Archive for the ‘Hotel F and B: Staffing Doctor Column’ Category

Engagement Buttons: Pressing Players to Invest and Excel

Monday, July 9th, 2012
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!

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

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
Chase LeBlanc R.L. ASKS…
How should I go about training green kitchen practices to stubborn, entrenched kitchen staff?

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!


Check Yourself | The Top-5 Bad Things You Can Avoid

Thursday, March 8th, 2012


Check Yourself | The Top-5 Bad Things You Can Avoid

Hotel F&B November/December 2011

Chase LeBlanc “Expect the best but prepare for the worst” is a well worn but useful adage for our industry. The following are my top five bad things that can be avoided with proper preparation, priorities, and training/development.

  • Food-borne illness. A prep cook changed his baby’s diaper at home just prior to his shift. He was running late, forgot to wash his hands, and as soon as he got to work, jumped right into prepping lettuce for salads. That one unsanitary act (1) made about 20 people sick, (2) led the local TV newscast after the Super Bowl, (3) cut property sales in half by the next day, and (4) left the survival of the business touch-and-go for about 18 months. Boom, just like that! In our business, you must become a food safety fanatic.
  • Liquor license suspension or revocation. A bartender hoping to impress an attractive member of the opposite sex slides the “customer” a few drinks without checking his or her ID. Just so happens that the customer is an underage/undercover operative, and it is a sting operation. Boom, just like that! It’s a citation for the bartender with possible fines and a violation of the liquor licensing laws, unleashing a torrent of hassles. You must set a serious tone among all employees; the service of licensed beverages is a privilege and a heavy responsibility. Do not treat it lightly or allow others to do so. One misstep can put the property permanently out of the spirits business.
  • Robbery with injury. A friend of mine took a new job as a closing manager. The first week on the job, he walked out to the dimly lit parking lot after buttoning things up and was met by a man with a gun who marched him back inside. Boom, just like that! They spent many scary minutes together as my friend fumbled the safe dial before giving over the money and getting a crack on the head in return. No amount of money is worth someone getting hurt. Do all the things you can do to deter a criminal act, such as brilliant parking lot lights, strict back door entry procedures, frequent lock changes, daily bank deposits, only opening the safe when the office door is closed, secure smoke break areas (if any exist), video surveillance, and consistent diligence.
  • Accidents. An elderly guest slipped, fell, and broke her hip on a wet bathroom floor. A cook slices off a fingertip on an unguarded kitchen fan. Boom, just like that! If a guest or team member is ever at risk of injury, you must fix or repair the problem immediately. A negligence lawsuit (translation: your group can lose big money) originates from a problem that you knew about, or even should have known about but chose to ignore or deny. Push for nonslip footwear, heavy-lifting back supports, etc. From a business culture perspective, constantly build, reinforce, and reward a safe, accident-free mindset.
  • Harassment. I have had friends who were too old, new, wide, light, dark, etc.—and have suffered through the impossible difficulties of workplace harassment. The ideal workplace culture should be all for one and one for all with diversity viewed as an immense plus and an opportunity for new knowledge, rather than a wall between “us” and “them.” Your team or tribe cannot tolerate anyone being harassed because of his or her gender, sexual orientation, religion, mental/physical challenges, age, and so forth. If you ever find yourself challenged by doing the right things when it comes to others at work, you could start by changing your point of view. View all people by our sameness from the inside out, not the apparent differences from the outside in. We all bleed red; we all breathe the same air; we all roll on the same earth. Or, you could just pause for a moment and reflect on this: Would I want my girlfriend, wife, mother, daughter, son, brother, father, or boyfriend to have to take this smack I’m dishing out?

The unexpected can happen anywhere, at any time. Proper preparation, priorities and training won’t stop all the bad things from happening, but proactive actions almost always lead to better results than reactive actions do.

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

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!

