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3 Things Never To Say As a Restaurant Manager

communication leadership mindset Jul 14, 2018

We all get frustrated from time to time working in restaurants and bars. Emotions can run rampant and things can escalate fairly quickly. If you’ve been in the industry for any amount of time (a veteran) you have surely heard a few things that would make some people do a double take. I know I have.

Words have power. They can build a team or tear one apart. The sad things is that sometimes it happens so quickly that it can have a ripple effect on your brand. Once those words leave your mouth and are spoken aloud they tend to become a self fulfilling prophecy. So watch what you say to your team because it tends to become a karma boomerang!

Here are three things you should never say to your team:

1. I have to do it all myself.

Really? You have to do it all? People tend to make big claims that border on extremes. You’ve probably used a few other ones as well that fit into this category. You “always” are late or you “never” clean up your station. When you shame people you break trust and without trust you have no team.

If you keep telling your team that you have to do it all yourself, you will be. If you don’t trust them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes you have taken away a critical element of human nature...the ability to be fallible. We learn when we don’t get it right the first few times (and for some the learning curve is even longer). That’s the thing people forget, not everyone is a carbon copy of you and that’s a good thing. Nothing scarier than everyone being the exact same. Variety is the spice of life and the recipe for a dynamic team. It’s differences that build a high performance team, not the similarities. 

So, before you spew this saying out to your team, take a little reality check. You don’t have to do it all yourself. You choose to do it because you lack trust of your team. Get over it and give your team some room to grow. Now, with that also comes some responsibility on your end to coach, train, and set clear defined expectations that can be measured. Without crystal clear expectations you will not get the results you are seeking and this statement of “I have to do it all myself” will resurface. Stop it by being a leader and not a whiner about the standards you failed to set for your team.

2. How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

This one is usually accompanied with either an exhale of frustration or an eye roll (sometimes both). Maybe they didn’t understand the task at hand? The real question here is did you explain it or assume they knew how to do it? Assumptions get us in trouble rather quickly. How many times have you hired a bartender and assumed they knew how to make drinks correctly? You start them off on a busy night and you start getting complaints about some of the drinks. Yeah, they know how to make a Manhattan. They just don’t know your way.

All business problems are really people problems in disguise. Those people problems are 99% communication problems. It’s your duty as an owner or leader in your restaurant or bar to communicate your core values, standards, and expectations (yes, expectations are a big part of communication problems). Sometimes this statement is wrapped up in the generalization of, “they should know”. Well, if they are not doing it the exact way you want it to be done, then they don’t know! They don’t get it because you have not taken the time to explain it to them

The results you experience in your restaurant or bar are in direct proportion to the quality of your communication skills. That it not exaggeration, it’s the truth. If you want a better brand, become obsessed with communicating to your team better. No bullshit, it’s life changing.

3. I bust my ass around here.

Do you want some cheese to go with your whine? Seriously, your team does not want to hear how hard you “ think” you work. You might be there long hours, however many of those hours are most likely not as “back busting” as you claim. When you really have nothing left and you truly pushed your body to the extreme one of three things happen: you either pass out, black out, or you die. If you do not experience one of those three, then you always have more to give.

People love to play the martyr and want sympathy from others. Here is an observation from 38 years in the industry: if you make it a point to tell others how hard you work, then chances are you are not really working that hard. It’s much like a magician who implores distraction. Look over here so you don’t really see what I am doing. You tell others you are so busy, yet the results speak for themselves. Stop lying to yourself (and others) and just do your job.

One thing to be aware of is called Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands or contracts to meet time obligated. That means if most people are give a few tasks and 8 hours to do it, they’ll take the full 8 hours. If you give them the same tasks and only 6 hours to finish, they usually can get those things done in the time required. You’re just not managing your attention properly and get pulled in so many directions that you don’t run your restaurant, it runs you. Once again, your team doesn’t care how hard you “think” you work. They just want a leader who is going to be out front being the leader and setting the example without the whinny martyr tone. 

Awareness Precedes Choice

These statements are usually unleashed towards your team when your energy is low and emotions run high. Everyone has natural energy peaks and valleys throughout the day. You’ll want to get some awareness of these times through the day and be on guard for those times when your energy is low and the team comes around asking questions or venting about their day. Yes, your team will sometimes vent about things that frustrate them. This is not the time for a one up man ship and launch into a rendition of, “you think that’s bad, let me tell you about _______ (full in the blank)”. As a leader you duty sometimes is to listen to your team and not always find an answer right then. A wise person once noticed that we have two ears and one mouth...there might be a reason for that.

Now, what do you do when you feel those emotions rising and you know you’re about to say something that you’ll regret later?

Here are a few solutions.

Remember to Pause and Process

Before those words slip out, you have a brief window of opportunity to shut your mouth and say nothing. Use a trigger phrase like “pause and process”. This little safety net saying can help you get out of a few situations where you’re going to need to apologize. If you can stop it before you should give it a try. Nothing wrong with saying, “That’s interesting. Please allow me some time to pause and process what you said.”

Call a Timeout 

When emotions are really running hot, it’s a good idea to hold your hands up and give the sign for a time out. Just simply say, “Can we take five minutes and think about this? I just want to be able to give you my full attention.” Now if the person really is pushing you, then call for a bathroom break! “Hey, can I use the restroom really quick and then we can discuss?” Unless the person is Hannibal Lecter they most likely will allow you time to hit the restroom. Use the time to either really use the restroom or just throw some water on your face, take a few deep breaths, and get a grip on your emotions.

You are human and human beings are emotional creatures. Make sure that as a leader you are constantly striving to be in control of your emotions. Robert Greene in his legendary book, The 48 Laws of Power talks about controlling your emotions as a foundational element of power.

“The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation, is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings. Emotions cloud reason, if you cannot see the situation clearly, you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control.” 

Get control of your emotions and your words before that cause havoc within your restaurant or bar. Avoid emotional reactions that cause you to lose credibility with your team. Lose credibility and it’s game over.

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