Movie “Burnt” Depicts Both Ugly & Good Teamwork Lessons

If you want a vivid training primer on how teamwork and collaboration make a winning recipe for business success, cut-up a few scenes from the movie “Burnt.”

Credit: Burnt Facebook movie page.
Credit: Burnt Facebook movie page.

Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, the culinary-themed drama features a two-star Michelin chef (Cooper) trying to rebuild his life and career. He receives unexpected wisdom and inspiration from his sous chef (Miller) in his quest for a third star.

Three scenes stood out from a business perspective. Each one depicts a critical behavior and corresponding performance lesson for leaders and teams.

Plus, keep reading for my Ten Leadership, Collaboration & Teamwork Lessons.

Scene 1.  The kitchen is notified that Michelin reviewers are in the restaurant. Chef Cooper (not yet recovered from a beating inflicted for unpaid drug debts) takes charge in a crazed, dictatorial manner that completely unsettles the cooking team.  Not the way to instill camaraderie in pursuit of a shared objective! That Cooper is undone by the sabotage of a team member seeking revenge, and the diners are just plain businessmen, is not the point. We’ve all seen some version of this team leader dysfunction play-out in the workplace. It’s never positive. Continue reading “Movie “Burnt” Depicts Both Ugly & Good Teamwork Lessons”

Duke’s President Offers Actionable Philosophy for Life and Work

Credit: Duke University.
Credit: Duke University.

It was a really pragmatic gift, but maybe tough to appreciate at age 18.

In his welcoming comments to the Class of 2019, Duke University President Richard Brodhead dispensed some wise philosophy.  He encouraged the new students to adopt a set of profound and powerful life and work ideas that are applicable to all of us.

Brodhead’s address, titled Building a Life at Duke, was themed off the massive construction and renovation underway on campus.  It provided an apt metaphor for his message.

I’ve culled and organized Four Key Takeaways.

1.  Expect Change & Embrace Where It Can Take You

If you want to make room for a new, improved version of yourself, you will have to tolerate some disruption— of your personal habits, of your preexisting networks, even of assumptions that once seemed certain. Disruption is not fun, but it is the opener of possibilities.

> I agree about the importance of disruption as a positive change enabler.  Focus on where it will take you.  It may be more fun than you think. Continue reading “Duke’s President Offers Actionable Philosophy for Life and Work”

How To Take a Fresh Look, Get New Ideas & Tackle A Challenging New Job

Let’s say you’re a new business unit leader or CMO.

You want to get an unvarnished, 360-degree view of the situation and challenge at-hand.  You have to get prepared to give your boss an action plan.

What do you do and how do you do it?

To demonstrate, let’s use a high-profile, global example that just happened.  I’ll tell you who it is at the end of the post.

Blackboard with words Look Listen Learn
Image: iStock

Here are some of the steps taken by the new leader:

* Invited a range of outside industry experts to a private dinner.  They represented views both consistent with, and alternate to, the company’s strategic direction.

* The guests had to earn their meal by commenting on the most pressing problems facing the company.  Specifically, they were asked:  “Tell me something I don’t know;” and “Give me a new way of thinking about things.”

Continue reading “How To Take a Fresh Look, Get New Ideas & Tackle A Challenging New Job”

Whiplash Movie is Case Study for Terrible Leaders

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

So says  tyrannical band leader Terence Fletcher, brilliantly portrayed in an Oscar-winning performance by actor J.K. Simmons in the movie Whiplash.

J.K. Simmons (r) and Miles Teller in Whiplash. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

The psychological thriller provides a springboard into a number of rich discussion areas, including leadership and coaching.  I can see this movie being used as content in business schools and corporate training sessions to help teach leaders what not to do. 

For example, toward the end of the movie, emerging drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) is conversing with Fletcher.  The topic is just how far a leader can go to get the best out of someone, and via what methods.  Andrew asks if there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.  It’s clear he’s referring to Fletcher’s button-pushing, take-no-prisoners approach to make people the best they can be (according to him).  The response: No.

My response: Absolutely yes.

Band leader Fletcher sprints across that line from the get-go.  His abusive toolkit also includes: Continue reading “Whiplash Movie is Case Study for Terrible Leaders”

Surprise Performance: Kids Movie Characters Teach Adults How to Thrive at Work

What possible business insights can we glean from children’s movie characters Dusty Crophopper, Skipper, Classified and SpongeBob?

No, I haven’t lost my mind.

Being an uncle to young boys, I’ve seen The SpongeBob Movie, Penguins of Madagascar and Planes: Fire & Rescue in the last six months.

While these movies aim to entertain (and make a profit – SpongeBob was number one last weekend), they are also embedded with social lesson skills for young children, especially group dynamics.  And, if you think about it, those same dynamics translate to important business organization themes that can either fuel success or cause dysfunction.

In each of the three movies, the main characters have to navigate situations and challenges that teach the critical importance of the following:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Dealing with Change
  • Organization Alignment
  • Positioning Employees for Success
Dusty Crophopper - Planes: Fire & Rescue. Credit: http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue
Dusty Crophopper – Planes: Fire & Rescue. Credit: http://movies.disney.com/planes-fire-and-rescue

In Planes: Fire & Rescue, main character and flying ace Dusty Crophopper has to cope with the challenge of joining a new company and adapting to a different job. At first, he’s a cocky, hot-shot.  He has trouble performing due to a lack of focus and unwillingness to get aligned with the objectives and needs of the team/organization.

Dusty grows with the help of wise, mentoring colleagues, and actual trial by fire. He learns to understand his role, and how to contribute to and be part of a winning team.  He also understands that self-sacrifice is sometimes necessary for the team to win.

Skipper - Penguins of Madagascar. Credit: http://madagascar.dreamworks.com
Skipper – Penguins of Madagascar. Credit: http://madagascar.dreamworks.com

In Penguins of Madagascar, we get a variety of lessons about leader evolution, encouraging initiative at all levels,  and knowing when to ask for help.

Continue reading “Surprise Performance: Kids Movie Characters Teach Adults How to Thrive at Work”