Archive for February, 2012

Check Yourself | Compound Experience

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Chase LeBlanc KEITH ASKS…
I have been working in restaurants, bars, and hotels for 13 years. I am also completing my MBA in general management. I know the best way to upper management is through time and experience, however, with my degree, how can I leverage my experience and schooling in the business of F&B?

Education, experience, and desire are not enough to achieve “upper management.” You have to leverage all of your experiences into a solid, results-filled record over a period of years. Also, any international experience is becoming a trump card for promotions.

First, develop a clear picture of your dream job and track backwards. Talk to anyone, anywhere in that job and get their download. Ask them questions about what it takes to get there, who might help you on your quest, and whether they’ll make an introduction. Find any association or group of like-minded people and join the conversation. Study the specifics, master the skills, and move in the circles of who you wish to be. You will always have a better shot at any job if you have previously established relationships, with or without the appropriate experience, education, or desire.

Second, get your values in order. We all know life is a series of tradeoffs. When facing an important decision, many advice-dispensers suggest taking a sheet of paper, drawing a line down the middle, and writing at the top of each side pros and cons. Do not use this approach without assigning weighted values to the details. What’s most important to you?

For each individual, all the ingredients that go into the process of decision-making do not carry the same cost or weight. Values lead the leader; spend some time ruminating on your values before you step into the big leagues of management where choices and decisions affect more than yourself.

Third, have you ever heard of compound interest? I suggest that there exists such a thing as compound work experience. Compound work experience provides that as you learn, you automatically increase your chances for advancement. Compound work experience is acquired by (1) working for the best organizations, (2) working for a successful leader-mentor, (3) working where the opportunities for advancement are plentiful, and (4) working where the varieties of experience are bountiful. This is a workplace where you are allowed to challenge yourself and to grow, a place where accepting more responsibility will eventually translate into more money for you, a place that acknowledges/ nurtures your involvement/participation and consistently shows appreciation for your contributions, a place that holds you accountable when you don’t sufficiently contribute, and ultimately, a place that provides a wealth of value to you through means that are not purely financial.

In order to find an opportunity that allows for compound work experience, you must search, assess, and evaluate the trade-offs. This, by the way, is vastly different than conveniently going to the nearest F&B factory and applying for any ol’ job. Take a shot at the job that gets you in the door of the right place with the right people. Look for those savvy business carnivores who crave to maximize your potential.

Chase LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Leadagers, LLC, and is a hospitality management performance coach with more than 25 years of experience. He is also the author of High Impact Hospitality: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!

Leadership is Like Ice Cream

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

The words “leader” and “leadership” used to be widely accepted definitions of person(s) at the very top. Now, they have been widely broadened to reflectively include those who contribute to the process of moving things forward at any level, in any business setting.

 I like to think of it this way, leadership is like ice cream, and the specific business, industry or circumstances are the flavors. It is impossible to use chocolate chip and make it work when pistachio swirl is required, unless you only care about the fact that you used “leadership ice cream” and not about the outcome or how it tastes. Now you know why poor leadership leaves such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The mixing of flavors (or leadership styles/skills) is a creative endeavor, because it has to be. The quest of all leaders, doing the right thing – at the right time – time after time – is not a science; it’s the repetitive capture of quicksilver. An enlightened/contemporary approach demands different leadership tactics for ever-changing circumstances and roles. You can be a lead cook, server or busser (out in-front-modeling the job in a stellar fashion) but that is different than a General Manager, battlefield leader or neighborhood political leader. Hone in on what will work best for your situation, circumstance, and timeframe.

Leadership (at any level) is simply a role. It can be definitive or derivative, but still just one of many roles that are played out within any human enterprise. Management is, in most situations, a job, with an accompanying job description. (Try to find a formal company job description for “leader.”)  Leadership and Management are properly awesome together — like ice cream and a cone but they aren’t the same thing!

In the hospitality industry leadership is sought, recognized and cultivated at all levels. If someone is the best busser/cook/server/bartender they can become a “lead” and leaders at all levels are the lifeblood of any hospitality organization. I am not a top–down leadership school-of-thought adherent, although it has had its place in history.  Enlightened organizations currently seek bottom-up/sideways/criss-cross leadership involvement and engagement. They rotate and align the best people, ideas, practices and future “potentials” to positions out in front.

Present day business environments are shockingly fluid and demanding of skills that previously were not essential requirements. At the top of this skills list is learning on-the-fly and adapting to ever-changing conditions.

