In 12+ year history of Ian’s Pizza we have made A LOT of mistakes (what successful business hasn’t?). One of our biggest challenges has been developing a successful management team. Simply put, teaching human beings to manage other human beings is hard. A visit to the library or bookstore doesn’t necessarily make it easier. There are so many books espousing an endless number of theories on leadership, learning how to develop a management team through books alone can be difficult. Where do you start? Which theory is right for you? Lots of mistakes, lots of reading, and lots of self-analysis finally resulted in a simple management paradigm which we now regularly teach to new management team members. What is it? Expectations, Accountability, Training. I’ll be the first to say E.A.T. is not a singular solution to every management challenge but it is a great starting point. E.A.T is a practical framework to help the new supervisor or manager successfully lead a team from day one. The concept is based on common sense, is easy to grasp, and for the new leader, a departure point to explore other leadership theories. Let’s briefly examine each pillar of our E.A.T. concept.
Expectations: It is my firm belief the first job of any successful leader is laying down clear expectations. I know this should be obvious, but I can’t tell you how many small businesses do a poor job of creating clear expectations. My brother was once fired from a dishwashing job on his first day because he did not complete several tasks correctly, including mopping the floor at the end of the night. When I asked him why he didn’t mop the floor, his response was, “Because nobody told me to!?”. When it comes to creating expectations, the more specific the better. While you may think, “Work hard” and, “Provide good customer service” are clear job expectations, unfortunately, they leave a lot of room open for interpretation. “Greet customers with a genuine smile” and, “Serve guests food within 20 minutes of placing their order” are the type of clear, tangible expectations I suggest. When the time comes to assess an employee’s performance, clear, tangible expectations are a manager’s best friend. Imagine if the success of your business was based on performing push-ups. One manager’s expectations of his staff are “perform a lot of push-ups”. Another manager’s expectations of his staff are “100 push-ups per person”. Who would you want to work for? Which manager will have an easier time figuring out who belongs on his team and who doesn’t? As the owner of the business, which manager will you have an easier time evaluating? In a future article I will tackle the subject of expectations in more depth. For now, if you answered the latter, you’re on the right track.
Accountability: In a perfect world, staff always follow expectations. In our world, good companies have good managers who hold staff accountable to their expectations. Accountability is arguably the hardest skill for a new leader to develop and for us to teach. Accountability can lead to conflict, and, let’s face it, most people don’t like conflict. Even people who don’t like conflict, however, can learn to become good managers. How? By creating clear, tangible expectations which tie into clear job performance metrics. Additionally, it’s also very helpful to remove emotions from the accountability process (I know, easier said than done). At the end of the day, every manager needs to ask themselves the following question, “Was the job performed correctly?” An answer of “No” is not a character attack, it simply means the job wasn’t performed correctly.
Training: Good leaders are good teachers. A thorough training program for new staff is the foundation for developing leaders in your organization. In my experience most people genuinely want to do a good job. If you don’t take the time to thoroughly train an employee on how you want them to perform the job, guess what? Both of you are going to be frustrated and disappointed. I learned this lesson the hard way. During our second year in business, I hired a GM named John. John had previously managed another restaurant and I assumed his management experience meant I wouldn’t have to invest much time training him. Within a month of working together, John and I were extremely frustrated. I was upset he wasn’t performing the job the way a “seasoned” manager “should” and he was struggling to perform his job without clear direction from me. Instead of taking a step back and giving John a clear list of expectations and spending serious training with him, and did the exact opposite: I spent more time criticizing his performance and even less time teaching him. Within two weeks, John resigned. Initially, I believed Joh’s resignation was due to him not being a good fit with the business. I now know, his resignation was largely my fault. John, if you’re reading this, please accept my apologies.
Next month I will illustrate some practical applications of our E.A.T. management paradigm. In the meantime, please feel free, as always, to email with questions.