9 Behaviors You can Change to Become a More Effective Leader

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Evolve or perish.” That’s a dire sentiment when taken at face value.

When applied to business, the above statement is simpler. As an operator it just means that you need to keep up with the times—or exercise forethought and stay ahead—to stay relevant. In business, remaining relevant helps you stay, well, in business.

Now, consider this phrase: “Evolve or repeat.” When applied to business, this directive can be less ominous. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important. One interpretation of that quote is that a bar owner or manager can either choose to change or maintain the status quo.

Both principles, evolve or perish and evolve or repeat, apply to leadership in business. As an owner or manager, you can choose to:

  1. Change as a leader (evolve) to better recruit and retain top talent from today’s labor pool.
  2. Change nothing as a leader because things are going well and you can honestly say you have the exact business you want (repeat).
  3. Change nothing as a leader because you stubbornly refuse to admit your leadership skill need improvement, eventually closing your doors for good (perish).

Frank Besednjak, president of Training Source Inc., a diversified company that offers business training, coaching, and consulting services, addressed true leadership during his 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show session. He discussed how leadership—positive, effective leadership—has the power to empower and therefore energize employees.

To make his point about the power of great leadership, Besednjak juxtaposed 9 negative leadership behaviors against their positive counterpoints. Improving and adjusting as a leader, as he said, is imperative to the success and longevity of a business owner. Poor leadership behaviors destroy morale, the opposite of empowerment and positive energy.

Guests and potential new hires pick up on bad morale. They tend to avoid spending their time and money at bars and restaurants afflicted with negative energy. It doesn’t take a genius to know what happens to businesses that customers avoid.

So, let’s dive into the nine negative leadership behaviors and Besednjak wants you to change. You may not engage in all these behaviors but it’s wise to be aware of them. Not only will that help you improve as a leader, that knowledge will help you identify negative these negative behaviors in your managers and other team members.

1. Never Setting Goals

Without goals, what are you and your team working toward? “Money” isn’t a good enough answer. All business owners want to make money—that’s what business is. Employees want to make money—that’s why they work. A team works together to accomplish goals big and small or they aren’t really a team.

It’s also difficult to give team members meaningful feedback if there are no goals to set feedback against. If you don’t offer your team feedback, not only can they not improve their skills, they’ll think you don’t care about them or their careers. Goals energize teams and constructive feedback empowers them.

Instead, Besednjak suggests working toward SMART goals. That means they’re Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Besednjak says goals must be written down and recommends coming up with just three to five at a time. Write (or type) down goals—again, that are reasonable and therefore attainable—so they can be read on one page. Make sure your team agrees on and knows how to accomplish them. And show your team how to “win,” including how to measure the goals and keep score. Commit to doing this during shift meetings.

2. Never Resolving Issues or Challenges

This business can get overwhelming in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the thought of solving yet another problem can feel like too much of a burden. As the leader, too bad—it’s part of the role.

Besednjak advises owners and managers to seek out “the undesirables,” those issues and challenges you’ve been avoiding, and just get them handled. He says to make them your first tasks of the day and to tackle the easiest last. Doing so will hone your problem-solving skills.

Read this: Your Work Family: The Key to Your Legacy

Making a habit of taking on challenges first thing is a huge improvement to your leadership skills. You’ll begin dealing with challenges the moment they pop up rather than avoiding them and hurting operations. If an issue or challenge doesn’t speak to your problem-solving strengths, admit your weakness and ask your team for help. Not only is that empowering, many people are energized when asked to help solve a problem.

As Besednjak says, “Never become comfortable with dysfunction.” Eliminate problems as soon as they arise. Oh, that goes for chronically negative employees.

3. Never Managing from Within

Besednjak has a simple management question for you: “Does a pro sports coach watch the game on TV from home while sending texts criticizing players actions during the game?”

Of course not. He’s right there on the sidelines with the rest of the team. Leadership via screen or data isn’t really leadership. Successful coaches—another role you’ve taken on as the leader—are in trenches, observing their teams in real time so they can be supportive, offer feedback, and regroup and redirect to adapt to shifting situations.

4. Never Controlling Your Outbursts

It’s counterproductive and a sign of poor leadership when someone loses their cool publicly. Losing control and giving in to a public outburst embarrasses you, team members and guests.

Do you think the team member (or members) you scream at in front of everyone will feel empowered or energized after a public dressing down? Do you think the guests who witnessed your outburst will remember the food and drinks or your tantrum?

Read this: 5 (Almost) Free Things You Can do this Week to Improve Your Business

For some, getting a handle on emotions and avoiding outbursts can be a challenge (see #2). With effort, people given to outbursts can change. Part of the solution is to focus on the positive rather than the negative. That certainly isn’t easy. Neuroscientist Rick Hanson says, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”

If you’re the type who loses their cool on the floor in front of guests, admit to it and commit to changing this behavior. It’s demoralizing to team members and guests to be on the receiving end of an outburst or witness one.