How do you develop adroitness, awareness and capacity? With seasoning! How do you accelerate seasoning? Hopefully, with the complete backing of the entire organization toward leadership development, and by accepting that “mistakes” are part of the process. As many have stated before, not pushing your limits to the point of making some mistakes is a mistake, especially when you’re attempting to create engaged leaders at all levels of your organization. Please keep this seasoning logic at the forefront of your mind as you attempt to accomplish one of the major components of any leadership role – identifying and developing future leaders.

 A Quick Sidebar on Seasoning –

Some ol’ school professionals will remember a time when cast-iron cookware was the tool of choice, and all of those pans needed to be seasoned prior to use. There were formal steps that had to be undertaken prior to actually using the pan — a thorough cleaning, heavy coating of the proper oil, and measured heating. Seasoning is/was required in order to make the pans less sticky and to stave off rust.

In other words, formal steps are taken to make them work better and last longer. Might there be an equivalent body/mind/spirit process to accelerate the seasoning of your leaders? Perhaps, accelerated seasoning methodology is something to think about/act upon in your near future. It is, after all, the element most missing in the newly anointed at any level.

Individuals who use their “all,” and use it correctly, have accomplished many a success in business, athletics, and warfare. This, by the way, is the foundational reasoning smart folks use for hiring and promoting people who can draw from demonstrable military, sports, or previous business success.

All business owners/leaders attempt to develop a “strategy” for their business, which simply comes down to the decisions they make to maximize all available resources to gain success, however they define it. If working leaders have had limited life experience, their strategies are usually limited in scope. If you get the chance in life to participate in something that fully challenges you and demands physical and/or maximum mental effort, sign up. This life “seasoning” directly adds value in a business environment.

Leaders, you must try to create the most impactful flavor of leadership (ice cream) that works best for your situation/team and you’re going to have some bad batches along the way. Many of you already have faced the fact that some folks on your team will come up with a “dirt” flavor of team leadership when you asked them for cool-mint. However, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of positive outcomes if you embrace the quest for engaged leadership at all levels as if it were both a business necessity and a creative flavor endeavor.


Waitstaff Training Today for Better Teams Tomorrow

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Guest Blog:
Pencom International

If only training were like climbing Mt.Everest. Once you accomplished it, you’d never have to do it again. Unfortunately, restaurant training is more like exercise. If you don’t do it regularly, it’s difficult to stay in top shape. We all know that, but in our fast-paced restaurant environment, it’s easy to let things that aren’t “on fire” slide. But if you follow a successful waitstaff training routine, you’ll reduce those fires and create a more proactive and productive work environment. In the end, your restaurant team—and your customers—will thank you. Here are a few tips that can make your training more successful:

  • Begin at the beginning. It sounds simple, but most new hires learn how to work the cash register long before they’re ever told about the corporate concept or mission statements. If your operation is committed to ideals, it’s important that your new employees get that information first and are tested on it and its importance. It’s the only way they’ll grow to fit into the environment and team you’ve created.
  • Just do it. Effective restaurant training doesn’t just include structured training sessions or pre-shift meetings. It also includes managers getting in the trenches and improving their knowledge. If you really believe that every team member should help the other—and that every position is important—assign yourself a shift working in an area that’s suffering from turnover, lower morale or just added stress. Come dressed to work and have an assistant manager take care of your regular duties. By actually doing the job—and not just observing it—you’ll show the staff that you understand firsthand their challenges. You’ll also learn what’s not being done properly and after the shift, and you can tailor your training sessions accordingly.
  • Talk the talk. In this business, service and sales go hand-in-hand. In the long run, you can’t accomplish one without the other. It stands to reason, then, that any good restaurant training program will focus on both improving service and increasing sales. If you want to effectively communicate that “everyone is in sales,” then you should be selling yourself. Pass out samples of appetizers to waiting guests, tell them about specials, offer to carry around the dessert tray for busy servers and present the items like they were presented in training. Whatever you’d like your servers and other team members to do, do it yourself and do it well.
  • Reward success. The old adage is true: what gets rewarded gets done. Sure, servers who put their training into action will be rewarded by higher tips and a more enjoyable work experience. But it’s up to you to give all your servers the extra motivation they need to apply what you’ve taught them. If you’re focusing on sales increases of a particular item, or a general improvement in average sales, set clear and attainable goals, recognize achievements, and reward winners. 

Remember, training is a process, not an event. Train every day, and recognize and reward expected behavior every day, too. 

© Pencom International, used with permission. Pencom International is a leader in restaurant management and waitstaff training solutions and publisher of Service That Sells! The Art of Profitable Hospitality, the best-selling book in foodservice history! Developed by successful restaurant owners and managers, the Service That Sells! product line of books, DVDs and workbooks has been helping restaurants improve service and increase sales for decades.