Posts Tagged ‘smart manager’

Put your systems to the test

I would like to talk about systems. Some folks have no systems in place while others suffer from overkill. Finding a balance is essential for providing structure and accountability and still allowing for creativity and flexibility.

Whatever systems you decide to utilize they must be in sync with the following points:

  • Deliver desired results This may seem obvious but too many companies implement systems that are a good fit conceptually but do not provide a win with regard to practical application. If a system cannot be well done it will diminish results.

  • Is user friendly They must speak the language of your people. The view from upstairs is often quite different than that of the front line staff. If the employees believe the system is an obstacle there will be no buy in.

  • Consider the customer/client I believe if a survey of consumers were done regarding their objections in dealing with companies the lack of a resolution to their problems by way of employees quoting company policy would be at the top of the list. If this describes your company take the bull by the horns right away. You will not regret it.
  • Provide efficiency A great system that is slow and cumbersome is not great no matter how many times the creator of it tells you so. It may have potential and contain components that address key issues but if they get lost in the process you cannot benefit from them. A sequence of events is always important so A must get to B and then C quickly and efficiently.
  • Be measureable If a system does not deliver you need to know why. It may be that one or two pieces are in need of adjustment. If there is no way to gauge the progress you cannot make effective decisions about which parts to work on or how much tinkering to do.
  • Agree with core values Nothing diminishes credibility faster than a mixed message. This is typically not done intentionally. Many companies tend to develop priorities in a compartmental sense. They create initiatives without much regard to how they fit with current standards and practices. Starting with the core values of the company is a great way to insure that the ultimate message is consistent and it will provide a roadmap to assist in setting agendas and timelines.
  • Make sense financially At the end of the day if your system causes conflict because of lack of hard resources or manpower availability you must regroup. You cannot ask a staff member to do a job by themselves if it requires two or more people to perform the function properly. The same is true of actual hands on tools. If staff does not have what they need they will resent being asked to do something you have not equipped them to do. This only serves to dilute the importance of the system and the desired result.
  • Differentiate your company A great system will make customers tell others about you. It will keep a client with you long term. It can deliver value and be a partner to you in attracting new business. It will highlight your effectiveness and provide you a comparable advantage versus your competition.

The development and implementation of systems does not have to be relegated to the most organized and detail oriented people on your staff. It is beneficial to get feedback from all staff when possible. If that is done well everyone is invested in the success of the system. Understanding the value of systems is an essential piece in the arsenal of a smart manager.

People actually tip for bathrooms

People actually tip for bathrooms. They will actually use the facilities and base their tip on the level cleanliness they find. I always thought this was unusual. I typically decide the amount of my tip based on the server and my overall experience. Since I worked in the restaurant industry years ago I know that the server is not usually the person directly responsible for cleaning and stocking this important area. They usually are going a mile a minute to cover their guests’ needs. It does make you think about how people decide how much of a tip they leave when dining out.

There are as many criteria as there are guests in a restaurant. I have actually heard people say if their drink gets more than halfway empty they penalize the server. These are often the folks who are determined to get their moneys worth and to truly test the free refill policy by gulping it down as fast as they can. The server does not stand a chance. I think they also drink so much so they can justify a bathroom visit that may influence the tip as well. Once I had a quite industrious server who noticed that I drank my first beverage pretty fast because it was hot outside. She came back with two and commented about how she did not want me to have to wait. I loved the personality and energy. The rest of the visit was terrific because she was terrific. Her tip was pretty good as I recall.

The point of all this is that people have their personal agendas and criteria for just about everything. If they use a benchmark that is unrealistic there is not much you can do. There are a lot of little things that people notice and that will influence their overall impression of your establishment. For instance if a patron is the type that keeps a clean, organized house do you think they notice the glass entry doors being dirty or the mat at the entrance needing a vacuum session? Of course they do! This goes for staff uniforms, light bulbs needing to be replaced and a whole host of other small details. All of these things form an impression. It may not be enough to keep them from patronizing your establishment in the future but it could. Do you want to risk losing a customer because no one on your staff will walk through and pick up a bathroom or cannot find the 30 seconds it takes to clean your entrance? Would you allow someone to come to your home and find these things? I do not think you would.

