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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.


Minimum Effort for Minimum Wage

1 Oct

It’s a situation I think every fast food manager is familiar with.

The classic setup:

You’re inspecting the work of a crew member, usually a cleaning task but sometimes work that is central to the job (such as the wrap of a sandwich).  It’s not good enough.  The table base is still dirty, the wall still has spots, or the sandwich looks like a really cute baby slapped it several times while giggling.

You know how babies do that when they discover something cool, especially if it’s a squishy something cool.  But I digress.

You inform the employee that the task is not done properly and tell them they have to redo it.  They say the task is “good enough,” and that since you only pay them minimum wage, you only get their minimum effort.

That sickens me on two levels, and I let my employees know it sickens me on two levels, One Minute Reprimand style.

On the first level comes the ridiculously high current minimum wage.  In Ohio, state minimum wage is higher than federal minimum wage, so we must pay our folks $7.70 per hour.  And, on January 1, 2013, it will rise to $7.85 per hour.

I didn’t make anywhere near that for my entire stint in hourly management!

As unpopular opinion as this is, I think that fast food crew are overpaid because of the minimum wage.  The job responsibilities of a crew member are not commensurate with the federal minimum wage, let alone the higher Ohio one.

Of course, I always get, “Was gas as high as it is now?  Did the food here cost almost $7 for some sandwiches?  Were any other prices this high?”  Of course, the answer to all of that is NO.  And the crew member folds her arms in superiority.  She won against her know-it-all manager.

Then I explain the second way that response sickens me: the deontolgical response.  This is almost a fancy, philosophical way of saying “guilt trip.”  The hypothetical crew person can’t win against this.  It is best illustrated with an example:

If you go to McDonald’s and order something off the Dollar Menu, receive it, and find out that the sandwich wasn’t made the way you ordered it or the meat was raw, you’d take it back, right?

Or if you went to Wal-Mart and bought something on clearance, then found out it was defective or broken, you’d return that, right?

Of course.

Because if you pay for something, even if you pay bottom dollar, you expect that it will fit the needs for which you bought it.  And if it doesn’t, then you complain and expect that the store will fix it.

Well, what if the McDonald’s employee told you that since you bought a Dollar Menu item, you only get the minimum possible effort McDonald’s can muster?  Sometimes that equates to “baked under a heat lamp all day” or “served raw.”

What if the Wal-Mart employee said that since this was a clearance item, that you had no right to complain since you didn’t pay full price?  Only general sale items or full price items can be returned.

I’m sure you’d be fired up and pissed.  You’d be asking for high-up managers or writing letters to the respective parent corporations.

Well, how do you think your manager feels at the utterance of “Minimum effort for minimum wage”?

The point: it doesn’t matter what the restaurant is paying a worker.  They have an expectation of how the worker is going to perform, and every right to coach the worker to complete tasks properly.  Or terminate the worker if the worker won’t comply.

“Deontological ethics” are practices you have a duty to perform.  I believe that if a worker agrees to a wage, minimum or otherwise, then they have a duty to put for the best effort every time they are clocked in and collecting money.  If the money isn’t right, don’t take the job.

“Minimum effort for minimum wage” is the attitude of a loser.  Yes, I couched in strong terms because I feel that strongly about it.  If workers can’t be coached properly and they cling to this mantra and the piss-poor attitude that always accompanies it, they need to be replaced immediately.

Two Lessons from my Personal Hell II: Deliver Superior Performance

8 Apr

Those who read the last post know that I have been going through a personal hell of having worked the past month straight without a day off.

Such is the problem of management.

The two lessons I have gleaned from it, however, are invaluable.  The first lesson is to remain spiritually, emotionally, and physically in shape for what might be a grueling experience.

The second lesson we will discuss today is that you still must deliver quality service, no matter what.

When you take over a new leadership role, especially if you’re not the top dog, you should become intimately familiar with the philosophy of your company.

Burger King promises that the customer will have it his way.

Wendy’s prides itself on quality.

McDonald’s is a production line — delivering prepackaged food at unmatched speed.

Fast food is almost always short staffed, as I am right now.

But guess what?

That’s no excuse for not delivering what your company says it will deliver.  Do not cut corners just because you’re short staffed.

I think a great way to look at this is to set a goal for yourself.  Don’t let anyone that you don’t directly tell find out you are short staffed.  Don’t even let them suspect you’re short staffed.

This means a lot of extra work for you.  This means a lot of delegation to your staff; they will have to learn to juggle multiple jobs effectively.  You will have to be their cheerleader.  And you will have to reward them and celebrate victories or other milestones.

But let your short staffing be as brief as possible.  Plan to solve the situation as quickly as possible, because you will burn out and your team will burn out quickly.

