In part 3 of our 4 part series, the QSR Nation and Carrie Luxem discuss how underperformers and a negative work environment could be why your employees don’t care! Find out how to reverse this trend and engage your employees!

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hey everybody, welcome back to QSR Nation. Listen is as we continue our discussion with Carrie Luxem.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  I think just the low standards automatically leads to some of your other points you have for us. It leads to underperformers and it leads to a negative work environment in general.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, absolutely, yeah, and those are some of the last points that we have, I mean too many underperformers, if you don’t care and you’ve got these people underperforming, it’s really about having the energy to take care of the underperformers, and by “take care” I mean help them. If they’re really truly just not getting it, maybe they are disengaged, really looking at yourself as the leader, as the manager, and what role are you playing in that underperformer?

I mean you can take a restaurant that has a manager or a leader that doesn’t care, and of course, they have these underperformers. You change it out, you put somebody in there that does care, that has energy, that has high standards, that underperformer is likely going to turn into a not-underperformer. They may still have some issues or whatever, but if you have too many underperformers on your team and you feel like I’m in an environment or in a community, we can’t staff so I have to keep them, it’s going to cause you so many headaches.

If you do have great performers or people that are doing great things, why would they want to stay in an environment with people that are not being held to the same standard? You can come to work, you don’t have to wear the right uniform, you don’t have to smile, you don’t have to be great with customers, you don’t have to follow the rules – people that are doing a great job are not going to want to work in that environment for very long, so that’s a big one. If you have too many underperformers, people aren’t going to care and you’re going to be in that same boat, and the same thing, like you said, you were talking about the negative environment. Who can thrive in a chronically negative environment, you know? Nobody wants to work in an environment where people are in a bad mood all the time.

It’s really more common than it is not, and I think it’s as a manager if you really look at your own attitudes, your own actions, and how are those things impacting your team, you really just have to try to figure out a way to lead from a position of positivity and avoid that, you know, whether it be victim mentality or that gloomy, there’s so much going on and we’re so overwhelmed and we’re not making enough money. People can feel that, and that is not just a great environment to work in.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Oh, exactly, and one thing that we used to talk a lot about in leadership classes when I would teach those is before you let someone go, asking them and then receiving the feedback for yourself, what is it that I’m not providing you that would make your job better or make your job easier, and what is it that I’m lacking in that’s creating barriers for you to succeed in, and really taking that ownership on yourself first before… because it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, they stink so I’m just going to cut them loose.” But to actually evaluate because if you get a lot of “well, they stink” and you’re letting a lot of folks go, typically maybe you’re maybe underperforming as well… You might be the stink maker. You might be the stink maker, that’s right. You may be the negative nanny, quit looking at me.

BETH OUTZ:  Well, that’s one of our core values that we have at our company is positive attitude always, and so that’s something that we always kind of strive for and I 100% agree with you. If you have a negative environment, not only do you not want to plan to come into work every day, but you’re never going to feel like no matter what you do is going to be adequate enough, you’re not going to have that connection, and you go back to the point of nobody cares because if it’s a constantly negative environment, I mean why would you do anything to benefit yourself or the company?

CARRIE LUXEM:  Exactly, and again, I work with a lot of serious operators that are like, “Oh, Carrie, you’re just…,” you know, it’s like positivity, that constant positivity maybe is viewed as fluff or not real. I tell my team the way it is, I tell the truth, but I present it in a way that’s about moving forward, and it doesn’t mean I’m going to always be rah-rah positive. The positive energy is that can-do attitude, and it’s really about being able to pull the team together and be real and be honest, and you will have a positive environment if you’re looking at the bright side, you’re trying to move towards a more profitable restaurant or better employees or improving, but it doesn’t have to be a phony positive energy.

I mean I have always been the type of person that likes to focus on the positive and there’s a lot of people that don’t, but if we’re referring to a team of people, most people don’t want to go into any type of job every day and be pounded on for what’s going wrong or to feel like everything is always negative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tell the truth, you can’t talk about the negative things that are happening, but it’s really the outlook, the outcome.

The focus is to be positive, moving forward, it’s about improving and making people feel like they are going to be a part of that in some way.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Oh, Beth and I both want to chime in there.

CARRIE LUXEM:  You guys are excited.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  I will concede the floor to the lady.

BETH OUTZ:  Oh, thank you for being positive about that. No, I was just going to say, you know, I 100% agree with everything you’re saying, but doesn’t it take more energy to be negative than it does to be positive?


BETH OUTZ:  And that is always, it’s a life-sucker whenever that happens. If someone always wants to be negative, it’s like why would you want to be that person?


ANTHONY PIERCE:  Oh guys, oh man, here we go again!

CARRIE LUXEM:  Ooh, ouch.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Look, I’m a realist and I’m honest.

CARRIER LUXEM:  We’re working on him. Anthony, we do these podcasts for you.

BETH OUTZ:  He was wondering, while you were talking, if we had actually phoned ahead and talked to you about that.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Yeah, I was pointing to both of them from the phone call, like “Did you call her?”

