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Leadership: From the Office to the Operation

Michael Jacobs has been CFO for BR Guest Restaurants for the last 7 years. That is he was, up until 3 months ago where he assumed the COO role. In his role as CFO he was responsible for making massive decisions for the 2000 plus person organization…all from his office. In his new role he has immersed himself in the operations to get up to speed as fast as he can.

Michael Jacobs has been CFO for BR Guest Restaurants for the last 7 years. That is he was, up until 3 months ago where he assumed the COO role. In his role as CFO he was responsible for making massive decisions for the 2000 plus person organization…all from his office. In his new role he has immersed himself in the operations to get up to speed as fast as he can. He is spending 8 plus hours in the restaurants, on the front lines with his managers and his guests (in addition to all his other duties.) It has been eye opening for him and wonderful for his managers who are on the front lines everyday.

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So what has the learning been?

Although he espouses many learning’s Mr. Jacobs reports the following
as his top three:

“What has been huge for me is the impact of senior level support, the in person kind, not through e-mail or on the phone. The goals become real to them because we talk about them in real time one on one.”

“It’s easy to say we have these rules and policies and now I see that real life does not always equal policy. It is clear that sometimes you have to shift the policy to meet your bigger objective of service and quality.”

“A day I the life in ops for me is like a bus ride I sometimes wish all the stops were the same, organized and in a neat pattern, but the truth is that never happens in the hospitality world, so the focus must be on the destination as opposed to the process.”

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His people are thrilled as he experiences first hand obstacles and then looks for ways to clear the barriers he did not know existed before.

I read with interest Joann Lublin’s article in The Wall Street Journal this past Monday titled “The Brass Try Life in the Trenches” It spoke all about leaders who are typically removed from the day to day operations committing time to being in the trenches for a specific amount of time to learn what their human resource faces everyday and every hour. I say, what has taken so long. Every company should have such a program. It should be mandatory for senior leaders, how else will they ever understand how the decisions they make affect their employees and ultimately their customers. This mis-understanding is one of the primary complaints from line staff about their leaders, a common comment is “our managers have no idea what we do”

So what companies are doing this?

Ms. Lublin referenced seven companies currently participating in “trench programs”:

Walt Disney, since 1990, two dozen senior executives take theme-park roles for one day per year.
Continental Airlines, since 1995, senior managers help airport workers serve passengers on a Friday before a holiday weekend.
Sysco, since 2000, certain executives spend or night twice a year alongside front-line staffers.
DaVita, since 2002, senior managers work three days as dialysis-clinic technicians.
Amazon.com, since 2003, top managers handle phone or email queries one day every two years.
Loews Hotels, since 2004, headquarters executives (except CEO) and middle managers do entry-level jobs one day per year.
Marriott International, effective this year, headquarters managers will do front-line jobs at D.C.-area hotels for one day this summer.

What has the learning been for the executives that have participated?

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To be conscious of the power of the power of their words and how much impact they have deep into the organization.

Understanding that when employees miss a meeting to handle a customer that they are doing the right thing. Being short staffed is more then inconvenience, it is detrimental to both customers and greatly increases staff burn out. To shift from being angry to being grateful.

They are planning better so last minute deadlines do not distract the operation that can also throw their employees in chaos.

Lowering expectations from new hires until they are trained and supported. Understanding that just because someone was hired does not mean they will produce until they have the tools and training.

What Can You Do?

If you do not have this in place already do it now. You don’t have to recreate the wheel, find out what is working for others who are doing this and make it happen in your organization. I guarantee you will get more information, garner more respect from your employees and see big impact in the way you are doing business.

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One last thought:

If you want to see Mr. Michael Jacobs work in action I highly suggest you visit one of the BR Guest Restaurants, they really are fabulous. You can access their locations by viewing their web page at WWW.BRGUESTINC.com. You will not be disappointed.

Grace Andrews • Executive Coach/Corporate Healer • President, Training By Design • Boston, MA • gandrews@training-by-design.com • www.training-by-design.com

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