My first few jobs were in the restaurant business, and I’ve always thought myself a lucky girl that they were.
I was the oldest of five children, usually left to mind my younger siblings while both my parents were at work, and so when I was old enough to contribute a paycheck instead of “just” babysitting services my folks were happy to have me do so.
In those early jobs I was fortunate enough to be in establishments that were really busy; you had to learn on the job, and learn quickly, and though they call it “waiting” on tables, the reality was that someone was always waiting on me to hustle, ignore the pressure, move faster, work hard, work steady, do it now! and keep my head up throughout it all, smiling at everyone no matter what. To wait tables in a bustling restaurant is to be the queen (or king) of multi-tasking and precision timing, and you don’t really plan it, you instinctively move through it.
That’s what a good work ethic was to me back then— you got the job done and you never let ‘em see you sweat. You didn’t really finish a shift, you sorta emerged from it unscathed, with the tip dollars in your pocket all the reward and encouragement you could rightfully expect. And those tips were pretty darn sweet. They hadn’t come easy, but they came from good, honest, hard work. To get them meant that you’d aced the work, pure and simple. Baby, you earned them. And the customers who gave them to you were actually paying for your sight unseen, but vitally important Navy Seal-like maneuvers amongst the restaurant’s battalion of warriors considered your co-workers, so they could enjoy the meal they came for, blissfully oblivious to exactly what you went through for those tips.
The customers never intimidated me; they were actually a respite when I’d get to talk story with them at their table. The cooks in the kitchen were the ones who put the fear of God into me, and the Chef, well he was God, or thought he was. The “old pros” who’d worked there since forever were the real rulers of the dining room, and even when I got my first management job I knew to respect what was my “place” and more important, what still wasn’t.
Fascinating how we all learn about work ethic in different ways, isn’t it?
Where are all these memories flooding back from? My book review is up on Joyful Jubilant Learning today, for the 3rd Annual Love Affair with Books. As promised, it’s a review for Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table, The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.
Here’s a snippet, one of Meyer’s quotes;
“With each year I’ve spent as a leader, I’ve grown more and more convinced that my team ”“ any team ”“ thirsts for someone with authority, and power, to tell them consistently where they’re going, how they’re doing, and how they could do their job even better. And all the team asks is that the same rules apply to everyone.”
—Danny Meyer in Setting the Table, page 198
Something else I mention in my review, is that I found Meyer to be a master of the metaphor (I don’t agree with this reviewer). This is just the beginning to a part of his book I mention on JJL about the megaphone, binoculars, and fire:
The moment people become managers for the first time, it will be as if the following three things have happened:
An imaginary megaphone has been stitched to their lips, so that everything they say can now be heard by twenty times more people than before.
- The other staff members have been provided with a pair of binoculars, which they keep trained on the new managers at all times, guaranteeing that everything a manager does will be watched and seen by more people than ever.
- The new managers have received the gift of “fire,” a kind of power that must be used responsibly, appropriately, and consistently.
Meyer’s full description on this alone (pages 195-198) is worth the price of the book.
My first management job in that restaurant? It was actually a duo of restaurants in Honolulu at the original Ward Center called Orson’s and The Chowder House. I don’t recall that I ever got the fire, or that the “old pros” could even hear the megaphone, but I sure do remember those binoculars.
Thus, the work ethic. Loved those restaurants and what they taught me.
Visit my book review on Joyful Jubilant Learning: Click in here or on this button.