Archive for the ‘Becoming a Leadager’ Category

Leadership is Like Ice Cream | Revisiting a Favorite Blog

Friday, June 21st, 2013

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.

Leadership Gets the Sugar

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

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.


The Daydream of a F&B Five-Tool Player

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
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.

Inside Scoop – Being Wrong the Right Way

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

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.


Book Excerpt | Introduction To “High Impact Hospitality”

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

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!)


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!

Code of the West

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I have lived up, down, in the middle and on both sides of the USA, but I was raised in the West. I’m not a farmer or rancher, but as I was growing up I had a chance to spend some time “learning the ropes” from my relatives who were both. You had to be hardy, smart and tough to make it in either place. Savvy skill-craft was prized, and so was an even disposition. You had to hold up your end of the bargain or you were sent packin’.

There was also a code, an unwritten agreement that bracketed your conduct. Lying, cheating or stealing were absolute no-fly zones, and you had to offer the other guy a “fair chance” in just about everything you did. I know some people will pass off my code recollections as myth, but I was not hanging out in Hollywood with A. Ladd, G. Cooper or J. Wayne – just with real people living real lives. In fact, responsible conduct was a major contributing factor to their sense of community and stewardship of the land. And, there was a word woven into their daily lives that is so old fashioned — I feel compelled to dust it off just to use it in this sentence — RECIPROCITY — the “soul-coal” that stoked many barn raisings, harvests and roundups.

In light of the recent news of a MAJOR FAILURE of institutional leadership @ Football U (or u name it) that dominated last week’s headlines and Sunday’s news programs, I thought it might be timely to share a few relevant “rules of the trail” that I know have been valuable to myself and others who aspire to become respectable, responsible citizens and leaders in their own right.

Be kind to kids and your horse

Don’t take any wooden nickels

Own a sharp knife and a sharper set of eyes

If you have some… share some with them that ain’t got none

If your best dog bites you more’n once… he ain’t your best dog

Doing the right thing ain’t courage… it’s just doing the right thing

Don’t make friends with rattlers… them that ain’t got feet…or them that do

A “howdy” and a smile cost you nuthin’… don’t make nobody pay to git one

If you Rodeo… 8 seconds can change your life and if you don’t… they still can

An honest day’s work for an honest day’s dollar means a lot, but your honest word means more

Leadership: @ or 4 | Are You and Your Team Working Hard at Being Both?

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

“Low-down, dirty, good for nuthin…”

I still remember the first time I heard my Grandfather deliver his ultimate displeasure with another human being.  It was his considered opinion that you could be “good at” something and still be “good for nothing.”  As he saw it there were people who were darn fine farmers, welders, mechanics, truck drivers, hunters, and so on, but if your positive-character flag wasn’t flying high, he’d keep his distance.

When it comes right down to it, leadership is influence. Yes, most organizations hold high the tangible metric “results” of the system/process/push and pull, but when it comes to people, the influencers at every level are the true leaders.

For generations there have been debates about the concise definition of leadership. The truth is, it depends. Leadership definitions are dependent on the team, situation, fate, timing, and most certainly upon the width or height of your travails. Additionally, it depends if you are speaking of leadership in the arena of business, military, science, religion or politics. And, it depends on whether you’re seeking a descriptor of leaders who are edgy or plain-Jane, powerful or powerless, figureheads or headless figures.

You can spend a lifetime learning a skill(s) that will earn you more money, and that is notable. You can spend a minute or two on a dark path and ruin a lifetime of goodwill, and that too is notable. In the midst of those who view the world as clear-cut, black or white, good or evil – there exists some grey areas.

In this blurry arena of grey is where true leaders dwell. There are realities that challenge best-hatched plans, self control, vision and values; situations where you face hard choices, tough luck and tough decisions. In these circumstances it is better to be good at something and good for something, as it has been shown time and again that working for the greater good is the most sustaining, gratifying, and dare we say, fulfilling. Perhaps simply it is best described as the “greater of the goods.” During your next leadership performance assessment (on yourself or others), stop for a moment and ponder – @ and 4 – are you and your team working hard at being both?

 It is — and has always been — the right leadership flag to fly.

