Let's Teamwork this Thing

Updated: Feb 27


Teamwork.


Using this word, or variations, in a sentence, is probably the most common slogan in the business community.

  • There is no “I” in Team

  • Teamwork makes the Dream Work

  • Together everyone achieves More

  • Surrender the ME for the WE


This only touches the surface when it comes to the number of teamwork slogans out there. The business community has a term for these slogans. Bumper stickers. Slogans to live by. I don’t mean to disparage the use of bumper stickers. They can be important reminders if they truly represent the culture of your business.


It is difficult to imagine a business which doesn’t pay homage to the word teamwork. But how often do you find a true teamwork environment at a place of business? And what does that look like?


I can state with authority that teamwork is lacking in the service sector. When we bring a new employee with previous work experience to our team, we have to perform what I call deprogramming. In each case they came from an environment of, “do your job and don’t tell others how to do their job.”



One of the primary focal points for my employees when it comes to standing shifts is operational excellence.To drill this down; make quality drinks in an expedient manner in order to maximize revenue. There is much more to operational excellence, which I’ll save for a future article.


We have a system in place which allows us to achieve operational excellence. We can handle just about any level of customer traffic with three Baristas, each manning a specific station. The register, the cold drink station, and the hot drink station. With three experienced Baristas manning each of these stations, we have turned over $1,000 in revenue in little over five hours. That’s for an average order of around seven dollars.


So we have this great system with very specific and well-defined roles. But what happens when all of the sudden every customer is ordering cold drinks? If the other two Baristas, one on the register and the other on the hot station, are watching the cold station Barista struggle because “it’s not my job,” what are the chances of clearing that line? A line which now extends all the way to the door.


The nuts and bolts of this great system is not why we achieve operational excellence on a daily basis at The Coffee Shelf. In my opinion, for a company such as The Coffee Shelf, where quality and expediency is paramount to our success, the best system ever created would not work if teamwork were not an integral part of that system.



Creating and maintaining a true teamwork environment is not a simple process. It starts at the very top. Me. The boss man.


An interesting experience for me over the past years, when emphasizing teamwork, has been the challenge of teaching new employees to accept help. I’ve found that everyone, even those coming from other service sector jobs, is great at providing assistance. More often than not, when a new employee receives assistance, it is internalized as a failure to perform his or her duties.


This has been the challenge. And this is where leadership by example is crucial to establishing our culture of teamwork in new hires.


We’ve used the term, leave your ego at the door. But let’s be realistic. Everyone carries an ego, and it’s not something where we just turn off the switch. No one likes to have their ego bruised. I don’t.


Over time, however, one can learn to accept feedback. You can learn to accept a denting of your ego and internalize the feedback to better yourself. Our new employees will eventually witness a manager, a supervisor, or me, accepting feedback. Or more apt for the subject of teamwork, accepting assistance when we are having a bad day. When I’m just not on my “A” game at the register, another Barista will take over and I’ll move to another station.


We allow our employees to accept assistance without consequence. Mistakes are a part of being human. Having a bad day is part of being human.


For emphasis. Allowing your people to accept assistance without consequences.


In some workplace environments, accepting assistance is a sign of weakness. It’s a thought process of, “I’ve messed up. I had to get help from another employee, or worse, a manager. I’m a terrible employee. I’m going to get fired.”


The culture of a workplace can drive this type of thinking. Does your culture embrace the inevitability of human mistakes, or does it highlight them for public humiliation?


At The Coffee Shelf our culture is, “I'm strong enough and confident enough to accept assistance from my teammates because they are here to help me, and because no one cares if I make a mistake.”


“You are stressed and feeling tired? No problem. I’ll open the shop for you in the morning so you can sleep in a little longer.”


Allowing your people to accept assistance without consequences.


From day one, during the initial phases of training, teamwork is emphasized. But it’s done with subtlety. We call our training low stress training. There is no pressure to remember even one thing from your first day. A new employee is permitted to ask questions until he or she gains the confidence to work a station solo.


Integrating people into this teamwork culture does not often go smoothly. It’s a transition - a different way of working - for many. The challenge usually increases around the time they are promoted to Barista. They’ve worked hard to get there, and now they find they are still receiving assistance during rushes without having requested any. When the proverbial light comes on, when they realize we are all working together, it is wonderful to witness.



During one of our crazy mornings in late 2019 we had to rotate station responsibility in the middle of a rush. The Barista at one of the stations was experiencing some difficulty. We shifted positions while there was a line to the door. The customers never noticed.


Nothing about the mid-shift rotation was mentioned. When we saw the numbers following the rush, the result was high fives between three people who had worked together, and worked hard. It was a moment of celebratory bliss. As a team we were strong. As individuals, we accepted assistance from the team to achieve success.


This is what teamwork looks like at The Coffee Shelf.


#teamwork #leadership #thecoffeeshelf


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