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Lessons from Mashed Potatoes

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I consider myself to be a pretty good chef. As a single dad with two beautiful teenage girls and a decent number of friends coming in and out of the house, I pride myself on serving up full plates and putting empty plates in the sink. 

My recipes range from themes of Spanish, Italian, Asian, and American Southern dishes that are prevalent in the southern Louisiana area where I was raised. A quick glance at my Facebook account can get your mouth watering as I enjoy flaunting pictures of our home-cooked dinners often.

As a kid, I grew up healthy but poor. My mom worked hard to put food on the table for four teenage boys. One meal in particular was boiled potatoes and ground meat, which she called “poverty soup.” While the dish kept food in our stomachs, the blandness of the meal was not forgettable. This is probably the main reason for my swearing off of mashed potatoes in my house (or any other potato that is not deep fried). 

On my son’s 24th birthday, he stopped by and requested mashed potatoes for his birthday. As a father, I obliged by boiling potatoes, and then mashing them up to put on the table. As my kids would later exclaim: “There is no love in these potatoes.” And they were right; I just walked through the path of least resistance to fulfill a request.

Don't Be Bland

No one has asked me to make mashed potatoes again, and I feel my long-term goal was met. So, what does my hate for mashed potatoes have to do with being a quick maintenance leader? People who are not inspired to achieve will usually take the path of least resistance to complete the task. We all know there are people who do not want to try their best and are just there to do as little as possible to keep the paycheck going. I am focusing on the ones that normally do great, but then give a lackluster performance in one aspect of their duties.  

One of the more common examples is that four-letter word: sell. There are people out there who will greet your customer with a smile, take excellent care of the vehicle and keep a great looking shop area. If you give them a few filters and a handout and scoot them off to the waiting room, they suddenly monotone their way through a presentation and skip all add-on opportunities.

Why would someone so talented give such a lackluster presentation? Most probably, they ate the poverty soup!

In normal terms, they have encountered something in their past so bad that the idea of having to walk in and suggest additional services transforms them into a comatose service writer.  

The only real way to find out what is going on is through communication. Using the feedback model, the fourth step is to encourage a group resolution. This will open up conversations about why the all-star stalls at the service counter. Once you've determined the true reason, you can discover ways to break through these roadblocks. Recently I was introduced to loaded mashed potatoes. This obviously had a much different taste and was palatable despite my childhood memories trying to overtake my taste buds.

You can assure your employee that sales are not always bad and can actually be interesting if you can alter the perceived environment with some different takes on it. Perhaps you can create a competition. One of my favorite stories was about a manager who would take over the pit duties if he came away with a “just the basic service” response from the customer. Someone else would take over the customer interaction until they had the same outcome. The competition would go on all day as pit days in the southern humidity and heat are not pleasant.  Role playing and sales contests can be helpful but only to the right people. Highly competitive people will rise to the top, those who are not will quickly give up when they find they are trailing behind in sales contests. 

I do not like the word sell. To someone who exclaims they sold something to a customer, I will quickly suggest a change in vocabulary to be serviced. Sure, at the base it is still net sales, ticket average and profit margins, but changing from taking money from someone to performing a service a customer needs is the bacon, chives and cheese that change mashed potatoes into something I can consume.  

Listening to your team members troubles with an open mind can quickly turn your poverty soup perception into loaded mashed potatoes. Oh, and if you have a good mashed potato recipe, shoot it my way. The kids will thank you!

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