The name of the game in the restaurant business is making the customers feel as though they received value for the money they spend. This is what makes the determination if they come back. Do not start off with a negative if you do not have to. Let your service and your menu act as your calling card. All these details are things that people assume will be taken care of. If you are the person responsible you should not assume these items do not matter. Have someone come in and tell you what they see with fresh eyes. The perspective of an outsider can be quite a learning experience. I encourage you to approach the details as though they are the building blocks of your foundation and prioritize them. You can build one heck of a castle on a solid base. You can put your organization in a position to outperform your competition and have your customers telling everyone that you are a smart manager.

When all else fails read the instructions

Every one of us has done it. You buy something that needs to be assembled and you rip the box open and pour the contents on the floor. You empty all the little packets of hardware into a big pile. At this point you attempt to lay things out so you know where it all goes. Then you actually get started on building this thing. Everything is going well then bam! A piece is missing or does not fit quite right. You get confused and look back over all the pieces in the floor. You may even say a couple of bad words and comment on how stupid the company is that designed the thing. At this juncture there is only one option remaining: read the instructions.

You probably cannot even find them at first. You left them in the box that has been thrown outside. After a humble retrieval you read over the paper and literally start over with organized piles of screws and a new found respect for the people that came up with this ridiculous piece. You also asked yourself somewhere during this transition if you really needed it anyway. Once you get going using the provided plan you find that it is going quite well. When you finish you declare that you could do another one because it was not so bad after all.

There are many managers out there who approach their responsibilities in the same manner. Whether it is a project, training, or just tending to the day to day details of the job there is no plan. Or they are not using the plan. Either way you cannot expect superior results with the fly by the seat of your pants approach. The lack of a well crafted plan is often the beginning of a disappointing outcome. Why is it that decision makers will not execute a plan? I believe it is lack of vision. I believe managers that will not subscribe to the mindset of planning with the desired result in mind are doing a disservice to their company and the staff. They rarely realize the full potential of the project.

People who do not execute a plan typically have never been exposed to the type of success a well thought out agenda can produce. Once you see that it works you tend not to go back to the old way. I believe they perceive going by a plan to be a waste of time. They often think that they do not need to follow a plan because they are so good at their job. This attitude plagues all types of businesses.

If you are not the planning kind of manager just go out on a limb and give it a try. The worst that can happen is you think before acting and the team feels like they know what is going on. If that is as bad as it gets then you are a winner. Give your team and yourself a track to run on and you will soon hear them telling people that they have a smart manager.

I wish I invented the internet

Get anything you want with the click of a mouse

I wish I had invented the internet. After all, it has completely changed our lives. I would love to get credit for this thing. I must admit that although it would be cool to get the credit for the internet I can still use it and benefit from its existence. I am fortunate that I can access all this information and utilize the experiences and ideas of so many people any time I need it. How did we ever get along without it?

There are too many managers in the world that do not realize the unbelievable power of this concept. They are always trying to come up with a better way. Typically they are attempting to create a method that will recognize their brilliance. Now please do not misunderstand what I am saying. We need innovation in our world. It is essential that we grow and evolve. What I am saying is that if your challenge is how to manage your staff or what direction you should move for your company to grow and thrive why attempt to blaze a new path? The how to of effective management exists in the world. Go find it and put it into play.

The effective manager knows that the real measure is how it all works out. Who cares who had the idea first? Have confidence in yourself and your team and focus on where you want to go. I do not care who invented GPS I just use it to get me where I need to go. I would suggest being thankful that you manage in a time where the resources to enhance your performance are literally beyond limits. You can get anything you need to improve yourself and your performance with the click of a mouse. It’s incredible.

The recipe for growth for a manager is to continue to develop your skills. You can do this by reading. If you are not a reader you’re in luck. I believe every car now has a cd player. The list of fantastic self improvement and management audio books available is miles long. Use your car as a personal self improvement center. Keep material at the ready. This stuff has an interesting effect when you consume it regularly. It actually sinks in. I do not say that to be sarcastic. You will find that a scenario will present itself while you are on the job and suddenly you will have a perspective you never experienced. The exposure to the finer points of self improvement and sound management will find some traction when you least expect it. When it happens boy do you get excited. Once you buy in to the process it is a wonderful thing. You will kick yourself for not getting on board sooner. Make a decision today to begin your journey of self improvement and commit to being open to a new approach. It is what the smart managers do.

