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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.

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.