Lead or Follow – Which Requires Most Courage

I enjoy working as a hospitality consultant with business owners who take a role in their business on a daily basis.  They tend to be businesses where traditions [Perhaps down through generations] are plain to see.  There’s a connection, a closeness between the business and the local community.  The owner generally has a real feel for how their customers like to be treated.

That said, although those long-standing traditions are being observed, there is also a potential failure to move with the times.  Perhaps right now, that’s okay because your regular trade will continue to come in and thus the business ticks along.  What happens if that regular trade comes under threat – a new rival, a shift in the marketplace.  What happens if your regular clients just get tired of the same thing every time they come and are looking for new experiences?

In this case it is okay for the business owner to take a step back and to trust that following good people around them could lead to amazing positive results for their business.  Taking a restuarant as an example, how often do you change your menus – is it too often?  Where do you capture really positive meal experiences that your team have had when dining elsewhere and have you considered if those experiences would sit well in context with the style of restaurant you operate?

A common misconception is that leaders are the ones who dictate the strategy and systems and that they set clear direction based on their own beliefs and in the above case, traditions.  We can all name the examples for those iconic individuals.  Why?  Because they are also unique in their own rights.

As an operator of a family business, we need to be sure that we are taking time to see what’s happening around us and keep pace with the market.  There are countless ways that this can happen but what I always encourage teams I support is to start with a simple exercise that requires just a few things – two flipcharts, two markers, your team and open minds.  On one page, you list all the things that you enjoy as a customer when you go out yourself to a restaurant (If that’s what your business is).  You then ask for all the things that drive you nuts when you go out, because let’s face it, those of us who work in the industry are the ones most likely to pick up on service that could be better.  Then we invite the team to identify if they are doing everything that is great, or if it’s possible that on occasion, the items that drive you nuts exist in their business too.  Try it for yourself and you’ll be surprised by the results.

Having opened up everyone, particularly the business owner, to the concept that the business might not be perfect, a couple of clear actions can be discussed and agreed and let me tell you this; if you involve your team in coming up with the solutions you are bringing them into the loop and they will be invested in helping see through your new actions.

This makes many of my clients uncomfortable.  They feel it is relinquishing control and that their role is to be the leader and their fear is that initiatives like this could make them a follower.  A true leader is a person who can create a sense of collective responsibility, a common cause and something that everybody supports fully.  It’s not easy, and like any process of change management requires careful planning, control while it’s happening and measurement so the successes or shortfalls of expectations are picked up right away allowing real-time change.

When was the last time you stepped back to measure just how great your team are?  After all, you assembled them.  At some point you saw them as the next person who would join your organisation and bring great things in their role.  How proud of them are you now that you have seen them grow and develop in your team?  Will you trust them to help you and “Follow” their ideas to help build your business together?

Is Control Bad

As a business consultant I find it is vital to immediately establish standards with any business I support.  Since when did it become wrong to want to be in control of what’s happening throughout your business?  Is micro-managing really that bad a thing?  Before the weekend, have a think about this:

Sometimes the reason my clients were not seeing the results they wanted from their business was because they had not taken control of daily tasks and actions.  They had allowed other people in the business to find their own way of doing things (READ: The easy way) and then allowed it to become the norm because they were afraid of being labelled a control freak.

As with everything in life, balance is vital in running any business.  The way in which we put across the importance of carrying out tasks in an efficient and consistent manner will often do nothing more than let the team member who was previously left to their own devices know that you genuinely care about how your business is running.  Better yet, they will see you taking time to help them develop and you’re stright away into winning loyalty through those actions once you handle it correctly. The manner in which you put your message across will determine whether you get stuck with the label of being a “Control Freak” or not.  Besides, it’s okay to be a control freak if you’re doing it in the right way.

When you see a member of your team doing something incorrectly with a customer order for example, SUPPORT them.  We all make mistakes, so this isn’t about embarrassing your employee, that solves nothing.  Instead, wait until the interaction with your customer is over and then speak to your team member about WHY they should carry out that same task differently next time.  Help them to understand how it’s better for the customer and also how it makes them more professional too.  Make them part of the solution and brush past the fact that there could have been a problem, then work with them to see if the interaction with the guest can be put back to your consistently high standards before the transaction is over.