They say one thing but do another

You know this YouTube thing is wonderful. You can find practically anything right there. It is an immense resource for business people and managers. I often go there if I do not know how to do something and there will be a video or two walking me right through the process. Brilliant! And it is free!

It is through my regular reference to this video how to center that I came across a video that really made me stop and think and reflect. This video caused me to ponder a subject that is out there but rarely gets addressed. As a person that offers up tips for managers to be more effective I feel compelled to bring light to this subject. There typically is not much you can do about it but being on the lookout for this behavior is your best defense.  The video I am referencing was done fairly recently by someone I used to work for. He talked about all the things that set his company apart from the competition. He gave examples of what he believed good management and leadership should be. It was impressive. Except for one thing: it was total nonsense!

Many of us have been around people that always say the right thing. It has been my contention that anybody can say things. What they do is what makes the difference. If people did the things they should do rather than what they say they will do the world would be an easier place to exist. Why do managers fail to live up to the hype? They are smart people and must know that the very thing they that just came out of their mouth as the right thing is something that they do not even doing themselves. Is it lack of personality, absence of training, or cosmic forces at work?  Let us examine one of the reasons for this disconnect.

I want to share something with you that will give you some insight into the say one thing and do another personality. I do not want to hurt your feelings but here it is: they really do think they are smarter than you. These types of folks mistakenly believe that they are the only ones that have access to the finer points of management and leadership and because of that they can bombard you with quotes and ideas that they believe are above your head and are beyond your comprehension. You may be the most educated person in the room but these clowns are a legend in their own mind. It is worse if they also have extensive formal education. They feel as though you are fortunate to be in the room with them.

I actually worked at a company once that had this guy come into to town to do some training with us. He was considered to be a man on the move. He came into the office and in the course of roughly a half hour or so lost credibility with several people in the room. Here is how he did it. He began by assuming control of the conversation as soon as he entered the room. Then he went on a rant about his beliefs regarding sales and management. He made sure to tell us what we needed to do to be effective with our teams. What sealed the deal for me was when he made several references to quotes from some well known authors and books. He did not however give appropriate credit to the source of these nuggets. He mistakenly assumed that he was the only person in the room who read books! What an idiot. I could not believe that this guy was passing off this stuff as his own. Whoever said arrogance knows no bounds was one smart cookie.

The best defense against this type of manager is to guard against being like him. If you read something that is interesting or useful share it with your people. Always give proper credit to the source. You have to make sure that if you put expectations out that you deliver in your own behavior. There is nothing that will make people refuse to follow you quicker than a manager that says one thing and then does another. You do not want to be the person who puts a quote on their email signature that people see and say ‘whatever’. If you put it out there back it up. I once heard a trainer say in a seminar that in management your reputation is all you have. The staff is watching what you do and say at all times.

You must be aware of those that want to impress you with words. Just think about resumes that people send in. Have you ever seen one where the applicant was not a high achiever in their previous position? Are all employees’ high rated performers? I think you know the answer. How is it that everyone seems to be a go getter on the resume and in the interview? Base your evaluation on the doing and behave with the expectation that others will hold you to that same standard.  In these times I need action. I am sure you do to. We all want instant gratification. Do not give in to this because this need is what allows and even encourages these people who will mislead you. Be sharp and do what you say you will do and you will have credibility with your staff and customers. It will take you down the path to becoming a smart manager.

Not so fast my friend!

  • Employees coming and going is a part of doing business
  • They will not stay around for long
  • The revolving door is a part of life if you have employees
  • Just accept that you will have to constantly  hire and train new people
  • You barely get what you pay for
  • Good help is hard to find

Have you ever heard any of these gems? Have you actually said them yourself? Do you believe them? If so, I have five words I would like to share with you:

Not so fast my friend!

There are things that we all accept as truth because we hear them so much. Everyone has heard all of the above mentioned old adages and many more like them. Although there are certainly times that these may ring true those times are few and far between. Typically they reflect a limiting, negative attitude.

Don’t you believe for a second that your attitude does not influence the outcome. If you focus on limiting ideas you will get limited results. The old saying ‘if you don’t believe you can do something you are right’ is on the money. The good news is the opposite is true. If you will develop the ability and discipline to focus on the positive and take that attitude into everything you do the sky is the limit.

