Archive | November, 2007

10 Steps to Empowerment 6: Feedback

30 Nov

I once heard it said to seek first to understand, then be understood.  When giving feedback to your employees, this statement is very true.

Feedback is the lifeblood of the fast food industry, and quite possibly the most important tool in the manager’s arsenal.   Feedback should be immediate, tailored to the individual, and continuous.

Feedback that is given too long after the fact is ineffective.  To alleviate this problem, the feedback must be given as close to the behavior as possible.  The feedback must be specific.  Always target the behavior and not the person–even when giving positive feedback.

Here is where One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands come in handy.

Feedback should be tailored to the individual for two reasons.  First, generic feedback will seem insincere.  It will seem as if you don’t care enough to observe performance. I’ve been over this in previous posts.  “Good job!” is not nearly as motivating as, “You make a perfect Whopper every time.  I appreciate that, and so do our customers.  Keep making those beautiful sandwiches!”

Specific, positive feedback can be very motivating.  Not only will the employee keep up the good behavior, but they will feel good about it.  Once people start taking pride in their jobs, it will make the entire restaurant run much more smoothly.

To tailor feedback to the individual, it is first necessary to understand each individual’s motives and reason for being in your restaurant.  Managers with hearts are so rare, and the manager who puts in this extra effort will earn people’s commitment.  This pays huge dividends in the running of your restaurant.

Continuous feedback is important because it will keep the employees focused on the customers.  We all know that once service goes awry, it will be very difficult to get back under control.  In really high volume restaurants, service goals are impossible to attain if your staff suffers even one misstep.

But don’t overdo the feedback.  You don’t want to be a micromanager.  Everyone hates those guys.   The real trick to good feedback is finding the balance between too often and not enough; positive and negative.  Master that, and feedback is a powerful tool.

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10 Steps to Empowerment 5: Knowledge

28 Nov

The fifth key to empowerment is to give employees the knowledge they need to do their jobs.  If they’ve been properly trained, they know their responsibilities, they know the standard of behavior, and they have the authority to do their jobs, what good is all of it if they are lacking in important facts with which to make decisions?

As the manager, you know if the sales level is leveling off.  If you keep that under your hat and don’t communicate it to your team, then don’t be surprised when they drop enough food to feed a small army.  Conversely, if you see a half dozen cars pull in the parking lot and don’t tell your team to get ready for a rush, don’t be surprised if they run out of food.

It is extremely important that your team have all of the knowledge that they need at their disposal.  In a fast food environment, the best way to do that is to talk to them continuously, making sure that they stay apprised of business trends, food that is already prepped, sandwiches that are “extra,” and anything else of the sort that you, as their manager, feel that they need to know.

Messed Up Orders: Two Views

26 Nov

Helium has two essays on messed up orders in fast food restaurants. One says that the employee and the customer are to blame. This one says that only the employees are to blame.

You’d expect that since I’m a fast food employee, that I would side with the first article.  Frankly, I think the first article was written from the perspective of a fast food employee that I’d prefer not to employ. Giving rules the way that the author does is a little bit ridiculous.  These customers choose to spend money in our restaurants and they will not frequent a place that would purport to issue rules for its paying customers.

The place down the road doesn’t have rules.  The customer will go there.

By contrast, the author of the second piece challenges managers to think about how their business is conducted.  First, he talks about training, an issue near and dear to my own heart.  Every word is true: fast food managers often do not train people correctly.  They put the person into a position and let them go.  This is a wrong that I am fighting to right.

Staff attitude is a very big deal.  If employees are rude to customers, or if they act like the customers are less important than what happened last night at the club, customers pick up on that and are far less likely to come back to an establishment.

Conditions within the restaurant, both of equipment and cleanliness, are an indication of whether or not the staff actually cares.  People who take pride in their jobs don’t work in filthy operating conditions.

