Running a team can be rewarding and stressful. You want to maintain a high-performing staff that delivers good customer experiences, completes tasks efficiently and keeps working at your business. But creating a top-performing team hinges on management. Your team’s performance, whether good or bad, is usually a symptom of your management style.
Before you start working with your team to improve their performance and skills, evaluate yourself first. Here are four things to consider adding to your management approach to create a more positive and enthusiastic team:
1) Be generous with compliments and praise
Restaurant employees often receive detailed feedback when they do things wrong. This can be a bad customer experience, an incorrect order or tardiness. But what about when they excel? Ask yourself, are you complimenting your team enough? We’re not talking about a simple “good job” or “nice work.” Keep your team engaged and motivated by calling out positive behavior. Commend employees who are great examples and make them feel like their efforts are being recognized. Spotlighting great employees and offering detailed and positive feedback can make any constructive criticism more effective. Consistently delivering negative criticism or corrections can cause your staff to check out.
A good rule of thumb for providing constructive feedback is the “sandwich” approach. Try structuring your feedback with praise, then layer in critique and close with another positive note. Be clear about why you are sharing the feedback. Position it as an opportunity to grow and develop rather than a form of punishment. You want to ensure criticism is actionable and addressable. Also, remember you don’t want your employees to view speaking with you as a need to panic over job security or to associate one-on-ones with negative feedback only. If you find your team is nervous when meeting with you, it’d be good to evaluate how much you balance your praise and feedback when communicating with them. Celebrate when employees display good behavior or performance to encourage others to go above and beyond, too!
Related: 6 ways to set your restaurant apart to attract great employees
2) Empower your staff
It’s easy as a manager to “fix” performance by personally ensuring everything is done right. Unfortunately, this can often make things worse. When you remove responsibilities from your team by taking them on yourself, employees tend to check out. Instead, consider more of a “trust and check” system, like the one used by Nick’s Pizza in Chicago. This way of thinking keeps your staff engaged with their jobs while establishing several layers of quality control to ensure consistency in the product and service. You’ll find that trusting your employees is just as beneficial as encouraging their development and building morale. It also gives you more time to focus on your own responsibilities as a manager.
3) Set rules and expectations — and enforce them consistently
Being a manager requires you to build, manage and communicate with a team. This involves setting clear goals, expectations and responsibilities. But in order to enforce expectations with your team, you have to apply them to everyone — including yourself. Be sure to avoid playing favorites. If your team recognizes that you let specific individuals get more flexibility or extras, you might see a dip in morale and a spike in negative energy.
Another area where it’s important to set expectations is career advancement. With all the stress of managing a restaurant, you might not realize that many members of your team may aspire to do what you do. Create a clear path for them to advance and set expectations for what it means to work in management. This provides a better framework for promotions, rather than making the process automatic based on tenure alone.
4) Show more empathy
All of your employees have an opinion about their jobs, responsibilities and customer interactions. They all have their own ways of staying motivated, their own pet peeves and their own ways of maintaining levity. As a manager, it’s really easy to lose touch with the day-to-day lives and responsibilities of your team because you’re thinking more strategically from a management level. Yes, you’ve been in the industry for years and you started in their shoes, too. But that doesn’t mean your experience is the same as your staff’s. Take the time to truly understand your employees and their mindsets. It’ll help you connect with them better. Do your best to be encouraging, especially on stressful days. Acknowledge when things become challenging, but don’t encourage your team to throw in the towel. When a bad service moment occurs, try to boost them up instead and be a source of inspiration for when things get tough or don’t go as planned. Acts of empathy can help foster better team spirit and morale.
As you analyze your business and the team that keeps it running, be sure to look at your management style first — especially the next time you see employee performance dipping. Many times, the opportunity to improve starts with you. Always assess how you’re doing by observing your team and noting any improvements you see in their performance and engagement. Take the time to acknowledge good behavior and extra effort, and show your appreciation for everything they do.