A dream that I keep continually waking up to at night is a horrifying reenactment of one of my first on-the-job anxieties. The dream usually starts off with the realization that I’m back in my waitressing apron and I am frantically searching for the foreign glass of wine my customer asked for (after repeating it into my better ear three different times). There’s a back up in the kitchen, a line at the bartender’s service bar, and too many tables who’ve received the “Hello, my name is Kadie, and I will be your server” speech twenty minutes ago but nothing else… all reasons to throw up my pens and quit.
I am no longer a waitress, and have been out of the restaurant business for almost five years now, so why am I still haunted by this ridiculous reminder of my past?
Recently in a store manager performance management conference I was told that a way to measure my team’s success is when I as the leader start “to do less”. This would then leave all the others working harder to “earn their keep.” Although this dream reminding me of unorganized and frantic lists of tasks is not something I want to re-live, I don’t necessarily believe that my road to success means I will do less and the people around me will all eagerly be working harder to pick up the pieces. I think that as a leader it would be in my best interest (as well as those I lead) to ensure that I just become more focused. I should become more focused in doing more of the things that matter most and to be smart enough to communicate what exactly that is in order for my team to succeed. In my current study of The Laws of Success by Napoleon Hill, I am defining my definite chief aim, and have also become focused on ways to help others overcome the everyday chaos that hinders them from achieving their goals. So who was it that helped me? Who can I mirror?
Thinking back to the restaurant in which I was completely overwhelmed, I remember my boss, the co-owner, Jimmy, and how he played a role in my ability to charm his VIP clients even while juggling ten of them at once. Jimmy had a huge role in developing me, and I started under his watchful eye as a hostess who audaciously asked to one day be allowed to serve tables in his restaurant.
Truthfully, my high school experience waitressing at the “Shrimp Shack” was not nearly enough for Jimmy to trust me with his fine-dining wine list and well respected clientele, but he considered my wishes and graciously continued to train me. Although I desperately needed the money to get me through college, I could have very well been the mediocre employee who stopped the hostess after she sat a third table, instead of taking on the biggest section in the restaurant!
After five years working in Jimmy’s restaurant, it was time to turn in my apron; it was also time to thank Jimmy for the experience I gained as head hostess, head wait, and a highly-requested waitress in his restaurant. Looking back I know how I was able to continue to work under such stressful conditions that still make me anxious in my dreams, and that is because of my inspiring leader, Jimmy. Although, Jimmy was in his 60’s, he was one of my first bosses who did not do less. When I found myself in the weeds, he’d jump in, loading table number five’s trays of dinner entrees on the kitchen line up as I ran table four’s fresh coffees and desserts. He did not run around frantically (ok sometimes he did while also cursing in Greek to the kitchen staff), but mostly, he kept his cool for my success and a good review from his clients.
So maybe this constant “nightmare” I am reminded of is actually a reminder from a great leader, that no matter how difficult any job becomes, I can do it. Maybe this dream woke me early this morning to help me to stay focused on what is important and to not become so frantic in life that I do too much of what is not important. Never lose track of your definite chief aim, don’t let everyday anxieties and stressors disengage you and cloud the vision of your dream. Live in the now, but continue to take steps at the pace that you or your team will benefit from in the long run.
*Torreya Grill is still open in Tallahassee, Florida.