people problems

The recurring theme that I keep hearing about when I talk to other business leaders is how difficult the people part of their business is. There is a common belief that employees, the hiring and retention of them, getting them to buy in and take ownership, and their performance and attitudes is the business owner or manager’s thorn. I’ll be the first one to admit that it can be challenging, but only if you stop learning and growing yourself as a leader. When I started in business the company had 3 employees. My husband James, me, and one dishwasher/jack of all trades named Martin. That was tough. We were solely dependent on Martin showing up for work, which he did with about 60% consistency unfortunately. In 1999 though, the economy was booming in our area, and we were rookies in the restaurant business, so had little time or knowledge on how to recruit more and better people. Now in 2017 there are more ways to hire and recruit than I can count on my fingers, and we have over 80 people working with us in our 4 restaurant locations to serve the guests that come in to see what we are about.

We have an amazing group of people working in our businesses, and there are 4 rules in the process of hiring, retaining and maintaining the culture in our business that we have set. These rules are really universal as you grow your number of employees.

1. Define your vision for your company, organization, or team. Even if you are not the owner, as a leader of people, even as few as one person, it is the most important job you have to be able to share a clear vision of what success looks like for the team, what your mission is, and what your beliefs are as far as the team’s potential.
2. Always be hiring. This means that you should always make room for people that come to you and want to be a part of what you are doing, but only after you have set the expectations with them during the interview process. Carry business cards and hand them out. Be excited about what you do, you attract who you are.
3. Set the expectations up front. The interview process is a sales opportunity. It is where you share your vision and what you are doing to work with your team and help them grow. It is the perfect opportunity to practice active listening with the people you are interviewing. More can be read between the words if you are focused on listening instead of formulating your response or thinking about the next question. Share with clarity exactly what constitutes a great team member.
4. Train and connect. Invest time and energy to train them as they are on-boarding, even if they are highly skilled. Even experts in their field will need training on the way you do things, your outlook, and how to uphold and grow the culture. The training NEVER stops. You have to have this mindset, and spend the time to connect with your people. You have to care about them as individuals, as whole people who have lives outside of work. There is no shortcut to this most important step. Invest in your team, they are more important than your clients.

In my early leadership days I had a much different outlook on people. I have needed to evolve and grow and learn more about myself in order to be able to grow my company. I used to hire out of desperation, anxious to get anyone in there to help me with my heavy load of responsibilities. I thought the people I hired would know without saying what was important. I was so motivated by having people like me that I rarely asked them to do things. I avoided conflicts, and wanted to always keep the peace. I couldn’t understand how some people wouldn’t get along. When someone left the company, I took it personally, thinking they didn’t like me.

As time progressed, I began to listen to outside voices. One of the voices was from someone with a very fear based mindset. They were more educated and successful (it appeared) than I was, and in a position of authority that I respected. Their belief was that your employees are your enemy. I tried on this outlook for a time, but it did not feel right to me. If you live from a place of distrust, you are living in fear, and will attract situations that prove you are right to distrust. I say it again, you attract WHO YOU ARE, not what you say.

Leadership is a journey, a process, and entails the important job of working on yourself. The more you know about yourself and understand your own beliefs, the more you can grow as a leader. The secret to creating a positive, growth minded, servant leader culture begins with you. What are you doing every day to build on your strengths?


  1. a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.
It can be hard not to get caught up in it.  We have such a strong instinct to fit in and be like everyone around us that when we see everyone standing in line to get the newest iphone or the last cabbage patch doll or at that hot new restaurant and we don’t want to miss out.    Sharks go into feeding frenzies, and the situation at the mall or Target or on the roads today may be the same.  The search for the perfect gift that is thoughtful and in your budget, that will show the special someones in your life that you are thinking of them can cause the most stoic of individuals to break out into hives.  Trust me, I am speaking from experience.
As we head into the last day, the last hours before the stillness of a national holiday descends, I am reminded that the urge to spend, to shop, to buy, is made more urgent by not only the media, but by our collective energy.   I am doing my part to remain calm and not get pulled into the frenzy.  The compounding self induced stress of getting the right gift or creating the perfect holiday is just that, self induced.  The best gift is not at the mall or online or even at the jewelry store, it is right inside you.  It is the gift of your presence, your undivided attention and love, of unconditional acceptance.  Practice giving that.