This comes back to your credibility.  Will you do what you say you will do?  We’ve all heard every business owner in the early days talking about how they want to be better than their competitors, they want to develop a winning team around them and want to create an environment that’s fun to be involved in.  I promise you, that without being a “Control Freak” when it comes to standards you will fail.  By demanding attention to detail and consistency and that all tasks are carried out to an agreed best practice, you will have happy customers, happy staff and normally a healthy business too.  The best way to make this the culture in your business is to lead by example and always do what’s right, not what’s easy.

When people form a negative impression it’s often more about the body language or your tone of voice used.  The message can get lost in a sea of negative non-verbal communication.  Worse again, you risk being labelled a hypocrite if your team know that you don’t hold yourself to those same high standards or believe that the same rules don’t apply to you as you are the boss.

Deliver your message in a positive way, help answer “Why” it should be done differently and always listen to what your employees have to say as feedback.  That’s not a bad thing, is it?  Think about ways in which you could improve your business by establishing more specific operating standards and then taking time to coach them into your team.  If you need some help, or just some ideas, give me a call and I can share some successful strategies.

Focus or Fire Your Staff for a Winning Sales Strategy

Okay, as I said in the last post “Why you need to be all about the PROFITS in 2012?” the section on Focus or Fire Your Staff sounds a bit dramatic and based on the number of emails from people looking for a view on this, I thought I’d expand on my statement a little further.

You’ll note that I begin with the intention of FOCUS rather than fire. There’s a good reason for this, most people fail to do it. They have a valuable (And costly) resource sitting within their business that will never be unlocked because of a lack of direction and motivation. To illustrate, I’ll fall back on my role within hospitality businesses where the logic is easy, but the practice can be slightly more complex.

I go back again to my previous article (Linked above) and remind you that we have to review our costs. You have to decide if there is sufficient staff resourcing to cope with the business volumes and in hotels this is an easy one to understand. You know how many rooms need to be cleaned from last night, how many breakfasts to serve to the people who stayed and how many people are staying with you tonight? They’ll need receptionists to check them in / out and people to take care of their lunch / dinner / rom service. It’s Groundhog Day – but the numbers change slightly daily.

The question shouldn’t be “How many staff do I need to cover the bookings for tonight?” – that’s reactive, not proactive. The real question will be “How many staff do I need to win MORE business today?” If the staff that you employ realise their importance to your sales effort, then the link between business and FOCUS becomes clear.

Set targets so that each person within each department knows exactly what is required from their performance on that day. Your team should know this and be working with you to help ensure that their performance matches your targets for them but it is your responsibility to empower them to do what it takes to deliver that result.

You MUST give them the necessary training and the benefit of your experience and guidance, but you have to trust them to come up with ways that they believe they can achieve better results. If they are not focussed on the Target, they will simply walk through the steps of their role – do simply what is required on a task basis, clock-out and go home. A focussed team work towards a target and know that their performance will influence whether or not the overall team will be successful – preferably for THAT DAY.

Setting targets as part of an overall sales strategy is a skill and I want to stay on point in this post – there are a number of givens now to be considered:
1. Your team are trained
2. They have the tools required to be successful in their role
3. Their performance has had a measure applied to it
4. Their performance has been linked to the overall business targets
5. The elements of points 3 & 4 above have been communicated clearly to your team

In this context, your team now have the skills and targets. You have to motivate them and each manager will have his / her own style for doing so. Now you can objectively assess individual performance to see if your team are giving you 100% effort. So it’s not completely down to the members of your team – you have your part to play in setting the stage for them and then you have to monitor their performance and communicate with them effectively.

If you have invested this effort into your team and still you have an employee who consistently underperforms, then you implement your own disciplinary procedures and either manage the employee back into effective performance or regrettably, you manage them out the door.

Keep in mind my original point on this. An employee who gives you 8 out of ten for effort is STEALING 20% of the productivity you require from their role. If we thought about lazy attitudes towards work in this context it would have a dramatic change in the way we approach it with our staff surely. If you pay a bar tender €90.00 for six hours work and he stole €20.00 from the till, you would fire him / her. If they take an extra 30 minute break or don’t bother going to greet guests who are stood at the door reading your food menu, why should this be treated differently. These things happen just as much because of a lack of FOCUS on YOUR part as they do when your staff are not focussed on the results that your business needs for success.

Keep your comments coming, I’d love to hear the feedback now that you understand a little bit more about my thoughts on this subject.