In our first post about pre-shift meetings (read it here) we talked about the three crucial traits effective pre-shift meetings share. We call them the 3 Big E’s: Engaging, Efficient, and Educational. You (the manager, the head server, the trainer ) have the power to mold the energy and attitude of each person into a powerful group dynamic. By implementing a few of these strategies you'll see your staff meetings yield immediate positive results that your guests will benefit from. If you're using these techniques, awesome! If not, we bet you'll see them work the first time you use them!
Be Efficient: HAVE AN AGENDA!
Whether you're setting up for a five minute shift meeting/pre-shift, or a quarterly staff meeting with all your departments, have an agenda. Depending on the time you have and the kind of meeting, this agenda can be on a bev nap, note cards, a formal outline, scripted paragraphs, or some sort of visual presentation. An agenda provides a jumping off point for you to speak from, it gives structure to your ideas, it informs your audience that you having control over your information, and it leaves a record of what you've discussed for accountability purposes moving forward. While “winging it” sometimes lends itself to the moments of brilliance that can arise during extemporaneous speaking, that brilliance is often (almost as a rule) muted by a general lack of focus and purpose.
Engage the Team
Not only does it take the pressure off of you to supply all the content for a meeting, but allowing staff members to share their personal stories and experiences creates authenticity. If your meeting is focused on selling a new seasonal dish, ask your one of your staff members to describe, in detail, one of the best foods or desserts they've ever had. If your meeting is focused on tighter cleaning procedures, ask someone to share one of the worst things they've ever come across in a restaurant or in their food. By getting staff members to open up about their personal experiences, their teammates will connect with the information, and you will gain examples that you can use to drive home your points. You'll take your goals from sounding annoyingly managerial to completely realistic and practical without uttering a syllable on your own.
Education requires participation
Silence is not always golden. As you present your information, whether it be about a new cocktail, a menu change, or a new staff policy, do not assume that just because the staff are quiet that they're absorbing and integrating new knowledge. Visually, check for attention by looking for eye contact and positive body language such as nodding or leaning forward. These visual cues will tell you that your staff is actively listening. If you notice staff covertly checking phones, gazing off into space, or fussing with their belongings, you've lost them. Pause for a moment, perhaps change your tone of voice, or even change your position in the room before you continue.
Second, as you're wrapping up, you'll want to quickly check that staff can supply the major points from your meeting. Ask someone to volunteer to re-explain a point, or to name the goals you've presented for the shift. Don't be afraid to select staff members at random, either. Running a restaurant is not running a self-esteem therapy group – — while of course you'd want to avoid heartily shaming someone in front of a group, there's no harm in asking a staff member to step up and answer a question. Your staff is there to do a job, and continually learning should be a part of that job. Be careful not to allow your “teacher's pets” in the group to let everyone else off the hook.
Check Your Work
Finishing a pre-shift or meeting with a statement like, “Does anyone have any questions?” is far too vague. It is valuable for employees to feel that they can speak and will be heard, but by leaving the opportunity for staff to speak wide open, you risk allowing your well-ordered and carefully crafted meeting to veer off course. Staff members may simply remain silent because they cannot marshal their thoughts quickly enough to skim through the information presented and then formulate a relevant query, or they may begin asking random, loaded questions about unrelated policies, personal issues, etc. Instead, guide their feedback by asking “Does anyone need any clarification about our new policy on shift exchanges?” A question like this one allows staff to voice their opinions or questions, but clearly establishes parameters for what is acceptable.