How to Raise a Hospitality Leader

How to Raise a Hospitality Leader

By David Faro

What does it take to bring an entry-level employee up into the ranks of your best supervisors? How do you ultimately grow a manager from scratch and train people to move your organization forward? A well-trained, well-conditioned, ready-for-the-frontlines leader only EVER arrives because of good guidance on your part.

That’s where it starts. It starts with you.

The value of a mentor/apprentice relationship in the early days of a hospitality career cannot be overestimated. You know the employees in your organization who seem to be eyeing a supervisory position. You should also know they are observing you. Every day, they are looking at you as an example of how a manager should act. They may also be learning what behavior they want to avoid.

Kathy Chaffee Groff, a consultant for Restaurant Solutions out of Tucson, Arizona, has grown a few managers in her time and had help turning into a leader herself.

“I started out as a young woman trying to make it in Honolulu’s very aggressive hospitality environment in the 1980s. If it wasn’t for the mentorship of some seasoned veterans who took me under their wings, I might not have been focused on some of the skills I needed to thrive,” she says.

“I had to learn, on the job, how to lead teams and create the results my leadership wanted. Like most people, I started from the bottom up, and those initial lessons from my first teachers helped me to open a long list of restaurants in many cities long after I left them and moved on and up the ladder.”

What inventory of skills and abilities does a manager need to consistently succeed at running operations that produce results? It starts with a disposition, of course. All kinds of personality constructs can perform effectively as a manager, but leaders who focus on growing the talent of others stand out from the others.

“I firmly believe that coaching, or mentoring is a very motivational way to get a better work result. Unfortunately, it can also bring on a poor work result if done in a patronizing manner,”  warns Groff.

“Make sure that mentors know what they are doing and have a plan for the managers they are trying to grow,” says Groff. She recommends a simple, three-part plan when helping general managers grow their team’s abilities:

  1. Set clear expectations.
  2. Train the employee for expected results.
  3. Hold employees accountable to the results they produce.

The very best coaches are skilled in dealing with both the positive and negative consequences of an employee’s choices. The effective coach is a cheerleader when someone is a bit down. It’s your job as a coach to pick them up and get them on the right track again. Great coaches are also the ones who care enough about the staff member and the company to address inferior performance. Not everyone performs at their best all the time. The most effective coaches do all this correction of performance in a calm, respectful manner.

The GM who shames, embarrasses or is condescending does not get results or grow effective managers.

Groff puts it plainly, “As I look back at some of the great coaches who have mentored me in the past, they all have one thing in common. They have had my back! When I made a poor decision, my great coaches called it, gently, to my attention.”

A great coach does not just let things go, but they also correct in a way that honors the process. A great coach also hands out positive feedback and spells out a clear and understandable pathway towards success.

Once you have positioned yourself with the attitude that you are going to be a great coach, Groff says that focusing on your measurables is what seals the deal. “Successful restaurant processes are usually made up of a delicate balance of financial, staffing and operations. There are quantifiable indicators in each of these areas that allow you to measure the results of your efforts. Good coaches pin performance assessment to those measurables every time.”

Measurement comes in all shapes and sizes, from dollar and cents results to customer reviews, secret shopper discoveries or more traditional performance reviews.

Your team already shows up to do a respectable job. You can help them focus on doing an excellent job by setting expectations and providing the training they need to meet or exceed those expectations.

(Source: Washington Hospitality Magazine, August 2017)

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