Management Mentality Mistakes

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Motivating servers is a tricky business.  Without question servers crave autonomy and tend to resist being told what to do.  At the same time, managers in general are given very little guidance on what is perhaps the most important part of their jobs.  Two similar restaurants in the same company with the same menu and with the same amount of sales can produce radically different results.  The difference generally boils down to leadership.

Restaurants go to tremendous lengths to train managers on how to control costs, increase profits, and manage the balance sheets.  Very little time is spent on developing skills for leading a staff.    Recruiters look for management skills, but seldom can assess accurately the leadership traits that are effective in a restaurant.  To make matters worse, a manager starting out with the best attitude can lose it after months of the daily rigors of the job wearing them down.   To prevent this it is vital to keep a continuous focus on training for leadership and monitoring the methods a manager is using.

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Sergeants and Generals

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For those of you who do not know me personally, I have a confession to make.  I am a huge history nerd.  This means that The History Channel’s “America: The History of Us” is taking up a large portion on my DVR.  I was watching the episode on World War II the other day when a particular statement from a General caught my attention.  He talked about the reasons soldiers fight.  He said that beyond all other reasons soldiers almost universally fight for the guy in the foxhole with them.

As a server, I can relate to this.  When the entire restaurant goes down in the weeds, you don’t fight through it for the sake of corporation or their shareholders.  You fight through it for your coworkers. You fight through it for those people who are fighting with you.  After the fight it is a bond you share.  There are many former coworkers out there I don’t particularly like as people, but will always respect because of the battles we went through together.  I would lend them a hand when they need it, because I know I could count on them when I need it.

To take the military analogy further, there are two types of managers: Generals and Sergeants.  Generals send you into battle.  Sergeants lead you into battle.  You fight for Sergeants and you curse Generals under your breath the whole time.  Managers who fight with you and for you as Sergeants make you want to fight with and for them.  Managers who command as Generals will find a staff unconcerned with helping them win their battles.

It all comes down to one very simple principle:

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