Recently in the grocery store I saw an otherwise adorable little girl have a meltdown because her father wouldn’t allow her to have something. Although I missed hearing what the item was due to her hysterics, the scene was completely familiar. The coveted item probably had: Red #7, MSG, High Fructose Syrup, Shellac, and Peanuts, but unless she was allergic and not carrying an epi pen, I could tell that dad was about to give in. He was using too many ‘reasoning’ words, while furtively looking to see if there were any parent police around. To be polite and because I too am trying to be a great parent (often with mixed results), I looked away and skirted around the family drama.
Haven’t we all wondered the same snarky thing I had at that time, ‘Who’s in charge in that family?’ We know who is paying the bills, but who is really the boss? In family dynamics as well as in business, the answer is not always clear. At home it is often the loudest member who calls the shots. A mother hearing her baby’s cry will drop everything to assist. Is that true everywhere? How emotionally healthy is your work place?
I first made this family dynamic analogy years ago when I worked for a screamer. He was a grown man who would yell at his employees (mostly high school kids) while getting progressively redder in the face, spitting while speaking, and pounding his big, fat, hairy, fists. I hated working for him and would have quit but the tips were great and I wanted to earn as much money as I could for college. Once during an epic tirade, I started imagining him as a giant, unattractive baby and suddenly it all became clear. Here was a person who could never hear the word, “No.” His tantrums stemmed either from a miserable home situation, or he was raised in a Dickensian orphanage. Either way, I decided to treat him like he was a mentally damaged six-year-old, and the rest of the summer I was his ‘favorite employee.’ If you are a manager, what do your employees think about you? If you don’t care one way or the other, you most likely already know the answer.
As a service and sales trainer, I travel the world and work with different levels of hierarchy. Speaking to groups as I do, I have discovered two truths that I would like to share with you:
The first is that you can tell the quality of the manager by the amount of time he/she puts into the development of the line staff. (For those unfamiliar with the term, line staff refers to employees on the front lines of battle in a service establishment. These are the boots on the ground: Servers, Receptionists, Retail Agents, Front Desk Clerks, or anyone who stands face to face with the clients. Often this position is called ‘entry level’ which I find incredibly ironic.)
The second truth is that line staff employees unilaterally run the hotel, restaurant, spa, store, etc… Every time.
Don’t believe me? Neither do most business owners. Most people live under the false impression that, “I want to speak to your Manager,” is the best way to get results. I must say that when dealing with a terrible employee, it is a tempting phrase; it even needs to be said occasionally. However the most powerful sentence I have found when I am being insulted and want better service is, “Did I say something to offend you? Or are you just having a really bad
day?” Oh yeah, and a smile never hurts either.
A General Manager can leave his/her establishment for weeks on end and the place will run just fine. (Often better.) Conversely, try running a restaurant with no waiters or better yet, no dish washers, and see how long things last. A qualified and secure manager knows this and acts accordingly.
The good managers I have seen treat their employees with respect and take a genuine interest in their career development. They know most employees do not want to stay stagnant in their positions indefinitely and so instead of holding them down, they help them move forward, resulting in loyal relationships all around. Good managers are also coming from secure, mature places themselves and do not need to take out their aggressions on the line staff.
Think about it. The next time you say to yourself, “I will never go to that place again,” chances are the reason is because someone at the line level of the establishment made your experience unpleasant. Rude waiters, an insulting store clerk, an unclean hotel room, all of these items were not in the manager’s control but the line employee’s.
As a manager or business owner, why spend money on fancy marketing plans and then ignore explaining these goals to your employees? They will after all, make or break your business. Who is in charge of your business? That’s easy – the person who speaks to the client!