Service to the guest—whether you’re working in a hotel, kitchen, or the front of the house at a restaurant—is the cornerstone of the hospitality industry. And in order to provide exceptional service, hospitality professionals must work quickly and efficiently to solve problems.
According to Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, teamwork is the driving force behind success in the restaurant industry. Working with your team to solve a problem ethically might not be as quick as another method, she said, but at the end of the day you want things to be done right.
Sweeney, a veteran leader and the former CEO of AARP Services, was recognized this week at the Johnson & Wales University Providence campus as a Distinguished Visiting Professor by the College of Hospitality Management. With decades of leadership experience, Sweeney has come to know what works and what doesn’t in a professional setting. According to Sweeney, she learned the most important thing she could have learned about success as a junior high school student—years before her career took off.
In an anecdote about her childhood, Sweeney explained that she came to realize the true value of teamwork during an intramural basketball game in junior high school. Sweeney, who said herself that she was no star athlete, joined the team in hopes of having fun and just getting better at the sport. But it was during one game that season when she realized how important her teammates were to the success of her team.
“One of my teammates intentionally tripped another girl on the team to get the ball and score the basket,” Sweeney explained. “I know that tripping is bad, but it’s even worse when you’re tripping your own teammate to win.”
She was appalled to see her teammate act so harshly, and she instantly knew that the concept of teamwork was something she’d carry with her throughout her career.
Winning, she said, shouldn’t be done by sacrificing your values or ethical decision-making. In the restaurant industry, teamwork is crucial to success. And working together with your team will make winning—in any capacity—sweeter.