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.

Scene 2. In a quiet, one-on-one moment, Miller’s sous chef poignantly tells Cooper that “you can’t do it alone.” Cooper’s chef has grown to the point that he seems ready to accept and act on the advice.

Scene 3.  The real Michelin reviewers have been identified in the restaurant and reported to Cooper and the kitchen team. With a calm, smiling, composed and confident presence, he simply says:  “We do what we do – and we do it together.” And they do. Note the contrast to Scene 1. It’s a powerful moment.


Credit: Burnt Facebook movie page.

Ten Leadership, Collaboration & Teamwork Lessons

They’re not new, yet they are simple, timeless and proven effective.

  1. Be a force multiplier – because you simply cannot do it all by yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with the right mix of talented people who can work together (and with you) to achieve common objectives.
  3. Provide the team with the necessary organization, guidance and parameters so they can unleash their abilities in pursuit of the challenge.
  4. Become excellent and timely with developmental and performance-enhancing feedback and coaching.
  5. Earn respect and build trust as the team leader (#4 helps a lot).
  6. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and encourage your team to do the same.
  7. Ask “what if” to stimulate ideas and expand minds.
  8. Be direct – in a positive, constructive manner. Get the issues on the table so they can be addressed.
  9. Create a no-bullshit environment. “I don’t know”is a better answer (helps with number 5 too), but then find out.
  10. Be Always Ready (a powerful mindset). You can’t always know the specifics of the future tough challenge, but you can always be ready and prepared with the skill set and mental fortitude to do your best.

In case you dismissed “We do what we do – and we do it together” as just sappy Hollywood screenwriting, how about this real-world mantra from my former Tate & Lyle colleague Ijones Constantino:

“We play as a team. We play hard.”

Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at harveychimoff dot com.

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