Did you hear the one about the general manager who rushed hastily into his club’s ballroom one morning, ran through his usual start-of-the-day “standup” items for the department heads who had gathered there, and then asked if anyone had anything they needed to bring up? When he didn’t get any response, he thanked everyone for coming, told them all to have a good day, and headed for the door.
But then he heard a thud. He turned around and saw what he had thought, during the meeting, was his executive chef, now sprawled on the floor. And the “chef ’s” toque had fallen off to reveal it hadn’t been on the head of a real person after all—just on top of a lot of newspaper that had been stuffed into the chef ’s whites.
In this case, it was part of a practical joke being pulled by the rest of the staff—they knew the chef wouldn’t be there that morning, so they made the dummy and propped it up at the back of the group. Everyone got a good laugh over it—but the not-so-funny part was, nobody was really all that surprised that the GM didn’t notice the “stand-in” while conducting what was really a very poor excuse for a meeting. Sound Concept “Standups” are a management staple of the restaurant, hospitality and club management worlds, and with good reason; they’re really the only practical way, in businesses that aren’t 9-to-5, to try to have productive, face-to-face communications with everyone on the management team on a daily basis. Most department heads can manage to juggle their schedules to clear time for maybe one lengthier meeting per week, where things can be covered in more depth and from a longer-term perspective. But expecting to be able to have extensive meetings more often than that is unrealistic in a club environment.
In between, standups—where everyone gathers in a semi-circle or lineup for quick reviews of the more immediate issues— are the best way to try to have regular give-and takes. Regular standups also have value just as opportunities to provide reminders about already-discussed key considerations (especially if they’re held just before a big event will occur), or to rally the troops, or maybe just to remind them that you’re there, and you’re watching.
Too often, though, regularly scheduled standups—especially if they’re always held at the same time at the beginning of a day or shift— turn into routine drudgery where nothing’s accomplished except a lot of yawning, fidgeting, sighing and eye-rolling—and the only sign of life is when everyone bolts for the door.
When this happens, it’s usually because whoever’s supposed to lead or deliver the standup—be it the GM for all department heads, or department managers for their staffs—hasn’t brought any good material. And without anything prepared, “standup” managers, like standup comics, are doomed to die. Leaving Them Wanting More
From conversations with some known-to-be dynamic club managers on how they avoid this fate with their standup routines, here are some tips for how the effectiveness of these gatherings can be improved:
• There’s Nothing Neat About “Short and Sweet”—”My reaction, anytime I hear someone make a comment that indicates they’re most concerned with how quickly a meeting will be over, is that they really don’t want to accomplish anything,” says one GM. “So I try to never say things like, ‘OK, real quick,’ or ‘One more thing and I’ll get us out of here.’ If the focus is on how soon we’re going to break up, to me that means you’re really saying we all have more important things to do than get together like this. A meeting that’s too short is just as bad as one that goes on too long, I think.”
• Always Give Them Something—”Before I run any standup meeting, I try to make sure I go in with a new announcement that will be of interest to everyone,” another manager says. “I even go to the point of withholding some of the less critical things from our weekly meetings, so I can save them for the standups that we’ll have in between.” started pulling some things out selectively to use at the standups instead.”
• Takeaways Help Things Take—”I’ve found that standups are often the best time to hand out reports or other things you want your managers to have, as long as you limit it to one per gathering,” says a GM. “Too often I think we tend to overload them with everything in the weekly meetings, and a lot of the stuff just ends up sitting in a pile and not getting read. So I’ve started pulling some things out selectively to use at the standups instead.”
• Set the Record Straight—“If you’ve done your job [running a standup], you’ve either brought some good information for everyone, or drawn some out from one of your department heads,” says a GM. “In either case, I make sure I follow up with an e-mail later in the day, so everyone will have a record of what was discussed. If I don’t have anything of substance to put in those e-mails, I know it wasn’t a good [standup].”
• Make Them Raise Their Hands— Remember what it was like in school when you knew a teacher was going to call on you? It usually made you pay better attention and have something ready in the way of a response. Similarly, most of the managers we probed about effective standup techniques cited the need to make sure they’re not one-way exchanges. “If you let every [standup] be one where you just go around the room and ask everyone if they have anything to report, and then you let them all get away with just saying no each time, you’re wasting everyone’s time,” one manager says. “I make it a point to try to rotate around from one [standup] to the next so I always have a very specific question for a different department manager—one that can’t be answered yes or no. They have all caught on pretty quick that they can’t expect to use this time to take little naps with their eyes open.”
• Find Some Pearls and Pass Them Out—Finally, some managers admit they’re frustrated comics or motivational speakers themselves, so they like to use standups as a good time to deliver a joke or quote of the day. “Yeah, it’s corny, but I got started doing it, and now they expect it,” one says. “It does seem to keep them a little more interested in coming to the meeting—if only to razz me about how bad my jokes are.” C&RB
Summing It Up
• Your staff will take “standup” meetings as seriously as you do—or don’t.
• Preparation is as critical for these brief encounters as it is for major presentations.
• Try to make sure you always impart something new and of value in every “standup”— and don’t let them be one-way exchanges.