Putting Together a Management Team
In some cases, developing an effective management team simply requires hiring 2-5 experienced, competent employees and letting them go to work. However, not all managers work well together and not all experienced, effective employees fit into every management context. Some of the best managerial hires happen quite by accident, and some of the worst hires happen after interviewing the most competent-seeming candidates. As experienced HR staffers will attest, hiring employees is a crapshoot, and it is especially so in the restaurant business. If this weren’t the case, nobody would ever have a bad dining experience and restaurant operators would have much better sleep at night.
One way to avoid the arbitrary nature of the business is to have a preconceived strategy for putting together a management team. The most common preconception we have as operators is to hire someone with the same strengths that we have. Generally speaking, we tend to hire people like ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Candidates that laugh at our jokes in an interview, or who have eaten at the same restaurants, or started out in the same entry-level restaurant position are more likely to get hired than those who don’t. However, specifying the qualities of the person you are seeking, rather than just the duties you are looking to have completed, can give you higher chances for hitting a hiring homerun.
Hiring managers that have complimentary strengths is a great way to ensure that your managers will work well together. And if you are hiring someone to work alongside you, it should be that much easier. Have you ever been to a restaurant for dinner and not once seen a manager on the floor running a shift, checking on guests, helping servers or greeting guests at the hostess stand? Chances are there is a manager or two who is more comfortable in the kitchen. Hiring a front-of-the-house expert to compliment your chef-turned-manager keeps all the bases covered. That doesn’t mean that your managers should be polar opposites. In fact, your management team should have some qualities in common. They should all be able to see the business from 20,000 feet in the air while seeing the same salt shaker on that banquette in the back of the dining room. Complimentary strengths, not opposing strengths, make a good management team.
Other examples include bringing in a female to compliment a male-dominated management staff, or a male if the opposite is the case. Generally speaking, women can sometimes see aspects of a dining room or kitchen that many men cannot, while the opposite can also be true. Also, men and women can sometimes address or relate to individual employees in ways that members of the opposite sex have difficulty. Other examples of hiring to opposing strengths are to bring in a good cop to offset the strengths of a disciplinarian, or a younger manager to compliment an older management staff. The benefits of strategic hiring are clear, but it remains important that managers with opposing styles be able to sit at the same table at a managers’ meeting and share common ground.
Finally, it is worth a reminder that the best management teams (in most industries) have one chief. The buck has to stop somewhere, and it should not stop at the desk of a team of managers. When multiple managers all captain the ship, employees will develop allegiances to those managers who favor them (just as children will to a parent who they anticipate will give the answer they are looking for). The most efficient management teams surround a single General Manager or Operator with a variety of strengths, all working together.