Now let’s get back to the employee issue. The reality is if you decide not to buy into the negative and instead to promote the positive you have to ask yourself why people leave your business. What makes the bullet points at the beginning of this piece reflect the realities at your company? It has been said that people do not leave bad companies they leave bad managers.

I would submit to you that most managers don’t even stop to think about the cost of extreme employee turnover. From uniforms to wages paid during training (in addition to regular wages) there are costs incurred. This does not even take into account the costs to your business when poorly trained staff is unleashed on your customers (which they invariably are).

Once you get yourself in a constant train and replace mode the effectiveness of the training suffers. If your people perceive that they are wasting their time (because of turnover) when you assign them a new employee to train the training will be less effective and will negatively  impact  your business. Any time your people don’t see evidence of your commitment to training and development you tend to see a decline in their overall attitude.

How do you demonstrate that you value training and employee development in your company? The first step is to actually value it. You cannot fake this. If you don’t believe in it your staff will not believe in it. The effects of great training are unmistakable.

The second step is to evaluate your interview process. How do people get hired at your company? Who does the interviews? Do they know how to interview effectively? Do you utilize a two interview process? These are questions that need to be answered. Effective interviewing is essential to bringing on quality candidates.

The third piece of the puzzle is to assess your new hire training protocols. If you don’t have any then you don’t have a training program. Regardless of the position there must be specific action items that are designated as necessary for a person to learn to be proficient. I would recommend that you establish benchmarks to assess the new person’s progress. The result will be a new employee that performs the functions of the job effectively.

The above is simply an overview of the steps one can take to move from constantly replacing staff to identifying and developing great employees. The proverbial revolving door will only exist if you allow it to. If you can’t answer some of the questions above find someone who can evaluate your operation and work with them to establish an effective hiring and training environment that will provide a great foundation to grow your business upon. Decide today that your operation is worthy of world class hiring,  training and employee development and you will be well on your way to being known as a smart manager.

Always be looking for your James

The following is a true story about a great employee and the manager who took a chance.

The manager had worked in the restaurant industry for several years with one of the leading companies in the casual dining segment. The manager’s name is Jack. The employee in our story is James. Anyone who has worked in the restaurant business can attest to the fact that it is crazy, hectic, and not for the faint of heart. It has been suggested by some that everyone should be required to pull a tour in this business for a little instant perspective. Those who have not ventured into this arena really have no idea how tough it is.

Jack was a kitchen manager at a particular location and he put in many hours to insure that things were taken care of. He ordered supplies, oversaw staff, and was directly responsible for the total production of the back of the house. He moved a mile a minute but he loved it.When the lunch and/or dinner rush comes in a restaurant it is managed chaos at its best and a train wreck of epic proportions at its worst. Jack’s goal everyday was to be on the side of chaos as much as possible. He regularly landed somewhere in the middle. It is the nature of the beast.

In Jack’s kitchen the folks on the cook’s line held his sanity in their hands. Theirs was a tough job. They had to cook, set up, and coordinate dozens of orders simultaneously. The remaining position in the lineup was that of the dishwasher. In addition to handling the dish section this guy was expected to be available to assist the cooks with stocking, ect. It was nonstop and fairly thankless to boot. A person in this job that could keep up consistently was rare. Once again managed chaos at best.

One day Jack was moving through the kitchen as he did on most days – on autopilot. He was so good at his job that he seemed to have a sense of where he needed to be and who he needed to help. He noticed James helping the cook nearest the dish station. It was the height of the lunch rush. As soon as Jack saw James out of position he immediately looked to the dish area expecting a mess. It was organized and caught up! Jack did a double take. It never looked that good during a rush even with someone there the whole time. He was speechless.

Jack decided to keep his eye on James. He watched him work and noticed that he was able to do a great deal of the work of the cooks. Jack asked him how he learned all of these tasks. James said he just paid attention. Jack thought to himself that people who actually spent their whole shift in these positions didn’t pick it up like James.Jack made the obvious decision to put James into a cook’s position immediately. He continued to learn all of the positions and became quite proficient. In no time Jack knew it was time to train James in the production leader position. This was literally the straw that stirred the drink for in this position James would set the pace and would determine if the shift were a success. He was up for the challenge.

