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7 ways to be a better talent scout

Great leaders are remembered for the people they develop, not the things they accomplish

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. 

We’re all familiar with the words “talent scout” as defined and refined by sports franchises and Hollywood studios, where the search for a competitive edge by hiring and developing gifted performers is never-ending. Smart foodservice multiunit leaders and general managers are wise to adopt a similar mindset in a razor-thin labor market that has shrunk from a pool to a puddle in less than a decade.

What do the best foodservice talent scouts do to attract, nurture, inspire and retain outstanding performers in their markets? How do they build a strong talent pipeline into their restaurants that ensures talent density and success? What impact does leadership and training have on how well teams develop, coalesce and compete?  And finally, why do some foodservice teams outperform other teams doing the exact same work? Answering those questions lies at the heart of what a restaurant talent scout does. It can also help solve the biggest question of all: How do you build a foodservice brand — or a foodservice industry — that great people are fighting to get in to, not out of?  

This month I’d like to share seven smart strategies that the best multiunit leaders and general managers use to build and develop high-performing teams. Know this first: There is no “silver bullet” that magically solves your staffing and labor issues. It’s a methodical, consistent and persistent process. Which diet works best? The one you stick with. Which staffing strategies are most effective? The ones you incorporate into your daily routines and apply in every unit.

M.Y.T.O.P.  The starting mindset is understanding M.Y.T.O.P: Multiply Yourself Through Other People. Talent scouts constantly expand leadership capacity. The best foodservice leaders are remembered more for the people they developed over time than the numbers they delivered last quarter. A leader’s lasting value to any organization is measured by succession. Finding, developing and retaining talented people speaks volumes about your leadership ability. You’re not truly a leader until you produce a leader who can produce another leader.

Re-recruit teams daily. The best multiunit leaders coach, direct and motivate their unit managers daily, and they encourage those managers to do the same for their junior managers too. Teach unit managers to conduct brief post-shift meetings with every hourly team member before they clock out. These positive debriefs should last no longer than a minute, in which the manager shares the results of the shift goals, and lets the team member know who they helped, how they helped, and why what they did mattered to the customer or company that shift. Don’t wait for formal scheduled performance reviews.

Start with the right stuff. Why should managers spend all their precious time trying to transform below-average people into average people? Be uncompromising when it comes to recruiting and be picky about who you let on your team. Fit is everything. “You don’t want average,” says Dartmouth professor Sid Finkelstein. “You want mind-blowing.” For instance, the foodservice companies that have the lowest employee turnover don’t participate in local high-school or college job fairs. Instead they sponsor clubs like DECA, Key Club and The National Honor Society so they have a more direct pipeline to people who already have aspiration built into their DNA. “Average” means you’re either the worst of the best, or best of the worst.

Teach your team something new every week. You can’t just hire employees who are engaged with your company and stop there. Hiring effectively is necessary but it is not sufficient to build an engaged team. Talent scouts never stop grooming their talent. Training and development — like great customer service — has a starting point but no end.

Build your Dream Team on paper first. Build the team you want in the future by defining their behavior today. You do that by asking questions. What kind of players would comprise your personal Dream Team? Compared to how your teams perform today, how would the ideal team perform? What would they know, how would they behave, what would they teach each other, how would they treat customers and how would they make more money for your company? And what would they not be doing? What do your high-performers and your low performers have in common? Is there one specific quality lacking (or in abundance) that makes the most difference in your team’s performance?  Once you solicit answers to these questions from your managers and the responses are collated in a spreadsheet, you and your team now know what to look for in terms of hiring better and the specific areas in which you can improve relative to coaching and development. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Ask the right question. When assessing position gaps, general managers and multiunit leaders typically ask themselves “What job do I have open?”  A much smarter question — the kind of question that would help hire the best person — is, “How well do I want this job done?”

Know why stars stay. Talk to the people who have already “bought” your product: your current team members. Find out why your managers and crew like working for your company. Is it the culture, the growth, the people, or the pay? Make a list of those positive attributes and next time you have an opening, look for candidates who have similar affinities. And by the way, if your current team values those elements enough to mention them as reasons why they stay, be sure that you’re reinforcing and enhancing those things every day. Give them more of what they stay for.

Jim Sullivan is the author of Multiunit Leadership and Fundamentals, two books that have sold over 340,000 copies worldwide. Available in brand new editions at Amazon, and bookstores. Jim has over 400,000 social media followers at LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Share his daily insight there.

TAGS: Operations
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