When to Fire a Manager
By David Scott Peters
If you’re a restaurant owner who wants freedom from your business and to have the financial freedom you work so hard for, reaching those goals revolves around one thing: managers. You need managers who follow your systems, your process, your way. And all too often, as restaurant owners I work with go through the process of implementing systems, they say to me, “David, when do I let this manager go? Is it time?”
The guilt we feel is we wonder, “Is it my fault that I didn’t give them the systems in the first place? Was it my fault that I didn’t give them the support?”
As hospitality industry professionals, we want to take care of people. The last thing we really enjoy, unless you’re a little bit weird, is actually firing somebody. It’s one of the worst things for us because we are built to take care of people.
To get over the emotional side of managing people and holding them accountable, I teach something I call the three-strike approach to management. It’s your recipe for understanding when it’s time to pull the trigger and send a manager on their way.
First you have to understand how people learn. People learn differently, auditory, tactile and visual learners.
- Auditory people just have to hear it.
- Visual learners see it or read it.
- Tactile learners have to do it.
The best trainings have all three ways of teaching/learning because they cover all the bases. If you truly want to reinforce a learning process, your training must include auditory, tactile and visual methods for learning.
But let’s say I train you, and I didn’t realize how you learn may be different than how my training is set up. Initially you show me you understand the process and you actually do it right. Then I come around the corner a month later, and you’re doing it wrong. And I’m thinking you know better because I taught you, and I saw you execute correctly. It’s so frustrating, and we want to get really mad at you for being such a dope.
But when this happens to you, my advice is to stop yourself from getting mad at them. It’s your fault you didn’t train them properly. You didn’t find out whether they are a tactile, visual or auditory learner. You trained them a certain way. They temporarily understood it but didn’t truly absorb it because you didn’t have all three learning methods in the training.
In three-strikes management, that incorrect way of working is strike one for your manager. You see them doing it wrong. You call them out on it and hold them accountable, which means there may be a write up. But you retrain them in a different way and make them show you over and over how to do it. Once you’re sure they understand their retraining, you let them out on their own.
If a month later they’re still doing it wrong, and you’re ready to fly off the handle, stop. It’s still your fault. You still didn’t figure out how to train them properly. That’s strike two and maybe a write up, but you’re going to retrain them. You’re going to find a way to go through all the different things with an auditory, tactile and visual way. The goal is to cement the learning process and make sure the manager gets it and you get it.
Now, when you come around the corner a month later, a week later, two days later, and see it’s still being done wrong, whether it’s on the third or fourth strike, depending on whether you allow a third strike or fire on a third strike, they’re out.
After retraining twice, asking them to show you how to do it, and then just not following the proper methods, I call it “don’t know vs don’t care.” If they don’t know how to do something, it’s my fault as a trainer. Don’t care is their fault. If it’s don’t care, there’s the door.
You don’t want managers who don’t care. They will poison the well. But notice I’m not telling you to just pull the trigger and say, you’re an idiot, you’re out. You coached, trained and held them accountable. You did everything you could as a coach to expect more out of them, drive them to be better and give them the tools to be successful. That’s critical.
When you’re putting systems in place, it doesn’t matter if it takes one week, three weeks, or a year to get to three strikes. Either they don’t know, or they don’t care.
The next most important part of having the freedom to fire your “don’t care” employees and managers is to have a trained replacement ready. You need to have a system in place where you may have one or two salaried managers and the rest might be hourly. This is your manager in training – an MIT. You can call them a supervisor lead or whatever else you want. They are taught to open and close a restaurant, to follow checklists, to make sure the money gets to the bank, that the guest is taken care of, how to comp things and so on. They’re entry level management. But their true role is to be ready to become a manager when you fire that manager that needs to go. As you hold that one person accountable, everybody sees that, and they’re going to stay in line.
If a manager isn’t doing the job as you expect, if they choose not to do the work, then they are slowing you down. They’re costing you more money and more headaches. If you’re not reaching your financial goals, and you’re not able to leave your restaurant, then whoever is holding you back needs to go because they’re sabotaging your success. If you follow the three strikes, as long as you give them the training and support to be successful, do everything in your power to never let them fail, but they choose to fail, then it’s an easy decision, especially when you have trained replacements to follow behind them.
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