5. Never Giving Credit

Receiving recognition for accomplishments is immensely empowering. Feeling that level of empowerment is greatly energizing. It puts a spring into anyone’s step, makes them lift their head a bit more, motivates them to stick out their chest a little more. Recognition is confidence building.

Owners who fail to give credit where it’s due—or worse, steal the credit—aren’t leaders, period. Employees today want to feel like they have an impact on the business. They want to feel like they’re part of the success and desire recognition. I’d argue that employees have always craved these things, they’re just more vocal about it now.

So, why do some owners and managers snatch glory from their teams? If you’re an owner, why isn’t it enough that you own a bar, nightclub or restaurant? If you’ve risen to the rank of manager, why can’t you let your team bask in their wins?

Besednjak suggests that it’s easy to reverse this negative behavior. Just learn to say, “Thank You! Great job! I really appreciate what you do for this company!” and mean it sincerely. He also says it’s perfectly acceptable to be “weird, funny and goofy” with your team members. You may just find yourself listening and observing more—and even having fun—when you get involved and celebrate your team’s victories.

6. Never Being Clear

Remember way back up toward the top of this article when I explained Besednjak’s SMART goal system? If you do, you’ll recall that setting goals requires making sure your team knows what they are, how to accomplish them, and how to track their progress. In other words, you need to be clear with your team.

Besednjak compared a bar, nightclub or restaurant team to a sports team. When a team is playing a game, they’re familiar with the rules. They understand the goals. Roles are clearly defined, as are goals. There’s one head coach. If multiple coaches are working toward their own ends, if the rules and roles aren’t clear, the team will collapse.

Read this: Profits, Meet Practicality

An incredibly effective way to get everyone on the same page is to create an employee manual. Beyond the legal protection such a tool offers, it makes everything clear. Write down your rules, guidelines and processes. Communicate these clearly with current employees and new hires. Many industry experts suggest having every employee sign a document stating they’ve reviewed the manual and understand its contents.

A failure to communicate clearly just leads to confusion, selfishness and chaos. Neither of those are empowering.

7. Never Providing Training or Tools

We’ve made it clear over the course of many, many articles that training isn’t just about getting people to do what you want as an owner or manager. Training shows that you’re interested in your team members, that you want to nurture their careers and help them prepare for the future.

Training is empowering. Someone can’t feel empowered if they don’t feel confident in what they’re doing. They also don’t feel like an owner or manager cares (and therefore don’t feel empowered) if they aren’t given the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs.

Failing to train team members, failure to provide them with what they need to do the job for which you hired them, results in one thing: employee turnover. You’ll bleed employees rather than retain them. Turnover costs not just money, it costs time. Worse, it ruins your reputation as an owner, meaning you’ll have to settle for employees unconcerned with providing top-quality service. We know what poor treatment of guests leads to…

Create a training program and ensure you provide your team members with the tools and equipment they need. Can laying out that money be difficult to swallow? Of course! But don’t you think it’s better than watching the overall quality of your employees, food, beverage and guests plummet, leading to you losing your business?

8. Never Stepping Back

Are you an owner or a helicopter? That probably seems like a silly question. You’re human, how could you be a helicopter?

Okay, so you probably don’t have rotors coming out of you and chances the odds say you can’t achieve flight on your own. That doesn’t mean you can’t hover.

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. When an employee isn’t allowed to do their job, when they feel you’re ready to pounce on them if they don’t accomplish every task as you would do it, it’s impossible for them to feel empowered.

We all learn from our mistakes. Many an expert has agreed that mistakes are better teachers than successes. That doesn’t mean you can’t step in to keep an employee from doing something that will hurt a guest, team member or the business. It does mean that you need to stop hovering over your team, micromanaging everything they do.

Give your team the freedom to make mistakes so they can learn from them. In turn, they’re feel empowered and perform better for you. Step. Back.

9. Never Setting Down the Shotgun

Besednjak is speaking about a metaphorical shotgun here, of course. He wants owners to stop using a shotgun approach to resolving problems.

This means avoiding the following:

  • Having a meeting with the entire team to address an issue that arose rather than privately addressing it with the specific employees who created the problem.
  • Bringing up an issue, challenge or task you want handled with the entire team but not explaining how you want it dealt with and by whom.
  • Changing rules, guidelines or processes, or creating more work for everyone, because one or two team members appear to have a problem with performing a task correctly.

I think it’s clear where Besednjak’s head is with the shotgun approach to problem solving. First, this type of “leadership” causes problems. Second, this method of “management” just makes the team members doing things right feel like they’re being lumped in with the problem members. That’s not an empowering feeling. Lastly, the shotgun approach isn’t surgical and precise, it’s messy. Put the shotgun down and pick up a problem-solving laser.

Read this: Achieving a Healthy, Long-term Career in the Bar Business

It can be uncomfortable for anyone to admit they need to change. That’s a good thing. When you’re comfortable you can all too easily become complacent, satisfied with the status quo. So, will you decide to evolve, repeat or perish?

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