10 Steps to Empowerment 1: Clearly Define Responsibility

14 Nov

At Wendy’s, managers were to use a “tool” called TTM–Talk To Me.  No one ever actually defined this “tool” while in training, and district managers were very nebulous as to how one should use it.  Training indicated that a manager was only supposed to TTM his employees, not actually do anything–but let me tell you how much trouble I got into from both my GM and my DM for actually doing that!  In fact, the Operations Leader video showed the manager only talking, never doing.

With all of that contradictory information, what is TTM, really, and how is a manager supposed to use it?  Well, Wendy’s divided TTM into three parts: Talk Into Position, Talk Through Position, and Talk Out of Position.  Talking someone into position means defining their priorities and goals for the day.  Talking someone through position reinforced the goals and priorities set for the day, as well as the restaurant operating procedures.  Talking someone out of position gave them feedback on their overall performance, as well as establishing goals to work on for the next shift.

I propose that TTM was never anything more than a way to clearly define the job responsibility assigned to a person for the day, as well as maintaining that person’s focus on his priorities.  This is the first principle of empowerment: Tell people what their responsibilities are.

It is important not just to define the responsibilities, but also to tell employees how their job fits into the overall scheme of things.  In Teach Your Team to Fish, Laurie Beth Jones gives the example that every cell in the human body has the DNA code for the entire body in its nucleus.  This way, Jones reasons, each cell knows not only its job, but also how its job fits in with the big picture.  That is important, especially for menial jobs.

In fast food, workers deride jobs that they think are pointless, such as moving the fryers and scrubbing behind them.  It’s tough work, no one enjoys heavy cleaning, and–let’s face it–it gets really nasty back there.  But, an employee will feel a little bit better if they understand that detail cleaning of that sort are the types of things that inspectors look more closely at than the “important” jobs, like cashiering or preparing food.  A clean restaurant is important for serving safe food and preventing foodbourne illness.  If anything, this “menial” job is actually more important than the main jobs.

If the manager explains all of that to an employee who complains about detail cleaning, that employee is far more likely to take pride in his work.  Which means that he is going to do a better job, a more efficient job, and perhaps even a faster job!

The middle component of TTM may have been the most important of the three.  Talking someone through position was playing the role of coach.  Reinforcing daily goals and priorities was a must.  Setting the goals is important, but keeping an employee focused on achieving them is far more important.

It is especially important that the manager, who knows the big picture, communicates when priorities change.  We all know that sometimes, plans change.  People call off, others may not be up to performing where they’ve been assigned.  Sometimes counter gets unusually busy.  Sometimes drive-thru gets unusually busy.  All of these unexpected things will change priorities, and it is important for managers to let everyone know, and let everyone know why.

Why is the most important detail, because Diane Tracy observes that ego is tied to responsibility (27).  That means a person will feel a sense of disappointment if he is taken off of a responsibility that he felt he was doing well.  People automatically feel that they are a disappointment to their bosses if they are reassigned without explanation.  Always explain when reassigning someone.  Always explain why priorities are changing, too.

When utilized correctly, these tools will build morale and make the manager’s job so much easier.

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3 Responses to “10 Steps to Empowerment 1: Clearly Define Responsibility”

  1. Stephen Self February 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I am enjoying your site. As an Assistant Manager at a Wendy’s I really like how you broke down the TTM tool better then it was taught to me. I constantly have the problems described here with the crew. I will try the idea of letting them know what the more important jobs are.

    Thanks again!

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