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10 daily leadership resolutions for 2019

Everyday actions that will improve results in the year ahead

Jim Sullivan is a popular keynote speaker at leadership, franchisee and GM conferences worldwide. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News.

“The only thing we can control is how we feel about the past and what we do in the future.” — Jason Selk, co-author, Rework

I’m not one to proclaim resolutions January 1.  It’s not that I’m averse to commitment and progress; I just prefer to think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.  In my experience, much more is gained from daily progress than annual hoping because there is casual magic in everyday acts and also hope is not a strategy. So here is my short list of daily resolutions for foodservice leaders in the next twelve months. Read ’em and reap.

Lead with why. The person who knows what to do is a third-level leader. The person who knows how to do it is a second-level leader. The person who knows why we do it — and routinely communicates why to everyone else on the team — is the first-level leader. When it comes to orienting your hourly team and managers to your 2019 goals, instead of starting with what to do and how to do it, start with why you do it. That is a much straighter path to buy-in.

Onboard to culture before tasks. When you hire great people, despite the cost, despite the effort, great things will usually happen in a company. And then, aligning those new team members to the culture of your company is your first priority. The best way to do that is by putting a premium on developing a strong culture. That’s the key to retention. The reason people stay with an organization is the same reason they join it. If a company invests daily in what it takes to keep its current teams satisfied and productive, it has what it takes to bring in new talent. 

Build confidence before competence. Letting team members know you have faith in their ability to do and ability to learn are prerequisites to teaching them why, how and what to do. 

Favor skills over knowledge. As an industry we’re stuck in the 1990’s relative to how we grow our team members. We’re focused on teaching knowledge, when we should be focused on developing skills instead. You and your training folks should be asking one another this question: “Do we want our team members to know lots of things, or do lots of things?” Prune team members who exhibit no yearn to learn. Don’t spend all your valuable time trying to turn below average employees into average ones. 

Celebrate what you want to see more of. Managers should take daily “Thank You” walks through the restaurant. Stay positive. Elevate the mood. Eliminate cynicism and sarcasm from the workplace and put an emphasis on doing good. If you always do good, you will always do your best. 

Teach everyone in the restaurant something new daily. We don’t rise to the level of our abilities, we sink to the level of our training. Each one, teach one. Communicate clearly, better, often, every day, with everyone, not just your stars. One step by a hundred people is better than a hundred steps by one person.

Read more. One of the surest paths to progress is by not making avoidable rookie mistakes. Books, blogs and periodicals can shed that kind of insight. Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. Get brilliant at the basics by reading up on the fundamentals of leadership, team-building, business and biographies.

Break annual goals into period goals. When setting Key Performance Indicator (KPI) goals for the next twelve months, have managers break those annual targets into period/monthly goals (typically 13 in a calendar year). For instance, if you want to want to lower employee turnover by 25% this year, you should be reducing turnover by 2% every 30 days. If you miss that 2% target in January, you’re now forced to reduce it by 4% in February to stay on track. Same logic applies to increasing same-store sales or reducing costs. Focus on monthly goal attainment.

Gain strategic clarity. Getting things done is not the same as getting the right things done. Great execution won’t get you anywhere if your strategy is wrong. See next resolution.

Always start and end with the basics. The first thing — the VERY first thing — you should teach your team members is how the restaurant business works. In any and all training materials (manual, e-learning, video) the initial visual should be a graphic of a guest’s dollar bill. That dollar bill should then be broken down two ways: 1) detail the unique operational costs (food, beverage, labor, supplies, marketing, rent, etc.) that eat away at that dollar resulting in the typical five-cent profit and 2) what percentage of the restaurant patron’s earnings are typically spent in your business. That should drive your business forward by teaching employees how razor-thin our margins are, why we need to follow recipes and merchandise the menu, and finally why we must provide exemplary service and hospitality to each and every guest.

Jim Sullivan is a keynote speaker and consultant whose clients include Walt Disney, Panera Bread, Dunkin, Portillo’s, McDonald’s, Marriott, and Texas Roadhouse. His bestselling books Multiunit Leadership and Fundamentals are available at Amazon and He has over 400,000 social media followers. 

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