Why Leaders Are Better Than Managers
Working in food service builds character. That's what I have always taught my children and because of that, both of my boys are presently working in food service. My oldest works at TopGolf as a busser and is now being trained as a food runner. My younger son took his first job working at Dunkin' Donuts and now works at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. They are learning indispensable skills and valuable lessons that I believe will be with him for the rest of their lives.
Back when I was in college, I learned some valuable lessons too. I worked in food service for most of the time I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I first worked in the kitchen at the University Dining Commons and then at the Snack Bar, a quick-serve cafeteria with an extensive menu. They served everything from char-grilled burgers to sub sandwiches to grilled cheese and, because of that culinary diversity, I fell in love the cooking (my favorite hobby). I also learned some incredible life-lessons of my own about the difference between managing and leading. Here's what I learned:
Managing Is Task-Focused.
Trisha was an Assistant Cook and my direct supervisor at the Snack Bar. She had originally trained me and oversaw my daily job functions. Trisha was very detail-oriented, never seeming to miss an opportunity to call me-and anyone else under her per out the moment they did something wrong. It was very rare to hear Trisha praising anyone for a job well done.
Leaders Create a Vision.
One day, Trisha's boss, Bill, called everyone into his office to announce a new trial program. Bill explained that to better accommodate students during the rush periods, we would begin pre-making some of our most common items prior to the lunch rush. Reduce wait times. Improve efficiency. Put more burgers into the hands of hungry students. This was something I could really get behind. I was ready to give my all.
Leaders Lead Change, Managers Prefer to Maintain the Status Quo.
The following week, it was time to launch the program and I was ready to make it a success. Trisha was less enthusiastic, expressing from the start how she thought this was a bad idea and would never work. I just kept thinking about what Bill said. It seemed worth it to me to put my all into the change because, IF we could make it work, it would be a positive change for everyone. I knew that we needed to prep enough burgers in advance to keep the line down but not too many as to have some left over. I was prepared to do my part to affect change.
Trisha was less enthusiastic. She had fair concerns about food waste but it was the way that she handled that which bothered me. Rather than help me to find the right balance, she stayed silent. I felt like she was sitting on the sidelines waiting for me to fail.
Leaders Find Solutions, Managers Build A Case.
Trisha assigned me with the responsibility of prepping the burgers, wrapping them, and placing them in a warming bin. Each day, I was to do this just prior to each of our three hourly rushes. When the trial began, there were a few days with several burgers being thrown out but as we continue to work out the bugs, I found a good balance between "running out" and "throwing out".
Rather than working with me to improve the process and decrease breakage, Trisha was right there behind me, constantly tallying how many burgers I was throwing out after each rush. Day by day, even though she saw that the number of burgers we were selling increase in the number of burgers that we were throwing out decrease, she built a case for stopping the program.
I was just a line cook. As a result, I wasn't empowered to share what I saw and that's unfortunate. The program ended because of food waste. It didn't seem to matter that by the time we had a week under our belt and that our own experience and observations had decreased food breakage down to nearly zero. That didn't matter to Trisha as she made the case to cancel the program.
A few more points on leadership.
Leaders share their vision while managers set goals.
Leaders innovate while managers copy.
Leaders take risks while managers play it safe.
Leaders take responsibility (often going down with the ship) while managers blame others.
Leaders solicit new ideas while managers shun them.
Leaders recognize and reward forward progress while managers demand results.
Leaders build relationships while managers build systems and processes.
Leaders develop future leaders-even their direct replacements-while managers simply train.
"People don't quit their jobs,
they leave their managers."
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