When the opportunity presented itself for us to visit a foreign land, we immediately said yes! Taking a trip overseas is so cool since first, it gives you the chance to bore and torture family members and friends with daily posts and pictures on facebook of your travels accompanied with cute anecdotes on interactions with the locals! Second and also the best reason, it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet new people in a different setting, who have a different culture and use a different language. When our trip to Spain finally came to an end, what struck me the most was that there is really no difference between us. Except for language, they are people just like us, with the same hopes, dreams, and desires. They are cab drivers hustling for fares, wait staff hovering and taking orders, teachers leading classes, bankers and students all using buses, cars and mopeds to and from work. As an Italian tour guide one told me several years ago on my expectations in Rome, which also applies in Spain and France, “It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.”
After several days of eating my way through Spanish tapas joints and watching the teams of chefs operate, the epiphany hit and no it wasn’t the baby eel. The key to achieving success is the same here as the U.S. and in the world –teamwork. I noticed the differences between a truly GREAT Tapas bar and a so-so tapas bar had a lot to do with the level of teamwork, execution and communication within the group. It wasn’t just the great quality and amazing flavors of the food that made the experience, it was the entire process, full of energy and precision that was awesome to watch, especially for a productivity geek like me! The skill of people flowing along effortlessly: menus, translations, taking orders, food preparation, food distributed, drinks, constant clearing and replacement of dirty plates and new utensils distributed, final check in, clean up and then reset the area for the next customers and all along the constant communication between all the associates as they executed each task flawlessly. Again, and again, over and over, repeating the process happily, energetically and always engaging without skipping a beat. Those were also the places that had long lines of people eagerly waiting their seat like at Tapas 24. Those places with short waits didn’t have the same energy and coordination. It shows you the importance of that very precious commodity you have, your staff.
In this day and age of computerization, digital scanning, smart phones, robotics and other electronic assistants we have developed a false sense that these systems are actually keeping us in touch with the pulse of the company in real time. In actuality, it’s the people performing the tasks, your companies biggest asset who are the pulse of the company. They execute the process, take the orders, produce the product and complete the servicing. So peel off that layer of tronics and ditch your electronic umbilical cord and make the time to walk the floor. Visit the workers and engage in face to face verbal exchange with these people. Visit when they’re on the production line, visit when they’re receiving on the dock, visit when they’re cleaning and then listen, listen, listen to their ideas, their perceived roadblocks and suggestions for improvement. They are the team and when you give them the proper tools, proper training, realistic expectations and also ensure they are protected with proper PPE and safety policies you can create a business people would be willing to wait on a long line to experience.