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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.