Finally, leadership plays a role in all of the author’s points.  Most of the managers that I’ve worked with are interested in passing the buck–“He was supposed to do it,” “I called for the fries, why didn’t you drop them?” or “He knows what his job is!”  None of that matters.  When you are the leader, the buck stops with you.  When a breakdown occurs, accept responsibility and fix the problem.  A former U.S. President had a plaque on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.”  Managers should get that tattooed on their forehead.

There may well be some problems that the customer creates.  But we can’t do anything about that.  We can only solve what is under our control: training, attitude, environment, and providing the best leadership we can.  When you think about it, there really is quite a bit under your control.  Solve what you can, and try not to sweat the rest of it.  And pray for the wisdom to know the difference.

10 Steps to Empowerment 4: Training

23 Nov

In my previous posts on the topic of empowerment, I discussed clear definition of responsibility, authority, and the importance of high standards.  Nothing can bring these steps together as powerfully as a good training program.  Training, however, is the most neglected management duty in all of fast food.  More often than not, trainees are placed in a position and told to run it the best way that they can.  The trainee is then yelled at when he screws up–which he will screw up, and with good reason.  If he doesn’t know what he’s doing, how can he possibly do it right?

There are many more wrong ways to do something than there are right ones.  Therefore, the odds are in favor of an untrained someone picking the wrong way to do something.  This costs time, money, and could cost you a customer if the mistake is big and noticeable.

With proper training, a lot of this can be avoided.

Training must impart the appropriate skills to the trainees.  To do that, you must employ the right method.  Diane Tracy suggests five methods of training: 1) Classroom, 2) on-the-job, 3) Meetings, 4) one-on-one, 5) setting a good example.   Formalized classroom training is not an option for a crew member, but is indispensable for management personnel.  On-the-job is the best option for crew members.  Staff meetings aren’t always possible across the entire store.  One-on-one training is the best way to do on the job training: pairing a trainee either with yourself or with a trusted crew member is the time-honored fast food tradition.  Finally, setting a good example is important beyond my ability to express it in words.  All eyes, at all times–employee eyes and customer eyes–are on the manager.  Living up to your own expectations is the best way to teach others to do the same.

One additional benefit of training, often overlooked, is that it builds the employee’s self-esteem.  Consider an employee who is told to run the front register, but not trained on how to do that.  What happens when the first really complex order comes up, or what will he do when someone asks him for a Big Mac at Burger King?  He’s likely going to screw it up.

That’s not his fault!  He is doing it the best way that he can think of, on the spot, on the first day that he is employed!  Then, when he messes it up, the manager corrects him and has to fix the mistake.  Depending on how far the mistake got, it is probably going to cost at least time and money to fix, and it may cost the customer.  At the very least, that customer is going to tell his friends about the mistake, and his friends may avoid that place with the “dumb employee and the rude manager.”  Of course, the employee isn’t dumb, and the manager may well have been courteous and professional the entire time, but I doubt that the customer is going to tell it that way.

Had the employee been trained, the mistake may have been avoided and none of that needed to have happened.  The employee does it right the first time, he handles his first situation appropriately, and the manager congratulates him on a job well done.  Since much self-esteem is tied to job satisfaction, this second result works much better for everyone involved–especially the customer, who now generates positive word-of-mouth about the store.

One Minute Praisings

22 Nov

I received word today that I’m going to transfer to a different location within my company.  This becomes the perfect time to use One Minute Praisings.

One Minute Praisings work like this:

  1. Tell people up front that you are going to let them know how they are doing.
  2. Praise people immediately.
  3. Tell people what they did right—be specific.
  4. Tell people how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people who work there.
  5. Stop for a moment of silence to let them “feel” how good you feel.
  6. Encourage them to do more of the same.
  7. Shake hands or touch people in a way that makes it clear that you support their success in the organization. (One Minute Manager, p. 44)

The real tricks to a One Minute Praising are 2 and 3: immediate, specific feedback.  Wendy’s used to call it “laser-specific feedback.”  It was one part of a long-forgotten acronym.

