Simple Solutions


  • Author Nan Russell
  • Published October 12, 2015
  • Word count 515

On our first morning of vacation, we were pleased to find open tables when we arrived for breakfast at a popular and highly recommended café. With several people actively filling walk-up specialty coffee orders at the counter, it took several minutes to be acknowledged: "It'll be about five minutes for a table since the waitress needs to catch up," a person finally called out in our direction.

Fifteen minutes later we were seated; in another hour our order arrived. What we'd planned as a quick breakfast before heading out to explore the city and its museums turned into a morning event. Our "quick breakfast" took 109 minutes, during which time we were never offered a beverage refill or given a courtesy acknowledgement about why the delays to order, receive food, get the check, and pay the bill.

Since breakfast is commonly a more speedily served and eaten meal, the slowness and customer-abandonment in this highly rated café was at first a surprise and then an annoyance. When the waitress finally brought our check, she casually remarked, "I'm the only server today; sorry it was a bit slow." Was this somewhat-apology because it was time for her tip?

Of course, an easy solution in this age of transparency and personalization would have provided an upfront choice for the customer – in this case us. Acknowledging they were short staffed and breakfast service slow would have given us a choice to stay or leave based on our plans. However, even when a transparent communication option like this is missed, there are still simple solutions for people who are winning at working.

A winning at working server would make it easier for herself and her customers with at least two approaches. First, she would manage the customer's needs at the point of contact by determining if they had leisurely intent or were in a hurry. In our case, she might have offered faster selection suggestions. A pre-made muffin and juice could have made sense if we had known there was problem.

Second, instead of acting as an island, she should have elicited help from the multiple take out-coffee counter staff. They could assist her and her customers by providing beverage refills, delivering food, or processing payments without impacting their roles.

Of course, if that café had a winning at working team focused on offering the best of who they are to customers and each other, there wouldn't have been a problem that morning even with limited staff. If you're short staffed at a popular restaurant in a good sized city, a winning team would collaborate to support each other and minimize customer impact.

That's what people who are winning at working do. They anticipate issues, recognize emerging challenges and solve them before they impact service or results. These are the people who see the bigger whole; who step up to help others before being asked; and whose regular behaviors and ongoing perspectives bring simple solutions to their work in the form of communication, ideas, performance trust, involvement, teamwork, collaboration, service, and best-of-self actions.

(c) 2015 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell is an award winning author of four books. Her latest is Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (2014). More about her and her work at

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