In the weeds: long-term vs. short-term

The other day I visited my favorite Einstein Bagels in Casselberry, FL to get a little breakfast. When I walked in, I was very surprised to see the crew behind the counter “in the weeds”. (If you are not familiar with this restaurant term, it means overwhelmed.)

The reason I was surprised is because this is normally a very well run establishment. I attribute most of this to their leader, Laura, who I have written about in the past. While she was not there when I first
arrived (which could explain the “weeds” scenario) she did arrive about half way through my experience, and provided some great insight about long-term vs. short-term thinking.

From what I could tell, someone had not shown up for their shift, they were out of eggs (among other things), and it was all the two employees behind the counter could do to keep up with the current orders they were filling and the rush hour drive-thru onslaught.  I knew they could see the person at the order station (me), but I was clearly not their priority.

Having been in the mid or closing managers role in the past, I can tell you how frustrating it is to walk into work only to find the sky is falling and everyone is looking to you to stop it.  (I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean!). Well, this is the exact type firestorm that Laura walked into.

I was impressed how calm Laura stayed under the circumstances. She  listened, observed, and seemed to internally prioritize her next moves. I was thankful that her first order of business was to direct an employee from the back to the order station. Problem #1 solved.

A few moments later, Laura returned from the back and I could sort of make out the exchange between her and one of the “weeded” employees. What I did hear the employee say was, “we didn’t have time.” Laura responded with, “Had you done that, you wouldn’t be in the mess you are in right now.” The employee rebutted that there wasn’t time, to which Laura calmly and assertively restated her position.

This is when the line was drawn between long-term and short-term thinking. The employee was clearly thinking about the people and challenges sitting right in front of his face. So, he did what he knew. To get the line down on the drive-thru, take and fill orders. To get the line down inside the restaurant, take and fill orders.

Laura had a different approach. She thought ahead. She, too, knew that to get the lines down, you need to take and fill orders. The difference is that she also knew that doing so without a plan would likely only make things worse (hello weeds!). She saw that a 2 minute phone call to see if an extra person could come in would have elevated the weeds situation – maybe not right away – but eventually, rather than sweating through a bad situation with no end because you didn’t have a plan.

How often do we stumble through a tough situation without a plan?  Our  desire to fix things immediately overrides our better judgement to address the long-term issue. Through experience, many of probably think like Laura, but do we ACT like her?

What do you think?

One thought on “In the weeds: long-term vs. short-term

  1. Hi Matt!

    Great writing. I see this all too often where things seem to be going to hell and the customer is left wanting and employees are deflated.

    A great mentor of mine always told me, “The quality of your leadership is determined how well things run when you are not around.” I bought into that and worked very hard in developing supervisors and crew leaders to perform well without me being in the business (i.e., day off, meetings, travel, etc.). It was a “long term strategy” of mine to develop my leaders to execute the “short term strategy.” But once they were trained and given the authority to make, typically, the right decisions, I felt comfortable leaving them to run the business in my absence.

    Keep on providing us a great blog!


    O. Lee

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