Last weekend, I was trying to find some movie DVDs to watch at my home and one of my friends suggested me the Hindi movie – “Lunchbox”. I generally pick my movies after carefully reading the reviews on the internet and while checking on this, I was surprised with the overwhelmingly positive reviews and also learned that it represented India in many International film events such as The Oscars, BAFTA, Cannes and Toronto Festival. Without any hesitation, I bought the DVD and what to say, it became one of the best movies I had watched in a long time.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”
The movie starts off with this note and if you are already thinking (just like me) that this is another story of a married woman trying to woo her husband through her culinary skills, you are in for a surprise as you start realizing the slight twist to the storyline once it starts unfolding. The movie is about an unhappy housewife, Ila, trying to get her husband’s love by cooking tasty food. She cooks with the utmost care but it gets delivered to a wrong person, Saajan (played brilliantly by Irfaan Khan) by the Mumbai Dabbawallahs. This chance encounter results in both Ila and Saajan sharing their hopes, dreams, experiences about life and their daily activities through letters in the lunch box. The rest of the movie flows like a poem and poignantly portrays as to how this delivery mistake changes the life of Ila and Saajan forever. The movie leaves you with long lasting impressions about personal life and also offers plenty of takeaways on a professional level as well, especially for managers who would like to establish a better relationship with their employees. I have mentioned a few of them below:
Talk, Talk, Talk
The biggest learning from the movie has to be the importance of communication, be it between husband-wife or managers-employees as a failure here could have far-reaching consequences ultimately leading to break in the relationship. Right from the start, Ila’s husband (Rajiv) refrains from talking to Ila and even though Ila tries to be positive about this, at one point in time, she couldn’t just take this forward. So, she decides to leave her husband once for all. Rajiv could have averted this if in case he had found time to communicate with Ila. This is the same with managers who are always so busy that they don’t even find time to be with their employees and forget one of their core objectives – managing their employees. This is one of the major reasons why employees don’t trust their managers and ultimately decide to leave them. So managers need to ensure that they take some time to communicate with their employees on a regular basis.
Care about your Feedbacks
As like communication, the managers also have to be frequent in giving genuine feedbacks to employees about their performance. While Ila asks about the food to Rajiv, he just gives a one-word answer – Good, which doesn’t really motivate Ila even though he didn’t say anything negative. If he had explained a little about the food like “the chapatti was soft to eat and the spices in the sabzi had blended well and complemented the chapatti really well”, it would have inspired Ila to cook with interest even though it’s her daily boring routine. So, managers should understand that there are employees like Ila who do their daily work with passion and would require some motivation to carry on their good work in the future. So next time when your employee asks for feedback, stop giving one-word answers and be descriptive so that employees get a real picture of the work they do.
Get into details
Another problem with today’s managers is they give generic comments during project-related discussion with the employees that nobody understands what he/she means, resulting in loss of time and effort for both. While Ila asks about the lunch, Rajiv just talks about the food but if he had gone into details of the food like the roti and sabzi, the problem of wrong lunch box being delivered would have been found and stopped at the first instant itself.
Choose a medium to connect with your employees
In the movie, food acts as the connecting link between Ila and Saajan and its aroma and taste is used by Ila to express her feelings to Saajan – be it her anger through the spicy vegetables or the aubergine fry to express her love. Also, they use letters which are short and crisp for communicating with each other. Similarly, managers need to choose their own medium to communicate with their employees. Some of the examples could be using personalized gifts, letters of appreciation or sending colorful emails to communicate with the employees.
Take Genuine Interest with your employees
Both Ila and Saajan don’t know each other (not even their age) but still they enjoy each other’s company, be it Ila cooking good food for Saajan or Sajaan writing letters to thank for her food and in return giving Ila worldly advice to deal with her fears and problems in life. Even though as managers we are supposed to be professional, but connecting at times on a personal level would do a world of good for the relationship. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey explains about a simple yet powerful concept known as “Relationship Bank Account”- that involves random but regular acts of kindness towards a person leading to a healthier relationship. So, small gestures like wishing a good day, saying hello/ thanks/ sorry, checking when someone is not well, keeping your promises become your deposits in the relationship bank account with your employees that increase the emotional bonding leading to greater productivity.
Don’t cheat and be Open
Rajiv doesn’t have any love for Ila and has an illegal relationship with another girl. He thinks that Ila wouldn’t find this as she mostly stays at home. She somehow gets to know this through the lipstick stains on Rajiv’s shirt. Some managers are like Rajiv who feel bad about working with an employee but don’t have the guts to address it with them. Instead of talking at the back of your employees’ about his/ her performance, have an open chat with them and be frank about your expectations and reality. If it still doesn’t work, it’s better for both the parties to part ways happily rather raging a cold war within the office premises.
Next time, when you open your lunch box, remember these lessons and don’t forget to thank your wife/ mom who prepares the lunch with not just the vegetables/spices but with lots of love as well. So, what you’re waiting for, grab a lunch box, am sorry, a tub of popcorn and enjoy this movie.