Managing a working restaurant is hard.
There are a lot of moving parts that must come together just right in order to pull off a successful shift. Add in the stress created by a couple missed orders or irate customers and the goal of making every guest full and happy seems pretty daunting indeed. It can be especially frustrating for a restaurant manager when poor employee performance contributes to the general stress of the job. Worse yet, it only takes one mistake by an employee to trigger a long night of damage control.
It’s only natural that managers expect and demand a lot from their staff. All too often, however, those expectations aren’t met. And despite all the shortcomings the staff might have, poor performance is usually a symptom of poor management.
That’s right, it’s your fault.
- You don’t compliment your staff enough. Oh, they sure hear it from you up, down, left and right when they screw up. They get detailed feedback about exactly what they did wrong, why it was wrong and how it should never happen again. And no, “good job” isn’t enough. Detailed, positive feedback is an important way to keep your staff motivated and engaged. It also makes your negative feedback more effective, because when someone is used to hearing good things from you they pay attention when you have a bone to pick. A constant stream of negativity just causes your staff to tune you out.
- You micromanage. A common mistake made by managers everywhere is to combat lagging employee performance by personally making sure every detail is done right. Unfortunately, this only makes the problem worse. This is because when you take responsibility away from your staff they check out mentally – you’re just going to check everything they do anyway – and that means your job gets harder and harder while performance continues to plummet. Do what Nick’s Pizza does and “trust and check” with your employees. That means leaving your employees to do their job and then having several layers of quality control spread out among several people. The nice thing about trusting your employees to do their job, besides getting more out of your staff, is that you’ll also have more time to focus on more important tasks.
- You apply standards unevenly. Setting expectations is one of the most basic and important functions of being a manager. However, just because you say things should be one way doesn’t mean anything if your staff sees things done differently in practice. Here’s a good example: all servers are required to do side work – pretty standard, right? Ever seen a “star” server – and every restaurant has one – skimp on their side work because they’re tight with the boss? Of course you have. Every manager has favorites. Sometimes you just connect with someone personally. More often you recognize a hard worker who does their job well and you do what you can to try and keep that person around. But when you allow that employee to come in a little late, leave a little early, and skimp on side work, you breed distrust with the rest of the staff. Soon everyone’s performance is lagging – your star because they’re developing a sense of entitlement and the rest of your employees because they resent the star. And it’s all your fault.
- You don’t live up to your own standards. Leading by example is a classic lesson in management, but chances are you’re not setting a good enough example for your employees. That’s because it’s far too easy to fall into this trap: “I work very hard, have a lot of responsibilities, and therefore I deserve to do things my way.” Unfortunately for you, if there’s anyone in the restaurant that must follow every rule and expectation to the letter, it’s you. That’s because when employees see you ducking out early on a Friday night to spend some more time with your kids, they don’t care what your reasons are. All they see are rules being broken by the people who set them. And nothing makes your staff want to break rules themselves like hypocritical managers.
- You don’t have a clear, transparent path for advancement. With all the stress and work that comes from being a manager, it might surprise you that someone below you might actually want to be like you someday. If you’re like a lot of small business owners then promoting your replacements is the last thing on your mind. But without a clear path for advancement your best employees are eventually going to look elsewhere, and that’s going to cost you. Even worse, when you have no clearly defined standards, the people with the most tenure tend to get promoted by default, and that doesn’t mean the best, most motivated person got the job. Nothing is worse for employee performance than dealing with a mid or low level manager whose only qualification is having logged the most days as an employee.
- You don’t empathize. Em • pa • thy noun – the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. Every single one of your employees has a strong opinion about their job. There are things that annoy them, motivate them, make them angry, make them laugh, etc. As a manager, sitting in your ivory tower, it can be very easy to lose touch with what your staff actually goes through on a day-to-day basis. Sure, you’ve been in the business for years, and you might have even worked your way up from dishwasher to get where you are today. That doesn’t mean you know what your dishwasher goes through every day in your restaurant. His experience is totally different. Unless you take the time to really understand every employee’s situation, you won’t be able to truly connect with them, and that means eventually you’re going to do something that comes across as clueless. Every manager has done it. And unless you understand each employee’s plight you’re doomed to do it over and over again.
Being a restaurant manager is a tough job, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks right? (sarcastic smile) On the other hand, strong, consistent leadership can make your job one of the most rewarding things you do in life, and your restaurant successful to boot. So the next time you see employee performance faltering, look in the mirror before you start spreading blame around. 9 time out of 10 the reason is staring right back at you.