If you’ve worked in a bar or a restaurant, chances are you know what it’s like to be busy. Sometimes it’s a big sporting event. Sometimes it’s because someone called in sick. Sometimes it’s just a fluke. Whatever causes it, you’re busy right now. And the first time it happens, it’s overwhelming.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is not a pleasant one. You’re not sure what to do next. You feel like you’re not doing a good job. It’s highly stressful and if you can’t manage that, you are not happy. If you are not happy, you are not effective.
I watched how a few seasoned veterans handled things the first few times it happened to me. I didn’t fully appreciate how smart these women really were until I paid attention to the devices they used to deal with adversity.
Here’s what one rock star did:
1. Stay calm: Nothing changed much. The pace may have picked up a little. But it was the same routine with the same smile on her face. “What’s next?” was the philosophy.
2. Be flexible: If something did need to change – maybe she needed to move some tables, pour some drinks – she rolled with it. No point in long discussions and nobody’s being singled out.
3. Be alert: She’d turn on the peripheral vision and communicate what she was seeing to those who might be affected. “Table 5 is ready to go.”
4. Help everyone: She always did this anyhow, but now she contributed according to her abilities without any hesitation. Wouldn’t matter whose table it was, she knew if she had time to clear a plate on the way by it would pay dividends for the whole team by freeing up time for someone else.
5. Set expectations: She was highly communicative and realistic with the customers – “The kitchen is really busy so I’m asking for your patience…” And the same with her manager – “I need to get some food out so can you watch the door.”
6. Accept everything: There was going to be conflict. There were going to be mistakes. There were going to be surprises. She prepared herself mentally by accepting that and knowing that she would do the best she could.
And she got through it. One thing at a time. And she was happy at the end. (Big tips didn’t hurt, let’s acknowledge!)
There’s a final chapter that might be worth writing. I said to those who needed to know, “She’s a rock star. We should put her in charge.” And they did.