Here you are. Running a restaurant as a manager. How are things going? If you are like 87% of managers out there, you might feel you were a little unprepared for the role you currently are in. Watching other managers, you might have had a sense that it was easy. Maybe you thought you could do a better job than that one manager who everyone hated? Then you were thrown into management and you soon realized that management is anything but easy!
Welcome to restaurant management. It's a lot like riding a bull. You need to keep your focus or that wild animal will throw you and trample you very quickly. To be a champion bull rider takes courage and the ability to make adjustments quickly to stay centered on the back of that 1600-pound beast. Restaurant management is pretty much the same in that forces around you are constantly trying to throw you off. You just don’t want to get stepped on in the process.
How you arrived at this position doesn't really matter. Nor does the lack of training you probably didn't receive. What does matter is what you do from this day forward to take yourself from being just a manager to the land of leadership. Yes. There are people who truly are leaders. Now, you will hear a lot of managers say they are leaders. Here's the first sign they are not...they tell everyone their title is the leader. True leadership does not care about title. They prefer their actions to speak for them.
Before you can make the journey to leadership (which can make the trip to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings look easy), you'll need to face a few hard truths that you could slow you down. All great quests have obstacles that the hero must confront. Here are yours:
1. You're not communicating properly.
On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being outstanding. How would you rate your communication skills with your team? Most people are very kind to themselves and tend to rate their skills around an 8 (psychologist call this Illusory Superiority). Ask your team to be brutally honest and they would probably give you a 4.
Communication skills are what separate managers from leaders. The latter are constantly working to improve communications with everyone they come in contact with. Everyone. Don't think this just applies to work and not your personal life. You might think that you can separate the two. You hear often that the key to success is to find "life-work balance”. Sorry to tell you this...they is no real life-work balance. It's just life. One life. Your life. Some days you are focused more on work, others the personal stuff.
Communication is the same. How you talk to people is a habit. Habits become unconscious behavior that will creep into other areas of your life. If you talk down to people in your personal life, chances are you will talk down to people on your team too. Bad communication habits are the cornerstone of bad management. You can talk a good game and act one way if front of certain people. It's how you act when those people you're trying to impress are not around that is the truth.
Losing your temper in front of your team just tells them you don't have self control. Do you think people want to follow someone who has no control over themselves? You can argue that you're just passionate. No. You're just using that as an excuse to show the team you're not a leader. If you don't get your emotions under control, they will control you.
2. You're a hypocrite.
The battle cry of the manager is "do as I say, not as I do". When your words and action are not congruent you create distrust within your team. Trust is an essential element to teamwork. Think of it like air. You need air. Well, you need trust to build a team.
You can post and share all the positive "pump you up" motivation stuff for your team, yet if they don't see you leading the example then you're just like the boy who cried wolf. They see you coming a mile away and think, "here we go, another piece of fluff and nothing will change".
If you want to be a leader, then you must stop talking about it and start living it. The path to being a leader starts with being congruent and having integrity with your words and deeds. Do you have integrity? Here is a simple test: What do do you do when no one is watching?
You say learning is a core value in your restaurant. How many books have you read in the last month?
You say health is important. Do you workout and eat healthy?
You say you value community. Do you donate to a local charity?
You say people are your most valuable asset. Do you treat them as such?
Do you feel a little uncomfortable now? Good. That is where the growth starts.
3. You're focused on tasks, not people.
The restaurant business is fast paced and loaded with a plethora of things that need to come together in harmony to create an outstanding restaurant. We have so many variables that need to be juggled simultaneously that many new to management quickly become overwhelmed. Once again, not as easy as it looks. We don't want to miss anything so we add the task to our go-to management tool, the checklist.
Checklist are a valuable tool when used as a guide and not the primary vehicle for task management. Checklists are inanimate objects. They have no emotions, no capacity for thought, they just are. Managers hand these out like it the cure to all their problems. Then when their team doesn't do what is on the checklist they become upset. "Hey, it was on the checklist, what happened?" You overlooked an important element, people.
Human beings are fallible. We make mistakes. We mess things up. It's our mistakes that propel us forward to grow and evolve. It's in our DNA. Mistakes and learning go hand in hand (now if people make the same mistakes over and over that is a different problem). People also want to be recognized for doing things right as well.
The problem with checklists is a double edge sword. We created the list to really to save time and use them to "manage" the team. When they are done with the list, many just glaze over it and say, "thanks, see you tomorrow." Epic fail. That person who just did your checklist wants to be recognized. They want to be appreciated. They want you to inspect what you expected. One of our greatest human needs is the need to feel appreciated. If you fail to acknowledge your team, high turnover is right around the corner. Yes. You can say it's them, not you. It's probably more on you for not being a leader.
If you took the time to create a checklist, then you owe it to the team to verify that the quality and standards implied on that list are upheld. Not doing so robs you and your team of a valuable opportunity to be human. Connect. Communicate. Coach. Lead.
You made it into management based on your past skills, hard work, and character. If you desire to transform into a true leader, you'll need to leave behind some bad habits. You'll need to open your mind to learning. You'll need to push past your comfort zone. You'll need to embrace change. You'll need to accept personal accountability for everything you do.
Will it be easy? Hell no. Will it be worth it? Hell yes!
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