What’s Your Kryptonite? The 3 Biggest Elements Holding Managers Back From Reaching Their Potential

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

Anyone familiar with comic books knows that Superman’s weakness was kryptonite. Throughout history, mankind has faced great adversaries that test who we are. It’s when we face those demons and take the challenge to tackle them head on that we find our true strength.

This industry is bittersweet at times. It can be extremely rewarding and it can just as quickly chew you up and spit you out. Some might think that working in the industry is a roller coaster love affair. You really do have to love it to get through the low days. In the end, it truly is a reflection of the phrase "what you sow you’ll reap."

Entry into management is a special passage all to itself. For some it is an honor to become a manager. For others, it’s a curse. 81% of new managers say they did not receive the proper training before making the jump over to management. That is truly a sad fact. To think that people are put into a position of influence and receive very little training is definitely setting them up for failure.

While this list can be rather long, let’s dial in to the three key elements that hold managers back from reaching their potential.

1.      Focus

This is paramount to any success in any industry. The ability to focus in on the right things and take action is critical to how effective you become as a manager. Now, let’s discuss the difference between being effective and efficient. Most managers learn very quickly to be efficient. Meaning they learn the easiest way to do their required duties. The problem is that they are usually focused on activities that really have little impact on restaurant profits. 

Look at food cost. Most managers are great at streamlining ordering and spend quite a bit of time beating up on vendors over price. While getting the best price possible from your food service partner is smart business, it is only a fraction of the profit equation. Too many managers do not know down to the penny what every dish on their menu costs to produce so why do they focus on what they buy it for when they don’t even know if the item makes them money on their menu?

It stems from a fear of control. Most managers are not given training or tools (food costing software) that can help them analyze their menu costs. They say the universe abhors a vacuum and here is a good example. If your manager or kitchen manager does not know how to calculate food costs, then they will focus on the thing they know they can do: focus on price. 

2.      Training

It’s sad that most managers feel they never got adequate training to be effective in their new role. It’s worst that they don’t break this pattern with the people that they now supervise!

Training in most restaurants tends to be the “train by trail” method. They tell the new hires to “follow” a senior staff member around for three-four days to watch and learn. While observing is a good supplement to training, it cannot be the only training. Well-designed training programs have to take into account the way people process and learn.

There are three basic learning styles and while we use all of them in different degrees, we all have a preference. Back in 1979, Walter Burke Barbe and his colleagues proposed that people tend to learn by one or more of the following:

Visual: these people like to see it first. This could be through videos or the written word. They’ll use key phrases like: “I can see what you’re talking about.”

Auditory: these people learn by listening to the material. Verbal explanations work for these people. Their key phrases involve things like “I hear you.”

Kinesthetic: these people need to use hands on training to get what they call “the feel” of it. Key phrases are things like: “Let me get a handle on it.” Or, “I want to wrap my arms around this first.”

Smart managers take the three learning styles into consideration and develop training programs that utilize all of them. Training manuals, quizzes, service role playing, one-on-one feedback sessions, and online training modules all help build a well-rounded employee. 

3.      Fear

Here is the big one. They say that the fears you run from, run to you. Fear is the major roadblock going from manager to leader. Fear is subjective to the individual. Fear can be so real in our minds that it can actually hold us hostage from action. Let’s look at a few common fears that may have a hold on the mind of many managers:

·"You’re not that good." This is a common one and its entire basis is built around confidence. In an effort to hide this, many managers overcompensate by being aggressive, rude and condescending. None of those behaviors build trust, loyalty, and teamwork. The cure: keep learning. With the Internet and smart phones, managers today have access to more information than ever in the history of mankind. There are thousands of blogs about leadership and management. You say your style of learning is not visual? Then try the auditory method with audiobooks. Remember, school is never out for the professional.

·"Your team might quit." When you see a team member doing something wrong and you don’t say anything, that is called silent approval. Basically, by not saying something you have pretty much said the behavior or action is okay. When you don’t help your staff learn to be better, you take away their opportunity to grow. When people feel that your organization does not provide the growth and challenge they need, then they find an organization that will. A great example would be the delivery driver who shows up 20 minutes late and looks like a disheveled mess. Many managers choose not to say anything because they don’t want to risk a person quitting right then and leaving them short staffed for the evening. That is no way to run a business.

Walking on eggshells because of your fear to say something to the team that is not living up to company standards takes us to a concept called handcuff management. At this point, the staff controls you. Being a manager is about getting things done through other people. Correcting behavior, setting expectations, and having those difficult conversations is part of it. The cure: get some training on conflict resolution or find a mentor or coach. If this is your kryptonite, then you need to deal with it. Just remember that you don’t have to do it alone.

We all have some kryptonite out there. Most of them are based on false assumptions we have. The key to reducing the effect they have on you is to first understand, confront, and admit you have some. The next is to find out what they really are all about. The key to having a better quality of life is to ask better quality questions. Is this fear I have based on solid fact or fictitious elements I have created? The next thing is to take some action towards your fear. The amazing thing you will learn is that if you take action against your fears that their grip and power over you will diminish. Eventually they’ll just fade away.

Remember when you were a kid and you are afraid of the monsters under your bed. We grew up to realize that they were just our imagination. Once we realize the truth of what they are, we could let them go. Face your fears, accept them for what they are, weaken them with logical questions, and then let them go because they are just holding you back from reaching your full potential.