Here you are running your restaurant. A leader. Just living the dream...right? Maybe it’s not the dream you had. Perhaps some days it seems like a real nightmare that you can’t wake up from. What happened? How did you come to this?
It’s quite simple. You hit an obstacle you didn’t know how to navigate, you tried using the skills you had, then when it didn’t work...you stopped. You threw up your hand in the air and gave the universal signal that you had enough by saying these two fate sealing words, “Screw this.” (or something graphic along that line). It tough being a leader and if anyone said it was easy they probably tried to get you into their multi level marketing scam too.
Leadership is not easy. In fact, it’s downright a bitch!
Getting people to do things that most of the time they don’t want to do. You try to motivate them. You encourage them. You say things like “nice job” or “way to go”. Still they just seem to fall back into old habits and routines as soon as you stop watching them. You scream up to the heavens for “a break”. You have bought so many books on becoming a leader that they pile up on your coffee table at home (you’ve read only the first chapter of each). You might even start going to a medicine man for a magic talisman.
When things are not going your way you can get desperate. When desperation doesn’t work, you get angry. When anger doesn’t work, you give up.
And now here you are, beaten down and questioning if you should have listened to your mother and went to medical school. Yeah, it’s a bitch when you seem to lose your leadership mojo. Let’s get you out of this depressing funk you are in and get that magic back.
Sometimes the tactics that got you to the point where you are now, are not the same tactics that are going to carry you across the “leadership gap”. Now, before you quip and say you don’t have a leadership gap, let me assure you that every leader has one. In fact, the denial of having a gap in your leadership skills is the first one!
That edgy aggressive tone, attitude, and sheer willpower can get you past the others and into a leadership spot fast. Those same traits will have your team turn on you faster than hungry rats on a block of cheese! Time to back off the attitude and switch to some decaf herbal tea.
Step One: It’s Not About You
This one is a hard one to swallow. Especially if the crowd around you has sang your praises and offered to write poems about your legendary leadership. The worst thing any leader can do is get a head (or ego) so big that others simple turn away and silently mouth the word, “wow”. Your hard work might have raised you to the top, however, it’s the team you build around you that will keep you at the top. People love to see a big egocentric leader fall from the top. Just take a look at any major news channel because they cover those stories faster than a wildfire can spread.
Yes. You can take pride in your accomplishments. Don’t think you are the Lone Ranger doing it all by yourself (even he had a sidekick). Restaurants and bars thrive when the team shares in the struggles and they also get to share in the wins.
If you ask people to name someone they thought was an outstanding leader and what about that person made them outstanding...here is what they would say: they made me feel like I was important.
Everyone has a human need to feel appreciated. We all have a need to feel wanted and that we matter. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to make the team shine brighter than they do. If you are struggling to get your team to follow you, it’s a simple fix. Allow them to shine. Try a little less focus on you and a lot more about them.
Step Two: Let Go of Control...a Little
Another big leadership gap is the ability to let go of the control wheel you have had a death grip on. The white knuckles I see on your hands tell me you run your restaurant like Attila the Hun ran his army of nomads. Stop watching Game of Thrones and think that everyone on your team is conspiring to hurt your brand. If you truly and 100% think someone who works for you is going to sabotage your organization, then why in the world do you keep them on your payroll?
This gap is mostly seen when leaders go from one location to two or more. You just can’t be everywhere all the time. You can try and soon find yourself in another bad situation called “burnout”. You are going to need to lighten up on the death grip you have and allow your team to carry the ball. This does not mean letting go of the wheel completely. It means you need to set and standardize your expectations so they know (without question or hesitation) what they need to do and exactly how to do it. Here is where many leaders go astray by not communicating clearly, consistently, and constantly. You need all three.
Clearly - don’t assume they know what you want. Spell it out in written, verbal, and by demonstrating the proper way.
Consistently - Keep the same story and standards. Changing how you do things every other day might be you prerogative as a leader, however, it will drive your team bat shit crazy. Most people like routine and actually crave it.
Constantly - I know you told them once. Sadly, most people need quite a few reminders to actually have it sink in. Here, you just have to be like a broken record and say it over and over and over and over and over and over until it becomes an unconscious new behavior (also known as a habit).
Step Three: You Gotta Believe
Okay, you’ve toned down the ego and attitude. You have started to allow your team to do more things. Now, it’s time for the hardest part...you gotta believe in your brand and your team.
Trust doesn’t come easy in our industry. If you have been around for any amount of time you surely have seen some shit that reality TV producers like to film. Betrayal, stealing, fights, and enough drama to that could fill a couple 100 books. It’s a wild ride at times. Along this journey you have been taken advantage of, lied to, and been deceived quite a few times. You carry those emotional scars inside and you have built a nice defense mechanism to cope...you don’t trust many people.
Those who have wronged you in the past says more about their character then it does about yours. Why are you dragging around the ghosts of the past? Yes, they are valuable lessons. Take the lesson and leave behind the pain. Dragging it around now is like taking an old beat up duffle bag with you from when you were a kid. You just drag that thing around everywhere you go. It smells and looks foolish (the Barney dinosaur on the side was cool when you were five years old). Time to leave it in the past where it belongs.
People for the most part want to do a good job. They want responsibility (at least some). They want to take pride in what they do. When you don’t trust them and micromanage them to death you deny them the opportunity to grow. Lack of growth and appreciation are the two leading causes of turnover. They might say it’s because the place down the street offered them more money (like a $1 more), however the truth is that they felt you didn’t trust them and were being slowly suffocated by you constant verbal berating.
If you don’t trust your team, you don’t have a team. You have a bunch of mercenaries that job hop to the highest bidder. If you don’t show them trust and loyalty first they will never return it. Now, you can take the stand that they need to earn those things. If you do have that approach, then let me ask you one simple question, “How’s that working for you?” That’s what I thought, not very well. Time to change your attitude first. When you do that and say committed to the new path you will see your team change too. How do you change a restaurant? It happens when the leader changes their attitude.
Watch Out For the Rut
Everyone gets stuck in a rut through life. The difference between winners and losers is that winner realize they are in a rut and take immediate action to get out. Loser stay down there in that rut. They whine, kick, and complaint until that swallow rut has now become their grave. You see, what separates the two is only the depth.
Don’t allow your leadership rut to become your leadership grave. Believe me when I warn you that there are plenty of ambitious people just waiting to start shoveling dirt on you if you stay down too long. Don’t worry if they do because they soon will be stuck in the same leadership rut one day as well.
The bad leadership bell tolls for us all one time or another. You now have some awareness to change that if you choose to.
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