I spent six years working alongside my studies as a waitress at Pizza Hut, learning much about customer service, working under pressure, and multitasking. I also ate a lot of pizza. Previously, I had not given much thought to the parallels between the worlds of hospitality and sports performance.
Until, I listened to a particular episode on the Farnam Street podcast, in which Shane Parrish interviewed celebrated restauranteur Danny Meyer who, among many restaurants and chains, may be best known for founding Shake Shack. One of the critical discussion points was the importance of our interpersonal skillset.
Essential Interpersonal Skills
Meyer described his Hospitality Quotient, the six essential interpersonal skills that every hospitality hire should have. Consider them firstly for hospitality, and then review them for sports support staff.
Optimistic kindness – you believe your actions can make the customer/athlete feel good
Intellectual curiosity – you look at everyday as an opportunity to learn something new
Work ethic – you care deeply about doing your job as well as you can
Empathy – you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to provide what they want/need
Self-awareness – you understand your own “personal weather report”, as described by Meyer
Integrity – you maintain the judgement to do the right thing, even when no one else is looking or it’s not in your best interests
Considering the balance between technical and interpersonal abilities, Meyer said he placed a 51% priority on the skills from his Hospitality Quotient compared to 49% for technical skills. He believes how you make others feel is more important than the technical skills, even if you can create the greatest bowl of pasta in the world! I believe this priority is also held in those recruitment sports performance staff.
According to Meyer, the Golden Rule of hospitality is not the usual “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but “do unto others as you believe they would want done unto them”. It is driven by empathy. This understanding of what others would want done unto them.
Displaying traits of empathy and optimistic kindness are valuable for having a positive effect on your athletes. Demonstrating your work ethic and intellectual curiosity signal that you will continually strive to support your athletes.
Can we try to create an environment that provides what each athlete needs to optimise their performance? Do we have the staff with the empathetic skillset to understand what these needs are, as well as the work ethic to find solutions to build such an environment despite the number and diversity of the squad they are dealing with?
The practitioner-athlete relationship can be transactional. You deliver them a service. However, there is opportunity to provide a transformational experience. Be the waiter/waitress who went out of their way to deliver a personable and memorable dining experience, not the ones who just placed your order and brought you your food.