April 9, 2009

How soap and french fries can help you become an amazing boss

I never thought that coming across a bathroom with no soap would make a great topic for a blog about how to be an amazing boss! It however, does!

Two restaurants I’ve eaten at recently (within a fortnight of each other) have had empty soap dispensers in the ladies toilets. Firstly let me assure you that I don’t eat at scummy restaurants, both were middle of the range and reputable places. Secondly let me tell you my genius plan I hatched to ensure I could still wash my hands with soap. It didn’t even take me one tenth of a second to think “ahh I’ll pop into the men’s – they’ll definitely have soap”. I was right, they did and I had clean hands in a flash (told you it was genius). Lucky for me in both cases the men’s were totally vacant – so I could do so stealthily.

This raises a few questions…. Do men not wash their hands? Or do they just not use soap? Also how did I instinctively and instantly know there would definitely be some in there? Well the answers to these questions are not my problem (I’d also rather avoid any mathematical debates about the percentage of female patrons vs. male, the number of visits ladies make to the loo vs. men and the possibility of the soaps being topped up on different days). So let me continue my insightful rant.

Another week and a third restaurant…… a French fry ‘issue’ came to my attention. I ordered the fish of the day which came with salad and chips. However… it did not specify the chips were FRENCH fries. This thoroughly annoyed me (as a woman who tries to not eat unending amounts of deep fried stuff) I know how much fattier they are than normal chips - to me French fries are a greasy treat that don’t actually fill you up. Normal chips on the other hand do actually resemble a bit of potato and you don’t feel as naughty eating them.

So how do these (thoroughly interesting) incidents relate to your workplace? Well, firstly are your soap dispensers full? Secondly in what ways are you “not filling up the soap”? Also, are there ways you are surprising (and annoying) your customers by not being clear about exactly what they are getting (what is your businesses French fry)?

The grossest part about the soap incidents is that the staff used those same loo’s. I wonder how many staff members did and how many times? I wonder why they didn’t think “Crikey! Yuck! Better get some more soap” or did they think “boy someone should really fill up this dispenser”? Are your staff proactive enough to a) think and b) care? I just wish I’d know about the empty soap before I used the glass the female waitress touched the rim of as she placed it on the table….

As a boss, you need to awaken a certain attitude of ownership within your staff – full responsibility for everything that happens and an attention to detail. You need to show staff you want them to speak up about ANYTHING and allow them to take control where necessary. You should let them be real stakeholders, knowing they’ll be heard, and that their actions (i.e. filling up the soap) really really really do matter.

Feel free to share below any ‘french fry’ or ‘soap’ instances you’ve uncovered in your workplace. Also, what random experiences have you had that taught you a lesson useful in your work life?

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