growing up

Looking at the tiny humans that are the children I am reminded that we all still have those little beings deep inside us. We think we have grown up, we get jobs, have kids, get married, buy cars, go into debt, we do all sorts of “grown up” things that are the markers of being an adult. Yet deep inside we are the same souls. We have grown older, into bigger bodies, but the “Me” is still the same. We still carry the same needs, for attention, for love, for acceptance. Somehow we have been conditioned into believing that when you Grow Up, you leave those things behind. Grown Ups are mature, they are responsible, they know better, but the events that shaped our childhood are the molds that we grow into. We still crave the love and attention, we still get scared, we still get cranky, and we still need to play. I love to be with babies and young kids, because they remind me time and time again that we are all like little children, just trading our dolls and trains for kids and jobs. We want to be grown up and big, but still need a hug and a kind word. The competition that began for mom and dad’s attention carries on to the climb to the top, the desire to be seen, the belief that we are worth it. Remembering this helps me to stay soft, to be open, to hear and to listen, with myself, the people I love, the people I lead.

quiet mind

Even a positive mind is busy staying positive, and looking for the good. Give your mind a rest and let it find quiet. Positive is better than negative, but quiet beats all. It can be challenging to find it in this world of constant stimulation and immediate gratification and instant feedback. I have my go-to tricks for getting there, sometimes for just a moment. A moment is all I often need to remind myself of what really matters to me.

Barefoot in the dirt or grass
A hot shower with the lights off
A walk in the trees
A quiet room and some deep breaths
A heartfelt full body hug with someone I love
Gazing at the night sky
Watching the waves in the ocean
Sitting in my parked car for a moment before starting it up
Washing dishes in hot sudsy water

A quiet mind lets me remember that I am so incredibly blessed and grateful to be here on this planet at this time in history, with the people I love, learning the lessons I need to learn, and to lighten up!


small changes

It’s easy to forget that big things start small. They have to start with the idea, and then stack on stack on stack until the momentum builds and you can look back and see that you have indeed made something big. In our business we focus on making small improvements. We went through our menu in the early days one by one and asked our team, “How can we make it better?” For some things it meant adding something, for some, taking it away. The conversation and the language and the mindset expanded, and we started seeing opportunities to make it better in more than just the food. We saw that our guests often needed extra napkins, so we stopped buying the cheap dispensers that popped out only one tissue thin sheet at a time and made available stacks of dinner napkins for them. We saw that our guests loved our chips, so we made them self serve instead of hoarding them behind the counter. We saw that our guests, like us, needed to drink more water, so we infused and fancied up the water, upgrading our cups to make it more appealing to consume. Over and over again we look for new ways to make the experience better for our guests and our team. The changes are always small, and always about adding more value.

This is the kind of incremental thinking that leads to the big changes. If you have ever tried to create a big change overnight, you know that it is incredibly difficult. Resistance rears it’s powerful head, along with uncertainty and fear. It’s great to think big, and it has it’s place in your growth as you dream and set your vision and goals…the secret is to start small. Small is easy, small doesn’t trigger procrastination, small is less threatening.  If you made it a focus to be 5% better today, or 5% more loving, or patient, or generous, what would you be able to do?

watch your words

“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.” Confucius

Listen to what you say, especially in your head. Eliminate the words that are not empowering you.
embrace these…….eliminate these
can                              can’t
will                             won’t
we                              Me
yes                             no
excited                     stressed
curious                    frustrated
relaxed                    exhausted
Other words to cut out of your rhetoric… “but”, which negates what you said before, and “try”, which, as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I will try invariably invites failure. The words we use are what shape our experience.

One of the most inspiring people I know is a man who is helping me develop our leaders in our organization, and whenever I ask him how he is, his answer, almost without fail, is “FanTAStic!”. The tone he uses when he says that powerful word, with extra emphasis on the “TAS”, brings me up a notch, and his positivity is contagious. Your words have power. Change up your answer to the question, “How are you?” and see what a difference it makes, not only in your own mood, but in those around you.

