Your team loves each other! They get along great, they support one another, they hang out after work—sometimes they are even roommates. Sounds great, right? It can be, yes. Ideally, you want your staff to feel comfortable and engaged with each other, just not at the expense of your sales goals or your overall guest experience. When you have such a cozy environment, it can be hard to hold people accountable to the goals that you’ve set. The question is, how do you expect performance when everyone treats each other like family? Moreover, is it possible to have a team that’s both highly professional and still really friendly? The answer is yes.
Here are four key tips on how to keep your friendly staff focused on your customers:
1. It’s all in the set-up. First, set the bar for the level of professionalism you expect. Set clear expectations on performance. Let the habit and the culture that you’ve established do most of the work for you. Once the expectations are established, you can relax the “boss” part. If and when focus slips, a little gentle coaching should be enough to keep them on track.
2. Can staff have a personal relationship and still do the job? Absolutely. Many of our sites have navigated this potentially sticky situation successfully. The messaging has to be clear and direct from the top: work first, friendship second—especially on work time. As long as the message is clear and remains that way, most people will understand that boundary, and have no problem being professional in the workplace.
3. What happens if those lines get blurred? The first thing to do is go back to the drawing board. Reset your parameters and deliver your expectations. Unless it’s something small and easily corrected (grooming standards, cell phone usage, etc.), don’t deliver it in an open meeting. If it’s a serious issue, like something that’s having an impact on performance, guest or team member experience, deliver the message in a separate and special setting. For example, if you usually meet in a break room or dining space, go to an office or meeting room. Set the scene, deliver your message, and then don’t neglect to follow up to ensure that it was implemented successfully. Remember, most people will not get the message the first time around, and the easiest way to encourage a good behavior is to praise it when you see it.
4. Every site is different. Are you running a five-star hotel or a family entertainment center? Most of our sites are in the business of having fun, and if that energy is delivered by your employees, your guests will enjoy themselves too. There’s no one-size-fits-all protocol for cell phone use, level of guest engagement or staff interaction. Some sites require that everyone has a cell phone available; some roles on staff naturally demand a little more face-to-face time with guests. Determine what feels like the right balance for your team, and don’t be afraid to re-evaluate or discuss it if something doesn’t seem to be working.
At the end of the day, your site’s environment will be based on what expectations you set. You’ll be able to spot what’s going right by your guests’ reactions, social media posts and surveys. With the right balance, your super-friendly team can be your biggest asset, and make everyone who walks into your site feel like family, too.