I was just at my regular Starbucks. When I got there, it was the usual for a Sunday morning. Maybe six people in line at any given time with three baristas working. I sat at my usual perch reading my Kindle and drinking my dopio espresso macchiato. I also treated myself to some oatmeal.
After a while, one of the baristas went on break just as everyone in the entire Tri-Valley area came in for Frapuccinos. The line doubled and then tripled and then quadrupled. Ashley and Jasmine kept their heads down. Ashley ringing, pouring drip coffee and warming food. Jasmine making drinks that became more labor intensive as the weather heated up. Simple lattes became Fraps requiring blending and all those powders and syrups that pump the calorie count through the roof.
I was starting to wonder how this was going to play out. The looks of the folks in line got less happy. A few would-be customers walked in and out when the saw the line. But Ashley kept greeting people by name and asking if they wanted the usual and apologizing for the delay. Jasmine kept baristaing and taking the neverending order fine-tunings from the customers gathered around her station waiting for drinks. Throw in numerous requests for water, trays and bags.
I was thinking, wow, this is a scheduling nightmare. What would I do if I were a manager? Call someone in? Surrender revenue and start giving out free drink coupons as an apology? And then I realized that the employees were doing exactly the right thing. They didn’t start working at an exaggerated panicked pace. They didn’t get short with customers. They kept working quickly and smoothly. They continued asking Little Leaguers how their teams were doing and if drinks were made perfectly.
Eventually, another employee came on shift and took the register. Ashley then cleaned like a madwoman and asked Jasmine about stocking levels. Milk, cups, lids, syrups and powders got restocked. And just like that, it was over and order was restored.
While the manager-mind in me was racing to figure out what could be done to improve the situation, Ash and Jasmine were working the issue. They knew what they were doing and they did it. They trusted each other and went about their business in a way that I think would have made Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz proud. Had Howard been there (or some other “suit”), I’m sure it would have been a disaster of making moves for the sake of making them because that’s how the management mind is wired.
Do something. Improve. Suggest. Take command.
As a manager who manages in a completely different business that has nothing to do with coffee or retail, I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing other than trust the team, trust the process and shut the hell up.