Leadership is Like Ice Cream | Revisiting a Favorite Blog

The words “leader” and “leadership” used to be widely accepted terms used to describe a person(s) formally working at the top of any type of organization. Nowadays, these words are frequently used more broadly to include those individuals who contribute to the process of moving things forward at any level in any business setting.

ice creamLeader is a “role” not a job, and you can be plucked from a pile, groomed, bubble-up naturally, force-fed into it or, quite literally, be the last one standing. Leadership is brought into “play” when one is influencing, guiding, and impacting others. Leadership can be top-down, bottom-up, or sideways, and no matter the scope or style, great leadership exists on small, medium, and large scales.

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.

Leadership (at any level) is simply a role like “good-cop/bad-cop” or “keeper-of-the-flame.” It can be definitive or derivative, but still just one of many roles that are played out within any human enterprise.

For me, the beginning, middle and end of leadership is simply the business of flag flying. I’m using “flag flying” as a metaphor for the “things” you represent/provide when one is “in the role” of “being” a leader. I use the example of flag flying because most people can “see” that throughout history, individuals and groups have followed flags, pledged to flags and died for flags.

It has been my experience (in business) that many underestimate the power of “how they are” – which in most cases is equally important to “what they do.” When leaders fly “flags” with clearly depicted “stars & stripes” of past success (competence, elevation & completion and/or consciousness, character & conditions) as representatives of future success, they simply fly higher and are more magnetic than the norm.

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Leadership Gets the Sugar

SugarBetween management and leadership, leadership always gets the sugar. “Great leaders” are publicized and romanticized as their reputations grow oversized.

Let me take a moment to explain why leadership gets all the sugar. In the sporting world, you have certainly heard the glum billionaire owner offer up the excuse of a “lack of leadership in the locker room” after highly paid talent performed poorly on the field of play. What’s up with that? World-class talent, a quad-million dollar paycheck, and a rich tradition—and they can’t do it by themselves?

Bad Team + Great Leader = Better Team

Bad School + Great Leader = Better School

Bad Store + Great Leader = Better Store

Great leadership can quicken the transformation from losers to winners, no matter how you keep score. Great leadership shines a light that can invigorate or rejuvenate. Great leadership can wipe away today’s pain or panic by focusing efforts toward a better tomorrow. Great leadership can bend steel. Hardened hearts that have been hammered to steel by heartbreak are pried open with great leadership. Great leaders get more sugar (money, power, respect, better jobs) because they bring forth the best chance to achieve success from plans, hopes, and dreams.

Truthfully, not all companies want their managers to be great leaders—it depends on the leadership of the company—and not all managers can be great leaders. Some managers might outright dismiss the extra effort and awareness that is required to realize the ultimate combo-platter. But take a moment and think of the scope of your hospitality/service management job. It likely includes driving sales; controlling costs; meeting or exceeding standards; doling out rewards and punishments; communicating up, down, and across; and serving and protecting the organization, among other things. As such, you need to be part shaman-ambassador-coach-­maintenance worker-camp counselor-traffic cop, or better yet, all leader-manager. I prefer the term leadager, an excellent manager who is an excellent leader, further detailed as not one at the expense of the other but doing both well.

 

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Reality

I have a relative in her 80’s. We had a chance to talk for an hour the other day. She
was totally amazed by some of my (restaurant) stories and I with her’s.

  • She had never operated a business
  • She had never hired or fired anyone
  • She never had to make a bottom or top line shine
  • She never crawled under an ice machine
  • She never unplugged a public toilet
  • College was her 5th option
  • She had never stopped a bar fight
  • “86’d” was never in her vocabulary
  • “You-bet-your-boots” has never been in my vocabulary
  • I have never gone to night school while working a full-time job
  • I have never served as a nurse
  • I have never raised livestock nor brought it to market
  • I have never shot a coyote
  • I didn’t have to continue anything after my husband died
  • My children have not all graduated from college
  • My house is not completely paid for

In my job, I have met thousands, upon thousands of people and maybe 15 would come to my funeral – she has met a few hundred in her life. I’ll bet, if they could, all of them would come to her’s…

As a leader, your job is and always will be building bridges to the shared time. Never underestimate the available resource of different
life experiences.

