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By: Dr. John T. Self

The Most Important New Manager Tip: Just Be Yourself

Many new managers try to be someone they aren't. The nice managers think they should be tough, and the tough managers think they should be really tough. Because they are fighting their nature, they send very confusing signals to their employees.

If your tend to be a nice, then my advice is continue to be nice. If you tend to be tough, then so be it. The point is that if "be yourself", at least you'll be sending out consistent signals. From there, you can work on fine tuning them. If you are constantly trying to fool your employees, you can rest assured you're not.

In the real world of management, there is no single way that's the best way. The trick is to be able to call up and use the entire spectrum, from the tough to the nice, as needed.

Having a range of attitude is like having a full set of tools in your toolbox. Carpenters couldn't go to work with just a hammer. They need as many tools as possible: "The right tool for the right job." Typically, nice managers find their employees take advantage of them by not completing some side work that they said they've done when asked. The nice manager believes that their employees will do their best all the time, but inevitably will get burned when they don't. The tough managers find out quickly that being a "tough guy/gal" just for the sake of being a tough doesn't work, either. Their employees will find ways to resist. Both managers will end up frustrated, wondering what, if anything, will work.

So what is a new manager to do? The best thing to do is to expand your tendencies outward. Nice managers need to broaden their management style to include some tough traits and tough managers need to add nice to their toolkit.

It all depends on the situation. In the case of an emergency, like a fire, the last thing anyone needs is a democratic, "nice" manager. Fire is a cause for action, and not a vote for popularity. Likewise, when a tough manager is faced with a veteran employee, nice is usually the first, not last method to use.

But how can you learn this? The best way is to observe managers who you look up to and respect. Really pay attention, and see how they react in different situations. Second would be to ask them outright for tips and advice. Most good managers are more than willing to share any knowledge they have with you. They only ask that you use the information. It is amazing how much you can learn if you simply ask. Third, of course is the age-old way of learning from getting burned. Here at Restaurant Voice, we?re trying to prevent that particular method of education. We've done it, and it does work. But trust us on this: it's not the best way.

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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