Delicious Leadership Service Part 4: Lessons from Canlis

At TEAMTRI we believe great leadership happens from the inside out. And, we believe that every organization whether it’s a family, a nonprofit, a publicly traded company, or a family owned restaurant has the capacity and responsibility to learn and practice sincere, authentic, and real leadership to serve others—and when real leadership happens everyone benefits and grows.

So, while we do our work in leadership, we are constantly reading, studying, and searching for examples of leaders and organizations who have figured out real service and leadership. In this final installment of the delicious service series, Michelle summarizes the leadership insights she and Trevor gained dining at Canlis Restaurant in Seattle. Thank you again to the Canlis Crew for exceeding the incredibly high expectations we had for you!

Lesson 4: Listening to Your Elders Really Does Pay Off

By Michelle Collins

Growing up you hear over and over wise advice like:

“Listen to your elders.”

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

“It’s the small things that count”

“Live a legacy worth repeating.”

We sometimes hear these little sayings so often that we roll our eyes and almost tune them out because we’ve heard it before and we “know it.” Dining at Canlis reminded me that there is a great difference between hearing it, knowing it, and actually doing it. As Trevor and I experienced Canlis and took our notes, I couldn’t help recalling all the advice I learned growing up and thinking to myself, “So…this is what it looks and feels like when you actually do it.”

“Listen to your elders”.

Mark and Brian Canlis are sure glad they listened to their elders. Their grandfather Peter Canlis opened the Seattle restaurant in 1950 and passed down many words of wisdom to his son Chris. Chris in turn lived these out and passed them down to his two sons Mark and Brian, the current owners of Canlis.

Canlis has been hailed by the New York Times as “Seattle’s fanciest, finest restaurant for over 60 years.” The secret to success for over half a century is one many of us know, “Listen to your elders.” Chris listened to Peter. Mark and Brian listened to Chris. And each generation has taken pride in living out what they listened and learned from the previous generation—and then put their own special spin and innovation on it.

And, that’s how you get to be one of the most award-winning restaurants in the greater Northwest and ranked one of the top 20 restaurants in America by Gourmet Magazine.

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

I’m certain Peter taught his family to this saying and clearly they desired to be treated well. And, that’s how we were treated at Canlis, exceptionally well. The restaurant was packed like it is most every night. And, even though the restaurant was full, Canlis made us feel like we were the only ones there by the special and personalized service we received. What we took away was that it is entirely okay to expect to be treated well in life—and to set the example, serve, and treat others exceptionally well too.

“It’s the small things that count.”

At Canlis they pay special attention to small details. Whether its holding the door for someone, pulling out their chair, warming their coat by the fire (my favorite) or having their car waiting at the door without being asked. What was impressive to me us is that Canlis remembered my coat and our car without any coat check or valet ticket. They remembered all the small things and details. Canlis made it clear that when your mindset and heartset starts with care and kindness and you take care of the small things, the big things seem to take care of themselves.

We can learn a lot by Listening to our elders”, “Treating others the way we want to be treated”, and doing “small things.” And, when we do this, we live and leave a legacy worth repeating. Canlis has been doing this every night for over 60 years—and they keep striving for ways to do it better. Dining at Canlis was not only exceptional, it was an inspiring experience. It has encouraged us to look at our worlds more closely for “Canlis moments” to serve and be our best for the good of others.

Our Final Thoughts

Dining at Canlis sincerely lived up to the legend of extraordinary service and will be one we’ll not ever forget. We hope everyone gets the opportunity just once in their lives to have this kind of amazing experience. Trevor and I are also very certain there are more leadership lessons to be learned and we would appreciate any encouragement you can send our CEO so he can “assign us” to go back and learn more and share with you!

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