Warm Fuzzies and Cold Pricklies
The best advice I ever received in this business is to sprinkle in warm fuzzies with the cold pricklies when talking to employees. It is very easy to get hung up on one or the other, depending on how the day is going or what needs to be said. A day in the life of a restaurant manager can be chaotic, with a handful of things happening at any given moment. This type of culture often makes communication reductive, with just time to get a single point across before the next fire starts.
This is one reason that managerial communication is too often about the manager. Instead, it’s worthwhile to make sure that communication is employee-centered. As managers, we tend to have a certain perspective on our jobs, the challenges of a restaurant, or life as a manager. That can lead to communication that is one-sided and static, which cultivates tune-out and divisions in the kitchen.
Managers have to vary their message, and the way to do that is to sprinkle in some warm pricklies with the cold fuzzies. Thinking about this consciously and folding it into employee communication is a great tool for running a small business.
One-sided communication is too often the norm in staff meetings. This may take the form of lengthy diatribes about what the staff is doing wrong or how employees need to improve. The dangers or a meeting full of cold pricklies are significant, including the dreaded bitch session and employees who lose confidence. These meetings tend to accomplish nothing beyond reminding employees to tune out when the manager speaks.
A great framework for employee meetings is to: 1) describe what the staff is doing well, and 2) describe where improvement is needed. A meeting can be divided down the middle, with the first half dedicated to compliments and the second half to redirecting energy. Employees need to be reminded they have a track record of success before urging them forward. This is especially true for part-time and youthful employees, for whom a pat on the back can make a big difference.
Another framework is: 1) here’s our problem, and 2) here’s how we’re solving it. This provides employees with a vision for the future by focusing on the solution. This is an employee-centered approach based on confidence that employees are professionals who can create change.
Negative communication in one-on-one meetings with employees represents a lack of engagement and a selfish approach to management. There needs to be two sides to the message from management. It might sound like this:
- You’re great at ----; but you need to work on----
- Here’s your greatest strength; here is your biggest area of need
- Here’s where you have improved; here’s where you’re improving next
It should be noted that employees differ greatly, and managers have to be sensitive to the needs of the individual. This might mean lengthening the positive and abbreviating the negative in some cases. Adjusting management style to the individual is critical for success in this people-oriented business.
The backbone of this industry is the everyday communication between employees and managers in the kitchen and dining room. The best management style I’ve encountered is one that recognizes the need to have fun together and work hard together. Informal communication should reflect this. Managers should joke around and keep the building light-hearted. However, everyone should be capable of getting to work when the time comes.
One-minute management refers to the need to get a point across quickly and assertively. A one-minute management session can be pointed, focused and even loud. This only works when it is used sparingly, to send the message that there are consequences for substandard job performance.
A one-minute management session is only an option when managers lay the groundwork with two-way trust built on active, employee-centered rapport. Get to know employees. Part your arm around their shoulder if it helps. But be prepared to remind them of the objective every now and then.