Unfair advantage

Building a great staff hinges on a lot of different factors. We look for people with the right personality, a basic level of skills, a polished appearance, etc. If we're lucky, we find talented, loyal, friendly employees who take care of our guests. But if you want to give yourself an unfair advantage over your competition, you'll take your staff to the next level by building a great team.

I like to use the word "team" instead of "staff" or "employees" to create a feeling of camaraderie. But a true team isn't just a bunch of good employees working independently to the same end. It is a bunch of good employees working together. Coach Red Auerbachof the Boston Celtics said:

"People used to tell me to use my five best players. But to win, I focus on the five who fit together best."

When you've lead the Celtics to 11 NBA World Championships in 13 years, you know the importance of having the players click, mesh, and seamlessly integrate. And if you think finding good employees is a challenge, assembling them together into a great team is even more so.

How do you do it? First, observe. Spend some time watching how various employees work together behind the line or on the floor. Which ones can effortlessly navigate around each other with arms full of dishes or hot pans? Who is willing to help each other without being asked when things get busy?

Second, listen. No one likes to hear a bunch of whiners complain about their co-workers. But sometimes the complaints give insights into which employees do and do not work well together as a team. Try making scheduling changes accordingly, and you'll hopefully see some positive results in the general morale and effectiveness of your staff.

Third, ask your employees who they consider to be the best team players. You'll learn more with a simple questionnaire than what might take your hundreds of hours to observe. Hold a contest that lets employees nominate co-workers for a Top Team Member award.

The winner gets recognition, prizes, and maybe even priority scheduling. And from the nominations, you'll get a good sense of the people who fit together best to form your own winning team and give you an unfair advantage over the competition.

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