owned by two brothers, Ramsey invited the entire restaurant staff to their first company meeting. He sat the family members in the kitchen in front of a television and the wait staff in the dining room in front of a camera and began asking the wait staff how they felt about working at the restaurant. The areas of dysfunction became immediately apparent and the main perpetrators of the dysfunction (a brother and his wife who were both screamers) got to hear the direct truth about their behaviors and how it affected the staff and the customers. The wife was so adverse to criticism that she pointed at the TV and yelled “liars!”
After discussing how the family dynamic impacted the staff and the success of the business (which was in immediate threat of bankruptcy), Ramsey then used food as the conduit to reconnect family members. The kitchen was set up to make fresh sausage. That activity brought back such fond and deep childhood memories for the screaming wife that she was brought to tears. We watched as her fear-based screaming behaviors turned into equally passionate laughter and almost child-like happiness. She was reconnected with her love for food, working with food, eating food, and enjoying family and life. Ramsey did similar things to reignite other family members with their passion for cooking and food, and more importantly to reignite their love for each other as family.
They continued to work through real experiences replacing old bad behaviors with new more functional behaviors. Ramsey coached them by focusing on the outcome (uncooked fish coming off the line) and bluntly explained what needed to be done to effect a change (it’s your responsibility to taste things before they go out and direct the line cooks accordingly).
As the dysfunctional family dynamic started to give way to personal awareness and accountability and the atmosphere changed from fear, anxiety, and dread, to happiness, hope, and excitement, I began to wonder, why don’t networks produce stories about this type of relationship assessment on business environments? Probably because there typically isn’t that deep seated bond that you find with family members in the typical business environment. Can you imagine your arrogant, self-serving boss watching a video of his employees talking about how they fear his/her outbursts and feel directionless because of the lack of stated goals or vision? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a boss like this confronted with reality, achieve self-awareness, and be coached through the creation of functional and supportive behaviors? Now, that is reality TV that I would like to live through.