Leadership and management are two topics relevant to new and veteran operators alike. We cover these subjects in great detail across several sessions every year at the Nightclub & Bar Show.
However, being a great leader and managing your team and venues are conversations that we keep going throughout the year. After all, even expert-level operators can learn to improve the way they lead and manage.
Perhaps you’re a new owner with stars in your eyes, eager to recruit your team and begin interviews. Maybe you’re an experienced owner, you’re wondering how to take your business to the next level, and you realize your team is crucial to achieving that goal. Could be you’re a manager seeking to improve your leadership and management skills, or you’re a bartender with ambitions of becoming the bar manager.
Regardless of your leadership role, you can’t just hope you’ve hired or manage a team consisting only of driven rock stars. You must understand that you need to become a rock star leader if you have any hope of managing a staff of winners. These 10 steps from Frank Besednjak, 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show speaker and Chief Instigator (that means president and CEO) of Training Source, Inc., will help you improve as a leader. In turn, your team will improve and produce results.
1. Don’t Manage People, Manage Processes
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are chaotic enough on their own every day—there’s no reason to add to the pandemonium. There’s a reason that businesses are also called organizations, and that reason is that most employees need structure to build confidence, develop and succeed.
Organize your business by telling your team your rules and guidelines. Provide, in detail, the systems and processes you expect them to adhere to when working for you. This includes letting them know what they can expect in terms of discipline should they step out of line. As Besednjak explains it:
- The system: “Here are the steps and methods.”
- The rewards: “This is what happens when things go well.”
- The discipline: “This is what happens when you don’t follow the rules.”
One more than one occasion we’ve advised operators to create an employee handbook (physical or digital), give it your new hires, and have them sign it.
2. Help Your Team Achieve Their Personal Goals
How well do you know each member of your team? Have you gotten to know them well enough that you can tell what mood they’re in on any given day? If not, you likely need to spend less time in the office and more time observing the front and back of the house.
You can’t expect to know who needs more training, who wants more responsibility, who wants to remain in their role, and who has reached their maximum potential if you haven’t gotten to know your employees. Ask them about their aspirations and what they expect from you and your business. Be their mentor or find them a mentor, and provide them with the tools they need to succeed in your business. Why would someone be driven to perform for you if you haven’t engaged with, motivated and helped them?
3. Ensure Your Team Understands Your Mission & Objectives
Communication is a big, shiny key to success. Shift meetings are a physical manifestation of that metaphoric key. Share your goals with your team every day, every shift. If you aren’t on property for every shift, tell them what you expect them to share with the team.
It doesn’t end with just sharing your goals, of course. You and your managers should be measuring constantly and communicating the results with the team. Be transparent, keep score, and provide feedback.
4. Lead with Optimism & Energy
You chose to read this article and have gotten this far, so it’s safe to assume that you want to be a better leader. This step is simple but effective.
Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and ask who would rather work for:
A. A negative, pessimistic, emotionally and mentally draining curmudgeon.
B. A positive, optimistic, energetic leader who inspires you every shift.
If you chose option B, the next step is to keep reading and commit to becoming that leader. If you chose option A, just…wow.
5. Show Your Team the Real You
Look, you’re only human. When opening your own bar, restaurant or nightclub it can be tempting to portray yourself as the ruler of your own personal kingdom. But one of the inherent risks of giving in to your ego and portraying yourself in a certain light is coming off as fake.
Instead, show your team your authentic self. Avoid becoming someone else when you become the boss. Be yourself, because doing anything else is a fool’s errand. Your employee and even your guests will know when you’re being fake, and they’re not going to respect you for it. Along with being yourself, be consistent; your employees should know how you’re going to react in just about any situation before you react.
6. Display Your Courage
As the leader, you’re going to have make unpopular calls. You’ll have to follow your gut in some situations and not second guess your decisions. You can’t make everyone happy, so let go of that thought process now if you haven’t already. You won’t always make the absolute best call. Mistakes will be made by you, and you’ll be forced to make decisions some of your team won’t like.
Being the leader is accepting the responsibility of being bold and decisive. It may be difficult to believe as you read this, but it’s better to be respected than liked when you’re in charge. A decision you make may be unpopular—like firing a team member—but if you’re perceived as courageous and fair, your team won’t lose respect for you.
7. Act with Decisiveness
This is directly tied to step 6 above. Being decisive doesn’t just mean making decisions and standing by them. If it were that easy we wouldn’t even have to address this step.
Read this: Advanced Management: Kick Conflict Out
No, being decisive also requires addressing issues as they present themselves. A decisive person doesn’t procrastinate. Does something feel “off” or not make sense? Ask yourself, your managers and your team members what’s going on. Get to the bottom of an issue immediately, whether it’s convenient or not. Operating a bar or restaurant isn’t about what’s convenient for you, it’s about action and keeping things running as smoothly as possible. Being decisive and tackling issues in the moment is how you deliver an excellent guest experience.
8. Lead Through Empowerment
Want your team to perform for you? Want them to chomp at the bit to start their shift, not just come to work to get through it? Empower them.
Why share your rules, guidelines, systems, processes, mission, goals and who you are as a person and leader if you’re not going to trust your team to do their jobs? Micromanagement isn’t rewarding—it’s a lot of work and just adds to your stress (and everyone else’s, including your guests).
Just like you’re going to make mistakes, so are your employees. Let them know that making mistakes is part of learning. In fact, address those mistakes one on one in a helpful, respectful way, asking them what they learned from their mistake.
Give your employees the freedom and authority to handle certain guest issues. Ease their stress. And follow Besednjak’s book recommendation: read Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment.
9. Measure, Measure and Measure Some More
If you don’t keep score you can’t know if you’re winning. It’s that simple. So, measure everything. Metrics don’t just show you numbers, providing you with a way to measure good versus bad. They also allow you to create benchmarks, come up with attainable goals, and identify problems while they’re small enough to solve before they become business-ending nightmares.
Read this: Overcoming Millennial Management Obstacles
If you’re under the impression that your team doesn’t want to know what’s going on “behind the scenes,” you’re wrong. Employees wonder about the health of their workplace. They want goals. Your team wants to be involved and feel as though they have an impact on the success of your brand. This is true even of the much-maligned Millennial; they value metrics and feedback, so provide them.
10. Always Celebrate & Reward Wins
You’re the leader, which means you’re the coach. And as the coach your mission is to win as many games as possible. So, if you won a big game you would want to celebrate it, wouldn’t you?
Last week we shared the most valuable days of the week, as identified by Nielsen CGA. Your goal, of course, should be to provide excellent service to every guest and generate as much revenue as possible every day. Following the coach analogy, however, let’s call Saturday, Friday and Wednesday the big games. And let’s say your team performed flawlessly on a Saturday, raking in big dollars for you and themselves during that “big game.” Celebrate that win! Identify your “all stars” and reward them.
You’re not just a bar or restaurant owner, you’re a leader. You’re the coach. Follow these 10 steps every day and become the leader for whom everyone wants to work. Get so good at your job—and leadership is your job—that employees from other bars want to work for you.