Archive | December, 2007

10 Steps to Empowerment 10: Respect

24 Dec

I’ve heard it said once that you must seek first to understand, then be understood. This is the cornerstone of respect.

Respect is the perfect closing step to empowerment because each other point requires the manager to respect his employees. Clearly defining job responsibilities shows respect. Giving people the proper authority is a sign of respect for their work performance. Setting high standards of excellence show respect for the employee’s ability to achieve those standards. Training and developing employees shows respect for their track record and for the potential you see in them. Providing knowledge, feedback, and recognition show respect. Trust and respect go hand-in-hand with each other. Granting permission to fail shows that you respect their ability to learn from their own mistakes.


10 Steps to Empowerment 9: Permission to Fail

10 Dec

I’ve heard it said once that defeat can be more instructive than victory. A quick glance at history shows that the people who have achieved the most failed quite a bit. Abraham Lincoln ran for public office six times before he was elected. Thomas Edison tried 2,500 times to invent the light bulb. Albert Einstein failed math. Bill Gates tried to sell Microsoft to IBM to avoid bankruptcy. J.K. Rowling was rejected by an untold number of publishers, most of whom said that Harry Potter wouldn’t appeal to anyone. Babe Ruth holds the record for home runs and strike outs. Terry Bradshaw is the only Hall of Fame Quarterback with more interceptions than touchdown passes.

I could list more examples. But the point is that unless a person tries and fails, he’ll never learn what real success is. And that’s the point of the principle of empowerment: giving permission to fail.

Success and failure go hand-in-hand. That may seem counterintuitive to many, but upon reflection, most people decide that it’s true. This is a world defined by opposites. How can we know that one woman is beautiful unless we can see another who isn’t? How do we know what good is unless we see what evil is? This great philosophical truth means that we will never achieve success without failing first.

This principle is the toughest so far to implement in a high volume business like fast food, because even the smallest failure can create a chain reaction that will wreck the entire shift. We all know that it isn’t fun to play catch up. But, we must contrast that with the fact that most fast food places encourage mediocrity in its employees. We’ve discussed that failure is the key to success already. So without permission to fail, all we do is encourage more mediocrity. This is a vicious cycle. In order to succeed, we must occasionally fail.

I believe that the key to fast food success is nothing less than consistency. If, as a manager, you have a consistent record of success, then you can point to that record when you fail. Therefore, you may give your employees permission to fail, shoot for higher goals, and if a mistake causes everything to crash, just stand on your past record.

Before this principle can be applied, you, the manager, must create a track record of success. These will likely be small successes at first, since without permission to fail, the larger goals will be out of your reach. Small successes include good health inspections and other visits, a good rapport with direct and higher supervisors, a desire to advance to higher positions, good cash control, and consistent speed of service. Build a lot of these small successes and then you will have permission to fail from your supervisors–within certain limits. Know what those limits are.

Then build an environment that doesn’t penalize failure; but rather, penalizes inactivity or indecision. Tell people, in no uncertain terms, that you want them to make decisions for themselves. It is better to have made a decision–even a wrong decision–then to not do anything. Support and encourage them when they fail, and reaffirm their worth as people and as members of your team.

I’ve discussed One Minute Reprimands and I still believe that they are the best way to reprimand an employee. When someone does fail, they should still be subject to one of these, especially if it is a large failure. Giving people permission to fail is a separate idea from building an environment where people don’t care whether or not they do fail. There should still be consequences.

Remember that you must be in control when you give your reprimand. If you humiliate someone, then you will have destroyed all of your hard work to create an environment where people have permission to fail. The crazy lady in our marketing department has a quote in the signature of her e-mail that applies here: “They may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” Always make people feel like they are an important part of your team, even when they fail, and you will have very happy employees who are willing to take risks.

In the end, an environment like this will produce better results for your company.

One Minute Reprimands

4 Dec

Beware: Reading this article may make you a more effective manager than most others. If you really want to know how to discipline employees, then continue reading. Mastering the One Minute Reprimand will increase your effectiveness exponentially.

First, let’s examine what goes into a One Minute Reprimand:

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.

The two tricks that most managers have yet to master are communicating in no uncertain terms, and ending the reprimand. Setting yourself apart from your fellow managers is child’s play if you will only stop beating around the bush and tell your employees what you really think. I had a tough time with this one.

