The International Network of Hospitality Consulting Professionals

Build a Great Team by Breaking a Mirror?

Stacy Moore

Think that breaking a mirror is bad luck? If you want to build a really strong team in your foodservice operation, you may find that this is exactly what will bring you that tiny bit of luck that will make all the difference.

Team Performance Defines Success or Failure

Years of working in, managing, developing, and owning foodservice businesses have taught us that the number one factor in success or failure is the performance of the team. A high performing team will take you places you never thought you would get to. Conversely, a dysfunctional team will take you there too, but not in a good way, and faster than you can imagine.

Ask any foodservice operator about their challenges.  Inevitably you will hear about how hard it is to find good employees, entice them to work for you, and then hope they stay for long enough to recover the costs you have in getting them up to speed.  The many solutions tossed around include competitive wages, good benefits, referring to them as associates or team members, enhanced training programs, and liberal vacation policies.

We are here to challenge those ideas and assumptions.  They are important, even table stakes in this day and age, but are not the ones that will get you to where you would like to be.  Employees, yes, we refer to them as employees because they are employed by us, are people.

What Employees Want from an Employer

The people who work for us generally want the same things:

  • The chance to work at something they can feel comfortable doing
  • To be given the tools they need to do their job well
  • A schedule that allows them to manage their families or other obligations and is not constantly changing
  • A uniform that looks good on them and is easy to take care of
  • Not to be put in bad or unwinnable situations

Spending the time to get these things right goes a long way toward engaging your people and in doing so, getting to know them.  You will often see that they have tremendous skills in one or more areas and could really thrive and help your business.  Mission accomplished, right?

Not so fast, wasn’t this article supposed to be about breaking a mirror?  Getting to know our people, their personalities, and their innate skills allows us to see their potential and how that will help us prosper.  However, in many, if not most cases it doesn’t happen. The potential is not realized, boredom or other dissatisfactions might creep in. Then the employee goes on cruise control or disengages.  What happened, what didn’t you do, what did you miss?

The Mirror Disconnect

Stop beating yourself up.  When you look in the mirror you see your kind, understanding, and empathetic “boss” self and there is some, even a good chance that your people see that too.  But, when they look in the mirror, they don’t see what you see.

They see…

  • Their same old self, doing the same old things that they know how to do
  • They might be getting older and with that passage of time should be receiving more compensation for their efforts
  • That if something happens, they could easily make a lateral move
  • A future that is much like the present

How to Break the Mirror and Move Forward

You need to find a way to break that mirror and reflect back what you see.  This doesn’t cost anything but does require some time and creativity.

  • Gently, but firmly, give them additional responsibilities even if they are ‘made to order’
  • Put them in situations where their ‘hidden’ skills will naturally support others and generate reinforcing behavior
  • Brainstorm solutions to problems with them

Breaking this mirror can bring you many, even seven years, of good luck!


Article written by Stacy Moore, Partner in Cayuga Hospitality Consultants and the founder of ToolKit Consulting, along with Tara Pina of TookKit Consulting .  She has 40 years of experience in the foodservice industry as an owner/operator, franchisee, wholesale manufacturer, sales representative and consultant.  With expertise in airports and non-traditional locations, she brings an owner’s mindset and a team-based approach to her consulting practice.  Stacy has worked with clients to launch and grow brands, analyze and improve operations, find new markets, and build strategic partnerships.

Text