Communicate to all levels. The most significant challenge a leader faces is clear, concise communication of what the company’s goals and objectives are. When you see companies that are not doing as well as they should be, that’s usually the No. 1 thing that has broken down. There’s a lack of trust, and the reason there’s a lack of trust is because nobody ever hears from or sees the leadership of the company.
The one trait that all successful business leaders have is listening and communicating. I look at best practices a lot and visit different companies in my area of business, and what’s interesting is that the most successful restaurant companies that I visit out there share a common thread that everybody, at all levels, knows what the goals are, and they buy in to it, and they’re excited about it. And that comes from communication.
When you see companies that are in turmoil, usually nobody knows what’s going on. They really don’t know what the end result or the goals of the organization are.
Encourage commitment. Goal-setting starts at our team-building meeting, where we say, ‘Here are the macro goals that we need to achieve this year. How will you and your respective team go about achieving that?’ We spend a lot of time going through that, and it’s their involvement that sets the pace, and that builds their commitment to getting it done.
The old saying is that involvement builds commitment, so ours is not top-down-type management, and it’s not top-down-type goal-setting because they’re in the process, and many of the goals that we have came from them and their team members. By involving them in that process, they feel way more committed to achieving that because it was their idea to do it, and they’re going to work harder and smarter to make sure it happens.
The long-term benefit is twofold. It certainly builds their trust, and it builds their commitment, their loyalty to the brand. They are less apt to look outside for other opportunities because they feel that their opinion matters, they feel that is their goal to achieve, and so they feel committed to that. Once you have trust in an organization and you feel committed to it because you’re involved, it gives you a lot better job satisfaction.
Create a fun culture. We’re very serious about results, but we have a lot of fun. Life’s too short not to have fun. If you’re having fun, you’re going to do a better job, and it reduces turnover. When the phone rings from the headhunters, they’re not necessarily listening because they’re having fun.
A lot of our team members have worked in other places where there is a top-down mentality and you have no flexibility in your schedule, and it is, ‘It’s this way or the highway.’ When they’re working in an environment like this, where they are having fun, where we play pranks on one another, where all of the upper management listens to their team members and involves their team members, it’s a better place to work.
It trickles down to your franchisees, it trickles down to your company managers, it trickles down to the team members in the restaurants servicing the guests, and then, ultimately, we give a better experience to the consumer.
Maintain culture through communication.
Culture is difficult to maintain, and communication is at the top of everything. I have to communicate, on a daily basis, the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you’re not out there, if you’re not visiting with your other team members, with your direct reports, if you’re not visible in the business, the culture breaks down. It starts taking on a life of its own, and you have a fragmented message.
Communication is the most important thing that a leader can do. Everybody wants to be informed and kept informed of all the news. We have an open-door policy, and we communicate the good, the bad and the ugly. We communicate and celebrate if we are meeting and exceeding budget, and we communicate and talk about ways we need to improve the next month if we’re not.
We have several different forums or formats to cascade our information, and even doing all of those, there’s still a lot that doesn’t get cascading as deeply as we would like it, but it’s an ongoing effort, and it’s more difficult than you would think.
Get out of the office. I usually only spend two or three days a week in the office, and I spend the rest of the week splitting my time between visiting company stores and visiting franchisees. It’s a gut check to see if our message is getting to the levels we want it to. When I’m in the restaurants, I’m talking not just to the managers but to the employees. Two weeks ago, we hit four stores, and we met with four or five employees at every restaurant, just to sit down with them and say, ‘Hey guys, what are we doing that’s stupid? If you ran the company, what would you do differently?’
It’s those ongoing types of communications that make them feel important and, believe it or not, they’re not afraid to voice their opinions. Because of that, they feel that I and my direct reports are very approachable, and when they get the message, they believe in it, and they trust in it, and they try to do the right thing.
HOW TO REACH: Sizzler USA Inc., (310) 846-8750 or www.sizzler.com