Most days we humans tend to look for inspiration from “above”… those individuals or companies or groups who are well-known, have large followings, have built a reputation such that almost anything they say is considered “good” or “wise” by millions.
The best days, for me at least, are when the inspiration comes from those who technically work “for” me, or (how I hate this outdated term) “under” me. Too often employees of company feel like they don’t count, that they have little if any power, that they are a cog in the wheel.
This morning’s meeting at the Boloco in Hanover (NH) filled my cup and some.
I walked in a few minutes after the team meeting had begun. I took a seat in the back and watched in awe as our general manager, Ashley, comfortably and confidently shared thoughts on some of our most recent changes and initiatives. Even more impressive, she had set up multiple team members to speak on different topics. One of those was what we call FACT (freshness, accuracy, cleanliness and throughput) by Kayla, another was team dishwashing by Zack, and a most surprising one but incredibly important one was pronoun use when addressing customers and each other by Manny. I almost felt like I didn’t need to be there – that the only thing I could do was screw it up.
I did speak, as I always try to do, and spoke on my favorite topic in 2022 so far… “Reviving Customer Obsession at Boloco in 2022”. I do love talking about one of the few things we can really control, and that is how we react as team members when a guest has a less than stellar experience, or when a guest reaches out happy but with any kind of comment. We do have the ability to respond, be grateful, and reward every customer with something for taking the time to speak up. It makes such a difference, and I get very passionate about it.
But most importantly, I thought back to a year ago when Ashley first started. When she would call a team meeting and 5-6 people would show up. Today we had over 2/3 of the entire team – about 18 by my recollection. Great questions from some of the teams. Open sharing. A chance at striving for excellence again, as opposed to fighting for survival which has dominated our minds for nearly 2 years in all of our restaurants. I thought back to the many times when I thought we would lose Ashley because it was simply too overwhelming – especially with unprecedented number of no-call/no shows and being treated disrespectfully by too many on her own team. She had never been the “big boss” of a restaurant prior to this role. I hired her for what Danny Meyer calls her 51% characteristics – she’s kind, caring, sensitive even… she works hard. I knew we could teach her – or that she would learn on her own – how to manage the mechanics of a restaurant (that’s the other 49%), but I couldn’t teach her the kindness piece. That had to already be there. And is it ever.
I left the restaurant to take Bo to hockey practice feeling that incredibly full feeling that comes when you see people improve and step up more than you could ever imagine. Not because they ran the tightest labor cost or because they shaved off another .1% on food costs which I find interesting and sometimes necessary but frankly boring, but because they demonstrated that once struggling teams can pull together and find common cause to work well with each other. They also reminded me of the power each of us has to inspire others, no matter what our role or status in this confusing society we live in.
I don’t take it for granted that this will last. Challenges always lurk around the next corner. But for today my cup, and my heart, is full. And I am so grateful for that. Grateful for Ashley. Grateful for the entire Hanover team 😇