grassrootsleader.com Jul 25, 2022

I've been reading a book called The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey with my Men's business leader group at church.  This book was first published in 2008 and there are many things that ring true throughout time as it relates to business and relationships.  I've come to realize many things that I pride myself on from this book and many things that I realize I need to do better.  The one thing that stood out during last week's section was Clarifying Expectations.  There are many factors that go into building a successful team but I have found in the Retail and Restaurant industry, this has been the number one success factor.  

My first experience being a store manager was for a family owned Florida chain of restaurants that had a location in my neighborhood.  I was 23 and luckily had a good moral compass for how I wanted to treat others as I saw some of the brutal way people would be treated as I came up through the ranks.  I saw the kitchen manager that made servers cry by telling them how stupid they were.  I saw another manager that was much better with people because he was jolly most of the time and his line was "go ahead because I'll get another one that looks just like you tomorrow".  I thought that was pretty clever and used that a couple times in my youthful ignorance. As I fast forward 23 years later I have learned that much of the stress and chaos that is experienced daily is due to unclear expectations.

 As a young leader I assumed everyone was like me: 

They want to move up in the company.  

Whatever the company asks is what I do.

The company's core values are my guiding light at work.

Whatever "rules" are in place are there for me to follow them.

Their motivation for being at work is the same.

I learned that everyone's motivation for being at work is different.  Tapping into each individual's motivation is what creates buy-in to what the company is doing.  However, unclear expectations will create divide within the team, issues with execution, and stress for the team members and manager due to small issues becoming wildfires.  Clarifying expectations also requires education of your team.  Just putting on paper or telling your team what you expect doesn't lead to success.  There may be a gap between what you want and your team member's skill or knowledge of what you expect.  Let's look at some examples I've experienced that have changed the execution of the team while creating a happier environment for everyone.

Restaurant Line Checks -

In a restaurant everyone has their station and responsibilities.  When everyone does their part it comes together like a beautiful song.  When someone is not playing their part it sounds like a 5th grade band. When I was new to my role my guidance to the kitchen crew was to make sure your station was set up because it's time for the dinner rush.  So why in the world are we running out of salad mix, thawed fish, and silverware an hour into dinner service.  I knew how to recognize what we needed,  why couldn't my team?  We developed a detailed line check that had everything down to the smallest detail that if the person at the station followed we never unprepared.  This line check served many purposes.  If trained the team what to look for and also allowed for them to provide feedback for something that was an incorrect.  It let them take ownership in their station.  It allowed them to step in for someone else and be set up for success when people called out or were late.  It allowed a team member to move up themselves from salad station to grill station because the building blocks for success were in place.  It allowed the managers to focus on the then business instead of in the business.  Our expectations were that this tool was to be used without exception each shift.  Once we did this the finger pointing, animosity, and disappointment went away.  I know this seems simple but so many businesses take this for granted or gravitate away from the daily consistency.  

What is Customer Service?

Within the last 10 years I've realized that the art of hospitality and customer service is being lost.  When I was growing up you could see people in many different businesses looking to exceed expectations through their customer service and hospitality.  I could still go to a gas station when I was kid and you would make a choice of full service or self service.  There were full service attendants that would run out to the car, greet you with a smile, ask how your day was going and then begin the process of filling the car up with gas, wash the windshield, check the tires, etc.  You would also get the attendant that would saunter out to the car making you wonder why you're paying the extra for gas.  You would go out to any major brand restaurant chain and you could see the person that was a professional that would greet you promptly, let you know about the daily specials, describe everything down to the smallest detail, and show genuine care in your experience.  People unwilling to provide that experience always wondered why those people made so much money.  You could find hospitality professionals in everyday places.  About 10 years ago I noticed that some of the younger team members joining my organization didn't truly know what hospitality was because they didn't experience it regularly.  The only regular place they could think of where they experienced it consistently was Chick-fil-A.  As a team we realized we could no longer say we provide exceptional hospitality or customer service without training what that is.  It began with just say hello.  Simple, but no longer a given.  I would tell people to treat our customers as if they are guests in their home.  I would tell them "Hopefully if someone comes over to your house you say Hello to them when you open the door.  You invite them into your environment, ask them if they'd like anything (something to eat or drink), show them around, and make them feel comfortable."  With today's evolving world where one on one interactions are becoming less and less don't underestimate the power of clarifying the experience your customer should be experiencing and rehearsing it with your team.


There are so many other opportunities for you to clarify expectations with your team.  I challenge you to look at what's frustrating you.  Have you been clear in what you want or is there opportunity to get more clear?  What is needed to provide clarity?  Talk to your team about where the breakdown is.  Do you need to implement a system?  Do you need to provide more training? Do you need to be more accountable with your follow up on your expectations.  Let me know what your frustrations are. 

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