Over the last two decades, while teaching at the hotel and restaurant management school of a university, and running the school’s dining room (as a laboratory for students) I have had the good fortune to observe many students in action.
The restaurant management course was so structured that every student had to “run” (as a manager) the restaurant for one day/ The responsibilities encompassed, everything from choosing a theme or country, compiling the menu, determine recipes and quantities of ingredients required, purchasing, budgeting, marketing, preparations, service and accounting.
Many managed well, but a few showed excellent leadership qualities that augured well for their chosen career.
“Managers” pushed, “lit fires under” their fellow students, commanded, intimidated, controlled, while “leaders” pulled, stroked the fire within each individual, inspired, used persuasion, and fostered commitment.
Managers got the job done while leaders made it look easy. At the end of the day all students seemed to be proud, although exhausted, and said that it was fun, and would not mind doing it again the following day.
Those who worked for the manager said: “I am glad it is over.”
In the restaurant industry, the contrast between extreme management and leadership is specially sharp and noticeable.
Many managers use fear and intimidation as tools, and front of the house staff reflects these types of behaviour while performing their duties. This industry consists more than any other of people, more precisely employee’s attitudes, and as every serious human resources management book states, workers reflect the way they are treated.
Despite all assurances, managers must be made to believe that their employees are very important, most treat them with as much care as fixtures, or equipment, or decoration, with predictable results.
A quick look at the composition of food service employees in the back of the house reveals how managers manage. They hire people who need a job desperately, and who cannot argue or resist unjust, sometimes illegal treatment.
Managers subscribe to the philosophy of “one size fits all” and hire anyone for any position, at least for entry-level positions.
Leaders determine and articulate personal requirements for every position and take great pains to hire the most suitable individuals, regardless of how much time it takes to them, interview all twice, sometimes three times, and then train of an adequate period while inculcating company culture. Leaders think that it is better to take time to find the most suitable individual for a specific position rather than anyone who comes along. Predictably, leaders run more profitable operations with minimal staff turnover.
Leaders understand that people “bloom” at different stages in their lives. They encourage their employees to learn more, perform better, to be more gracious, more careful with company property, they reason, and remind them how much better off they are when they deliver services in a more friendly fashion, try to motivate by tangible awards, and insist on technical perfection. They think of perfection as a moving target!
The fact remains that a friendly server will deliver a memorable meal, even if technically flawed.
Leaders intuitively sense which employee will be able to better nurture another, and pair them for the benefit of the organization. Simply put, leaders create “winning teams” and achieve their goals by coaching them.
Restaurant owners must look for leaders to run their establishments, and not autocratic managers who try to achieve their goals by persuasion and not pulling.
Here are words and terms managers versus leaders:
Solve problems Enable others and solve problems
Direct and control Teach and engage
See people as they are Develop employees to their potential
Fix problems quickly Systematic search for roots of problems