“You did a good job today.”  That isn’t a feel-good praising.

“You made all of the sandwiches according to procedure today, and I didn’t get a single callback or customer complaint at the counter.  It’s good to know that I can count on you–thank you.”  Short pause, then: “I trust I’ll see even more of the same from you as we go into our lunch rush.”

The second one feels better because at least this time, the employee knows exactly what he did right. That’s what’s important: that the employee knows why he’s being praised so that he can continue the same behaviors in the future.

These are good to use at the beginning of a new store assignment because the crew isn’t going to know you, and they are not going to know what you’re looking for–unless you tell them.  Through the magic of One Minute Praisings, you will be able to communicate to your new crew what behavior you want to see from them.

If you’re generous with the praisings, you won’t seem like such a hard ass when you must do the inevitable One Minute Reprimand.

Applying the Tricks of the One Minute Manager

20 Nov

Yesterday, I started to apply the tricks I learned in Dr. Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager.   I think that it was a little bit weird for my employees to be told exactly what I think of them and to always know their standing.  I know that this is something that isn’t seen too often in the world of work.

I have a few things I can be proud of.  Overall, the service time for dinner was awful, 183 seconds (goal is less than 150 seconds).  But, we did enough business to warrant seven people in the 4:00pm hour with only four people on staff.  Needless to say, at 5:00, the service time was higher than I care to report–over 240 seconds.

Using One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands, I was able to motivate people who are normally slow beyond words to move faster and to get the time down.  That is a very good thing.

An employee, normally lackluster at best, was my “enforcer” yesterday.  He’s interested in a management position.  I’d have to see much more consistency from him before I’d consider recommending him to my boss, but what I saw yesterday, combined with the fact that he is the only one I don’t have to ride constantly to get quality pre-close work and that he is available to work days and nights, means that he might be management material in a few more months.

I have another potential manager in the crowd, too, and she is a very hard worker.  But I’d like to see if she can influence others to step up in the same way my first employee was trying.

Which is why Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leaders Around You, would be such an appropriate Christmas present, if anyone was wondering what to get me.

Found at BK: A Card on Great Leaders

19 Nov

I found a card at Burger King on Saturday.  I have no idea where it came from, as I couldn’t find any related materials nearby.  It contained several good points about what a great leader is.  So I thought I’d share them.

Great leaders:

  • Surround themselves with the best people
  • Cast a positive shadow
  • They gain commitment, not compliance
  • Focus on what matters most
  • Develop their people to be the best
  • Provide feedback and coaching
  • Look at the people around them when they achieve success, and look in the mirror when things don’t go well
  • Focus on their guest relentlessly
  • Celebrate small wins and big milestones

10 Steps to Empowerment 3: High Standards of Excellence

19 Nov

All too often fast food becomes an environment that tolerates mediocrity.  Most places I’ve worked at were filled with apathetic workers and managers that sat in the office all day and night.  Shortcuts were the norm.  The old-time employees knew the procedures, but no one actually followed them.  The new people never even learned procedures.

Does this sound like your restaurant?  If so, it is just crying out for higher standards of excellence.  Ideally, the standards should be high, but not out of reach.  For example, if your restaurant has been running a 3:15 average service time all day, then saying that service time will be under 3 minutes  for this week is not unrealistic.  I know that district managers still won’t like that time, but at least it is lower.

If your team beats that goal, say they manage 2:50 average for the week, then give everyone high praise.  Celebrate that number, because beating 2:50 will become next week’s goal.  And so on, and so on.

In this process, enforcing company standards of sandwich build, labor, and food cost are still very important.  Sandwich build procedures take look of final product and food safety regulations into consideration, which is why they may seem strange or too slow to some people.  But they are, nonetheless, very important to follow.

