The Traits of an Outstanding Team

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We throw around the word “teamwork” all the time but do we know what really makes a team, a team?

We can turn to clever sayings on motivational posters like, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” But what happens when some members of your team don't want to do the work? Does that mean that your team didn’t work? No—you never had a team in the first place.

In bars and restaurants there are basically three groups that come together: combative, workgroup, and team.

Let's break each one down.


Like the name implies, this is a collective workforce that fights amongst themselves. Constant gossip, bickering, and subversive behavior are apparent. There’s high turnover, theft of product, scammers running cons with tickets (and discount coupons), and the occasional physical fight in the kitchen.

Yeah, it's the real Wild West when a team is combative. Respect is demanded, not earned, and the manager usually hides in the office, “too busy” (actually, too afraid) to come out and deal with the problematic staff. Guests have their phones ready to shoot video, hoping to capture the next viral video to post to YouTube.

Check this out: How a Code of Conduct Can Save Your Bar or Restaurant

You hear more four-letter words from the staff each day than you would during an uncensored, explicit standup comedy set. These people don't respect themselves, so why on earth would they respect their coworkers, guests or your property? Yeah, your culture sucks—big time!


The staff is civil to each other here. At least, they don't want to go outside and settle shit the “old-school way” like combatives do. They also don't go out of their way to help each other out. Well, they do for people they like, but they always have a you-owe-me attitude about it.

When groups don't function as a team there’s one main reason: they place their personal priorities before the business’ priorities. You need them to pick up a shift on a Friday night? Damn, they can't—they have important plans (like going to the premiere of Avengers: Endgame). Ask them to take the trash out as they leave and they conveniently forget to do so. They steal tables from others, claiming they “got confused” on the table rotation. There’s no confusion, they just saw a fat tip and wanted it. The overall attitude is that it's every person for themselves.

Check this out: Winning Playbook: The 6 Ps of Running a Successful Restaurant

The managers are no different. In fact, they set the tone for this behavior. They schedule themselves for bankers’ hours, leaving in the afternoon before the busiest dayparts, claiming it's because they “trust their night managers.” These managers disappear for a couple hours in the morning or afternoon to “run errands” for the restaurant. Somehow, they always seem to be off for major holidays. This is where the saying “monkey see, monkey do” gets it merit.


This is the mythical creature of legend that so many talk about and few every really see. Of course you want to be known as having a team—it sounds much better (and cooler) then saying “my workgroup.” But before you start doing your happy dance about teamwork let's do some investigation into the traits that define an outstanding team.

  1. They have a leader. A true leader. “Leadership” is another one of those words we love to use but few really embody the characteristics associated with the title. To be a leader you must be the example for behavior. That means you must live the core values you wrote down on that poster that hangs in the employee break area that no one ever talks about. You must also be willing to work with your staff, setting the example, clarifying expectations, and occasionally doing some work. Now, if your first thought was that you’ve paid your dues and shouldn't have to work so hard, that’s a telltale sign that you're not a leader yet. Success is like daily tax: you have to pay it every single day.
  2. The culture is about hospitality. Real hospitality. Once again, here’s a feelgood word. Authentic hospitality comes from acting as a gracious host to others. You put their comfort and concerns above your own. You treat them as any good host would, with compassion, respect and enthusiasm.
  3. There’s trust. Let us be very clear that if you don't trust your team, you don't have a team. What you have is a workgroup of mercenaries who sell their services to the highest bidder. Don’t confuse trust with affection, either. Members of military special operations teams don't necessarily like all the guys on their teams but they still trust them with their lives.
  4. Respect is apparent. All respect starts with self-respect. You must respect yourself first before you can respect others. You must set boundaries and hold yourself to your standards and core values. Too many operators sell out their standards and values. And what’s really shocking is just how cheaply they sell them. Draw a line in the sand and hold yourself to a higher standard than others have for you.
  5. Low drama. Real teams police drama and gossip with one simple rule: they don't put up with that shit! Real teams know that a divided team is not a team. They also know their strength is the team as a collective. Everyone on a team brings unique skills and talents and together they form a united front against the competition. There’s an old saying that rings true for a real team: “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.”
  6. One standard. Outstanding teams operate under one standard: the team standard. There aren’t different rules for different people on a team. Everyone is held accountable to the same standards. No hypocrisy. No double-standards. No bullshit. Just a collective force working together for the benefit of the bar or restaurant.

A true team mindset is hardwired into our DNA as humans. We formed teams millions of years ago to thrive and build communities. Some would hunt, others would farm. Some would cook, others cared for the children. Everyone had a job and the collective team worked together for the benefit of the community.

Check this out: These 8 Steps Will Help You Fix Your Bar or Restaurant

Negativity, fear and jealousy rip teams apart if allowed to exist unchecked. Soon, trust evaporates, and when trust is gone, your team is gone. As a leader you must be vigilant in stopping negative energy vampires from infecting your culture. They only have one mission: to destroy your team. Stop them before they do damage, or worse, turn you into one of them!

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