If you are looking for a model of an outstanding executive coach, please start watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. In this series, the leading chef and famed restaurant entrepreneur turns around struggling restaurants. And he doesn’t sandbag: The restaurants he chooses are about as dysfunctional as you can get, suffering from bug infestations and filth, inept managers, kitchen stoves that don’t work, and menus that are wrong.
Those of you who are sticklers about the distinctions between executive coaching, consulting, and interim management will disagree with my assertion that this show is must viewing. That’s because Ramsay serves as all three during his week to turn around an establishment. But the goal of any executive coach is to get results, and in the Center for Executive Coaching, we teach that the coach needs to find a structure that works for his or her client. Sometimes you have to switch from coach to consultant to interim manager — and the best professionals know when and how to do this.
Here is why Ramsay is a great coach:
1. He has picked a niche market (restaurants) where he can dominate as the leading expert. Too many coaches are generalists, and this is a mistake. It is important — both for marketing and for your solution set — to specialize. Pick a target market where you have a great story and can be the “go to” professional.
2. He is open and honest. He tells it like it is, and most of his clients need a dose of truth. They are too used to having employees who are compliant.
3. He can shift an uncoachable business owner into someone who listens. On just about every show I’ve seen, there is at least one top manager at the restaurant who is responsible for the mess in the “before” organization and won’t take responsibility for the poor performance. Ramsay is great at giving them the facts and data required — and delivering it — in a way that makes the most hardened manager/executive see the truth.
4. His solutions are brilliant. Because of his experience, he helps his clients get some miraculous results, quickly. Within a week he can work with his clients to turn a dying, bug-infested restaurant into the next hit.
5. He always starts with an assessment to get the facts. In his case, he samples the food, observes the dinner service, and inspects the kitchen. Note that he doesn’t automatically start with “leadership assessments.” Not needed. He gets right into the areas that have impact on a business in his target market. Once he assesses, he intervenes in ways that get immediate results.
Of course, this is television, and there are some contrived parts that won’t apply to the average Executive Coach. For instance, we can’t all take out an entire kitchen and put in a brand new one.
But watch this show and see how Ramsay does things. It is a rare opportunity to watch a master coach get results.