Labor and food cost are the two line accounts that impact the bottom line the most.  Each represent nearly 30% of sales!  Holding food cost to a minimum, both by enforcing proper sandwich building techniques and making sure that they don’t automatically throw each mistake away, will save untold amounts of money.

Now if a mistake is served to a customer, then that mistake must be thrown away.  But, if an employee puts mayo on a sandwich that was requested to be prepared without, that sandwich can be held in case the next customer orders it.  Food cost is important, but not at the expense of food safety.

The only other note on company standards is that they must be communicated to all employees on a regular basis.  They must also be consistently enforced by all managers.

The best way to achieve the required buy-in from employees on these standards is to regularly model them yourself.  As their manager, they will do as you do, not as you say.  So if you have the standards set and communicated but people aren’t following or achieving them, it is time to watch what you are modeling for them.  This is the toughest part of being a manager, I think.

The worst part of fast food is when a few people are achieving the standards and effectively carrying the rest of the staff.  That really hurts morale.  Diane Tracy has some hints on pp. 59-60 of 10 Steps to Empowerment for dealing with this common situation:

Encourage people to keep the communication open with the people in other departments, no matter how incompetent they are.  Discourage them from developing a we-they attitude.

Constantly remind your people of the benefits they will receive from meeting high standards, regardless of what others may be doing.

Explain to them that it takes time for people to change.  (Hopefully,  management is taking steps to correct the problem.)

Encourage them to be role models for others.

If your people are being hindered by the incompetence of others, try to work the problems out with your peer in the other department.  If that doesn’t work, communicate the problem to your boss.

One of the greatest books to help alleviate this situation would be The 360-degree Leader by John C. Maxwell.

10 Steps to Empowerment 2: Delegating Authority

16 Nov

Many fast food managers hate to delegate authority. Fast food is typically an autocratic environment, with the manager barking orders and the employees droning about doing the manager’s bidding. It becomes tough when more than one manager is on duty, because then you have two people barking out orders to the same employee, and those orders often contradict each other.

The solution is to decentralize the structure a bit, and delegate enough authority to the employees to do their respective jobs without much management interference.

This would scare a lot of managers I’ve worked with in the past. The reason is because many people equate authority with leadership. But authority isn’t leadership. According to John C. Maxwell, leadership is influence, not authority. Authority should be derived from the job responsibilities, not from the manager. As long as the manager exerts his influence over the employees, and they do the job as extensions of him (not in opposition to his wishes), then he is leading them.

Authority should always match the job assigned. I think that cashiers should have the authority to fix a customer problem–provided no money need change hands–and not involve the manager. As long as the customer only wants food replaced, then there is no reason that the cashier can’t ask the kitchen to remake the food in question and waste the food returned by the customer.

I don’t believe in giving the customer the food we’re going waste. Wendy’s used to be big on that, but I think that it encourages people to order incorrectly on purpose, then claim that it was our mistake in order to get two sandwiches. I make a production out of wasting the food. I want people to order carefully in the future. I want them to understand that no one is getting that food now. I might be wrong, because I see merit in the Wendy’s method, too.

There are occasions when I let them keep the mistake. For example, if they came back from their home after receiving a mistake in the drive-thru, I usually let them keep the mistake as an “I’m sorry.” I’ve found in customer service that it is difficult to issue blanket policies–each situation is different and should be handled individually. I’ve often wondered why companies attempt to issue blanket customer service policies, as they inevitably make employees mad because they are never enforced absolutely.

Back to authority. Authority should always match the job. But certain employees should enjoy some more authority as a reward for good performance. Authority is one of the few rewards that a fast food manager can give his employees. We can’t give raises, it’s very hard to vary job responsibilities. But we can grant some additional authority.

One example is answering the phone. I have an employee that answers the phone for me all of the time. She does very well with it. She only messed up once, and that was when she took a call off for the following day but never said anything to anyone. It wasn’t intentional, so it didn’t cost her the authority to answer the phone.