Off And Away – Dealing with Staff Time Off

Monday, July 25th, 2011
From Hotel F&B Magazine – Staffing Doctor Column – July/August 2011
By Chase LeBlanc

My least favorite management duty is dealing with time-off requests and making sure the posts of those off are covered. I have some employees who are workaholics, some who take time off appropriately, and some who call in with suspicious sick days for which I have to take their word. Appropriate time off is great for morale and avoiding burnout, but do you have any advice for juggling it all, especially when a sick employee’s absence throws a monkey wrench into my flow?

Justified versus unjustified time off is a sandin- the-gears conflict causing strife within many companies. Regulations exist at both the federal and state levels to govern time-off standards, but they do not cover all situations, because the truth of that lies in the perspective of the beholder. On top of that for some operators is the newly daunting task of providing employees with paid sick days.

Attendance used to be mandatory. Remember the days when you had tickets to a once-in-a-lifetime concert, and your supervisor at work uttered those famous words, “A time off request is just that—a request, not an automatic fulfillment program?” You would sulk off trying to find someone to cover your shift—or sell the tickets.

Those days are gone. If you tell someone they “might” not get a day off that they requested, they might quit on the spot. You used to cajole people to come into work on their day off to help cover a “broken shift,” and now you practically beg some of your best and brightest to stay home if there is even a slight chance they are awaiting proof of an airborne contagion. Employees are now arriving with a lack of communal work ethic, language barriers, cultural hurdles, and with a noticeably absent knowledge of shared values.

When viewed as originally intended, time off is part of the employee benefits package: a perq. But when is time off too much? The easy answer is when it has a negative effect on the employee’s performance or is dragging the business down. If someone is taking their accrued time, vacation, flex, charity, or bonus time, you can’t really argue, can you?

It seems to be a pretty universal experience that time off is all well and good if we’re talking about your days off, not so much if you’re covering for someone who has gone off to Bora Bora. The understanding and agreement lie in your perspective and alignment with policies and norms. You might never be able to get buyin from someone who does not have children to understand how being a parent seriously requires previously untapped scheduling flexibility. A person who has never faced death or serious illness in their family may not relate to the accompanying demands and blue notes.

Some companies who provide working remotely as an option have simply “punted” on attempting to manage employee time off. These companies allow that anything goes, as long as you get your work done.

The best approach to meet the rising demands from employees whose time-off needs have skyrocketed over the years is not to grab it by the neck and throttle down the incoming request pipeline or solely attempt to cover everything by adding new policies, but to build more flexibility into your system.

Work the part of this challenge that you actually have some control over. The help you can give yourself is cross-training. There has been a lot of belt-tightening over recent years, and maybe your training budgets took a hit, so do yourself a favor: cross-train, station to station, front to back, and back to front. Time-off arm-wrestling will never improve your guest satisfaction scores. The more jobs your employees know how to perform, well, the less time-off stress you will have—when it’s your time off.

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

Mental Infection: Keeping Toxic Attitudes from Influencing New Staff Members

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Chase LeBlanc

I have a long-time staff member who tends to cast a negative vibe. When I made a recent hire, he glommed onto the new guy and fed him his “perspective” on everything involved in his new job, and I believe it gave the new person a bad start that has been difficult to shake. Going forward, how can I keep entrenched, toxic employees from infecting new hires with a bad attitude and habits, short of firing the former?

Ah, yes, the ever-familiar “staff infection.” If someone is “entrenched,” they have been ceded some type of staying power, and their negatives presumably are—or once were—outweighed by their positives. Bad people get hired, good people turn bad, nobody is perfect, and the proof is in the pudding.

You must start with the heartbeat of the organization. Any corporate culture can be accurately defined as “how we do things around here,” and a strong, positive culture makes it difficult for negativity to survive. Poisonous attitudes cannot grow roots where no power is granted.

Most organizations have developed a mission or vision statement that governs its directions and actions. This is usually a great starting point for a culture when the words are translated into actions that can be witnessed on a day-to-day basis.

