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By: Dr. John T. Self

Bad Management: What's your Management Style?

Like most of us who have been in the restaurant industry, I've had the miserable experience of being under a GM who believed in the win - lose theory of management. For him to win, someone had to lose. He didn't understand that it didn't have to be this way. He thought that he wasn't doing his job if he didn't continually point out mistakes.

Conventional wisdom says that you can't get promoted unless you have someone ready to take your place. Believe it or not, it's true. Your supervisors understand this since one of their primary responsibilities is to prepare managers for increasing responsibilities. Most supervisors want their managers to do well; they enjoy developing managers and most are justifiably proud when their managers get promotions.

Unfortunately, there are general managers and supervisors who send out mixed messages. On the one hand, they'll demand that their managers take initiative. But on the other, they'll be the first to criticize when their manager's decisions don't agree with their own. "Everyone here is empowered, they just better be damn sure they make the same decisions as I do".

Is this the message that your managers are hearing?

The result of that kind of supervision is for managers to manage defensively. They manage their shifts trying to make the fewest mistakes possible. Each time they need to make a decision they must think about whether it would match their supervisor's decision, not what is best for the customer, employee or even the company. They'll never volunteer information, never try to anticipate problems, and never offer suggestions. Why should they? So that "Attila" can look better?

Are you continually coming down hard each time they make even minor mistakes?

I had a boss like that once. It was a miserable experience. When he started I was a fairly cocky and aggressive assistant manager. After only a month, all the assistant managers felt beaten up and were basically just doing their jobs. There was no excitement, no teamwork, no spirit left in any of us. We felt we weren't getting better or able to stretch our personal management skills. This left us with a feeling of incompetence and insecurity. Some even quit.

The sad part is that this type of manager never "gets it". I know he thought that his "leadership" was tough and hard. He believed he was doing his part in making us better managers. He didn't care if we "liked him", he assumed his hard line would win our respect.

The reality was that we thought he was a total jerk. Respect him? How could we? We knew that the first thing he would say when he saw any of us, the first thing, wouldn't be a greeting, it would be 5 things that he saw wrong on his way in from the front door.

Developing managers does not mean tearing them down. It doesn't mean overlooking mistakes in judgement either. It means treating each manager individually. When a situation was handled that you don't think was correct, ask the manager the reasons why he made the decision. Then go over what you would have done and the reasons why you would do it differently than him.

If you can get your managers to make the right decisions based on the results, and not on what they perceive you want, you will have a very aggressive and dynamic team that will make the restaurant both profitable and enjoyable to work in.

The bottom -line? Think about your approach to your managers. Take a step back and really look at your style. If you constantly give one way communications with negative reinforcement, it's time for you to rethink your style in developing managers.

About the author:  John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academe, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

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