Even with a strong U.S. economy, coffee shop owners would be doing themselves a disservice by dismissing key leadership skills as crucial to long-term success. Adaptable leaders in your business will help you weather tough times, and of course can help increase your profits when times are good.
Many cities have more than enough coffee shops and restaurants to choose from, making it easy for an eatery to go unnoticed for a while or lose business if service or food quality declines. And when the economy slows again, more establishments will have a hard time staying open.
When you’re up against the whim of market forces, one of the best skills you can have is adaptable leadership—yours and that of your middle managers. In fact, the most frequently cited success factor for business managers, according to research, is the ability to develop or adapt. Change is inevitable. Business owners face changes in culture, staff, markets and more all the time.
Adaptable leaders develop strategies for dealing with change, and shift their behavior to achieve success in new situations. They don’t just “get by.”
Bringing employees along for the ride
You’ll always find at least one person on your staff who has a hard time with change. They may thrive on a consistent routine and resist when confronted with a shifting business landscape—whether it be a new POS system, a menu refresh or a new layout for customer seating.
But if you can set the example for an adaptable attitude and actions, most employees will be cooperative, and morale and creativity can actually increase. Rather than staff reacting to change in a fearful, confused way, they’ll get onboard. Enthusiasm is infectious, after all. Not all employees will want to come along for the ride, but the right ones will. They’ll want to learn and grow with you.
How do you know if you’re adaptable?
Adaptable leaders are flexible in a few ways:
Cognitive flexibility — the ability to use different thinking strategies and mental frameworks.
Emotional flexibility — the ability to vary one’s approach to dealing with emotions and those of others.
Dispositional flexibility — the ability to remain optimistic and, at the same time, realistic.
If you don’t feel you’re particularly flexible in the above ways, it’s never too late to learn.
How to become adaptable if you’re not already:
Get curious. Ask questions. Explore options and do research before you judge and decide. Remember that different is not right or wrong.
Don’t hold on to a plan or strategy too tightly. Have Plan B and Plan C ready to go, or be ready to hear other people’s ideas.
Establish support systems. Look to mentors, friends, colleagues or family to help you check your gut in times of change. Encourage employees to be brutally honest with you as well. Don’t go it alone.
Recognize your typical response to change. Guiding your company through change requires real honesty. Be clear about the changes at hand, so you can give your staff the confidence to follow you through it.
Stretch yourself. Seek out new situations and environments, whether you’re in the midst of change or not. Meet new people and try new things whenever you can.
Ask your team to roll with change, too, to get better at their jobs and improve systems and potential for success—because untapped potential is the biggest waste there is.
One of your most important business strengths is adaptability. You have to be adaptable and you have to show your staff how to do it, too.
More articles in this series:
Coffeehouse Management Skill #4: Attention to Detail (coming soon)