I favor a statement of shared values. It is important to recognize that people come from all walks and beginnings. Shared values established in a shared workplace during shared time can bridge many languages and difficulties:“We all clean as we go.” “Nobody steals anything from anybody.” “Everybody works smart and hard.” “We are hand-washing fiends.”

Sure, you can wait for somebody else to fix the problem. You can wait for the leadership of your hotel to draft a super mission statement and then hang in there until it takes effect. You can wait until the manager in question addresses the problem. Or you can gather your closest tribe/team members, collectively decide on the best way to go for your part of the show, and then DO IT.

You do not have to be at the top of an organization to be considered a valuable leader. Strong, informal leaders actually are the secret weapon of many high-flying companies. What it takes, day in and day out, is to know, show, and go the right way.

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

Moment of Opportunity: Bending Inflexible Policies to Gain the Upper Hand

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Moment of OpportunityBending inflexible policies to gain the upper hand. By Chase LeBlanc

“I’m a catering manager at a large convention hotel. I recently lost a huge piece of business—a corporate group that was planning to hold a week of meetings here—because they wanted us to drop all service charges associated with coffee and tea for breaks and meals. My property charges more than $100 a gallon for coffee and tea, and my manager says both the price and service charges are non-negotiable. He says, “We have to make our money back in this economy.”

As a result of this inflexible policy, we lost the business to a nearby competitor, who, I’ve been told by a friend who works there, relaxed their coffee pricing and service fees to secure the booking. In addition to my hotel losing several thousand dollars in revenue, the lost business has hurt my personal bottom line as far as bonuses go. We also may have developed a reputation as a price gouger and damaged future group booking opportunities. What can I tell my manager that would convince him it’s bad business in 2011 to ignore client demands on pricing?”

Sounds like your SOP (standard operating procedure) ran into re-al-i-ty. Forces within an organization often favor promoting “the way we do things around here,” and market forces from the outside constantly demand fluidity and flexibility.

The cultural advent of auction-based web sites, high-profile outfits with their lowest-price-point positioning, and the economy being in the doldrums have produced an almost inescapable “über shopping” mentality for better deals.

The U.S. military uses a rather nifty device called an “After Action Review,” where the participants compare “the plan” of strategy/tactics to what actually happened and the consequences of decisions made under fire. This knowledge is then reviewed by those who may face the same type of scenarios as a methodology to produce continuous, real-time improvements within the “thinking and action” systems.

There may be a value for you to implement something like this after each event at your property, but more to the point, you might want to cull the best ideas after each event bid or RFP for future use. You need a little groupthink on this one. Poll industry peers or jump into a like-minded chat string and discover for yourself the new realities. How have properties similar to yours addressed the changes in the marketplace? What enticements draw in new business and keep the old?

The art of negotiation is found in your ability to evaluate the priorities of the folks on the other side of the table. They will want many things, but rarely does one side get all it’s after. Your objective is to give up the least painful parts in order to gain the most positive parts from your point of view. To do that, you must decipher what your counterpart’s weighted values are on those same items. In your case, for all you know, the folks on the other side may have been given the mandate, “Whatever you do, don’t come back here with any service charges associated with coffee or tea,” and were released from any other constraints.

Perhaps they had movement available elsewhere in the contract. Maybe you could have secured the event if you gave in on the service charges in exchange for a signed agreement (with a favorable deposit) for their next meeting. Their boss and your boss might have deemed that a workable deal.

There is also one crazy-like-a-fox-idea: Compete with yourself. Concede the coffee/tea service charges in exchange for “full boat” (you charge them back) on all sales at, for example, your “NRG Recharge Station,” where you offer fresh fruit smoothies, top-of-the-line energy bars, drinks, etc. If you match your “better choice” offerings with the interests of the attendees, you might have a win-win on your hands. The other party gets to proclaim what hardnosed bargainers they were, while you imprint a memorable experience on future guests and come out with more money in your pocket.

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