clear communication

What does “clear communication” entail?

Clear communication necessitates that all team members understand all the tasks that are at hand and how to go about accomplishing them. If such understanding doesn't exist, the team members will be difficult to work with for two reasons.

The first reason is that the team members will be so busy trying to keep one step ahead of their problems that they will be uncommunicative. The other reason is that lack of communication clarity will make them unable to function at peak efficiency, making whatever problems that exist become even worse.

Management must “own” the responsibility of creating a good working culture. Whatever goes wrong in a kitchen is a direct reflection on whoever manages that kitchen. As an example, a kitchen might have a single incompetent worker who has been notified of the need to improve performance. It might so happen that the worker doesn't improve but isn’t disciplined or terminated. If he or she is allowed to stay in the operation and subsequently causes the operation to break down in some way, management is to blame for the breakdown.

Much the same as management is to blame for unresolved worker incompetence issues, management is to blame when communication problems negatively impact operations. Some workers just don't communicate well. Some team members may be intimidated by others on their team, so they may be hesitant to discuss problems when such discussion is needed. They might be intimidated because the other ones on their team sound angry or hostile a lot. And other team members might be extremely sensitive to any feedback that's less than positive. The mannerisms of such sensitive workers might nonverbally communicate to other workers that they can't have honest and open exchanges with them.

For any business to operate properly, there must be clear delineation between leadership and people who leadership oversees. In a healthy business, all people should certainly be equal in spirit. But in a kitchen or similar somewhat high-pressure environment, a hierarchy must be established and adhered to. One of the primary purposes of this will be to facilitate communication.

All team members must be comfortable communicating virtually everything with their leadership. This need not be the case regarding communications with coworkers, but it would be very desirable.

The proper style of communication for managers can best be described as their needing to be straightforward. Managers must be able to address problems when they occur, and proper communication is the key to enabling them to do so. The following theoretical example serves as an illustration of this principle:

Team member number one, “Harry,” comes to his manager, “John.” Harry tells John that the fruit punch is too sweet. John tells Harry to go to the kitchen downstairs and tell the chef, “Susan,” about the problem. Harry, who isn’t a very good communicator, just walks into the kitchen, abruptly tells Susan that the punch is too sweet, and quickly leaves.

At this point Susan is insulted. She thinks that her own abilities are excellent and questions if the criticism is warranted. She also experiences anxiety because she doesn't want to get into trouble or give the appearance that she's not doing her job. And it so happens that her personality is such that she is prone to anxiety when she's not performing perfectly. And in this instance her anxiety quickly turns into resentment because she didn't like Harry's demeanor when he told her that there was a problem. Harry goes back upstairs and tells John that she seemed annoyed when he told her that there was a problem with the punch.

John is an excellent manager who does a number of things to address the communication problem. He first takes ownership of the problem and decides that it was his fault for not training Harry properly regarding employee communications. He and Harry then begin a discussion.

John explains to Harry that although Susan is a great chef, she's a sensitive individual. As such, she doesn't like being told that she's done something wrong, especially by coworkers rather than managers. John then admits to the error on his part. He says to Harry that he should have told him to tell her that he was asked to relay the message that the punch was not sweet enough, and also that John wasn’t able to come downstairs himself because he was too busy with a customer.

John then goes downstairs to the kitchen and apologizes to Susan. He apologizes for sending Harry rather than coming down himself, as it was his responsibility (rather than Harry’s) to do so. He further explains to Susan that Harry was a little embarrassed about their exchange and now feels that she's angry with him. And John then suggests to Susan that at the end of the day she might consider having a conversation with Harry to clear things up.

Another way to handle problems such as these involves digital forms. If all staff members have the liberty to bring attention to problems through anonymous digital communications, then such problems will go directly to the chef and there will be no personal interactions involved. When that's the case, sensitive employees such as “Susan” can essentially save face to some degree. And it’s also beneficial that various levels of management can be included in such digital interchanges.

Communications pertaining to on-the-spot problems such as the fictional one just described are important. But it's also vitally important that communication geared towards getting to the roots of problems takes place between upper management and employees. In our fictional scenario it would be necessary for upper management to communicate several things to Susan. Those things would include the following: 1) Employees need to be willing to be critiqued by others at all levels; 2) Product consistency is absolutely necessary at all times; 3) Customers must always be satisfied; and 4) Chefs must be made aware of all complaints about products.

Clearly, excellent communication must occur at all times. Only then can significant personnel and operational problems be properly addressed. And perhaps the most unenviable task of managers is how to deal with problem employees. Managers will often determine that one particular employee poses a problem, and then they will have to pursue a clear plan of action regarding what to do. And effective communications are at the heart of such plans of action.

If a manager or managerial team decides that an individual must improve his or her performance, they must set a date regarding when either the employee’s performance will improve or they will be terminated. And if termination has to occur, it should be done as compassionately as possible. It's a sad fact of life that all businesses will have to let people go at some point, and all managers must be prepared for such unpleasant eventualities.

A number of things must be clearly and repeatedly communicated to all team members, both individually and collectively. One is that customer satisfaction is the number one priority of the business. Another is that the well-being of the team that runs the operation is more important than the perceived well-being of any one individual member of that team. And a third is that all team members must intently focus on communicating effectively whenever speaking to anyone. This means that everyone must think through both the tone and content of whatever they have to say before they say it.

Such constructive dialogue can occur even during daily and somewhat mundane tasks. For example, a person who discovers that an item is out of stock should say so loudly and clearly so that everyone is aware of the situation. And team members should complement each other regularly, and not just correct each other, when they’re doing virtually anything and everything related to operations.

Consider that clear and effective communications are of the utmost importance because we are totally committed to establishing a working culture that is second to none. Interchanges between workers, managers, and customers are not just about improving operations or ensuring quality. They are about making sure that all those who buy our products and all those who work among us have exciting, enlightening, and memorable experiences every time that they’re in one of our stores.

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