A review of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in relation to the food industry.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
And How They Relate to the Food Service and Restaurant Industry
(Or, "Sometimes It's OK if the Airline Loses Your Luggage")
Once again, a motivational book with a long winded author who has mastered the art of repeating himself over and over and over. Mr. Covey successfully succeeded in spending 65 pages telling me what I would take from the following chapters. It was extremely difficult to focus and get through this. There was just enough anecdotal information that I could apply to my personal and professional life to keep me hanging in there.
That being said, his concepts are so simple as to be easily overlooked and hard to grasp for most people, including myself. The constant repeating helped me remember just what we were discussing, so perhaps Mr. Covey is an evil genius rather than simply long winded. There are so many self-help and motivational tools out there that most rational people can see as rubbish once we look at it, that it is easy to dismiss Mr. Covey's philosophy out of hand without really paying attention to his meaning. It took several attempts to get involved in this book, but once I did I realized that it is truly remarkable yet simple core truths that make his Seven Habits meaningful and applicable to me
Mr. Covey explains that there are core values, principles, beliefs that we all share, whether we choose to follow them or not - basically we are all created with an ethical center. He states that if we recognize and choose to center our lives around this ethical part of us, everything else can fall into place. He encourages us to take the emotionalout of the equation and simply live, work and play based on the core values that all humans have. Emotions should be a result of action, not a reason for action. For instance, getting mad at a child for doing something wrong, versus acknowledging the behavior, correcting it with guidance and understanding, then being satisfied emotionally when the child has corrected the behavior and learned from it. If you simply get angry and punish the child, he will only learn to avoid your anger, not how to avoid the situation in the first place.
On top of that, he encourages us to use our basic core principles to make decisions in our life. Examine your actions and recognize whether they are in harmony with these basic principles or conflict with them. For instance, if you try to conduct your life with integrity and honesty, yet feel free to raid the stock room for your personal dinner, aren't you working against your core? Whether or not you are found out at work for stealing is actually irrelevant. It's how you feel about yourself for doing it. And you may be able to rationalize this behavior (I really like how he states that the root of this word - not grammatically - is "lie") to yourself, thinking you're not paid enough, no one will ever notice, etc., but you are going against your core belief of honesty and integrity. In the long run, regardless of any social consequence of your behavior, it's how it makes you feel and act. If you don't feel bad about it, it can lead to further dishonesty, which can dis-harmonize your whole being. (I feel a little Karma Philosophy in there.)
In order for the Seven Habits to work for you, you must first identify what your core principles are. Then you need to define who and what you are in relation to work, family, community, etc. - what roles do you lead? You have to identify what goals you have in relation to these roles. How do they rank on your list of priorities? Then be proactive about reaching those goals - stop letting others determine the course you are going to take and map your own course. Mr. Covey states that if you can truly feel and believe in your core principles, it becomes much easier to prioritize and say "no" to people (rationally and intelligently), rather than constantly having your flow disrupted in order to do what others may think is important.
Change and success are only going to come from within. Anything else is hollow and will eventually crumble. Once you can identify, define, and prioritize yourself, then you can truly become interdependent and work with others to achieve your goals, their goals or any combination of the two.
How these habits relate to the restaurant industry
While reading through Mr. Covey's examples, it was really easy to apply them to my own professional circumstances. I already know and recognize my own core principles as well as the roles I play and the goals that I have. I never really thought of how those three things worked together, however, or how much I was letting others control the outcome of my actions.
I have several core beliefs when it comes to the restaurant industry. First and foremost is the belief that customer service is the number one key to being successful. If your customers are not happy, they will not return; your business will fail. Period. If my goal is to run a successful restaurant and my core belief is that customer service is the key, then I need to focus on that. (Beginning with the end in mind.) So I need to take into account everything that makes my customers satisfied. Long before the guest comes in and sits down to a hopefully enjoyable experience, there are many other things that happen. I must have adequate staff. They must be knowledgeable and personable. I must have an enticing and affordable menu. I must have a clean and pleasant atmosphere. My food must be of quality. I must market in a way that will draw the customers to me. And I must maintain that integrity not only through the whole dining experience, but consistently over time.
A lot of this I can do myself. I can research my menu and current market trends. I can find affordable ways to make my menus fit my customers' expectations. I can hire and train my staff in accordance with my desires. I can keep a regular maintenance and cleaning schedule. I can research marketing tools in order to effectively advertise. But to pull it all together, I need to work with my staff to ensure everything gets done in accordance with what I feel will accomplish the goal of satisfying my customers. Which leads me to another core and accompanying belief: teamwork is the key to pulling off a successful shift time and time again. Without it, all else fails.
Leading and managing a good team is essential to the restaurant industry. Leadership entails being able to effectively explain my philosophy to my team in ways that they can incorporate it into their own philosophies and want to accomplish the same goals as I. Leading is recognizing when there is a conflict and getting to the root cause of it before trying to resolve it. For instance, there is a time honored mistake of punishing those who do well. If you are my best, most innovative team member and I give you additional responsibility, you may feel pleased that I have acknowledged you. But after time, you realize that you are getting paid the same as Joe Blow over there who stays on his cell phone constantly. After awhile, you begin to resent the additional duties and me. I may not have the option of paying you more. I may forget to thank you constantly and find other ways to reward you for your extra help. Eventually, you will "forget" to care about what I want and need from you. You may take your talents elsewhere. Basically what I have done is defeat myself. You didn't do it to me; I did it to you and to myself.