Once the short staff issue is solved, you can celebrate in your own way.  Today, for example, I took my first day off in over a month.  It felt great, and I have many more to look forward to in the near future.  Things are rapidly beginning to look up, and those are the things you and your team should celebrate.

Nobody wants to hear that you can’t do something because of short staffing.

But everyone is wowed when they find out you were short staffed but never batted an eyelash; all of the work still got done and all of the customers left the building happy.

That’s leadership.

Two Lessons from My Personal Hell I: Getting in Shape During the Countdown Period

2 Apr

I’m going through hell right now.

Not the literal hell described in the Bible, just a harrowing gauntlet of which I am a partial architect.

When I took over my new role as director of environmental services for a long-term care facility, I knew that I would have to let some people go.  I planned on one for the short term, but ended up letting four go in less than a month.

So now I’m short staffed, which has led me to working for over three weeks without a day off, beginning week #4 today.

I have learned two lessons from this.  The first is to get in shape.  The second is to deliver superior results and service no matter what.  Let’s turn to the first.

In You’re in Charge — Now What? by James Citrin and Thomas Neff, the authors outline an 8-point plan for having a successful first 100 days in a new leadership role.  The first step is to have a successful countdown period — the time between accepting and starting your new assignment.

One of the things Citrin and Neff discuss is to make sure you are physically ready for the rigors of your new role.  It might seem trite, but if you have to work 20+ days straight, then you will appreciate having taken some time to get in shape.

I have three simple tips for enduring the worst job-related hells.  And mind you, this isn’t the first job-related hell I’ve experienced.  This is just the one I’ve managed to whether the best, and it comes from failing to handle similar situations in the past.

First, have a workout routine.  I still don’t follow this, and it is to my serious detriment.  If I were in better in physical shape, I’d be able to sustain longer hours.  Not for the job, mind you.  My lawn wouldn’t look like an African savannah right now, my house wouldn’t be a toxic disaster area of old McDonald’s wrappers and ancient cans of pop, and when I look up to consider my next sentence I wouldn’t see a nasty black cobweb.

Second, have a hobby or outlet.  My hobbies are reading good books, blogging, and having fun with my kids.

During this time, I have spent time playing with my kids.

I’ve read Dave’s Way by Dave Thomas, and I’m meandering through The Last Patriot by Brad Thor (very overrated writer, but he gets the job done and keeps the pages turning with an engrossing story).

I’ve seriously lapsed on writing, finding myself less-than-inspired.

I’ve maintained two of my three hobbies — dropping out of life just fuels depression.  Staying active in non-work pursuits is very important.

Third, place your hope in a higher authority.  I encourage everyone to find fulfillment in the God of the Universe, father of Jesus Christ and the one described in the Bible.  When people feel connected to something bigger and better than themselves, they experience far more motivation and job satisfaction.  The spiritual dimension is no different — so search for God and become connected.

With these three in play, you will feed your body, mind, and spirit as you manage your current assignment.

Leadership Lessons from an 80s Cartoon

8 Dec

If anyone used to watch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power growing up, perhaps you wondered why Skeletor was always trying to conquer Eternia and Castle Grayskull with it while his mentor, Hordak, had already conquered and enslaved the population of Etheria. There’s at least one possible, obvious explanation. But that isn’t it.

The obvious explanation is that Hordak was Skeletor’s mentor and trainer. Hordak was grooming Skeletor to eventually command a world under the Horde’s control.

Anyone familiar with the back story knows that Skeletor was stranded on Eternia and Hordak left (with Princess Adora) to conquer another world, probably before Skeletor’s training was complete. It therefore stands to reason that Skeletor doesn’t know all of Hordak’s secrets, and that is why Hordak has succeeded where Skeletor hasn’t.

But I don’t think that’s the reason for Hordak’s success. I believe the real secret is in his minions. Pay attention: this is a lesson that every manager needs to learn.

When we look at Skeletor’s main set of evil warriors, what do we see? Beast Man, who is total imbecile only for comic relief. Trap Jaw, the wizard of weapons, lacks any originality or capacity to think for himself. Mer-Man, is helpless outside of water.

Of all of Skeletor’s minions, only Evil-Lyn is competent and able to hatch an original villainous plot.

Look over at Hordak’s side. Only Mantenna and Grizzlor are unable to hatch an original villainous plot. Everyone else can!

Catra is a force to be reckoned with; she took over Adora’s role as force captain when the latter defected to the Great Rebellion. Scorpia may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she is still a capable enemy. Leech and Mantenna can carry a plot out when they team up. Modulak is the consummate mad scientist; too bad Skeletor lost him to Hordak. And Hordak’s second-in-command, Shadow Weaver, is evil to the core and a terrible sorceress with awesome power–she probably carried the most episodes outside of Hordak himself.

