Q: We’ve had a great couple of years, and I’m ready to take my team to the next level. What is the best way to do that?
A: Building a great team can be a challenge. To begin, realize the team will never exceed the passion and enthusiasm of its leader. Judge yourself harshly. There are many examples of restaurants that struggle and the root cause is a lack of drive, passion and knowledge in its leader. Without continual growth at the top, high performers will become quickly bored and move on to a better team.

In February, Pete Carroll won the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. Two keys are spelled out in his book, “Win Forever”—one: record and refine your philosophy and beliefs, which include your vision, purpose and values; and two: write out a detailed plan to win. Mr. Carroll has a goal to win forever—not just a season. During his nine seasons at the University of Southern California, the team won the rugged PAC-10 conference seven consecutive times and won two national championships while finishing with a record of 97-19. It was prior to taking the USC job when Pete Carroll clearly articulated his philosophy, beliefs and plan. His players understand the simplicity and clarity of his plan to win, buy-in and execute. The latest result was the highest achievement in professional sports with a win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Once you’ve dealt with yourself, move on to the team.

To paraphrase Pete Carroll in Win Forever, at the foundation of building a great team is looking to do things better than everyone else has ever done them before and looking for a competitive edge while providing an environment where team members can find, stay and share their best, so that everyone can join in. To evaluate your team, use the “Keeper Test.” For each team member, individually answer the question, “If this person told me he/she was leaving would I fight to keep him/her?” If the answer is “no,” that person needs to be replaced immediately. It’s important to answer the question honestly without fear of replacing the individual; your key people will work more hours while you look for a replacement.

Imagine if every person in your restaurant was someone you respected and could learn from. In the corporate culture of Netflix, Inc., these people are known as “stunning colleagues”—those whose central philosophy is to help others to be great. When replacing individuals, look for those who love to serve. Hospitality is about restoration of both the guest and employee. Those who don’t like to serve are destined to disturb the environment where high performance and stunning employees thrive.

Once you’ve written your plan and ensured the team is loaded with talented, stunning employees, move on to deepening individual and team performance. Define performance then define high performance. The difference between performance and high performance, is the disposable effort an individual is willing or able to provide. Restaurant people are naturally competitive. Teach them to compete to be their best every day from the moment they step into the restaurant. To improve performance, it is important to shift away from controlling people and into sharing context. Employees need to understand the importance of their work and receive positive “in the moment,” feedback frequently. Their goal is to make guests and co-workers feel great with technical excellence. Sharing context for different pieces of work will ensure proper execution of the guest and employee experience. Spend 80 percent of your time with your best performers—not your worst. By using the majority of your effort on high performers, you’ll discover what makes them tick. Allowing you an opportunity to coach performance to the highest level rather than taking a low performer and coaching them to mediocrity.

To build a winning team, ensure you’re growing faster than your team. Articulate your philosophy and plan to win; staff stunning employees and coach your employees to compete to be their best every day. You’ll create a competitive advantage that can’t be beat.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.