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Lessons from a pancake house

3 min read


I love eating breakfast at The Original Pancake House down the street from my house. It has great food and great service. I feel at home and always leave with my heart — and belly — full. And the last time I went, I left with my mind full of thoughts after speaking with my waiter.

Yes, the waiter. And, no, it didn’t have anything to do with how to make fluffy pancakes. It had to do with being a good leader.


When sitting there, the waiter approached us and asked the standard questions that a waiter asks.

How are you doing this morning?

What can I get you?

How would you like that?

Anything else?

He then returned several times to ask:

How we doing?

Do you need anything else?

Are you ready for your check?

A couple of times he took the initiative to meet my needs without even asking — like refilling my water glass and my coffee cup and bringing me more cream for my coffee.

Of course he did more than just ask. He also carefully listened, took notes, immediately followed through and then double-checked to see if I had everything I needed or needed anything else!

I was very pleased with his service and I expressed my appreciation with a much larger than normal tip.

Sounds pretty ordinary, doesn’t it? But as I drove away I began to ask myself: Wouldn’t the questions my waiter asked and his immediate follow-through actually help all leaders be more effective with their staff, their clients/customers and with their family and friends?

This was an epiphany for me. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a recovering “teller.” I love telling stories and sharing opinions. But you don’t learn by telling. As Dale Carnegie wrote, “An effective leader will ask questions instead of giving direct orders.”

So, I ask you, when is the last time you asked your staff:

How are you doing this morning?

What can I get you? (How can I serve you today?)

How would you like that? (How exactly would be the best way for me to serve you today?)

Anything else? (Yes really! I would be honored to do even more to serve you today! What else could I do?)

When is the last time you returned to your staff several times to ask:

How we doing?

Do you need anything else?

Are you ready for your check? (I threw this question in here just to see if you are paying attention – probably not the right question to ask your staff.)

By being more attentive and asking questions like my waiter did, you uncover truths and build relationships.


For more about how to lead with questions, visit my blog at where you can also download a free e-book, “Great Leaders Ask Questions: A Fortune 100 list.”

Bob Tiede has been on the staff of Cru for 44 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Tiede and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, Texas, and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 6 remarkable grandchildren.

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