Once More Around the Leadagers’ Mulberry Bush

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Leadership is a term for a “role” that one seeks or is thrown into (or back-doors into), and is brought into play when one must influence/guide/impact others. Management refers to the “job” of having responsibility for bringing about specific outcomes or overseeing certain activities. You can be a leader without management responsibilities, which is called a figurehead. If you have no other person within your span of influence (let’s say you’re operating a street-cart) then you can manage things without being a leader.

If you have the job of “manager” which includes supervision of others, then you are expected to show some iota of leadership skills, as it will be “on you” to get the group to pull together (without breaking apart) and to accomplish the tasks set forth. There are many good managers who are bad leaders and many (short-lived) acceptable leaders who are bad managers.

It is important to make a distinction between the two for illustrative purposes and instruction. Even though common belief holds that they are conjoined twins, they are in fact dizygotic twins. The same mother, but difficult and different skill sets.

It does not matter if you are a leader who manages or a manager who leads. In the world of work, nobody will truly trust or willingly follow you until you prove that you know what you are talking about. The only real way out of this is by going through it. The often overlooked fact (by the uninitiated) is that on any job, you will have to create a “trading currency.” You will be tested to see what you can handle (by the principal player’s reckoning, not yours). This is also referred to as paying your dues, earning your stripes, or street cred.

The developmental benchmarks (or acumen) you should focus on are the equivalent of possessing a strong right and left arm, a quick left and right brain, and effective leadership (soft) and management (hard) skills. The more you utilize all of your resources, the easier it will be to respond to the inevitable forthcoming peaks and valleys.

Think of it this way: If you are in business with others, you are in hot pursuit of business coordination, a graceful exhibition of leadership and management (despite their differences) balancing in motion.

It is also best if you think of yourself as always being in motion toward desired outcomes. Advancing/upgrading your skills are directly linked to improvement of career traction – out of a ditch or over a mountain.

Here is the question – Are you relying strictly upon your job-granted positional authority to herd your fellows, or do you fly a flag that others wish to rally around?

Do You Treat Your Car Better Than Your Managers?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

A new car is all crazy-fresh-n’good when it rolls off the lot, but more than anything you hope (darn well expect) that it will go for miles and miles without trouble. Granted, it is going to need some more gas, an oil change and, at some point, new tires. And if you get in an accident, you might need to straighten the frame, or give it a coat of paint. Would you say that your odds are better at having your car last longer/go farther if you stay current with all the maintenance and service recommendations, or if you just get in and drive the hell out of it until it quits? We all know that if you want the car to do things for you, you have to do things for the car.

Go Manager, Go

As a new manager rolls off your assembly line, you basically step on the gas and expect them to go. You assign them duties, responsibilities, and check lists. You have meetings and pour over numbers. You dole out performance reviews, raises, promotions, and demerits or demotions. In other words, you’re running hot all the time. Would you say that your odds are better at having your managers last longer and run stronger if you routinely provided fresh tires and tune-ups, or if you just keep your foot on the gas?

The truth is that most companies contribute to professional development only a minimum of what they can afford. All areas of a business are competing for resources (read as time/energy/ money), and if we’re being honest, training and development are frequently among the first cuts when times get tough. Recently, there have been some tough times and, training and development budgets were slashed across the board. Business strategy is all about getting gas to the winners, as General Patton used to say, but business is not always warfare. In business there are also bets, and the surest bet to win is leadership.

Leadership is a Game-Changer

If you have the best leadership, nine times out of ten you come out on the winning side. A change for the better in the leadership of a unit, district, or organization can and has, time and time again, led to better performance with better results. Sure, there are examples of location, timing, or pluck that have trumped leadership excellence, but I said “surest bet,” not roll of the dice.

All high-performance racing programs have regularly scheduled pit stops for their cars on the track and all top flight organizations offer programs to support career progression. If your current management training and development program isn’t incorporating a version of an oil change, new spark plugs, front end alignment, or a new battery, perhaps it is time that it should. If you get caught treating your car better than your managers, then you’ll be obligated to participate in a new discussion centered around alternative definitions for the word — dipstick.

For an individual or a fleet – if you would like to supercharge your managers while your business is in motion – click to Chase LeBlanc, the Manager Mechanic™  – at the One Stop Manager Repair Shop, Leadagers™ LLC.