As a manager, your job consists of a multitude of dull, mundane routines, but there is admirable beauty in the brick-by-brick building of confidence and excellence – Never underestimate the proven outsized rewards of determination and diligence.

As a human, your life is made easier if you can connect the spirit of any work at hand – to the indomitable spirit of humankind.

You Might Be a Restaurant Epic Failure If…

With all due respect to the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy and his classic riffs on “You might be a redneck if…”, I’m helping myself to a new theme that is a little closer to home –

You might be a restaurant epic failure if… (I’ve personally experienced all of these epic failures in the past 6 months.)

  • Lights or letters in your outside signage are broken for weeks on end
  • Without speaking a word of greeting, your host turns heel, grabs menus, proceeds across the room and exasperatingly gesticulates for the guests to “get-a-move-on-it”
  • You serve any “food” item that rests on a coagulating pool of iridescent orange grease
  • The servers use oven mitts instead of chargers to deliver hot plates, and the mitts look like they have just come from a farm and were used during delivery of breeched calves
  • You commence  uninterrupted power vacuuming of the entire dining area at 6PM oblivious to the dining guests outright rejection of the undertaking
  • Your “seasonal” Christmas decorations are up in July and/or your Fourth of July decorations are up in December
  • You undermine parental responsibilities by pushing soda pop sales on children who are clearly satisfied with water or milk
  • Your uniforms indicate in any way, shape or form that the servers are prepared to clean a carwash or change engine oil
  • When hope is fading for distraught parents who are trying to survive a toddler semi-meltdown and who inquire if you have some crackers to stem the tide – you say “Sure, but I’ll have ta charge ya…”
  • Your training is so thorough that when an item is ordered off your printed menu the server’s response is to throw a sideways glance at the guest, snap their gum and challenge back with a “We have that…?”
  • Your manager’s “back up” of the service staff includes tossing a stack of napkins toward the six year old at a table with four adults to meet the simple request of a few more
  • You have more unbussed tables than you have tables
  • It seems oddly alien, foreign and weird in your culture to do a table/guest check-back
  • You would rather have an impacted molar pulled out with rusty pliers by a tweeker than say “thank you” to your customers
  • Your bathroom looks or smells like the apocalypse
  • The knowledge you possess with regard to guest expectations/satisfaction could be contained within a thimble
  • Your parking lot is empty when your competitor’s is full

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The Daydream of a F&B Five-Tool Player

Summer is flying by. MLB has just completed its All-Star game and baseball, like any well run sport or business, loves statistics. Baseball (at all levels) takes a very serious (fanatical?) approach when tracking, measuring and quantifying. In baseball you’ll find categories for RBI, HR, BA, ERA, Saves, Wins and many other metrics of the game.  If you’re in the food and beverage business you’d be well served to watch (like a hawk) your ROI, ROA, EBITDA, SpSqF, Comps, “Saves”, “Wins”, and other business metrics.

In baseball, I’ve always been most intrigued by the rarity of a “five-tool” player. A “five-tool” player is thought to excel in all the skills necessary to become an elite player. As you might imagine these skills include hitting prowess (which some measure as “on base percentage” plus “slugging” or “OPS”), base-running and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities. In each era of MLB, there seems to be only a handful of players recognized as processing all “five tools.”

It can certainly be stated that by the time a baseball player has arrived at the professional level, they have spent years practicing, being coached and playing in a multitude of actual games, all in an attempt to become more skilled at the above mentioned five “necessities,” but only a few are ever acknowledged as being complete “five-tool” players. It would seem that desire, dedication, fate and DNA all play a role in this designation.

The professional game of baseball would not survive if there was absolute dependence upon “five-tool” players. The game of baseball understands that they are going to have to “make-a-go-of-it” with “four, three or two-tool” players. Depending upon team needs, players that can catch and hit but can’t run, or who possesses any of the various shortfall combinations could still survive and thrive in the “bigs.”  

All of the above – brings a few quick questions to my mind for those in F&B.

1)      Have you ever defined what “five-tool” skills a “top player” (AKA manager) would need to be supremely successful in your organization? If you could draft and track the five essential management skills necessary for success or that you deem most important, what would they be?