As leader, it is up to me to ensure that my team works as such, with mutual understanding and respect. A team that does not work together will eventually fail together. In my particular situation, I have recently taken over as supervisor of my restaurant. There is no F&B manager. There is and never has been any oversight of my restaurant by anyone else working in the hotel except to complain if we mess something up. It says something about those who work with and for me that we've held it together this long. But we neglect a lot of behind the scenes things that are vital to the restaurant industry. Case in point: line checks. We have never really done them; they were faked before EcoSure came in to evaluate and inspect us. Eventually, upper management got tired of having to stress over the lack of paperwork every time inspection time came around, so they began requiring them on every shift, with the paperwork to be put in a manager's mail box daily. They kept getting blown off. No one cared. For three years they haven't had to do this, now all of a sudden someone who never steps foot in the kitchen decides they must be done - someone who couldn't even do one if they had to.
Then management decides if they're not done, the person responsible on the shift will be written up. Well, they started getting done; most of the time. No one has yet received a write up for not doing them. A good leader would have implemented this from the very beginning and explained to those who do not know why line checks are vital to a restaurant. A good manager would have made sure they were being done and effectively counseled those who did not do it; up to and including write ups. The line checks would have simply become a daily task, accepted by everyone.
My personal opinion is that write ups should never be used as a threat. They are a tool used to weed out those who really don't belong in their position to begin with; because if you use an incremental method of disciplining, the first step would be to discuss and perhaps retrain an employee who is not up to par. If that doesn't work, then either that employee doesn't need to be there, or you need to look at yourself and see if you are explaining and training correctly. Or maybe there is another problem, which is where seeking to understand before trying to be understood comes into play.
We have another policy where daily checklists are used for our PM shift because, quite frankly, the kitchen is a mess every single morning when I come in. AM shift got tired of closing the kitchen before we could open the kitchen, so once again upper management stepped in again and created a nightly checklist. Unfortunately, the checklist has very little to do with anything that needs to be done. I don't work at night, so all I knew was that there were too many things not getting done. I complained and complained and just sounded like a bitch (sorry, only appropriate word I could think of.) That was when I was a server.
When I took over management, one of my night people came to me and said that that checklist didn't work. He was the only one following it and a lot of it was redundant and ridiculous. I looked over the list and thought about what I expect to walk into every morning and realized he was absolutely correct. I promised that I would revamp it and enforce it. That was three weeks ago and I haven't yet. I am failing myself and my employee. That's where another one of Mr. Covey's precepts comes into play: prioritize. And prioritize based on what is important, but not necessarily urgent. I haven't gotten to it because it will take several hours of my time that I do not have. I must put in food orders that change regularly because of banquets. I must make my schedules. I have upper management telling me to do this and that and who am I to say "no"? I have school work that must be done by certain due dates. I have children who need to be shuttled here and there, fed, and nurtured. I've put it off because it is not a crisis at the moment. And I'm letting my staff down because of it. The end result of that could potentially be letting my customers down and my restaurant suffering.
From reading this book, I have realized that I can say no when I need to. Your crisis does not have to be mine. If my end goal is a successful restaurant and that stems from customer satisfaction, and I believe that they key to that is teamwork; then the health of my team must be a priority. I should not and do not have to wait until it becomes a crisis to work on it.
Since I know my goal: a successful restaurant, and I know they key: a successful team; then I know where my most important priority lies professionally: team building and health. Sometimes it is enough to say "Great job!" at the end of a great shift. Sometimes they need more. They need guidance and leadership and constant monitoring. Monitoring to make sure they are doing their job, of course, but monitoring to make sure I'm doing mine efficiently. If there is discord within my team and I ignore it, it will ultimately lead to team breakdown. If I treat the surface wounds, the internal infection will just fester. I must look to see what is not jiving with my core principles and how I can create change. Sometimes it is just one rotten apple; and sometimes the barrel itself is the issue. I need to know the difference to be the leader that they deserve.
This works across the board in the restaurant industry. No one takes a position wanting to fail. Core values in the restaurant industry are food safety and monetary success. The food safety issue is obvious, but monetary success is built upon by steps: customer satisfaction, which is built on by the dining experience (quality food, great service, exceptional atmosphere;) which stems from a great team and vision by leaders. Which goes back to the steps of understanding your team and your goals. All of which should be rooted in your core principles. You must develop your center then define your goals. Prioritize and work within your values to reach your goals.
How this has changed me
While a lot of this book was basic and things I already knew, as I stated before, I never realized how they work together. I never realized that I was reactionary instead of proactive. Just being an honest and caring person is not enough; it's how I use my honesty, integrity, ability to care and empathize on my surroundings that give me ultimate control over my life, both professional and personally. I've always had goals, but they were never concrete. They shifted based on my circumstances (which is natural), but my circumstances were often not created by me (which is unnatural.) There are some things that I need to correct within myself in order to reach my full potential, but I feel that the root is already there.
Thanks to this book, I am armed with a new understanding of how to prioritize, which I think is the most important part. My priorities need to be based on what I believe to be important, not what is needed "right here, right now." If I got anything out of this book, it's that I can say "no" once in a while and it will be okay. And often, I try and project what I think is right onto others, without listening and understanding why they may think differently. Just because I know I'm right doesn't mean I am from others' perspectives. Everyone has baggage that colors how they see the world, myself included. If I want them to see it from my point of view, I have to find out what their baggage is first. And sometimes, it's okay if the airline loses your luggage.