Much of the following can be applied to almost any industry. In this article though I’ll use the restaurant and hospitality industry as an example, as it is one in which the lessons are particularly pertinent.
Your value to your brand as a leader in the restaurant and hospitality industry is derived from your ability to manage various metrics that contribute to excellence in service and profitability of the venue. These metrics include but are not limited to costs for food and labour, and table turnover. Staff engagement and training, and production efficiency also form part of your commercial brief. All of these are areas you are expected to manage and monitor, and improve!
Note above that I have not said you are responsible for managing the staff, but you are responsible for staff engagement and training. Some restaurant managers believe that they are responsible for the day to day management of the personnel; however effective managers know that their brief is to manage processes and things and to lead the people in their charge.
Leadership attributes are becoming increasingly desired; Masters in Public Administration and other educational degrees have now become leadership focused to satisfy this need. The following points offer some important traits of good leadership that every manager who seeks to improve themselves, their people and their venue should master:
1. BE STEADFASTLY COURAGOUS – A leader’s courage is based upon their knowledge of their subject matter, confidence in their abilities, and understanding of their functional role within the venue. You will find that the venue personnel will not tolerate being told what to do by a manager who does not possess self-confidence and courage. Employees are intelligent and will cease to follow such a leader, even work against a weak leader, quite rapidly.
2. ALWAYS MAINTAIN SELF-CONTROL – A restaurant manager must always be in control of his/her actions, especially in pressure filled situations. Without self-control you cannot hope to lead your staff effectively. Good self-control sets a shining example for your personnel and you will find that they will start to emulate you. This is a case of do as I say AND do as I do!
3. BE CONSISTENTLY FAIR & JUST – All employees expect to be treated fairly. If they do not have a sense that their treatment, indeed the treatment of the staff generally, is measured, fair, and just they will not pay you the respect you need to be able to lead through either difficult or good times. Good restaurants will have an operational manual and policy handbook for personnel. The policy handbook provides you with a reference guide that is known to the employees what they may expect when an infraction occurs.
The policy handbook will be helpful in maintaining consistency in respect of the consequences of unacceptable behaviours, and consistency is the key. Also remember that an effective leader must not ever play favourites. At the same time, you will forge relationships that could lead to the perception of favouritism. If the need arises to redress an infraction with someone where the perception of favouritism is likely, be on your guard to also not over react in a kind of affirmative action in an attempt to set an example that you are not playing favourites. If you do you will weaken your powerbase and circle of influence even more .
4. CLEAR AND DECISIVE DECISION MAKING – The restaurant manager who is unable to take decisions and wavers when a decision is required broadcasts to the staff that he or she is not sure of themself. Such a manager will find it challenging to obtain buy-in from his staff. Be clear, be decisive, take a decision and stick with it. You may not always make the correct decision, but you will be respected for your strength of character in taking the decision without hesitation and following through. Staff who smell weakness will quickly lose respect and an indecisive approach will lose you respect very quickly. If your motto is ‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure’ then be a follower and don’t aspire to leading.
5. EFFECTIVE PLANNING – You’ve probably heard the famous quote “The failure to plan is planning to fail. “. Although this is attributed to a great many people it is originally from Joe Paterno, a famous American football coach born in 1926. Any leader wishing to succeed in his role of restaurant manager must plan his work, and then work his plan. A restaurant manager who works reactively and predominantly by guesswork (most of the time delusional and calling it instinctively) without practical and definite plans, is comparable to a plane without landing gear. It will land but the result will be everything from bumpy to disastrous and fatal. Every restaurant should use systems that assist and structure the planning process.
6. OVER DELIVER ON EXPECTATIONS – A good leader will always lead by example. People don’t care as much about what you say as they care about what you do and how you go about doing it. A leader must be willing to do more than he demands of his staff if and when required. As a restaurant manager you must you be able to manage staff training on top of being able to step into and perform any of the functions in the restaurant, at least to an adequate level. This is different to some industries where the leader can remain above the operational aspects of the business but in a restaurant or hotel the leader must be able to lead by example and assist when necessary.
7. PLEASANT DEMEANOUR – Being rude and overbearing is not a quality or trait anyone should have at the best of times. As a restaurant manager this type of behaviour will contribute to your failing quite rapidly. Leadership demands respect, both of others and of you. Staff will not respect a leader who does conduct himself in a socially acceptable manner and exhibiting a pleasant personality.
8. BE FIRM BUT BE EMPATHETIC AND UNDERSTANDING – If you wish to be successful as a restaurant manager you must have empathy for your staff. How your personnel perform has a lot to do with the success of the restaurant. A leader must understand his people and their problems; if necessary he/she must also be ready to come to their rescue, for example with a difficult guest. Remember the guest is always right, except on those occasions when they are WRONG. As their leader there will be times when you must step in and defend your staff. A good leader will recognise such occasions.
9. ATTENTION TO DETAIL – The successful leader of a restaurant must pay attention to detail and more to the point have a keen eye for it. In the restaurant and hotel industry, perhaps more than any other, it is important for you (and your staff for that matter) to see the restaurant through the eyes of the guests. You as the leader also need to see the restaurant through the eyes of your staff. Remain vigilant and look for ways you can both improve the guest’s experience and make the functions and roles for your staff easier to perform.
10. THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU – ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY – To be successful as a restaurant manager you must assume full responsibility for the mistakes and the shortcomings of your staff. Do not try to move responsibility or you will very rapidly be deposed as leader either actually or effectively as you will lose the respect of the people working for you. If one of your followers does make a mistake and/or shows himself to be incompetent, as the leader you must consider how you can prevent the situation from happening again. This is of course referring to genuine mistakes and not wilful acts with malicious intent.
11. COOPERATION IS KEY– A good leader is in service of his people. You have probably heard this before but may not be quite sure what to make of it. If you think the concept is rubbish then you are probably not yet ready to lead. A successful restaurant leader understands the principle of cooperation and applies this consistently. He uses cooperation as part of his standard operating procedure and through his example causes his followers do the same willingly.
Do not confuse cooperation with weak command and control. On the contrary, a leader who is a strong commander and in control of his people will have the cooperation of his people without force. A weak leader will only ever gain cooperation begrudgingly.
As a restaurant manager you should continue to invest in yourself and attend leadership training and leadership development courses. There are many great courses to take including from Dale Carnegie Institute and Franklin Covey as well as a large number of more boutique training programmes offered by exceptional individuals. Look in your city and I am sure you will find them. These course and continued education will prove invaluable to your effectiveness as a leader. If you are serious about developing yourself as a leader, whether to continue in the restaurant and hotel industry or to branch out into other industries, consider also finding yourself a good mentor and/or coach to be a guiding light and to assist you with your career path.
Although the above list is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is it, it provides a solid basis on which you can successfully develop your own style of leadership as a restaurant manager that your staff will respect and follow. If you do not have the ability to lead, you will rapidly discover that there is no one following you. As my grandfather used to say, if you are leading but there nobody is following, we call that taking a hike.
I trust this has been valuable.