Starting and running a successful restaurant — and let’s be realistic and extend that to any business — is hard. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The faint of heart need not apply.
However, curating an executive team that can not only lead, but manage a diverse group of employees seems to be a task equivalent to landing on the moon. A restaurant owner trying to pull this team together — along with all of the other demands placed on him or her — may be overwhelmed and ultimately hire people just to get the positions filled.
But this isn’t a task to be hurried and its importance should not be underestimated. Let me share a real life encounter to illustrate this point. And then I’ll share four critical managerial and leadership qualities to look for in future candidates.
Manager in Crisis
Just the other week, my family stopped to grab a bite to eat at a well-known fast food chain. We ordered our food without a hitch. When the food came out, we found we were missing one item. No big deal.
After explaining the issue to the young man working the register, he called out to the kitchen — it’s an open concept with a visible kitchen — to let them know what item was missing. To our shock and dismay, the manager exploded in anger, shoving the kitchen employees away from the prep line, apparently ready to make this into a one-man show.
The manager threw together the sandwich, marched up to the counter, and tossed the wrapped sandwich down onto the counter — it landing with a rather unappetizing thud. He then abruptly turned on his heel and marched out of sight without a word.
It was awkward and excessively aggressive to say the least.
Managerial and Leadership Qualities
I’ve talked before about the qualities or characteristics that define managers and leaders. But witnessing this episode at the restaurant has caused me to add four more to that list.
1. Ability to unite and unify.While employees are said to be the face of the company, managers and the leadership team form the backbone of operations. They develop policies, provide the day-to-day support for each team member, and coordinate each moving piece so that they work in unison to meet the needs of customers.
Acting in any way that is divisive can completely undermine operational goals and kill the comradery of your crew. Instead, management must be able to unite and unify, pulling each team member back into the fold when they lose their way or go off-course.
2. Purveyor of professionalism and positivity.No business owner should expect perfectionism from their management team — or from their employees for that matter. Mistakes will happen. But they should expect professionalism each and every step of the way.
Those in leadership must be able to engage with their coworkers, vendors, and customers in a way that encourages positivity as well as demonstrates and reinforces the restaurant’s culture. If those in the highest positions can’t consistently do this, that’s a huge problem. The resulting negativity will likely trickle its way down to everyone else, causing an even bigger shift in company culture.
3. Slippery when stressed.The restaurant business can be a high stress industry, so members of management must be able to control their stress levels. Two people called off on Friday night? Running out of inventory mid-shift? A tour bus just pulled into the parking lot? Another order left the kitchen incomplete?
Management must take this all in stride. Employees are looking to the restaurant’s leadership team to help them navigate these inevitable hiccups, so managers need to be able to let the stress literally just roll off their shoulders. If they lash out at the employees — and perhaps even worse — the customers, they’re setting an extremely poor example. These things tend to snowball too, infiltrating the entire establishment as an acceptable way to interact and behave.
4. Humility over pride.We all make mistakes. So when the management team slips up, whether that is getting angry with a server or under-scheduling the dinner rush, they need to be able to humbly and sincerely apologize to those impacted by their actions or decisions.
Plus, they should be willing to jump in wherever they are needed. No job is beneath them — not even taking out the trash. For some business owners, you won’t even get a shot at management until you’ve proven than you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty. There’s no room for arrogance or pride.
Building Your Team
As with anything else, building a solid executive team takes time and rushing into these decisions — or leaving ill-suited employees in managerial and leadership positions — can negatively impact everything you’ve worked so hard to develop. But by keeping a watchful eye out for employees or candidates who exemplify the traits above, you’ll be one step ahead in your team-building efforts.