The results speak for themselves. Hordak has enslaved every kingdom on Etheria except for Bright Moon (which he lost in the movie that introduced She-Ra). Skeletor commands only Snake Mountain, and that because Hordak had originally used it as a base of operations during a failed invasion of Eternia.

The lesson? Watch who you’re hiring! If you hire as Hordak did, you will conquer the planet. (Hopefully you won’t enslave all of the kingdoms, though.) If you hire as Skeletor did, you’ll be stuck with miserable, lonely Snake Mountain, always trying conquer Grayskull but never quite getting there. Wisely hire strong recruits who are good fits with your existing team, and you’ll be the Master of the Universe!

More on ‘Walking the Talk’

26 Jun

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford disappeared for almost a week, and when he was found, he was having an affair with a woman from Agentina. Yesterday, I spoke of the importance of being at your post when you’re the leader. After all the hard work you put in charting the course for the crew, you don’t want the helm to have to steer itself. That’s what the governor did, and that is the mark of a very poor leader.

Today, we’re going to discuss the affair that Sanford was having. I believe that it is actually an important part of this because this is a man who is a known spokesman for family values. He was one of the first to denounce former President Bill Clinton during the affair with Monica Lewinski. If you, as leader, are going to preach something, your own life had better well reflect what you are preaching.

Mr. Sanford’s life certainly did not reflect what he was preaching.

As a front-line leader, your crew will look up to you and strive to be just like you. I’m not saying that your personal life has to be perfect, but it helps if you can lead yourself and your family first. Your family is a reflection of you, and if you can’t lead them, then you don’t belong in leadership.

Everyone has problems in their personal life, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t have perfect situation right now. But what steps are you taking to get out from under the imperfections? Tolerating imperfection is one of the earmarks of a bad leader. Taking steps to correct them is the mark of a good leader.

The only reason that Governor Sanford admitted the affair is because he got caught. If you aren’t following what you expect your crew to do, admit it first, and correct it. Don’t wait for someone to uncover the dishonesty. Or, more appropriately, don’t wait for someone to publically decry the dishonesty. Crew watches management closely; if you’re being dishonest, they probably already know. It will be better coming from you, and they might even forgive the indiscretion.

Find imperfection wherever it lurks. Work to correct it. When you aren’t practicing what you preach, admit and correct it before someone else uncovers it for you. In other words, walk the talk. Can you do it?

Leadership is Integrity

25 Jun

Leadership is defined many ways by many different people. John Maxwell, for example, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, defines leadership as “influence.” That’s a good definition. People may not define leadership as “integrity,” but I think that we can all agree that a good leader needs to have it.

Pat Croce puts it like this: “You have to walk the talk.” Anyone can talk a good game, but it takes a real leader to be able to back up what he says with action. In order to lead, you must possess integrity in your actions. Like Croce says, walk the talk.

We have a sad example in the news about a govenor who lacks integrity in his actions. I’m talking about South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who has recently admitted having an affair with a women in Argentina.

The affair is between him, his wife, and God. I’m not here concerned with the affair, although that also shows a lack of integrity. No, what I’m concerned with here is the fact that this man abandoned his state to have this affair.

No one in a leadership position should ever just up and leave his post, no matter what. Would you want your followers to do that? What if your drive-thru person suddenly had an errand to run that was more important than work? Should she just leave her post and go run the errand?

The bottom line is this: if you don’t want your followers to do something, then avoid the behavior yourself. Don’t be a Mark Sanford and leave your post, leaving your people to fend for themselves. Stay in your post, let your people know that they can trust you will be there.

That’s integrity, and that’s part of leadership.

Are They Your Best Employees?

28 Feb

Recently, a collegue recounted an experience she had working at another store. She said that the crew ran the store, not the management. I asked her what the GM thought about that, and she told me that the GM let the workers do it, and wouldn’t hear anyone telling her that this is wrong.

The two crew people in question, according to my collegue, took full advantage of the situation. They didn’t do the things that they were supposed to, such as cleaning up after themselves. They made fun of the other employees. They generally acted as if they were over and above the law.

The GM’s excuse: “They’re my best employees. They make the food really fast and deliever it on time.”

The problem with this sort of attitude on the part of management is that she is creating an environment that is hostile to the other employees. By endowing these two “best workers” with impunity, she is sending two destructive messages. The first is that this sort of behavior is tolerable. The second is that other employees aren’t as valuable as these two.

