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.

Fast Food Management for Dummies a Reality?

22 Jun

FFMFD coverI have decided to put together a book proposal for Fast Food Management for Dummies and send it to Wiley Publishing. This is based on the incredible support that I’ve had in the polls on this site.

Fast Food Management for Dummies was a clear winning idea, as over 90% of you indicated that you would purchase the title if it were available. The One Minute McManager isn’t selling as well, so I might have to save that for later.

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.

Another Poll

18 Oct

Speed of Service 6: Execute Speedy Procedures

18 Oct

Are you a fast food manager who has to reduce his speed of service? Of course you are; we all are. Everyone is under immense pressure from above to reduce service times. My latest series of posts has been over how to do just that. The sixth and final tip is the most obvious one: execute speedy procedures. This is a complex way of saying: MOVE FASTER.

Take a moment to watch what your crew is doing in the drive thru and other areas of the store that directly affect drive-thru. Are they moving as fast as they could? If not, then as their manager, it is up to you to move them along faster.

Start with how an order is taken. The greeting (if you don’t have an automatic greeter) should be quick and to the point. I favor “Hi, may I take your order?” Simple and direct. Of course, corporate may want you to advertise products in your greeting, so you may not have any control over what you say.

Second, does the cashier urge the customer along politely? If we let them, many of our customers would take all day to order. I had someone on Wednesday take ten minutes to order her food–no joke! Fortunately, that was at front register, but we can’t let our customers do a similar move in drive-thru. To that end, the cashier should be in control of the flow of the order, not the customer. For example, instead of, “What kind of drink would you like with your value meal?” ask “Would you like a Coke (or Pepsi) with that?” Close-ended questions help drive-thru speed while open-ended ones invite a lot of thought.

Always assume the medium size when none is specified. Learning that trick has saved me so many seconds in drive-thru it is unbelievable.

Third, is your kitchen listening to the order as it is being taken and reacting to the order? Menu items that are seldom ordered are not in easy reach. Is someone immediately setting those items up when they are ordered?

Fourth, is your drive-thru cashier multitasking? This is extremely important and can’t be stressed enough. No one is going to survive in drive-thru if they can’t get drinks at the same time as someone is talking. That is the minimum multitasking that someone must do. The really good ones will be able to take an order and talk to someone at the window at the same time. I have a cashier who can take an order, talk to a customer, get all of the drinks, and text her friends on her phone–all without missing a beat. That’s multitasking! You won’t find many like that, so hold on to the ones that you do find.

Fifth, is your cashier repeating the order back each time? This is a cardinal sin in the fast-paced world of drive-thru. Never repeat an order back unless there is some question of accuracy or the customer requests it. We all know that most of the time the customer doesn’t remember what he just ordered, so there is little point to repeating it unless he requests it. While multitasking, it is possible that something got missed, but usually the cashier has a gut feeling that is the case, and then should repeat back the order just to be sure. But repeating the order should be a rarity. If a cashier is repeating a majority of the orders back because of a question of accuracy, then that person isn’t a drive-thru cashier and should be moved.

Are your people moving as fast as they could be? Probably not. Diagnose the problems at each position and clear up the bottlenecks, and you’ll have a faster team and much lower drive-thru times.

Speed of Service 5: Use Enough Headsets

17 Oct

No matter what, your superiors will always ask for faster service. So I’ve been been blogging my best tips for reducing speed of service. Tip five is pretty straightforward: Use enough drive-thru headsets.

In a perfect world, the drive-thru attendant, the cash collector, the entire drive-thru side of the kitchen, the manager, the fry person, and the expediter will all be wearing headsets. That comes to about seven headsets, which of course I’m sure that no store actually has all seven headsets functional at the same time. Five should work, so the manager, both drive-thru attendants, the fry person and one of the kitchen staffers will each have one.

Headsets are good for more than just listening to customers. Headsets are invaluable to communicate between team members. This minimizes shouting across the store. I know as a manager many times I’ve given people directions over the headsets. If anyone walks away from his station to get something, he knows immediately if there is an order and that he must return. No searching for him or having to have someone temporarily step into his position.

In short, for listening to orders and in-store communication, having enough drive-thru headsets available is very important.

Quick Poll

16 Oct

Speed of Service 4: Stock Enough Product

16 Oct

Every manager of fast food is faced with the question of reducing his service time at some point. It is never fast enough for the big wigs. So I’ve been blogging some of my tips for decreasing speed of service. The fourth tip is to stock enough product.

This may seem elementary, but it is shocking just how many new managers don’t think to make sure that the store is stocked for a rush. It is important to check the kitchen area to insure that you have enough meat and fried products to survive at least what sales are projected for the peak rush. This way no one has to stop and cook additional product; everyone can focus solely on the customers.

It doesn’t stop at just product. Make sure that there are enough condiments and supplies in the drive-thru. Make sure that you have enough straws, ketchup packets, cups, lids, cash, rolled coin, and receipt tape on hand. Make sure that your pop dispensers are full. Make sure your CO2 tank has enough in it. Make sure that your shake mix is full. Make sure that you have enough bags, sauces, napkins, and fry cartons, too.

If at all possible, make sure that no one has to leave their station for anything during peak lunch and peak dinner. This will insure the best possible service to your customers, and the fastest possible service. That wins loyal customers and generates positive word of mouth faster than anything else you can do.

Speed of Service 3: Right Number of People in the Right Place at the Right Time

15 Oct

The third point to better speed of service is to have the right number of people in the right place at the right time. This begins with a properly done crew schedule, and ends with the manager on duty positioning his people correctly.

A properly done crew schedule is more than just putting names on the page. It considers the sales projections carefully as well as the abilities of the people. Nothing hurts worse than having no one that knows cash register or (worse!) having all cashiers and no one that knows how to make food! The sales projections will help with getting the right number of people for the sales volume. The schedule maker must then determine who to put at that particular time.

The manager on duty must then, with the people given him, make the determination of who to put where. Most places provide a chart that helps you determine where to put people based on the number of people and projected sales volume.

The challenge now becomes keeping the people organized in the assigned positions, because most people don’t like being confined to just one spot for very long. Especially if there’s downtime. But it’s essential to have the people ready to serve the customers. Precious seconds can be lost waiting for someone to return to his position or having to fill that position to the neglect of another.

Keeping people organized is the hardest, but most essential part, of this job.