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The Manager's Mistake

How Managers Forget They Are Leaders

Managers are, in fact, leaders and should focus first on leading their crew and staff before managing their business. As a former US Army JROTC cadet, I was taught how to lead and how to optimize the resource of manpower. Of course, in my current career of business management, managers often forget to lead their staff and instead focus on the business aspects; profits, marketing, and inventory management. 

While the business of a business is vitally important, the correct leadership of the staff and lower management should be viewed as the largest tool in achieving your business goals, a fact that is often forgotten by the manager. My favorite example of this is actually within the food industry.

Every restaurant manager knows the importance of their food cost: the metric that is determined by the restaurant's waste, over-portioning, and theft. The manager can spend hours analyzing their inventory, calculating their loss, and projecting for the following week, but if they want to impact their food cost, they need to lead their staff. 

Many managers, would assume this means reminders of responsibility, threats of "write-ups," promise of reward, and/or re-training of staff; however, the answer is far more simple. But to understand, first we have to define what a "Leader" is. In Army JROTC, a leader is a defined as a person who motivates a person or group to perform a task. The key here is the word motivates; as a leader you have to motivate your staff to achieve your goals. There are quite a few ways to do that and we will return to our example to test them out. 

So you are the manager and you want to decrease your weekly food cost within your restaurant. First, you need to organize your management team. Start by explaining to them the importance of the task, using terms such as "Paramount," "Vital," and "Grave." Then provide guidance on what actions you need them to take. Whenever possible, reinforce that this is a team effort and that you are excited to tackle the issue with them. Your managers should not often be threatened as they should be your most efficient, loyal, and trustworthy staff. Instead, use the promise of reward, setting achievable goals for the team to work toward. Some good examples could be: X% food cost reduction by end of period, X% waste reduction by end of week, or all cooks retrained in proper cooking procedures by end of week. Now, with the management team properly deputized, it is time to motivate your regular staff. 

This process is actually similar to the process above except each manager should take the time to discuss and explain food cost is to each employee either in group setting or individually, depending on the businesses needs. A conversation may go something like this: 

"Good Afternoon John, I just wanted to touch base with you and go over some things we learned in our recent manager meeting. Our store focus this week is going to be on food cost, which is how we determine how much food we are wasting every day. As a cook, you are vitally important to the success of the team in this area; some things you could do to affect change and earn some reward include following proper cooking procedures and not cooking too much food at once. This week I am going to help you perfect your techniques, and hopefully by week end, we can achieve the goals that have been set down for us. Once we retrain our staff, expectations will be set and write-ups could be distributed based on poor performance. I doubt you'll ever get one because I know how easy this will be for you."

That chunk of text, while long, quite elegantly touches all the bases: checking all the boxes that the manager meeting set for the management team in a more condensed manner. Take note that the manager did not threaten the employee with a write-up, but did reinforce that punishment could be a result of not following through. The manager also made sure to express their confidence in the employee, leaving the employee with a positive view of the change and also a notable level of respect for the manager. 

Respect is actually one of the leader's greatest tools; if your staff doesn't respect you, then they don't respect your decisions, and they don't respect your commands. If the staff in the example doesn't respect the manager, then they will perform the minimum expectation and cut corners whenever the managers aren't watching, undermining all the work the managers are doing. However, if the staff respects the manager, then they will feel guilt when they make mistakes and follow the requests of their manager even when he/she isn't looking.

What I have seen often is managers forgetting they are, in fact, leaders. They expect the staff to lead themselves, they express goals but give no direction, they set expectations but fail to give out the tools, they cycle through staff like a revolving door because they live with the expectation that eventually an employee will walk through the doors perfect when the reality is that the employee will often come in greatly flawed, and it is their job as a leader to motivate them to better themselves, and in doing so, the business. Managers are, in fact, leaders, and as obvious as that statement sounds, in practice it is much, much more complicated. 

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The Manager's Mistake
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