How to Create a Team of Forward Thinkers

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

Forward-thinking is having the ability to see, predict, and plan ahead. This is a highly sought-after skill, and yet, not a lot of people have this skill within them. We look for people with experience because forward-thinking is a talent that comes with days in the field.

It’s not something that you can just acquire simply because you want to be a forward thinker. In management, you cannot foresee the issues that you will experience growing from one store to 100 stores. Why? You simply haven’t experienced the growth, so you don’t know what to look out for.

One of the biggest struggles that restaurant owners have is that they start to grow, but in order to keep up with the growth, they have to promote from within. The biggest issue with promoting from within is that the people you are promoting probably lack the skills that you need or want them to have.

You want to promote from within because it promotes loyalty amongst your brand and employees — but at what cost?

Without a little forward-thinking of your own, you’ll just end up with a big headache because you weren’t prepared to train everyone properly. Or perhaps you were prepared, but they weren’t prepared to step into the role, particularly when it comes to communication.

So, how can you create a team of forward thinkers when they haven’t had the experience to have the ability to see, predict, and plan ahead?

Create a Culture of Rewarding Thinking, Not Reactions

One of the biggest culprits as to why people aren’t forward thinkers is because the world has become very reactionary. There is very little forward-thinking, especially when it comes to the role of the store manager.

A lot of growing restaurants have a big, long list of responsibilities that the manager needs to get done — until those priorities slip because something more immediate or important happens, such as an oven breaking down or a customer becoming upset about a cold meal.

We have created a culture of reacting instead of a culture of thinking ahead. We no longer reward thinking because there aren’t any tangible results. We will reward tangible results and we will reward management taking care of any issues that arise so the owners don’t have to think about that stuff.

But if you allow your managers to go into their day without a game plan and priorities, then you’ve already lost the battle because there will always be things to correct going in based on reactions. Unfortunately, the things that need to get done will fall by the wayside until it becomes a reactionary item.

Train Your Team to Think!

When I became a manager for the first time, I wanted my employees to over-communicate with me so I knew what was happening in the store at all times. But this soon backfired when I was getting phone calls every single day, and they would ask me questions that they should already know the answers to.

But instead of asking questions to get my employees to answer their own questions, I would constantly just give them the answers to their issues immediately so they could go on with their day. What I didn’t realize was I was training them to not think. Whenever they had a question, they would call me to have it answered.

This created a culture of dependance. That’s not what we want. As owners and operators, we want to create a team of leaders that can spearhead any initiative within the restaurant and do it well. When you train your teams to think, they will continue to move your company ahead as a team.

Mentorship is Crucial

At the end of the day, not everyone you hire will have every skill that you need at the exact time that you need it. That is why it’s important to set aside time to mentor the ones who show interest in moving forward in their career.

A mentorship program doesn’t have to take a lot of your time as an owner or operator. As the operator, you are constantly having to think about multiple items at a time. That knowledge that you hold about organization and prioritizing could be the key that could take them from being reactionary to being a forward thinker.

Get your team to answer the question “why?” If they want to implement a new strategy, why would it be effective for the company? Why would this make an impact? Once you start asking them why, you’ll begin to create a team of forward thinkers who will benefit your company and the industry as a whole.