Not Getting the Most Out of Your Team? How to Be a Leader and Inspire Their Best

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

We hear it all the time: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Good saying. Very positive. But often, it’s not true. And the reason is simple.

Some people on your team just don't want to do the work.

So, what is a restaurant owner or leader to do? Let’s dig into some basic human needs psychology and find a few answers that can help you inspire those that work with you.

Motivating the Unmotivated

First, let’s get something straight — you cannot motivate anyone except yourself. People do things for their own reasons, not yours. A true leader inspires others with the congruency of their words and actions. They walk their talk.

To inspire others, you must first be inspired by yourself. That means you need to be out in front leading the team. Remember this: Managers just manage the day-to-day operations, while leaders lead the team through directed actions. If you think that being a manager is the same as being a leader, you would be wrong. One gets things done by directing others, and the other gets people inspired to do things for their own reasons. Big difference.

Now, you can say your team is not motivated. That’s an easy out. Put the blame on them. A true leader would realize that they do not have an unmotivated team, they just have not done their duty as a leader to inspire them. Here are three ways to correct that:

1. Be the Leader They Want

Fundamentally, people want someone to step up and be the leader. As social creatures, we look for direction and input. It’s hardwired into our DNA for survival. We band together for the greater good of the species.

We all want to feel safe at work and to grow. The team needs to feel that their leader will protect the unity of the team dynamic. A true leader makes sure to treat all team members equally and honestly. Honesty is a requirement for authentic restaurant leadership. Integrity is another cornerstone trait of outstanding leadership. When your words and your action are congruent, you will build a team around you that trusts you. Teams are built on trust.

So, do you trust your team? Be honest. You need to sometimes dig deep within yourself if you want to become a leader who can inspire others. Seriously, do you trust your team? If you answered no, then you have found your first hurdle. It will be impossible to get trust from your team if you do not first trust them. You have to give to get. This goes for respect, too. Too many people have the formula backwards and demand respect and trust from their team first.

Your team also wants to feel that they have the opportunity for growth within the team. Growth is not just monetary. It’s the chance to learn and develop as an individual, as well. The human race has survived thousands of years due to our ability to adapt and grow. If you do not provide your team with a chance to grow, they will quickly become disengaged at work. When that happens, turnover is not far behind, or worse, they stay and become the walking dead of negativity that destroys any team morale there is. The guest experience suffers and soon profits will, too.

To keep your team growing, you must adapt a learning culture over a training culture. What’s the difference? A training culture just does training at the beginning of hiring and maybe, just maybe, some additional training every now and then (more likely than not, it will be “then”). They train only when things are seen to become bad. like a trail on poor online reviews.

These restaurants have a short-term vision and think that a workshop or training session every six months or once a year will “fix” everything. That would be like going to the gym once and saying, “Okay, that’s it. I’m in shape now.” Training to be the best you can be should always be the goal. That requires a commitment to constant training. Training only works when you have a plan and work to reinforce the principles every day. Success does not take a day off.

2. Understand What Drives Them

Have you ever sat down and talked to your team about what their goals and dreams are? I mean really sat down to have a good one-on-one conversation? True leaders sit down with their team on a regular basis to just have a conversation. Here is the real key…you need to listen. Your team will team you what drives them, what motivates them, and what inspires them when — and only when — you take your ego out of the equation and just listen to the words they say.

Listen to what gets them excited. It is music? A movie they saw? A book they recently read? Who do they follow on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr? Any restaurants they like? What is their favorite food? When you actively listen, you can find out what matters to your team. Listen and take mental notes. When you talk to your team, use those topics that they are interested in to start conversations. That is how you build rapport with your team.

You need to take a sincere interest in your team if you want to lead effectively. The old saying is very true, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Don’t just talk a good game. Make a pact with yourself to really get to know your team. Oh, and that means all of your team, not just the ones you naturally like. A true leader understands that to be outstanding, they must become comfortable being uncomfortable.

3. Connect to Your Mission

Mission statements are a dime a dozen. Some restaurants hire consultants or branding experts to come up with this elaborate string of words that, while they sound fancy and use all the right adjectives, they lack one thing: soul. A mission statement is not just words on the wall that you cram down the throats of your team during orientation and they say it back when asked like a parrot. A parrot can always say the words they are trained to repeat, however, ask the parrot what that means to them.

We think that having a mission statement full of fluff is what we need. No. What you need is a mission statement that resonates from your soul. Buried in there is the stuff that legendary restaurants are made of. Great leaders know this and their duty is to craft a mission statement from the heart, with soul, and purpose. When you have that and can articulate that to your team, you will have them.

When you are building a restaurant brand, you first have to sell the brand to your team before you attempt to sell it to your guests. Your team is your fan base. Many restaurants forget that. You do not build a restaurant. You build a team and your team builds your restaurant.

There is a catchy phrase that many people say when asked how is their day going. “I’m just living the dream.” You need to live your dream by leading your team with purpose, passion, and drive. Be the leader they are looking for and you will find that your team will go the extra mile for you and your brand.