It seems like a simple formula. Take a motivated employee and let him grow and prove himself. If it were only that simple. The reality is that Jack had a time trying to convince the rest of the management staff that James was more than ready. The problem was that the other managers on staff could only see James as a dishwasher. They figured he was not hired as a cook because he did not have any experience. They certainly did not want an inexperienced dishwasher running the show on the shifts they were responsible for. The General Manager of the place didn’t have Jack’s back either. It was quite a battle over a couple of days.

Jack knew he was right. Sometimes people told him was a hard head and that he didn’t always want to work with the team. The reality was he didn’t want to give in to limited thinking and had no issues with telling them so when the opportunity presented itself. He found himself outside the circle at times but figured that no one could dispute results and he was certainly providing those on a regular basis. As a matter of fact he did his job so well it actually made their job easier. It was time to put an end to all the nonsense.

You may be wondering what happened to James. Did he ever get his shot? Did those managers ever give in? The answer to both of those questions is yes. Here is how James became the employee that made this story worth telling.Jack decided to make a schedule with the regular folks on it. James was on the dish station. Everything looked normal to the other managers. Jack was a little sly however. The night it happened was a Thursday. It was one of the busier nights for this particular location. Jack made arrangements to have people show up for the shift that were only trained in certain positions and would not be able to be moved into the leader spot. James was told to take the leader position. Jack had made sure that the other managers were gone for the day. The night manager had been very negative regarding James having an opportunity to assume this most important role. Typically Jack would have been staying around for a while until he felt they had gotten through the bulk of the rush and then he would have left. Before the night manager knew what hit him he was stuck with James in the leader position and Jack was nowhere to be found. Jack went home and did not answer the phone. He was pretty confident in James and his ability to pull this off. He would later admit to being a little uneasy for the rest of the night.

The next morning Jack was at work bright and early when the phone rang and he immediately thought it was not good. No one ever called that early in the morning. When Jack answered he heard the night manager on the other end. In an instant he realized that the manager had just left a few hours prior. He braced himself. What he heard next he has never forgotten and never will. The night manager said “I’m sorry you were right. James was great. It was the best shift I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know why I couldn’t see it. I’m glad you made it happen.”

Jack was shocked but happy. The success with James has informed every staffing decision he has made in the years since. If there is ever a question regarding what someone is capable of he reflects back to James and how he proved that people often will rise to the level of your expectations and support.

You might wonder why James and his success had such a lasting effect on Jack. Here is why. James went on to be a trainer with that company and eventually became a corporate trainer that was sent out into the field for new store openings because he quickly came to be recognized as the best and for having a winning, can do attitude. This all started from an entry level dishwasher position. Ask yourself if you have anyone like James on your team. If you do would you recognize them? Would you support them? Would you do whatever you had to do so they could be successful? If you would then you are well on your way to being a smart manager.

You really can motivate minimum wage employees

There are those that will tell you no. Typically these folks have never really made an attempt. They default to making assumptions regarding their employees. Most of us have heard things like you get what you pay for, part time people will only try so much, and other negative, limiting proclamations. Let me help you navigate past these land mines so you can be the manager that always gets the most out of your staff.

The reality of many businesses is that they employ a high percentage of minimum wage hourly employees. Retail, customer service, and hospitality companies often are completely dependent on this segment. The conventional wisdom is that these people will always come and go so the proverbial revolving door is just a part of doing business. What a bunch of nonsense. This is an easy out for managers that refuse to be held accountable for the environment and culture that exists in their company.

It comes down to one simple question that if asked forces managers to evaluate environment and culture. Here it is: will people always move on to the next opportunity for an additional .10, .15, or .25 an hour? Although there are those that will say .25 an hour is substantial enough to warrant a change, most employees will not initiate a move based on hourly rate alone. The following are some things that will cause a person to put out feelers:

  • being forced to work with people that do not pull their own weight
  • not having the resources to do the job effectively
  • inconsistent message regarding priorities
  • unnecessary stress and aggravation
  • blatant lack of respect
  • feeling underappreciated
  • sexual harrassment
  • uneven application of discipline by management
  • unprofessional behavior by management

This short list is just a sample. They all have one thing in common. All of them can be minimized or eliminated by good management. Remember that people fill these positions and people do respond to positive, encouraging work environments. A smart manager will put an emphasis on this area and will enjoy a positive, motivated staff as a result.