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Rebrand Your Flaws: How to Find the Positive in ‘Bad’ Traits


Ben Goldstein


Some character traits are more culturally valued than others. Friendliness tends to elicit better feelings than stubbornness, and is generally identified as a “good” trait. But over the last 10 years in the restaurant industry, I’ve learned something extremely valuable about character traits: Every trait, whether perceived as good or bad, has two sides. The trick is learning how to utilize someone’s natural tendencies to your benefit and get the most out of the qualities that often get a bad rap.

Stubborn? That person probably won’t be the best at guest services or working in teams, but will usually be very logical and skilled at accounting, vendor relations, and inventory. You give me someone who is “stubborn” and I’ll give you an excellent candidate for the detail-oriented, fact-based tasks.

Hard-headed? I say fiercely loyal, and great at negotiations.

Boisterous? Great for running the wait line!

Picky? Hello expediter!

Scattered? Loves to multi-task!

People-pleaser? The best wait staff you can hire.

You can see how each one of these traits has a good side to it. It’s important to not only identify the key traits of everyone on your team, but to know exactly how to best utilize these traits to your business’s advantage.

The best part is, when you put people in a position where they can flourish because of their own natural tendencies, they are happier, more productive, and will put the business’s best interest at the center of their focus. That’s a win-win.

One of the main concepts in the exceptional business book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, is that before you even decide where your “bus” is going, you have to get the right people on the bus — and you also have to get them in the right seat. By identifying the natural traits of your team (and yourself) you’ll better be able to answer the question: Does this person belong on the bus? And if so, are they in the right seat?

I’ve learned the hard way that what makes an amazing hostess does not always make an amazing server. The very best server can be the very worst manager. Different positions require different skill-sets and different character requirements.

By “rebranding” bad character traits to highlight what’s good about them, you can help your staff and your business live up to their full potential. Doing it this way also makes it a lot easier to address areas of concern with employees and give feedback in a way that feels good to everyone.

Let’s say Stacy is a server and she’s sometimes too chatty with familiar guests. Rather than pointing out her neglect of the less-regular patrons, you could approach her like this:

“Hey Stacy, I love how much personal attention you give to our regulars, thank you for recognizing that they are the backbone to this business!

Since you’re so good at expressing a genuine interest in people and building their loyalty to our establishment, I was hoping you might share the love and get even more regulars by engaging a little with all of your section. Knowing you, you’ll have a whole new following in a week!”

Now Stacy walks away feeling great about the interaction, and you’ve just delivered your message in a way that makes everyone feel good. Throughout the next week, you should reinforce it as much as possible.

“Looks like table three might become new regulars. See if you can work your magic!” or “How’s your new regular quest going? Are you engaging with all the tables?”

Of course if Stacy doesn’t get the message you’ll have to be more direct, but often all it takes is a positive compliment with a little direction, and the rest will happen without conflict or stress.

So take a look at your staff and your own personal traits, and decide if you need to shift your perspective, rebrand your flaws, and redefine your language about them for the benefit of your entire team.