That time when you connect with individuals on your team and find out that connection is high on their list of must-haves at work…
Fall 2018 Check-In’s At Pizzeria Lola
by Nick Smith, Assistant General Manager at Pizzeria Lola, 11/8/18
Starting in early September, our leadership team here at Lola set out on a project to really put our hearts into engaging the hourly FOH team with a one-on-one check in; air out any scheduling concerns, continuity within the team concerns, mine for conflicts, flush out any desired changes, and just get individual feedback in general regarding their experience working within such a unique team of individuals. Aside from being a nice way to offer a face-to-face “hey we want to hear your voice” forum, this was also a great way to check in with some of the new staff we’ve hired on over the summer, and there have been over a dozen new hires since March — definitely unprecedented turnover this summer at Lola!
We divided the team up 3 ways, and each set 20-30 minutes aside for each team member for a check-in. Parameters were fairly loose; some quick notes regarding development through some observations we’d made, but mostly I set about to just keep the tone really casual and personable, just asking them how they feel when they come to work, and if there’s any concerns they had or things that they wanted to talk about one-on-one. Also, we decided that all three of us would ask each team member the three engagement questions that we asked ourselves in our leadership assessments we did late this summer (with some slight changes to verbiage), which were:
- What are your primary goals at Lola, in life, etc.?
- If there was one thing, if were to change or was gone, would make you consider moving on from Lola, what would that be?
- What part of our culture or environment do you model and display proudly?
Numbers 1 and 3 were really great at making people think about development and the unique culture here at Lola, but the second question really struck a chord in me. Basically, what is your favorite part about working here; so much your favorite that you’d quit if it were absent? Most of the seasoned vets here said “tip pool,” which makes sense because it’s a job, right? We go to work to make money; easy answer. However, the newer team members really gravitated toward a fairly surprising verdict: preshift.*
Many expressed a gratitude of being able to check-in with their co-workers on a personal level before each shift; not just for their own sake, but for the sake of others. This was especially true of the younger staff of hosts and WA’s and it made me realize how genuinely important it is to them, and I can honestly say I had a similar experience as a 16 year old WA at the Chanhassen Dinner theater in the late 90’s; commiserating and socializing with adults that aren’t your parents or teachers, learning how to interact with real adults outside of home or school really creates a profound sense of belonging. But it goes deeper than that, because we all yearn for that sense of community, but nobody really expects it in a work environment, at least not on such a personal level. Of course we function as a team and embody the restaurant cliches we’re all used to. Teamwork makes the dream work! But the heartfelt embrace of everyone you work with hearing your voice for those 2 minutes you hold the floor at check-in’s creates the unity that we’ve been weaving into the fabric that is the culture here at Lola.
I’ve seen many examples of newer staff apprehensive to check in about deeply personal topics like losing a loved one or ending relationships. A great example comes to mind when one of our high-school aged hosts mentioned going to prom in passing in her check in, almost as if she was embarrassed to be sharing it with a group of 25-40 year old professionals. Her smile when people stopped her demanding to see her pictures in her gown told the whole story; she was glad she shared, and truly felt cared for in that moment. That’s what it’s all about. Feeling like you belong somewhere, because if you belong somewhere, why would you ever leave?
*Pre-shifts for Pizzeria Lola’s Front-of-House team (servers, wait assistants, and hosts) are 15-20 minute, interactive meetings facilitated by a leader that happen at the beginning of every lunch and dinner shift. They start with everyone checking in about how they’re doing, orienting the team toward one another and signaling who will need what kind of support for the following hours together. Then they move onto quick info shares about that shift and some lively discussions related to important/timely topics for the team (on operations, culture, projects, events, hiring, facilities, etc.).