2)      Have you developed your “farm system” to the point where your managers (AKA top players) are able to practice skill development, over and over again, before they get to the major leagues? As this is what has been proven over and over again to be the successful approach to professional level skill development.

3)      Have you come to terms with the fact that “five-tool” players and managers are rarer than hen’s teeth, and that you might have to adjust your “game” (systems and support) to acknowledge and thrive in this baseball and business reality?

Daydreaming is not necessarily a bad thing, but when historical facts present themselves – you might be best served by an awakening.

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Engagement Buttons: Pressing Players to Invest and Excel

J.B.S. ASKS…
How do I improve a manager from merely collecting his paycheck to making him or her truly invested in the organization’s success?THE STAFFING DOCTOR ANSWERS…
“Engagement” is a hot topic. It’s a new way of saying, “How do we get them to plug in and fully apply themselves?” The answer is as old as humankind: it’s accomplished through relationship building, and if you’re looking for “proof of life” of that concept, look no further than the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. People want to be plugged in.

The shortcut to improvement is to overcompensate for past shortcomings with Growth, Recognition, and Trust. According to many experts, these are the three bedrocks of employee engagement. Become fiendish about offering professional growth opportunities, provide oversized recognition programs, and transform yourself into the most trustworthy (from within and without) organization in the industry.

If you are looking to improve your manager engagement ratios and you can’t swallow the Big Three in one bite, then take a Vegas approach and increase the odds in favor of the house. In our current world of apps and clicks, you’re not just after job performance; you’ll also need to seize attention and interest. Sorry, but a rule book, time clock, good intentions, and paycheck are not enough to produce riveting engagement. Your odds of engagement success increase with every point of easy participation that you create into the collective/us rather than the individual/you. You need engagement “Easy” buttons.

Here are a few basic questions to get you headed in that direction. Do you have an on-boarding video of the perfect customer/guest experience from start to finish (clear wins for managers from the start)? Are you offering managers subsidies/scholarships toward professional grades/ designations? Have you leveraged your manager crowd-sorcery into “Scout Troops” (Talent Scouts to find fresh talent, Menu Scouts to find new menu items, Idea Scouts to push innovation, Safety Scouts to help reduce accidents, etc.)? Do you have an “Easy” app for at-large volunteerism? Might it be time for an internally facing Manager Concierge, answering questions/ fielding concerns/at-the-ready with helpful in-house navigation?

All in all, if you seek to increase manager engagement, you must create “Easy Us” participation points that engage the Body, Mind, and Spirit of your managers. Come to think of it, you might not want to leave anybody out of that invitation.

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!

http://www.hotelfandb.com/biol/may-jun2012-staffing-doctor-engagement-buttons.asp

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Grinding Toward Green: Getting staff to buy in and jump in

Chase LeBlanc R.L. ASKS…
How should I go about training green kitchen practices to stubborn, entrenched kitchen staff?

THE STAFFING DOCTOR ANSWERS…
The most basic mistake that fast-moving organizations make over and over again is starting a discussion about proposed organizational changes (of any kind) by asking, “How do we get them to do X?” Ideally, you should begin to approach systemic change with the question “How do we get them to want to do X?” which is also known as creating easy workflow.The first step to answering that question is to ask the constituency. Gather all the facts and figures that make the best case for the proposed changes and have a meeting with the kitchen leaders/forepersons/ defacto leaders or the whole traveling gypsy kitchen band and frame the problem in the following manner: “We have to climb up this green mountain together.”

Contrary to the usual approach, leave out the part where you dictate the “proper” path. In the beginning of a change cycle, you will be far better served by asking for suggestions and allowing for group wisdom, experience, and skills to build a path forward. This frames the desired outcome as “our” problem, not “your” problem.

See what suggestions they might have on the best path to get to where you’d like to be. Maybe they have been waiting for someone to ask them to open up about going green and they’ll have tons of ideas, or maybe your effort will just be met with stone silence. No matter, kick the whole thing off with a nondirective- infected conversation. If you invite ideas and participation in the planning stages, it will almost always be met with a warmer welcome than simply telling employees how it’s going to be.

