A few months ago, I received an email that made me smile from ear to ear.
I was invited to do some work with the managers of Diesel and Bloc 11 cafe in Somerville, MA. I've been a customer there for five years, ever since moving to Somerville in 2009, and have hosted many client sessions in the booths and tables of these fine establishments.
Pictures of their mochas and egg & cheese sandwiches probably make up 90% of my instagram photos.
Below is a post that Jennifer Park, one of the owners of Diesel and Bloc, posted on the Diesel Cafe blog. It was published while I was traveling during the July 4th holiday weekend and took me by surprise, and I admit I may have shed a tear or two.
Working with this crew has been effortless and deeply gratifying for me since we first began. I am deeply grateful for the chance to support them and I think you will find Jen's post about her personal and professional transformation to be profoundly inspiring.
FOSTERING PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
This week’s blog post is brought to you by one of our amazing co-owners, Jen Park. Jen spends her days setting up her mobile office at our three locations, is the creative force behind our locally driven menus, focusing on customer service & employee growth, and 15 years later remains one of our best in-house baristas.
What makes Diesel unique in the most basic way is the people who work behind the counters to make your food and coffee. And it is hard to describe in any succinct way what makes working at Diesel a special experience. Yesterday, I was having my weekly meeting with our general manager, Connor Pittari, and he said, “I want people who work here to look back 10 years from now and say, that was the best fucking job I ever had, because it is.”
Being a manager at Diesel is hard. We don’t have defined roles of dishwashers or bussers or register robots. Everyone does everything. Staff are encouraged and expected to self-manage heavily, which makes a manager’s job harder. They have to have eyes on everything at all times.
When I begin talking to someone who may be applying for a managerial position, one of the questions I ask is: what do you think a manager does here at Diesel? Often times, the answer focuses heavily on task based skills like opening and closing the store, or managing the money, or ordering. Rarely, do people say: oh, yeah, have difficult conversations with people.
Being a part of the Diesel staff demands that you are open to feedback from your managers. As a new hire, you are bombarded with tons of new information and tons of feedback. Probably erring more on the side of constructive rather than positive, hang in there! And until recently, in our 15 year history of being in business and training dozens of managers, we offered little training on the most important managerial skill of all: how to talk to people.
A few months ago, we started—as Connor likes to call it—family therapy. Personally, I prefer professional development with Dillan DiGiovanni. Dillan has been a devout regular for about 5 years and has built his own business as a health coach. The team of managers has committed to a 6 series workshop with Dillan totaling 12 hours. We are halfway in and from where I sit, things are shifting and changing. Not that anything was broken or wrong or bad to begin with, but I see people looking around, looking inward and generally being a little more self-aware: including myself.
Tucker, my business partner and best friend for 19 years has, over the years, told me that I am not a very good listener. I have scoffed at this statement because so much of what I do at work is listen to people and I was constantly listening to everything that was going on around me. How could I possibly be a not-great listener? While I thought that I was listening intently, I also realized that the part of me that is constantly thinking of a million different things and needs to move and can’t sit still was getting in the way of my really listening. And that what actually mattered more to me in this relationship was not whether I was really listening, but whether Tucker felt like I was listening.
Managing people, to me, is the hardest part of the job. It is constantly changing and very demanding. It requires so much more communication and effective communication than an ubër-introvert like me is often prepared for. Working with Dillan has certainly helped our team to think a little more thoughtfully about ways that we can be more effective leaders.