You’re always on stage!
Leave it at the door!
Oh, the number of times I chanted, taught, and encouraged my hospitality teams to do all of those things.
Now, I’ll stand by the concepts. Who wants a grumpy server or an aloof person checking them into the hotel? No one.
However, if I were to travel back to those days of gearing up my teams and getting them ready to go out and own that stage, I’d add a clear next step: checking in.
Looking back to those days of pre-shift lineups, when I would inspect the creases on their shirts (more starch!) and the proper ratio of pens (those are not clicky pens!), I vaguely was looking at their faces, their smiles–or lack thereof, their energy.
If something was off, I’d rally the troops by high-fiving them, encouraging them to turn that frown upside down (don’t worry, I want to punch my own self in the face for saying that nonsense out loud), and telling them to leave it in the kitchen and go out there and have a great shift!
I am now visualizing a whole team of servers at any given point in time walking out to their stations with a collective hardcore eye roll. You know the ones that give you an immediate headache because your eyeballs went so far back in your head?
What was missing? Seeing the looks, sensing the not-so-OK vibes, and not addressing it. Not taking a moment to say, “Hey, how are you? What’s going on?”
Perhaps I didn’t know what to say if that something on their mind was big or personal. Perhaps my highly empathetic self hadn’t learned to not take it all in, so I didn’t want to know. Perhaps I had convinced myself that I was on stage and I had left MY stuff at the door–so if I could fake it until I made it, sure as hell they could, too!
Now, I realize, we don’t need to have any answers. We don’t need to take it in or take it on. We don’t need to solve their problems.
Getting curious, asking–giving them a moment to get it out–then listening, acknowledging, relating; that’s what we need to do.
As leaders, take the moment to ask. As teams, activate a culture where you check-in with each other. As individuals, owning that sometimes you need a quick “deflate” to be able to fully show up.
It was as if I set the expectation without the preparation of how to get in the right state to take that stage and find a genuine smile.
We expect a lot from ourselves, our teams, and our leaders. We expect them to always “be on stage.” Perhaps, the new expectation can be a genuine check-in to get us all stage-ready.
A curious check-in–probably more effective than a bunch of ra-ra high fives.
Although they do still have their place.