Another example is letting an employee be in charge of making speed of service. I have an employee who would shoulder that burden on her own, trying to coach everyone to move quicker, to keep enough product stocked, and to generally keep on task. She didn’t do very well with it, because she had to break some rules in order to make the time–such as pulling cars forward.

Which brings up the final topic of authority: what to do when someone abuses it. Well, there was a big section in Diane Tracy’s book, 10 Steps to Empowerment, on how to handle the various situations. But I think that the better way is found on page 59 of The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard:

The One Minute Reprimand works well when you:

  1. Tell people beforehand that you are going to let them know how they are doing and in no uncertain terms.

The first half of the reprimand:

  1. Reprimand people immediately.
  2. Tell people what they did wrong—be specific.
  3. Tell people how you feel about what they did wrong—and in no uncertain terms.
  4. Stop for a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel.

The second half of the reprimand:

  1. Shake hands, or touch them in a way that lets them know you are honestly on their side.
  2. Remind them of how much you value them.
  3. Reaffirm that you think well of them but not of their performance in this situation.
  4. Realize that when the reprimand is over, it’s over.

One Minute Goal Setting

15 Nov

I finally started reading Ken Blanchard’s The One Minute Manager. My original idea for a book was to re-tool Blanchard’s work specifically for the fast food environment. But then I thought that I should write something a bit more academic for my first published material.

Now, reading The One Minute Manager has got me thinking that I can do both. The One Minute Manager idea will take less than six or seven months to write, while the academic book can be an expanded, more detailed version of The One Minute Manager.

Which leads me to this first post on One Minute Management Secrets: One Minute Goal Setting. This plays off of my first article on empowerment so well, because the whole point of One Minute Goal Setting is to be as concise as possible with the goal.

Now, in fast food, we all know that it is just not possible to meet with every employee prior to a shift and write a one-page goal summary of less than 250 words. But it is possible to set goals for the shift itself that can be communicated in, say, 50 words or less. In turn, these organizational goals translate into between one and four goals for each person on duty.

Let’s talk in more concrete terms. We have Susie on drive-thru, Chet on front register, and John, George, Seth, and Veronica in the kitchen. You’re the One Minute McManager, and you start your day by looking at the performance from the prior shift. You see that you are +5 hours on labor already (darn day shift never cuts), and that means that you’re going to have to cut on your shift. The day shift, despite the high labor usage, has also managed to screw up the service time, leaving it at an average of almost three and a half minutes.

So the first thing you have to do is organize for speed. At your first break, Chet and Susie are going to have to stock that drive thru and counter area up, plus Chet is going to have to clean up all of his tables before dinner. So grab Chet and Susie, and in one minute, talk them through that. Also mention the horrendous service time and let them know that, once again, “We have to show the day shift how it’s done.”

That’s what I like to say. Most fast food places where I’ve put on the gold manager pin have had a serious day shift vs. night shift mentality, so I play the competition up to get better results from people. It helps when one shift screws up labor or service time, because that way I can use that to motivate the next shift–to show ’em how it’s done.

Next, grab the kitchen staff and talk to them. Let them know about the horrendous service time, and that it’s time to school the day people on how a shift is supposed to be run. Meanwhile, it’s time to stock the raw food products so that no one has to go anywhere during the big rush. Assuming that Seth and Veronica are your closers, I’d also let them know that they’re likely going to have to take a break, as well as deal with others getting sent home early.

In all of these conversations, keep them as brief as possible–less than a minute, if you can. And make all of the expectations crystal clear: the service time, having to cut labor, and making all of the usual rush preparations.

During the course of the shift, it is important to remind people of the goals. I like to yell out the service time, and if it is bad, I don’t say anything. But, if it’s good, I tell everyone that they’re doing great and offer some encouragement to keep it up.

This is the secret to One Minute Goal Setting in fast food.