Becoming a Manager

8 Oct

I was trying to mentor a friend to enter management.  He was a regular employee but wanted to be promoted.  I handed him a form that Wendy’s managers had to fill out to prioritize their work weeks.  I told him to think of one or two operational problems we had at this restaurant and use that time sheet to prioritize how to fix them.

He balked.  “But managers do that.  I’m not a manager.”

I predicted then he never would be one.  Thirteen years later, my prediction holds.

I’ve also heard similar grumbling from managers and crew alike when the district manager is present and nitpicks things they do wrong or corners they cut.

For example, Wendy’s has written procedures for taking out the trash.  That’s right; there is a wrong way to take out trash at Wendy’s.  If a crew member combines trash cans or takes out more than one can at a time, he will be coached by a District Manager to take only one can at a time.

The crew members, and even some managers, have a similar reaction as my friend above when faced with the criticism.  They’ll groan, “He only expects things done according to the strictest procedures because he’s a DM.”

But both my friend and these crew members/managers are wrong.

He doesn’t expect things done according to the proper procedure because he’s a District Manager.  Rather: He’s a District Manager because he expects things done according to the proper procedure.

This cause and effect is reversed in most people’s thinking, and that reversal is what holds people back from advancing in (or into) management.  People think title dictates behavior.  However, Randal Graves is right; people dictate their own behavior:

At Wendy’s, Assistant Managers deal with interviewing, hiring, and training crew members.  Co-managers deal with coaching and developing crew, Crew Leaders, Shift Supervisors, and Assistant Managers.  Co-managers also monitor the paperwork associated with training and develop plans with the General Manager across the entire spectrum of business operations to improve areas that are lacking.

So, if an Assistant Manager wanted to advance to Co-manager, which option is best?

  1. Do his current job well and wait until he’s asked to advance?
  2. Do his current job well, and start documenting training and proactively develop plans to improve all business operations before the GM even sees the negative result?

If a person is an exceptional Assistant Manager, (1) might get him promoted eventually.  But, a so-so Assistant could advance to Co much sooner if he goes for option (2).

What’s the solution to the problem?  You must understand that you won’t get to the next level until you’re already there.  Always be proactive, working on the job description above you without neglecting your current duties.  Don’t think, “I’ll be a General Manager when they pay me to be a General Manager.”  You may eventually get your own store, but there’s a better way to go about it.  Be a General Manager first, and then you’ll get your own store much sooner.


4 Responses to “Becoming a Manager”

  1. Melodie Anderson October 26, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you for this blog.

    I am struggling with this currently. The conversation went like this. “if I’m going to have to work nights to get my hours anyway, (in the summer), I might as well be a shift leader.”

    And so began my training. The owner and the manager, began training me to shift lead. Completely differently. I am the only shift lead given authority to process the money at the end of the shift. I begin to think about where I will fall in the chain in the future and being that it will be under the M/A I follow his lead very closely. I want to be in line with the way he WILL be running the place when the owner steps away.

    There’s this little problem though. We have an owner/manager and the person who will be the manager when the owner finally gives up control and opens the next store who I guess is the assistant manager and no one really knows who is making the decisions for the store or who to go to. So we go to the guy who WILL be the manager and if we don’t like the way he does it, we go to the owner, complain, and he tells us to do whatever we want and reprimands the future manager/assistant manager. And they do things completely differently. The owner openly complains in a joking way about the way his future manager does things……you get my drift. The owner insists he is the manager. He’s never had a single meeting since the first month of the store being open and we are now a year in. No guidance, leadership,clarity of expectations, training plan, clarity of authority, who has it and how much. He has difficulty giving up control of the store. Until he does, the future manager is treading water and starting to sink and lacks any real authority.

    Does anyone else see a problem with this?

    Fast forward. I’ve decided I want to be a manager because I have a passion for my place of business, I see that I am interested in serving the customers on a higher level and keeping the store running like a well oiled machine. I’m not content to just make sandwhiches, I want to get involved in operations and make changes where I see they need to be made. My work ethic supports my intentions and I’m also interested in ownership. I make my intentions known to the owner/manager and the manager/assistant manager. The O/M says that if I’m serious I need to step it up and prove that I’m management material. The M/A begins training me to be his assistant by teaching me ordering procedures. I engage in my training mostly on my own time without pay to make sure I have time to absorb my training without affecting customer service. I stay late, I come in early and I come in on my days off. We, the M/A and I work to be on the same page policy and procedure wise. He “task” trains me and gives me some guidance about managing people and interpersonal business relationships. All is well.

    And then the O/M begins chewing me for the way I do things, my lack of approachability. The way I speak to other employees and when and how I am doing my shift lead duties which is in line with what the M/A is trying to set up with me for the future but not in line with what the O/M is telling the other shift leads to do and letting them get away with –which at the time seemed sub-standard but had a purpose rooted in labor management which was never communicated to the M/A or myself. So the other shift leads complain about me and the M/A to the owner and we get chewed out.


    I begin doing it the O/M’s way. The M/A stops actively training me. I’m back to just shift leading for the time being. The M/A says in two or three years look at management, for now learn the business. He begins to be very disagreeable with me and when I go to him for guidance he treats me like I’m bothering him and wasting his time. I complain to the O/M and mention the management comment. The M/A gets chewed out by the O/M. Problem solved…..except now I’m told I will be manager of the next store but not assistant of this one because there is a conflict of personality between myself and the M/A.

