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“If you know about a challenge and don’t share it, no one can help you discover solutions.”— Misti Burmeister

After braving the Black Friday crowds, my three shopping partners and I stopped for breakfast at IHOP.

Just before the hostess seated us, I noticed they were only seating people on the left side of the restaurant. Weird, I thought. It’s Black Friday. Weren’t they expecting a crowd?

Within a couple minutes, our waitress came to the table, introduced herself, and proceeded to warn us about the wait time. “That table has been waiting 45 minutes to get food,” she said, pointing to a table five feet from us.

“Why such a long wait?” my mom asked.

“Half the cooks got angry this morning and left,” she explained. “The evening crew didn’t prepare the kitchen properly, so the morning crew had to prepare the kitchen and start cooking right away. They couldn’t keep up, so they left.” Clearly irritated, she added, “If you don’t want to wait, you shouldn’t eat here.”

I couldn’t think of three people with whom I’d rather sit and chat, so we decided to stay.  When I thanked our waitress for the warning, she said, “Well, their unwillingness to cook is affecting my tips.”

Understanding her frustration, I assured her we didn’t mind waiting. Then I encouraged her to take matters into her own hands. “Go back there and authentically appreciate each one of the remaining kitchen staff for staying.”

She gave me a funny look, so I added, “You’ll get more tips if they work harder, right?”

“Right.”

“They’ll work harder if they feel appreciated.”

She did it, and our food was on the table in less than 20 minutes. Meanwhile, we got to enjoy the time together without fretting about our food. Had the waitress failed to set expectations, I doubt our experience would have been so great. Nor would I have had the chance to share my ideas with her.

Often leaders hide challenges from their teams and customers. Not wanting to admit there are problems, they pretend things are going well and hope the situation will resolve itself. But most people are smart and intuitive enough to see through the façade, which undermines the leader’s creditability and trustworthiness.

On the other hand, when leaders are transparent and communicate about their challenges, they open the door to new ideas. They also remove wasted energy created by angst.

If you know about a challenge and don’t share it, no one can help you discover solutions. When you’re honest with your team and even your customers, they feel respected. In turn, they’ll be more patient with your progress and more willing to jump in and help you turn things around.

Join the Conversation: When have you shared a challenge with your team or your customers, only to have them help you solve it?

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

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