Great answers to “How are you?”:
Better than excellent
Couldn’t be better
So incredibly grateful


How to develop people? Questions are the answer. It’s like panning for gold, you have to take the time and sift through to find out what motivates someone. Over the course of my day there are multiple opportunities for me to coach and train, some are quick on the spot lessons that don’t take much effort, but some are bigger ones that benefit more from a face to face one on one. Going into these sessions, I already know in my head what I want to teach or the behaviors I want to shift, but integral to the success is that I remember that they need to figure this out on their own. I can sit and lecture and teach, or I can sit and ask and listen.

The questions I ask are open ended, never yes, no or whys. Questions like:
• What motivates you?
• What can I do to help you lead better?
• How can we work better together?
• What wears you out and what energizes you?
• What’s the most important tool I can give you to help you be successful?
• What do you know that I should know?
• What have you learned recently?
• Can you give me three solutions to the problem you gave me?
• What improvement can you make that would make us better?
• What is the one thing you would change so you could do better?
• Do you see any opportunities for us?
• What would you do differently if you had my position?
• What question would you like to ask me?

The more I practice the better I get at shifting from telling to asking. It shifts our culture question by question from ME to WE, gives us common ground, and helps empower our people. Questions, or rather better questions, are always the answer to how to develop people.

ask don’t tell

Rule number one to getting to the root of the issue or creating change. If you tell someone what to do you can create soldiers. Obedient non thinkers who follow the rules and carry out the mission, sometimes necessary, but often not. If you instead ask what they think the solution is, or how they think they are doing, or how they can make it better, it’s coming from them. You are stimulating the part of their brain that has to look for an answer. And then it is true. If I tell you the answer you may doubt me, but if you tell me, it becomes the truth.

better late than never

Here I am, forgiving myself for a late start and writing nonetheless at 6:01 pm instead of am. Sometimes life gets in the way in the form of a puppy up all night or an early morning conference call or the alarm that doesn’t go off. All part of being human, and remembering that no matter how many times you stumble and fall, the secret is to get up and keep going. It’s just another lesson for me and opportunity to let go of my need for perfection, to stop comparing myself to anyone else, and to always be kind, especially to me. I’ll be back at it with nary a hiccup in the early morning, with some fresh inspiration brought on by a good night’s sleep. Until tomorrow!

owned and operated by

If you are in business for yourself are you automatically an entrepreneur? Or instead do you just have a job with a fancy title and a lot of responsibility? The way you answer those questions is the difference between being a business operator and a business owner. At the beginning of the venture it is most likely that you are in that key role of operator. Your new business is like a new baby, it needs a lot of tender loving care, cries a lot, and makes a lot of poopy diapers. You need to be an attentive parent, fixing the problems, finding the right people to take care of your baby, clean up the mistakes, nourish it and help it grow. Your role is ultra important, and it is easy to get stuck here. If you are the kind of person who would even contemplate being in business, let alone make the jump and put yourself in charge of your own company, I’d venture to say you have some desire to control your surroundings. This is an asset at the beginning, as you are developing your brand, your team, your brick and mortar or virtual identity.

The danger is that the role of operator is very seductive. It fills your need to be important, to be busy, to be needed, to make a difference. You fall into bed at the end of the day with no energy left to think about your own personal demons. Or you may even fool yourself into thinking that you are an owner, yet the business still relies on you for the day to day decisions that ensure it’s success.

This was me for many years. I thrived on being an operator, and my business benefited from my attention. It was necessary and positive. But where it becomes a topic of importance is if you want to grow. I was pushed to grow and learn to be an owner by the sheer volume of work that there was as our business became more successful. I had to learn to step back and give away some of my control if I wanted to not only preserve my sanity and personal life, but enable my business to blossom. I began to realize that I could accomplish more by spending time working ON my business, not IN my business. Gradually I have shifted into my new role as business owner. I still work IN the business, but when I am IN it (physically or not), my focus is ON it. On making things better, on coaching my team, on finding a way to add more value, on seeing the big picture. It’s a whole new world, and my baby business is walking! Welcome to Entrepreneurship.