Eliminating input from those who do the work greatly diminishes your chance for buy-in and, in reality, any chance for the team to personally self-identify with the coming changes (“Hey, we thought of that…”).

Secondly, you have to grease the skids. After all of the priorities, standards, and procedures have been decided, it is imperative that you provide the training, support, and tools to do the job (in the new fashion) correctly. How will you make it easier to follow the transition? Of course, incentives will help if uniformly applied, but most folks wish to do the job right.

Clarity in a fast-paced, everchanging environment can be hard to come by. If you wish to enable a smooth transition from where you are to where you’d like to be, paint a clear picture of what a “win” looks like in the new phase, why it matters, how much the efforts of the contributors count toward success of the program, and the compelling logic of doing the new procedures within the new priorities paradigm.

I know that while many organizations and individuals will balk at the above suggestions and have a list of reasons why it’s not practical for their situation, ANYTHING that narrows the gap between “us” and “them” increases your chances of realizing your green dream change objectives.

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!

 

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The Voice of “The Experience” by The Experienced Voice

It was a regular day and I was going to stop at the local, newly remodeled King Soopers (A Kroger grocery store) to pick up some items. Now this was early in the morning and, by nature, the night crew is winding down and the day crew is winding up. I like to grocery shop really early to avoid the crowds, but this places me squarely in the employee performance twilight zone. This store has recently spent a ton of money reinstalling a licensed Starbucks outlet with its own entrance and nicely sized patio. So nice in fact that all eyes are drawn to the Starbucks redesign every time you pull into the parking lot.

And, here lies our problem. There is a rather large NO SMOKING sign placed on the front façade of the patio – large enough to be seen from 50 feet away – that indicates the forbidden practice of smoking on the patio. And yet, my regular first impression of the store is always the employees on their smoke break standing 15 feet from the sign. They could reach out and touch the patio railing (forbidden zone) as their cigarette smoke wafts over the entire area and if the wind is right, all the way to the front door of the grocery store.

I’m not a lightweight when it comes to tolerance of others habits, and I have dutifully worked in more than my share of secondhand smoke workplaces, but times have changed. It is CRAZY for any business to contemplate that any paying customer would like to be hit with cigarette smoke as a first impression, much less allow it. And it is also rather ludicrous to think that any paying customer would care to observe the smoking members of  your  team hanging-out,  out front.

Go now and get your union agreements, workplace laws, designated break areas and security procedures realigned. This may be a complicated fix in your eyes, but it is well worth the “brand” enhancement and professional image elevation.

Allowing your employees to smoke next to a NO SMOKING sign at the front of the store – Come ‘on – you’re better than that.

I live a regular life. No one is shopping for me. No one drives me around. I go out, like most folks do and I experience things like most folks do. The difference is – I know what it takes to create great customer service and quite frankly, many in business don’t seem to have a clue about how to create more than a transaction.

So, from now on – I’m going to write about my experience with your customer service – the good, the bad and the really ugly. I’ll be covering what happened to me and what should have happened if it went off the rails. Hopefully, somewhere, somehow this will provide a launching pad for positive change.

 

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Inside Scoop – Being Wrong the Right Way

And now…I will shed some light on a not so little secret of organizational life. There are some over-eager beavers who deftly scramble up the political and positional ladder seemingly salivating at the prospect of power. Their mastery of corporate gamesman/woman-ship does not guarantee that they are the “sharpest knives in the drawer.” All too often, my experience has shown that if you were to strip away their job title, many lack the influence or substance for making critical decisions.

Ironically, at times it is the awkward foot-draggers who are more capable of making good decisions, but are unwilling to be pressured into making them and don’t want to be held accountable. This leads me to an important point: Lots of smart and entirely good people have discovered they don’t have what it takes to manage things or lead others.

Leadagers who possess good business judgment, a strong sense of direction, and a willingness to accept the conditions of urgency and accountability without a seedy, overcoat-flashing of their fundamental character flaws are the ideal package. Companies spend a lot of money trying to nurture or “home grow” these traits. Unfortunately, this can be an elusive combination of qualities. Conversely, a lack of motivation, butt-headedness, and proven idiocy lead to professional euthanasia every time. (Trust me on this; the latter traits are pretty darn common.)

