I was invited one evening to dine at a high-end seafood restaurant with a client who wanted to do a working dinner with an out-of-town consultant.
While I had eaten at this restaurant on other occasions, on this particular visit I was spell-bound by the quality of service from a young African-American waitress who exuded confidence and competency in delivering a fine meal. Even the act of pouring water was a ritual of removing each stemmed glass from the table, placing it on a small circular tray in her left hand and pouring the iced water from a large crystal pitcher in her right hand. There was a real sense of showmanship in her delivery of the product. No detail was overlooked. Her level of service was perfect – not too many interruptions, and not leaving us wanting for anything. This occurred on a Monday evening and I was surprised to look around the restaurant and see every table filled. Certainly, no effects of the dire economy there. People were more than willing to pay a high price for excellent food and outstanding service.
A day or two later, I was attempting to have a mid-morning meal at a family restaurant chain noted for their breakfast offerings. The hostess was quick to seat me at a table that had just been cleaned. The paper placemat was plopped down in front of me and quickly adhered to the very wet surface. She then dropped the silverware, wrapped up tightly in the paper napkin, not onto the placemat but onto the wet table.
When she brought me the coffee and water I had requested, she was carrying both in one hand and promptly spilled them onto the middle of the table. She just laughed. I responded, “This is not acceptable.” She laughed again. I mentioned the wet table, and she countered, “but it’s clean.” I again repeated that it was “not acceptable.” I said, “Your restaurant touts a quality experience, but this is not quality.” At this point, other diners around us had turned their ears to listen in on the dialogue. I arose and repeated again, “This is not acceptable.” And walked away. Her jaw dropped.
I drove three miles to another local family chain and was promptly seated at a table that had a number of pieces of trash on the floor beneath it. I was pretty hungry at that point, so just ignored it. When I went to pay the cashier, the silent, stoic gal behind the register had no comment at all. I asked, “Aren’t you supposed to ask me how my meal was?” Her eyes widened in shock. She sheepishly responded, “How was everything?” I related how the food was okay, but was surprised that I was seated at a table with a lot of trash beneath it. She just laughed and said, “It’s so hard to keep up with.” And that was the end of the conversation.
Being a marketer, I take the time to give feedback on my various experiences, as I would want the same feedback on my clients’ products and services. I emailed the customer relations departments of both food chains, merely stating that “workers need to be properly trained.” I also asked that they not send a follow-up letter or discount coupons for another visit, but to give better service to their other future clients, which would not include me.
One of the restaurants sent coupons. The other emailed me for more feedback, but that wasn’t necessary as they had a full description of my experience in my original email. All they had to do was act on it. Both mentioned that they would be contacting area training personnel.
I was relating these experiences to a business development colleague and he reminded me of a metaphoric question often asked by David Byrd, president of Leadership Management, Inc.:
Fresh paint sometimes looks good on a metal surface without a primer coat, so why waste your time with a primer coat?”
He admonishes that a primer coat of paint takes time, investment, and work, but it protects the finish coat from rust over the long term.
This illustration points out the big difference between training and development. You can teach an employee a process such as clearing a table or ringing up a cash register, or you can develop an employee to think about how they can improve the process over the long term. At the seafood restaurant, it was quite obvious the young woman had not just been trained; she had been empowered to think about every aspect of the delivery process and adjust it for continuous improvement.
So what are you doing in your business? Are you training your employees to do tasks, or are you developing them to assume responsibility for doing the tasks in the most professional, most cost-effective and most timely manner? If the latter, then you are a leader. Leaders develop. Trainers train. In retrospect, I should have told the two restaurants that the employees needed proper “development,” rather than “training.”
In the next few days, be alert to the levels of service you receive in business and personal transactions. You will readily notice the difference between a worker who has been trained and one who has been developed.
If you are in a managerial position, assess whether you are training or developing your employees, and whether the technique is creating more or less value for your business.
If you are not in a supervisory position, look at areas of your job where you could assume more responsibility for improving a product or process. A progressive organization will recognize and reward you for your increased efforts.
Continue the blog and share how empowering an employee or assuming self-empowerment has resulted in a more positive outcome for you or your business.