In my recent reading I came across the term “mental environment” to describe the feeling one gets, almost subconsciously, in different physical spaces.Â For instance, consider how you feel in the midst of a quiet meadow and compare that to how you’d feel in Grand Central Station during rush hour.Â The point is that every space we inhabit has a different mental environment made up of the attitudes, moods, activities, and pace of the people occupying that place.Â Contrast the difference between an NFL stadium during Sunday’s game with that of an empty cathedral, or a doctor’s waiting room as compared to an airport with anxious travelers rushing for their departures.
While every space has its own signature feel that feeling can be dramatically altered by human events and emotions.Â Compare the mental environment of a happy well-adjusted home and one that is in the midst of marital strife.Â Even the same place can have a different feel at different times.Â Consider the camaraderie and good spirits in a busy bar on Friday night versus the same bar that morning when it had one patron.
The natural environment is not only a reflection of current occupants and activity, but it also affects everyone who enters.Â Walk into that same bar on Friday night and you’ll soon join in with the good time.Â We have all heard of the “mob mentality.”Â This is a perfect illustration of how the mental environment of a large, unruly crowd can move people to do things they would never do otherwise.Â Clearly, the “mental environment” is a very real phenomenon.
In many dining establishments I’ve visited the prevailing mental environment is one of “horseplay” and good times, that is, a compelling sense that the restaurant is there for the amusement and pleasure of the employees.Â Certainly it’s not a mental environment of service and caring for the customer.
What is the mental environment of your operation as it pertains to your staff?Â Is it one of service?Â Is there a sense among all employees of dedication to helping and assisting not only your customers/guests/members, but also each other?Â If not, you’ve got some work to do.
As with any other skill you wish your employees to demonstrate, you must take charge and define your standards and instruct your employees.Â The better job you do of training and reinforcing Â Â basic behaviors, the more control you’ll have over your operation’s mental environment.
- Values â€“ your employees must understand the importance of your organizational values and service ethic and demonstrate it in all they do.
- Attitude and Mood â€“ it is up to you as the leader to insist upon basic requirements of positive attitude and good mood.Â Say to employees, “Be of good cheer, or don’t be here.”
- Standards of Decorum and Demeanor â€“ as a fundamental requirement teach basic etiquette and appropriate behavior to your employees.Â Working quietly, efficiently, and with purpose sends a powerful message to all who witness it.
- Organization and Efficiency â€“ a sense of order and efficiency says a lot about your operation.Â Your staff needs to know what to do and when and how to do it.
- Controlled Pace â€“ while hustle is an important quality in an employee, having a well-organized and efficient operation results in fewer chaotic moments with staff rushing wildly about – which doesn’t inspire confidence in anyone.
- Helpfulness and Good Cheer â€“ your people create this by their absolute dedication to customers and each other, but you have to require it by direction and reinforcement.
Your enterprise and all aspects of its operation are a reflection of your vision and leadership.Â Take control of your mental environment just as you would any other important part of your operation.Â You’ll see the results in customer satisfaction and your bottom line.
Thanks and have a great day!
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers â€” those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworkingÂ managers throughout the country and around the world.
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