Leadership Training with Limited Resources - By Patrick Yearout

Leadership is a complex concept that comprises many different elements. It involves creating a vision, communicating, influencing, taking action, making decision and achieving goals.

CHART - Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers We need leaders in our restaurants and hotels. It is crucial that our people can take action and achieve goals every hour, every shift and every day.

When a restaurant or hotel lacks leadership, it can lead to chaotic shifts and unhappy guests, with managers having to continuously put out fires. People work long, long hours, they burnout and turnover is high.

When we provide leadership training, however, we can develop a staff that is ready, willing and able to step up and take charge. We can create motivated teams and well-run shifts that can help us to achieve our goals of loyal guests and a profitable operation.


The big question is: what is the most effective method for training leaders?

Common training strategies include e-learning programs, leadership classes, public speakers, training DVDs and videos, but these can be costly in terms of both money and time. A more practical approach would be to use on-the-job training strategies that can work within a limited budget and are relevant to employees’ career goals. Managers can provide opportunities to practice leadership skills in realistic situations, and most importantly, use these everyday strategies to create a long-term solution that grows talent a little bit more each day.

First we have to look at recruiting and hiring considerations so we can make sure that the organization is getting the best possible employee. Hiring managers need to think beyond the entry-level position and consider if the candidate has the potential to do well as a leader? They can start by assessing applications for thoroughness and professionalism. Next, when creating interview questions, they need to use ones that are open-ended and neutral and judge the responses – positive responses come from positive people, and positive people will make the best leaders in your organization. Some of those questions might be ones such as:

· Tell me about your previous employer.
· Tell me about your previous position.
· Tell me about your previous supervisors.
· What are the most challenging parts of your previous position and why?
· What employment circumstances bring you to this interview today?
· Why are you interested in working for this company?
· What contributions would you like to make to this company?

It’s important to have leadership discussions with new hires. In addition to asking what are their short-term goals as a new employee, managers should be asking about their long-term goals with the company. What do they want to accomplish? What would they like to learn? If they are interested in being a leader, there is no need to delay their training – start working with them as soon as possible.

It’s also important to remember that all managers serve as role models – their behavior will be noticed and emulated by their employees, so it is the perfect opportunity for them to demonstrate the leadership skills that need to be taught.

Everyone who is in a position of authority is a role model, whether they want to be or not, and role models are never “off duty.” Ask your role models to think about these questions:

· Who are your leadership role models and what did you learn from them?
· Which of these lessons would like to pass on to your staff?
· What have your employees been learning from your actions (or lack of action)?
· Are you being the best “you” possible?

Leadership lessons are often found in teachable moments that occur throughout the day. Watch for these moments during shifts and discuss them as soon as possible. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be the manager who rides up on a white horse to save the day – they can work with their staff to teach them how to step up and solve problems.

For example, a teachable moment may happen during production. Someone may be following production standards or they may be over-prepping products. Or look for opportunities in employee/guest interaction, especially when we do not live up to the guest’s expectations. Also pay attention to employee/employee interaction if someone is not demonstrating teamwork or not treating others with respect.

These teachable moments offer opportunities for discussion and self-analysis with the staff. Ask employees to tell what happened with a particular guest, the product or the incident. What did they see or experience? What could they have done to improve the outcome? What have they learned from the experience?

Another source of leadership training can occur when the operation is confronted with a challenge or problem, which can be a gift in disguise. Managers can ask for help from all team members to overcome these obstacles. Potential leaders among the staff will see it as an opportunity for them to take initiative. Be sure to let them try their solutions and follow up with them afterward.

Part of developing leaders is delegating authority so they can learn. Entrust and empower a subordinate. Examine what is making it difficult for you to delegate authority - perfectionism, control, time constraints?

When delegating authority, select the right person for the right job. Effectively communicate the task and oversee their performance. Follow up with specific and timely feedback.

Assigning projects gives team members an opportunity to develop their personal power. They can learn to use resources wisely, operate within budgets, meet deadlines and involve the whole team.

Don’t overlook opportunities in pre-shift meetings for leadership training and development. Not only can the manager set goals for aspiring leaders each day, but also those wanting to practice their leadership and communication skills can take on the responsibility of running the pre-shifts.

Conduct weekly “Give & Take” sessions where a manager and a leadership trainee meet to dicsuss the operation and each party provides half of the agenda. Doing so will challenge the subordinate to create a vision for the restaurant or hotel, organize their thoughts and communicate their ideas. 

Making informed decisions is a key element to any leader’s success, so having access to the right information is essential when training any new leader at your restaurant or hotel. Managers should be spending time with their employees discussing the P&Ls, inventory variances, and cost of goods. Employees that understand the financial health of the organization will be much better-equipped to solve problems and take action.

Role-playing can be another effective leadership training strategy. It can be a part of the “Give & Takes” or during any operational downtime. Create realistic, simple scenarios to allow employees opportunities to practice their communication as a leader. Role-playing can be an especially effective way to learn crisis communication.

Help employees to transition from learner to trainer. Nothing reinforces training as much as teaching others, and teaching is one of the cornerstones of leadership. Team members can work with new employees, teaching them the standards of operations, or serve as mentors for returning or transferred employees.

Encourage leadership development by recognizing their leadership achievements. Tell them what a good job they are doing. Send them a personalized note or thank you card. Print up certificates of achievement. Announce their accomplishments at team meetings, district meetings, or regional meetings. Put news about them in the company newsletter or Facebook page.

Managers can also encourage employees to network and build professional relationships and get in the habit of using their personal power (as opposed to positional power) to get things done. They can learn to network by joining local organizations, such as the chamber of commerce or local restaurant associations, or by attending business meetings with vendors, mall retailers, etc.

Help team members to expand their perspective by letting them visit other locations to meet other managers, rotate jobs or cover vacations. Have them conduct store evaluations and compare results. Have them evaluate a competitor and report back to the team. Suggest free webinars, books on leadership and industry magazines. In the performance review process, add leadership training as a category because “what gets measured gets done.”

Restaurants and hotels don’t have to spend a fortune to create strong leaders. If managers put in a little effort every day, they can achieve their objectives and develop great leaders for the organization without busting the budget.

Patrick Yearout, Director of Recruiting and Training, Ivar's & Kidd Valley 

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