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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.

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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.

Habits 1 and 2 of Highly Effective People

25 Jul

The first habit of highly effective people, according to Stephen Covey, is to be proactive.  The second habit is to begin with the end in mind.  If more fast food managers adopted these habits, we wouldn’t have half of the problems with fast food managers that we do.

I first encountered the second habit in the book Lead or Get off the Pot by Pat Croce.  I can’t say that it has always influenced me as much as it should.  It isn’t a habit.  Starting with my next store assignment, I am going to ingrain this habit into my head; I am going to always start a new assignment with what I want to accomplish by the end of the assignment.

In this particular case, it is promotion to the rank of senior manager.  I have a long way to go–senior manager is two levels above my current rank.  It is reserved for folks who are general management material but who have no store yet.  This is a manager who leads in place of the current store’s GM.  The Go-To Guy.  Every step I take from the start of the new assignment will be taken with the goal of senior manager in mind.  In a future post, I’ll break down the vision I have for being a senior manager and offer some commentary on the action steps that I will take.

If only every fast food manager began new assignments with specific goals in mind.  Most, however, begin a new assignment with nothing more in mind than running a few shifts and doing what they are told.  This leads us to the next point: being proactive.

For the food service manager, food prep is the place where being proactive helps out the most.  I’ve noted that most managers, when they show up for work, dive in and start helping to alleviate the rush that is inevitably going on at that moment.  That is a huge mistake.  The first thing that the incoming manager should do is check on all food prep.  At Burger King, I check the salads, bacon, tomatoes, onions, mac & cheese, and all of the kitchen stock levels (burgers, Whoppers, and fried product) when I walk in the door.  If something is low, I mentally note it and look for an opening in the business to fix it.  The second thing to check is the cleanliness of the dining room (which includes the trash) and then the cleanliness of the kitchen.  If something is amiss, send someone to take care of it.  Then I check the back-of-house: the dishes, the trash, and the paperwork.  If all is good, then I start helping clear the rush.

After the rush is clear, it is time to confer with the outgoing manager.  There is usually at least some overlap between management shifts, and communication is the key reason for that overlap.

Instead, how do most fast food managers manage?  They react to problems as they come up instead of identifying potential problems ahead of time and fixing them.  As much as we all might hate to admit this, the flowcharts and checklists put out by the company help a lot with being proactive.  As human beings, we are bound to forget something if we try to go it on our own.  Following these aids to the letter is a sure way to run a smooth shift.