Early this spring, we had some late snowstorms. With an epically long driveway to be shoveled (again) and final exams looming (yes, I was about to get out for SUMMER break and there were several inches of snow on the ground), we were pretty exhausted. So, as the snowflakes came down, we decided to pick up a pizza dinner from a local chain a few miles from our house.
Long story short, the pizza (ordered online) was far from ready by the time I arrived at the shop. And I wasn’t the only person in Ann Arbor who had that idea that night—the townspeople (ha!) started to gather in the store and started to get angry as a 5-minute wait turned into a 45-minute wait. As I observed the staff (the counter is open to the kitchen), they were under obvious duress. And the manager was not just short with the guests—he was very short with and condescending toward the staff, who were working hard to fill orders. And, to say the least, his agitation did NOT make them work faster.
I finally got my pizza and vowed to patronize one of the other thousand pizza shops in Ann Arbor (ha!) next time we needed carryout pie. But as I have driven past that pizza shop over the subsequent months, I have noticed that its marquee has constantly had a “cooks wanted” sign posted—we’re talking 12 weeks or so. And I know the reason: the management. People don’t want to work in a place where they’re not respected. Even if they are hiring people, the business obviously cannot retain them.
Coincidentally, my favorite oil change place is on the other side of the street from the pizza shop. I’ve always been anxious about getting my oil changed (probably because early on in my driving career I turned on the windshield wipers instead of the headlights during an oil change, and was mortified), but this place makes me feel comfortable. It’s actually kind of fun to get my oil changed. Why? Because of the staff—the manager is out on the floor, and the staff members (Including one female mechanic! Yeah!) are patient, friendly and have amazing teamwork. The vibe is overwhelmingly positive. It’s clear to me that they enjoy their jobs, and the leadership geek in me loves watching them work together.
Anyway,I drove down this street today. When I passed the pizza shop, the “cooks wanted” sign was still up. But across the street, four mechanics were out on the sidewalk. They were dancing, laughing and encouraging drivers to come get their oil changed. Obviously it was a slow day at the shop. Instead of kicking back and relaxing while on the clock, the staff at the oil change shop were actively seeking more customers—I quickly surmised it’s because they like what they do and care about the company. And that is so good for business!
At camp, we do this really well (most of the time), but need to remember that our approach as managers (our mood, our assumptions, our tone, etc.) sets the tone for how our staff approach their jobs and, most importantly, how they interact with the children. So, when it’s 90 degrees out, and lunch is late coming out of the kitchen and someone just asked you an inane question that you are *certain* was covered during staff training, keep your cool: Be the oil change manager, and not the pizza shop one.
*Note: You may be asking yourself, what does that picture of the happy carpenter have to do with this blog post? I'll tell ya! That's my husband, Robert, who is a former camp counselor/trip director/maintenance director. He now has his own building business, Big Mitten Builders. Anyway, Robert is really, really good at keeping things positive! It's been so hot this week and they are working on a 2nd story addition. It's dirty and grueling work. Anyway, after I drove past the pizza/oil change places, I stopped by his worksite. All the workers were in a jovial mood despite the heat and stress of the job. I looked down on the ground and was like, "Hey! That's our cooler!!". Rob opened it up: It was full of ice, bottled water and Gatorade for the team. No wonder the addition was getting done without issue: the workers were well taken care of by their leader--not a huge gesture, but really, it's all about the little things.