If the two “best workers” have major attitude problems that no one is bothering to adjust, it sends a message to the other employees that this is the sort of model behavior that management is looking for. That means that other employees, seeking positive recognition, will start to emulate that behavior and then you will have more than just two employees who behave unmanageably.

In the cases where the two “best workers” are favored above other employees, this will foster an attitude of indifference on the part of the other employees. “If they don’t have to clean up their station, why should I?” Start holding these two accountable, the others will see that, too. But it doesn’t sound as if, in this store, that these two will ever be held accountable.

Have I just described your store? Are you holding on to employees that you’d be better off letting go?

How would a subordinate manager handle this situation? With careful documentation. The subordinate needs to hold these two employees accountable and discipline them when they do things that are wrong. If the GM won’t allow the discipline, then copies should be forwarded to the GM’s boss with an explanation of the GM’s behavior.

If the GM’s boss won’t do anything, then it may be time to contact Human Resources. HR should be able to help out in this situation.

Bottom line: Employees like this need to fall in line with the rest of the crew, or they need to go. All too often in fast food, speed is valued above simple respect. Someone who has speed is immune to prosecution and may do as he or she likes in the store. This is destructive for morale and hurts the store’s performance in the long run. It also undermines the authority of the management and sends the message that such behavior is tolerated, even preferable.

Speed of Service 1: Be a Leader

13 Oct

It’s a question faced by every fast food manager at some point in his career: how do I decrease my speed of service? Let’s face it–there is a lot of pressure from above you to do so. Most of the time, the higher-ups will not accept the fact that customers do a lot of little things to increase your speed of service (e.g. not having money ready or taking a super-long time to order). But it’s pointless to vilify the customer when there is so much that can be done by the store’s employees to decrease speed of serivce.

In the previous post, I identified six points for faster service. I will now expound on what they mean. The first point is to simply be a leader. What does that mean?

As the visible head of the organization, your people look to you to get their cues. They actually follow you. Which means that if you’re all about speed of service, then they will be all about speed of service. If you act like speed of service isn’t a big deal, then so will they.

Start by clearly defining the speed of service goal for the shift. At Burger King, our gold standard is less than two minutes and thirty seconds. So I establish that as the goal right off the bat, and I communicate that goal to everyone. Our timer gives an average when there are no cars in drive-thru, so on the rare chance that the drive-thru is empty, I call the time out and give everyone feedback on how they’re doing–either positive or negative.

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about the Law of Navigation, which says that only a leader can chart the course. It is up to the leader to chart the course on speed of service. The old axiom holds true: “Whoever fails to plan plans to fail.” You need a solid plan in addition to motivation. You need to chart the course. People need to be placed right, the store needs to be set up right, there needs to be enough food to get you through the rush so that everyone can be assisting customers and helping out with service instead of cooking. These points will be covered in later posts, but they’re worth noting at least for now.

In short, if speed of service is in all you say and do, that will rub off on your people and they will be all about speed, too. Clearly define an appropriate goal. Plan your shift to meet that goal, and set up your store for speed.

P/PC Balance

27 Jul

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey relates the importance of what he refers to as the P/PC Balance.  He uses the fable about the goose who lays the golden egg to illustrate his point.

For those of us that can’t remember that fable, the story goes that a farmer one day discovers that his goose laid a golden egg.  On a whim, he takes it to town to have it appraised, and it turns out that it is solid gold.  He’s rich!  And so it continues–day after day the goose lays just one golden egg.  Eventually, the farmer’s greed gets the better of him, and he kills the goose in order to retrieve all of the eggs at once.  However, he finds the goose empty and now he has killed the only way to produce the eggs in the first place.  So now he is neither rich nor able to get rich.

In this story is a solid truth.  Effectiveness isn’t the amount that you produce (the golden egg), but is a function of what you produce (the egg) and your capacity to produce it (the goose).  It is very important to keep the two in balance.  That is the P/PC Balance: production to production capacity.

Suppose you intend to become a district manager upon taking over your first restaurant.  Your goal is to produce the best service times, the best food cost, and the best bottom line so that the powers that be will notice you.  So you work your people to the point of physical resentment to get the service times, you sell every bit of food in your restaurant, and you don’t purchase anything unless your current DM makes you.

What are the results going to be?  Well, you might get noticed and promoted, but what is your successor going to face?  She will find that turnover is outrageous, no one likes or trusts management, and morale is low.  She will discover that no customer loyalty exists because they are being served poor quality food; which is disastrous in a business that is built on repeat customers.  She will find that all of the equipment needs major overhauls because simple maintenance wasn’t done and parts weren’t purchased.  Production exists, but the capacity is dwindling.

Find the balance and maintain it.  Doing that alone will increase the effectiveness of your management skills tenfold.