There is nothing quite like a fine dining experience. You can expect the presentation and taste of your food to be perfect, service will be impeccable, and your server’s highest priority is your satisfaction.
From your perspective as a customer, this flawless dining experience comes together smoothly and without issue. This is exactly the perception the owner of the establishment wants you to have.
But what goes on behind closed doors in the kitchen is a different story. There is most likely a flurry of activity, and sometimes it is chaotic. In fact, right before your server exits the kitchen, he may yell demands like, “This plate needs a potato!” or “Hurry up, this steak is getting cold!”
Someone may toss a piping hot dinner roll across the room, which your server slams on the plate before adding a beautiful garnish that finalizes the presentation. Then he gives your plate one final scrutinizing review before gracefully exiting the kitchen, gliding across the dining room, and carefully placing it on the table in front of you.
Your dinner is the result of some impressive teamwork that involves a whirlwind of activity from a multitude of kitchen staff and finishes with the perfect presentation of your plate by the server.
While your tastebuds marvel over every delicious bite, the most important part of this magnificent gourmet experience is that you were completely unaware of the level of chaos involved behind the scenes. You leave the restaurant knowing only that you had a fantastic meal. That is the same expectation I want our customers to have when they conduct business with any of our companies, and you should, too.
When you are working with a construction team, there are always going to be chaotic times. The bricklayers may be frustrated over mortar that may be two wet or too stiff. The superintendent may be upset about a couple of workers who never showed up for work. The project manager may be fussing over schedule and delayed materials. And management may be upset over lack of productivity and profits.
Does any of that sound familiar at your jobsites? All this will inevitably go on. But it needs to happen behind the scenes.
Rule No. 1 when you are working as a team: What goes on behind the scenes at work needs to remain between you and your team. Make sure everyone on the team knows and lives by this rule. Like the old deodorant commercial said, never let them see you sweat.
No job is without issues and obstacles. However, the client should be oblivious to any problems you encounter. When you present the finished product to your customer, it needs to be done with a smile. Inquire if everything was delivered to their satisfaction and on time. If the answer is not the positive, glowing response you were hoping for, remember Rule No. 1.
This is not the time to get defensive by unloading all your issues or excuses on the customer or pointing your finger at the shortcomings of your team. Think back to that fine dining experience. You do not want to hear the server say that one of the chefs overslept and was late to work, or the delivery truck from the butcher shop was late. Even if those problems impacted the final product, making excuses does not make happy customers.
Your response should be accommodating. Ask how you can make it right. Recognize how this business transaction is part of the larger picture. Your client has the potential not only to bring repeat business, but also to refer business. That will only happen if they are happy.
To get work done in any business requires a broad range of talent. We need people who can anticipate problems, understand issues, recognize opportunities, and skillfully balance the many processes necessary to meet a company’s goals. Even when all of this is in place, there will still be issues behind the scenes. Do not let your ego get in the way of doing what is best for the customer because ultimately, it is what’s best for your business.
A leader’s responsibility is to ensure that when anyone on the team is in front of the customer, their priority is to make sure the presentation is perfect. They should be asking the customer if they are happy with your team’s performance and inquiring if there are things your team can do to make their job easier. The job is to fix the customer’s issues, not to present yours.
Whether the job is in a restaurant or on a construction site, the result should be “Service with a smile no matter what is happening behind the scenes.”