When an employee messes up, most of the time it isn’t malicious on his end. He was trying to do the right thing, but he didn’t. Knowing that his motives were pure, it becomes difficult for you, as his manager, to tell him that he’s screwed up.

But you’re doing your employee a great disservice. Most people assume that “No News = Good News.” What that means is that your employee, hearing nothing from you, assumes that he actually did the right thing. He will continue making the same mistake, over and over, because he thinks that it is the right thing to do.

You have to end the cycle before it begins, the first time you see the mistake. If you let it go, or if you tell the employee that he messed up in nebulous terms (as many managers do), you are depriving your employee of a chance to grow professionally.

The second secret to a good reprimand is to know when the reprimand is over. Most managers have no idea when to end a reprimand, and continue the reprimand for a long time–up to six months later, believe it or not.

Think just for a minute about that. How demoralizing is it to an employee who is trying his best, messes up once, then works well for a month, only to have a mistake thrown in his face after he had gotten over it? Would you like it if your boss brought up something you did three months prior–a mistake you thought you had atoned for already?

Once the reprimand is over, it should be over. Don’t bring it up again, not during that work day, not a few months later. Just let it lay and trust that one reprimand was enough.

The rest of the One Minute Reprimand points are easy. A good fast food manager will set himself apart from the crowd if he only masters those two little points: being specific in no uncertain terms, and knowing when to end the reprimand.

10 Steps to Empowerment 8: Trust

2 Dec

Once you’ve defined a person’s responsibilities, delegated enough authority to him, trained him properly, set a high standard,  given him the proper knowledge, and provided appropriate recognition and feedback, the next step is to simply trust this person to do the job.

Is it really that easy?  Of course not!  Trust is a very sticky issue, especially when money is concerned.  But we’re not just dealing with the store’s money.  Our employees bring personal property, such as cellphones and jewelry, with them to work.  Our customers bring money and jewelry, too.  We also have to consider the food within the establishment–that is equal to money for the purposes of a fast food business.

We also trust people with our safety.  Cooking equipment is dangerous.  The grills can scar people and the fryers can burn the store down.  The gas can cause explosions.

For these reasons and more, trust should be earned, never given.  But, it is important to lay a foundation for a good relationship by believing that everyone who comes to work wants to do a good job for you.  If that isn’t the case, it will become apparent soon enough.

Don’t begin by teaching someone how to filter the fryers.  This is a dangerous job.  Begin with smaller tasks.  See how they do with sweeping and mopping, register drawers, and other cooking equipment.  Let them work toward the tasks that have the potential to destroy the restaurant.

What happens when the trust that someone earned is violated?  That has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.  If they set a fryer on fire, perhaps they didn’t know that the fryer has to be off when empty.  No trust violated.  A One Minute Reprimand will do nicely.

Perhaps they wanted to go home early, so they purposely left the fryer on.  That’s a different case altogether.  By the same token, if cash comes up missing from their register, or if employee or customer property is missing, then you may have a situation in which a One Minute Reprimand isn’t going to cut it.

10 Steps to Empowerment 7: Recognition

1 Dec

Recognition works hand-in-hand with feedback.  The difference is that recognition is an actual reward for positive work performance, while feedback is a quick note on how work performance is progressing.  A One Minute Praising is good for both recognition and feedback.

Since a One Minute Praising might be the most effective low-to-no-cost method of recognition, I thought that this would be a good place to repeat the rules:

  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.

What are some other methods you could use?  At my new store, we are instituting an employee of the month program.  We are also keeping notes about who does things consistently well and we are going to mail a thank-you note to that person’s house.  Each manager has to select an employee over the next two weeks for the thank-you card.

A special honor will be presented to one lucky crew person at the crew meeting on Sunday in front of everyone for outstanding help while the store was short-handed.

There are as many ways to recognize people as there are people.  Some pointers on effective recognition (adapted from 10 Steps to Empowerment by Diane Tracy):

  1. Be sincere.
  2. Recognize the people as well as the achievements.
  3. Make sure the recognition is appropriate for the achievement and consistent with recognition for similar achievements.
  4. Tailor the recognition to the person.
  5. Make sure the recognition is timely.