So let’s face it. You will have to make many decisions without the experience or the information you may desperately think you need, and inevitably, you will decide incorrectly. You will be wrong, and hopefully, someone will allow you to learn from your mistakes. It might be timing, support from the powers that be, or just luck that saves your job.

Early in your career, one of the most important things to learn is how to be wrong in the right way.

Being wrong the right way looks like this:

  • You made what you thought were sound decisions, striving not to be irresponsible, ignorant, or prejudicial.
  • You can explain your thought process with respect to how you came to the decision in a logical manner.
  • Your values were aligned with the organization’s values.
  • You have shown good judgment on previous occasions.
  • You display a willingness to learn from your mistakes.

If you did all the above, you should come out okay (assuming you didn’t burn the place to the ground).

All new leadagers should be allowed some time to practice alternating the gas, clutch, and brake pedals of managementship (i.e., multitasking and managing/weighing multiple—and sometimes conflicting—priorities [chewing gum and running with scissors for all of you non-driving types]). The fact is most managers are playing the standard game of “catch up” in a starkly maniacal fashion.

I strongly urge you to grow away from being the hapless prey-of-the-day—as events pounce on you—and strive to get ahead of events by becoming a predator of pro-activity, turning activities into accomplishments and churning problems into opportunities.

 

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Book Excerpt | Introduction To “High Impact Hospitality”

I once had a beast of a dog, a 125-pound, all-black German shepherd named Dakota. He was foreboding in the looks department, but in reality he was just a big marshmallow. Dakota would frequently do the oddest thing; whenever we were standing close together, he would lean on me. His weight was enough to shift my center of gravity and at times I would have to scramble to regain my footing.

At one of his annual veterinary check-ups, I asked the vet whether this posture was common for big dogs looking to take a load off or if this dog just liked being close to me. The vet told me that it is the nature of dogs to slide up against each other and test the weight of the newcomer. I guess my dog was on instinct autopilot, subtly trying to test the competition in case there was going to be a tussle.

I don’t know if the vet was dealing in facts but I like to use this analogy when speaking about management and leadership. There is always something sliding up next to you trying to test your mettle. You are being constantly tested and assessed by the staff, customers, budget, boss, or competition—even your peers.

This book is about giving you a healthy dose of heft. After almost thirty years in the industry I’m hoping to share the solid footing that comes from hard-won wisdom.

Over time, with hands-on experience, I have come to understand that I prefer to work with authentic, caring, trustworthy, and competent people. People who do not possess these traits generally seem to fail at a higher rate. As such, I devoted much of my career to developing myself and my managers into people who were successful (by my assessment and by those who signed our paychecks) even though most of the time, we heard different music in our heads.

I call us leadagers (pronounced as – leed/i/jers), and we are a tribe, a group united by our shared values.

Let’s be clear; not everyone who has worked for me has liked me and certainly not everything I touched turned to gold. However, from the beginning, I was driven to produce more leadagers and tribal leaders, not just more managers or hourly workers. It was somewhere at about the eleven-year mark that I began to realize I excelled in the development of leadagers.

As an owner/operator running a college town hot spot, I got started developing people when I was twenty-one years old. I was learning from my management mistakes before most people get a chance to make ’em. (Check out Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, and look up the 10,000 hour rule-of-thumb. He basically states that ten years of practice is just about how long it takes to become really good at something.)

It’s not like I ignored any of the million little details that go into running a successful hospitality operation; you have to know the right thing to do to teach the right thing to do. It’s just that developing managers into strong leaders is what I poured my heart into.

I come forward now with this humble effort, targeting the following audiences: (1) assistant managers looking for more traction on their way up the mountain, (2) any level of manager in the service sector (general managers included) who is trying to improve their plate-spinning abilities, (3) hourly tribemates with ambition, and (4) anyone wishing for a peek into the mind of a “new-style” manager.

Let me be clear: There is no one right way to be successful in this industry or any other, for that matter. This book is an answer to many questions but it is not the answer to all problems.

With that in mind, may my mistakes help you to avoid some pitfalls, my knowledge be a force for good, and my travails tickle your fancy.

(Damn, I loved that dog!)

 

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