CARRIE LUXEM:  No. Well, it’s really funny, I’ll tell you – and I think we talked about this potential in the last podcast – my husband and I are very different operators, if you will, or business people. He tends to look at the negative and he’s a real-deal operator and he’s figured out a way… it works for him but he’s not just constantly negative but I like to be way more positive than him, but it’s really about being authentic., being real, being who you are, because if he tried to act like me, his team would be like, “okay, who is this guy, this isn’t working,” right? So I do think there is some, you know, you said that it takes more energy to be negative.

It would take more energy for my husband to act like me and be positive, but he can be upbeat, he can be uplifting in his way. Like he’s a straight shooter, and the team that he’s built really that works for them, and they probably wouldn’t be as inspired under me in some regards. So I think if it’s about being a happy person or it’s being an absolutely miserable person, that’s different than like the approach that you have.

He’s going to tend to talk about why it wouldn’t work while I’m going to talk about why it would work, and I try to encourage him to talk a little bit more about the positive or looking at the bright side, and he tries to tell me or teach me how to look a little bit more at the negative side as well, you know what I mean, and that’s fine, and I think there is some truth to everything can’t always be wonderful and always be positive and always going to work, but how we approach things is very different but that doesn’t make me, because I think I’m so focused on positivity, it doesn’t make me better of a leader than him because we just have different styles, you know.


CARRIE LUXEM:  And that goes into like who you surround yourself with. The people that he’s hired, they understand who he is as a leader. He is a very authentic guy, he approaches things in a way that is true to him, and he is influenced by people, hopefully, like me, who try to get him to focus on being more positive, and again like I said, he challenges me to look at things in a different light too. Some would say it’s more of a negative light but it’s really more of just looking at things differently and that sort of thing.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Folks like us like to call it realism, not negativism, so I’m just going to throw that out there. We joke all the time about Beth and I being the yin and yang versions of each other but it creates a really good balance, and what it all comes down to is how you communicate the message is really what’s going to be the tone-setter for things, and that’s the final point you had on your list today was about that poor communication. That’s one of the reasons why employees don’t care is that maybe things are communicated in an overly negative tone.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, it’s true, if it’s overly negative, and quite honestly, the biggest disconnect I see when I talk about poor communication is if there isn’t any. It’s like people just assume that the people running the restaurant, whether it’s managers or the hourly employees, that they just know what’s going on, and so it’s so important to take the time to meet and to have conversations. It doesn’t mean meet every single day, all day, or anything like that, but just making sure that things that you think are just common knowledge, that you’re communicating them.

I think it’s better to over-communicate slightly than it is to under-communicate, because when people don’t know what’s going on or what the goals are, the vision or the problem or the sales issues or whatever, they can’t focus on them, and so it’s just so important to… it’s like it seems so easy, it’s like just talk to your people. Talk to your team every single day and make sure that you don’t assume that they already know things. I’ve seen so many times that operators are frustrated or leaders are frustrated with their restaurants because they’re not doing something but do they really understand that that’s what they’re supposed to be doing? “Well, that’s what they do, they should know.” Well, talk about it, communicate.

So, you’ve got to make communication a priority, and effective communication is the key to success and it’s not done well a lot, I see that it’s just not. It’s just not something that people do well. I mean we’re in this fast-paced industry and environment, and you think because you put a sentence in a newsletter or send out a quick email that everyone’s going to get it, and it’s just not how it works.

ANTHONY PIERCE:  Yeah, well, assumptions are deadly, and that’s something that that communication and making sure that folks get it and understand, not only does that help shore up any of the gaps that might be there but you also might find some really great ideas from your frontline team that maybe you are actually as a leader disconnected from a little bit, so you might find out that there is an issue with wait time or an issue with the back of house or whatever the situation might be.

By having those conversations and keeping the communication open and very fluid, you actually have an opportunity to gain a lot of efficiencies and ideas, and again create – back to point one – a connection for the team members.

CARRIE LUXEM:  Yeah, absolutely. So, kind of in summary, I think that we talked through these seven points, but it’s really just about first and foremost, it’s really caring about the role that you play and bringing a great energy, having simple and easy-to-understand systems, communicate well, and know that it’s an everyday focus and process. I mean it’s constant, it never goes away, and I think sometimes operators thing like “once I get this done, then it will be good, we’ll have people…”

Well no, you won’t, you won’t, it won’t ever be… You’ve got to constantly think about how to improve every day, how to get more talent, how to keep them happy, and if you have energy and you’re passionate about the role you play, and people can sense that and they know that you’re in this and you care about them, you care about the company and you care about them as people, you can reach your goals when it comes to your people, and it’s not because someone’s young or they were born at a certain year that makes them not care.

I mean it’s like yes, the world is changing and people are lazy and technology and all that, but it’s really about connecting with people, caring a ton, constantly trying to bring your best game to the table every single day, and if you do those things, you’re going to have more success without a doubt.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yeah, that’s just some great advice just to decrease turnover, I mean anybody can find that very valuable for sure.

Listen to the rest: Part 1, Part 2, or Part 4.

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