• Mike Hughes

Managing Managers 101

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Managing Managers 101

You are a restaurant manager and have worked hard to place yourself in a position to be promoted.

You’ve spent a better part of your management career both being managed and managing your team of hourly employees. All that hard work and dedication has landed you a General Manager position, and all of a sudden there is a new task on your list that has never been there before.

You are now responsible for managing other managers.

You’ve been a service manager, bar manager, KM, or maybe even a retail manager, and you have done a nice job managing the people within those departments. You’ve been successful with your KRA’s and have even promoted a few stars under your development umbrella.

Now things are different! Right? They have to be.

Relax my friends, while there are some major differences, the meat and potatoes of leadership won’t change.

That’s correct - Leadership.

I could write a 4000 word story on the difference between Leadership and Management, but for the sake of space, I won’t do that. . .Plus it would bore you.

In a nutshell, managers focus on tasks, and leaders focus on vision and direction. I love a quote that a former CEO used to say, that he borrowed from Colin Powell. “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible”.

At the end of the day, a Manager's job is to make sure their team is doing their jobs.

So now, as GM, your job is making sure your managers are making sure their department are doing their jobs.

Sounds simple right? Almost sounds “easier”...

The truth is this, managing managers can be easier than managing a 50 person FOH team.

There are plenty of best practices you must engage in for this to work and make sense.

Remember that “leadership” thing? Here is where it comes into play.

A leader absolutely must set the direction for the restaurant. As far as being a GM is concerned, the better you are at communicating the COMPANY'S vision, mission, values and CULTURE, the more effective you will be at managing managers. You cannot fake this either, as if any one of your managers sees right through you, that you aren’t on board with the company’s directives, then you are toast. It is also very important that you as GM understand the company strategy completely. Be the expert.

One on one time with your managers is crucial, and you should be spending 15 minutes a day with one on one time with your managers. This time is based on your number of managers, as it is “typical” to have 3 managers under you, but the more you have the more critical it is to carve out time. So if you have 3 direct reports under you, 3 days a week you sit down with each one.

It is important to remember that just because you are GM does NOT mean hourly staff won’t come to you. In fact they may come to you MORE at first, until they feel more comfortable with their managers. You need to be open and you need to offer guidance to these folks, but you also need to ask these knowledge seekers if they talked to their direct manager about it prior to coming to see you.

When it comes to one on ones, while you are scheduling your meetings with your managers, it is a good time to check to see if your managers are scheduling their one on ones with their staff.

Go sit in on a few yourself. It is a GREAT coaching moment and all a BIG part of developing your team.

Much of my time as GM, I was responsible for making others better. Helping get them from point A to point B. Your managers should also be helping those who want to do better, as one of our jobs is to create promotable people.

One of the real opportunities as GM is the power of observation. How are your managers managing? How are they with giving feedback? How do they deliver that feedback? How is that feedback received by their team? Give your managers a long leash, but don’t miss an opportunity to give them feedback on how they give feedback! It’s an art really. . .HOW you ask somebody to do something is always critical in getting them to actually do it.

You will undoubtedly at times, need to coach your managers about something. . .PLEASE remember to do it in private. Publicly telling someone they are not doing something correctly lacks class. Don’t worry, the entire restaurant knows you’re the GM, so there is no need to flex your muscles in front of the entire restaurant..

Are you stingy and want the spotlight on you all the time? Do you want to get all the credit for your restaurants success? Only seems fair, as you are the one the District Manager goes to when things go wrong. . .Right? Forget it my friends! Give credit to your managers where it’s due. Publicly praise them when it’s appropriate. This is something that many GM’s should do more of.

How about selection and recruitment? Let’s discuss.

The higher the quality of managers you have, the better YOUR life is. Do not be afraid to hire amazing managers to work with you. Hire people that are as good as you or better. You’re job is not only safe by doing this, you will set up those managers to move up, and you just may find yourself moving up as well. Your results at the restaurant will be reflective of the talent and engagement of the entire management team.

I had at one point in my career, when I was GM, 2 other former GM’s and an AGM from other concepts were on my team at the same time. These guys were good. Real good. They made me look great. In hindsight, much of what I am talking about here, I learned with that team. I didn't always do the things I am discussing today and I made my share of mistakes.

You can’t do it alone, so you may as well recruit the best you can find to help get you there.

When it comes to delegation of responsibility, if you are a manager that thinks they need to control and do everything, that needs to change. Divide and conquer is the rule here, so don’t hold on to everything yourself. Trust your team and understand that lessons learned are valuable, in the event of setbacks that may occur.

One more point in this is that sharing information with your managers, and those managers sharing information with their departments is something you must do. Financial results specifically. Keeping bar and liquor costs a secret, or sales trends a secret really mean that you are leaving solutions on the table. You have a smart team, so use them to help solve opportunity areas. I lost track of the times one of my cooks helped me track down cost issues because they knew the goal and the actual results.

So as you dive into the realm of managing managers, don’t be afraid of it. Set the vision, have conversations, observe behaviors, coach and mentor, lead by example and watch your success flourish!



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