I’m not really a reality show kind of gal; I much prefer NCIS or NCIS: Los Angeles over Survivor, The Voice, or The Amazing Race. However, I do admit to a slight fascination (okay, a keen fascination) with two Food Network shows: Restaurant Stakeout and Restaurant Impossible.
Restaurant Stakeout fascinates me because it shows a restaurant owner seeing (via hidden video cameras) stupid or dangerous or criminal employee behaviors and having to acknowledge that as the leader, s/he might be just a little bit accountable for creating an environment that enabled said behaviors. And truly, some of the behaviors are very cringe-worthy: wrestling on the restaurant floor in front of patrons, stealing tips from other wait people, wiping one’s nose then going back to cooking food (NEVER eating at that restaurant).
Can you imagine what hidden video cameras would show leaders and HR pros in more corporate settings than a single restaurant? And here’s the more critical question for us HR pros: would we really want to? It’s one thing for a restaurant owner to be shown employees doing dumb things, and having Willie Degel disparage them for lousy leadership, crummy business acumen, and a major health code violations. That restaurant owner has the authority and accountability to do something about it (and given how moronic they look on national TV, they’d better get right on it).
It’s another thing for a corporate leader, with his or her HR pro, to witness leadership and/or employee behaviors that, if not addressed, might or might not do damage to morale / engagement / business performance. Depending on the level of egregiousness, HR might have to do anything from a mild scolding to a serious investigation. The corporate leader might hav
e to do anything from telling HR to go scold someone to firing someone to providing a deposition. But, if watching employees breakdancing in the middle of the call center gets a leader and HR to look in the mirror and wonder what they are doing wrong, well, it might be worth it.
Restaurant Impossible intrigues me because Chef Robert Irvine (he of a past ethically dubious claim to British knighthood) spends two days showing restaurant owners on how to run their business better, by pointing out where they are leading poorly or, more often, abdicating leadership responsibilities all together. Chef Irvine also provides some guidance to the staffs as well, particularly hapless cooks who learn that a well-seasoned steak tastes infinitely better than an unseasoned one cooked to shoe leather. In the end (after 48 hours and $10K), the owners have epiphanies, the staff become stellar performers, and the “grand reopening” of the restaurant is a raging success.
Both shows oversimplify a business turnaround, to be sure. As an HR pro/consultant, don’t I often wish putting business leaders or clients on the right track towards prosperity through changing employee and leader behaviors were so simple. At the same time, I do get inspired by the shows, for, if nothing else, they do demonstrate that such behavior changes are possible. Based on the stakeout / impossible formula, the process for changing behavior and turning around the business performance is:
1. Awareness (via hidden camera or direct feedback or cue cards)
2. Moving the restaurant owner through the change curve (e.g., through denial, anger, resignation, etc.), working through all sorts of complicated and messy emotions, etc. (It helps that there is a contractual time constraint).
5. Reinforcement, again, working through messy and complicated emotions
Hmmmm. Now why does that look familiar to me, an HR pro/consultant?