How to Brainwash Your Staff

leadership mindset teamwork Jul 24, 2018

I get hundreds of email each week from frustrated restaurant owners and leaders (I hate the word manager because I feel it leads to just managing the shift and not leading the vision...sorry, I digress) asking for a way to get their team to follow directions.

My reply is always the same....you haven’t brainwashed them to your culture. Okay, maybe brainwashing is an extreme word. How about mental conditioning? Just like going to the gym, you don’t go a few times a week and then you are in world class shape. It take constant and consistent training to get to elite levels. The problem is twofold in the majority of restaurants:

1. You are not training enough.

2. You do not hold your team accountable to the standards. 

Not Training Enough

Chances are you are doing some training. Probably when a new team member starts and it last anywhere from 2-14 days depending on your training program. You train them and set them loose within your brand. Kinda like a catch and release program. They start out probably very well and then they seem to backslide. You trained them right? So, what happened? You didn’t make the training subconscious. You need to rewire their brains with a new program, your program

When I open a new restaurant for a client I commit at least three weeks to be there. Why? I need to break old habit and rewire the team with my programming. I use what is know as a trigger in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).

The one I always start with is “What’s next?” I even have wristbands made with the phrase that everyone wears. It becomes the driving question in the culture...what’s next that I can do for the guest or my team? At first, it’s me constantly saying the phrase to the team (like a broken record).

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

What’s next? What’s next?

 After the first week, I start hearing others saying the phrase to their teammates. What’s next?

By the second week, more start using the phrase and now the team starts to self regulate. They have bought into the culture and perpetuate the behavior I had the intention of creating.

By week three, the team has fully integrated the culture of taking accountability and action. They are now looking for what they need to do next to stay ahead of the game. The culture shift goes from reactive to proactive.

It’s very similar to the difference between playing checkers and playing chess. Checkers is move and counter move. Chess is a strategic game where you need to think multiple moves ahead and have a variety of contingencies played out using a “if, then” mindset.

To train effectively requires patience and commitment to keep training and training and training until you get the results you want. The common mistake is that as soon as you start seeing some results you stop training. The first signs of positive results is when you need to press even harder. They are just starting to show the new behavior, don’t back off until it becomes unconscious (basically a habit).

Hold People Accountable

You have to develop a philosophy that you must inspect what you expect. That comes with two conditions:

1. You must clearly define the expectations for what you want as far as performance and behavior.

2. It must be measurable as well. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.

Now if you have established those two parameters then you must hold people accountable for their performance and results. This is where many managers and owners fall short. They fail to enforce the standards and have the tough conversations with the people that are fundamentally lowering the standards in their restaurant. They don’t say anything which in itself is a form of action. To take no action actually is an action...it’s just not smart action. They call this silent approval. By not saying anything when you saw the wrong standard you are basically approving the bad behavior.

There are two reasons you don’t say anything when you see standard transgressions:

1. You assume they know and maybe just “forgot”. The worst three words a manager can say is, “They should know.” If they knew better they would do better! Old habits die hard and new habits take constant reinforcement to create new neural pathways. You must become like a broken record (which I mentioned earlier) constantly preaching and showing the proper standards. You probably also have not set what exactly is the expectations you have for the job. Most likely you have a basic job description for what each job in your restaurant entails.

2. You’re afraid. Don’t get defensive (not yet). If you’ve been in the restaurant business for any length of time I can tell you honestly that you’ve seen some crazy shit. Guests exploding in rage over something like cold food. Staff not showing up for their shift on a busy night. A walk-in goes down overnight and you walk into an entire cooler of prep and product unusable.

All these things wear on you mentally to the point that if it’s not chaos...you’re happy. You don't want it better, you just want a day with no drama. Welcome to the death of your dreams and ambitions...you just settled for average. 

Being afraid is dangerous for restaurants.

Fear immobilizes you.

Fear causes stress.

Fear makes safe decisions.

Safe is for average.

Average is a failing formula in today’s market.

They say 50% of restaurants that open today will close their doors in 3 years. I can tell you now that those that close their doors were stuck in average. Stuck in mediocrity.

You’re waiting for things to turn.

Waiting for the economy to come back.

Waiting for the labor pool to improve.

Waiting for more guests to just discover your restaurant from the two Facebook posts you do each week.

Stop waiting for things to get better.

Things get better when you take immediate action and work to make them better. It’s not the economy. There are restaurants today having their best sales year ever. There are restaurant today that are attracting top talent that want to work for them. There are restaurants today that have a 2-hour waiting list most evenings. 

How do you get to the good life?

How do you get the restaurant and the life you want?

Stop bullshiting yourself that it’s everyone else working against you. From 38 years in this business I can say with 100% confidence that it’s you working against you!

You don’t need a new software.

You don’t need a new checklist.

You don’t need a new day planner.

So, what do you need?

You need a coach. You need someone who will call you out on your shit. Someone who will show you how to tap into your personal (and natural) strengths and how to build a real team around you. Someone to hold you accountable to do the things that will impact your business now.

Yeah, your desk is organized but you still don’t have your menu costs figured out so stop fucking around and get your head where it needs to be. That is the power of coaching.

Now is coaching for everyone? Oh hell no. Some people are not coachable. Ego, pride, and denial are powerful emotions that hold people hostage in their own world. Now, if you are open to the idea that you could use someone in your corner that only wants the best for you. Someone who wants you to get everything you want from your business and your life then coaching might be a good fit for you.

The best way to start is reach out and do an introductory call. What’s the cost?Absolutely nothing. You just need to take the first step and click on the button on the home page that says Become a Client.

Of the thousands of people that read this post only 1% will actually take action.

Are you in that 1%?

If not, you are of course welcome to stay where you are. If you want more, reach out and let’s talk. Your life and your restaurant can change will one simple decision to act. Do you have the guts to take that action? Only you can answer that.

If you don’t aim for outstanding and to teach for everything you want you are living a life of mediocrity. If you have read this far then I know you don’t want to settle for mediocrity. Take action now.

I’ll even make it easy and give you the link here!

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