    My training begins again and with my O/M’s spoken confidence in my abilities I continue to “act as if” I am manager-in-training. I introduce ways of helping shift leads do their job better and I streamline my responsibilities outside of the workplace to make myself more available for longer shifts and more responsibility so I can practice management. I know I have maybe 6 months to a year at best to really get a handle on being manager.

    The O/M puts me in charge of the store without communicating it to me. He’s there to open but leaves and the M/A is off that day. I manage the store poorly. I make key decisions that result in poor service and customer complaints. I’m aware of the poor decision and the effect on the service (but not the complaints) and make a mental note. Other shift leads are telling me that I am doing my job poorly but do so after the fact when it’s too late. I pull them in and let them know that as far as I know I am not in charge. We are all shift leads and together we need to pool our strengths to get the job done. If they see something needs to be different that I don’t see, speak up so we can fix it and I’ll do the same. I attempted to communicate this earlier in the day but did it poorly. I tend to be reactive which is why the other leads did not approach me in the moment as they believe I have an “I’m important because I’m in charge” mentality and they feel they can’t. It’s much easier to complain to the O/M and M/A after the fact which seems to get things done in this establishment. I’m very frustrated at this point but I press on and take the responsibility for the poor decision.

    The next evening, during my shift which I am in charge of, the O/M happens to show up. This never happens. I know he is there specifically to gauge my performance(and it’s about time) but I am not aware that there is a specific reason. I do my job to the best of my ability and don’t worry about his presence there because the house is packed and the orders are backed up. He lets me know later in the evening that everything looked good and he was satisfied with what he saw. All is well.

    Two days later he says he needs a minute with me. He begins to chew me out for my performance several days earlier as it resulted in customer complaints made to him personally. He begins to tell me what the other employees told him about the day when HE ASKED THEM what happened and asks me to explain. I say it’s simple, I made a poor decision and it effected customer service and resulted in complaints. I’m angry and frustrated because I communicated my mistake to the M/A when he popped in that day and my O/M is telling me I should have communicated it to him because he’s the manager. Also, why is he asking the crew about my performance or what went wrong when apparently he left me in charge? Does he not trust me to tell the truth? It’s like he wants to get the employees version of where my leadership went wrong. And by doing so, he gives them the authority. He never told me I was going to start giving me the reigns or gave me any guidance to help me succeed. He never met with me the next day even by phone that evening to see how it went for me and give me any guidance. He threw me in the lake to see if I’d sink or swim. I sank and took responsibility for it. And when I let him know that I was frustrated that he didn’t communicate with me or anyone else that I was in charge (thereby giving me the authority) he responded with a “why wouldn’t (I) be in charge (I’m) going to be manager.” I said, “I’m not management, I’m management in training.” You haven’t given me any authority. You are not “training” or “actively mentoring” me-which would involve expectations, opportunity, and follow-up. I believe a certain amount of failure when training anyone should not only be expected, but necessary for success so long as the failure is used to teach and learn. Being set up to fail and then being chewed out for failing is not the same thing.

    The other crew members don’t take me or the M/A seriously with respect to authority. They know when the O/M is there they need to straighten up, whether he’s there to work or just stopping in. They pay more attention to getting their job done than they do when the M/A is there. When the M/A is there, they straighten up and stay on task but they grumble on the side lines and try to get away with stuff and will disrespect him to his face and go behind his back to the owner if they don’t like the way the M/A is running things because the owner might just say they can do it they way they want rather than back the M/A. When I’m there, they grumble because they know I’ll expect them to stay focused and work. They grumble on the side lines about every thing I direct them to do and believe I’m trying to “be in charge” when I’m not. They have a lack of focus in between rushes, take their time getting tasks done and dislike when I try to redirect them back to the work. When I make decisions some of them question them and say “you should do it this way, that way or some other way”, and if I don’t they complain to the O/M and M/A so much so that when I am “in charge” I am constantly on guard to do my job in a way that won’t result in an employee complaint. The M/A and I are constantly being told “the owner says we can do it this way.” Really? why am I hearing this from you?

    The employees have all the authority and they know it. They can go to the owner at any time and get a manager questioned. The Owner doesn’t back up the manager’s decisions or keep the authority/responsibility in the right place. There is a complete lack of communication, absence of focused training and absolutely no performance feedback aside from being chewed out for mistakes.

    I noticed I was scheduled for one hour which I thought was odd, so I asked the O/M about it. It turns out the owner has finally scheduled a “manager’s” meeting a full year into the business. I don’t know who is going to be there or what will be discussed. I asked for clarification so that I could bring my ideas and concerns to the table and was not given an answer.

    If this is the model I’m going to have to follow I don’t think I can get on board. So I will be discussing the chain of command, training, authority and who should have it and whether or not he needs to step away from the picture. I will let him know that I am not happy with the way he is mentoring me or with his going to the employees before the managers. I will let him know that I think he should be backing his manager’s decisions and if changes need to be made brainstorming it with the managers. I will let him know that the authority is in the wrong hands because he put it there. I will let him know that I want to to be mentored and trained for management in a way that is respectful and prepares me to accomplish tasks, gives me the appropriate amount of authority and fosters leadership.


  2. Marty August 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    this is the longest comment i’ve ever seen in my life

  3. tiffany Thompson April 26, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    I think it sucks u have to drive a car to be in any management.I’m afraid I’ve been like that 31yrs.


  1. Top 50 Restaurant Management Blogs | Point Blank | Direct Capital - August 27, 2014

    […] Becoming a Manager […]

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