Taking Steps Toward Leadership

I used to work in fast food.  I have worked every position from crew to management, day and night crew, front line and back line.  Sometimes I stop by one of the stores that I worked.  Let me preface this with an observation:  I know how these restaurants make, store, and serve their food, so I don’t visit all the stores I used to work.  One chain I absolutely will not visit.  However, I still go to Wendy’s and KFC.  My most recent visit to Wendy’s was in the store near my house.  I had been an assistant manager there.  They had just installed new cash registers, and the cashier was not well versed on its nuances.  My son and I ordered, and she added an item to my meal instead of substituting it.  She didn’t know how to fix it.  We weren’t in a hurry, so that didn’t upset us much.  The manager came over to “help” with the order, erased the offending item and re-entered it correctly.  The cashier then said sweetly, “$6.59 please.”  ??  Being an honest person, I mentioned that now my son’s order had been erased in addition to the extra item.  She had to re-ring it.

What bothered me was the reaction of the manager.  When he came up he asked her if she’d hit the Mary button.  (Mary was the name on her name tag.)  She looked for it.  Then he said, “Mary, you can’t always panic and call the manager when something like this happens.  You have to figure it out.  It’s easy.  You just highlight it and hit delete and it goes away and you can fix it yourself.  I can’t understand why you have to have me do it.  It really isn’t all that difficult.”  I wanted to grab his bald head and shake it.  He should have told her step by step and let HER do it instead of barging in and fixing the problem while berating her.  Then say, “Remember how we did it earlier?  You got this.”  Then if she had further questions, he could have answered them and she would have remembered the procedure better.  But he put her down in front of the customers, and she got frazzled.

The sandwich maker was incompetent.  I’m not going to say she was having a bad day, because I’ve had busy times where I was the only sandwich maker, and I was never that slow and inaccurate.  The drive through was 6 cars long at 3:00 in the afternoon…dead time.  In the course of 30 min., 3 orders came back as incorrect.  The cashier had taken an order for 2 cups of chili.  Then she stood there waiting for the other 2 orders to go out (and now the wait was going on 10 min.)  She should have dished up the chili herself.  When the lady in front of us got her order, the fries were soggy and overcooked.  She refused them.  Nobody dropped fries.  The sandwich maker was busy, one back line person was on break, there was a manager type back there, but no clue what she was doing and then the manager was probably doing 3:00 drawers.  The crew did not act together like a team.  They each had their job and did nothing above or beyond.  And they weren’t particularly good at their jobs.  While the woman was waiting for her new fries, her sandwiches were sitting on the counter getting cold.  The chili guy still didn’t have his chili, and my son and I were still waiting for our order.  Because we paid cash, they didn’t have our name on the ticket and kept putting the lady’s food on the wrong tray.  When the fries came up, this woman was already muttering under her breath.  Then came our order.  Sour cream and chives potatoes usually come with sour cream and chives.  They also gave me the wrong sandwich.  I was tired of waiting, and asked sweetly for sour cream and butter that was supposed to accompany the potato.  I did not take the sandwich back.  Finally the chili guy got his order.

How should this have gone down?  When you see 4 customers come in the door, you put down a small basket of fries at that time of the day (between 2:30 and 4:00.)  If you have cars stacking up at the window, you call a back up person to do sandwiches or take orders at the window.  When the cashier gets befuddled on the simplest of tasks, it doesn’t matter how incompetent you think she is, you keep teaching her until she gets it.  You don’t put her down in front of the customers and then LEAVE!  He could see that things were backed up at the counter, and they must have disengaged the timer on the window that’s supposed to beep every 15 seconds that an order goes over 30 seconds.  How hard would it have been to just stay up front and jump on sandwiches or fries or grill until the mini rush was over?  There is no time window to do the drawers.  There’s no penalty for starting them at 3:15 instead of 3:00.  Why wasn’t this crew trained to fill the orders as fast as possible, even if they’re out of order?  Get the chili out to the guy.  It shortens the line and so new customers don’t have to wait for 3 orders to get filled before they can add theirs to the list.  When we got these rushes, the sandwich person moved over to the window side and worked the grill, and the cashier dropped fries and made sandwiches on the counter side.  We averaged about 15-20 seconds per sandwich, not 2-3 minutes.

The bottom line was this:  They did NOT work together as a team.  They did not respect or help out the other members of the team.  I do not know if it was because they weren’t trained on those areas, or not trained to work as a team.  The morale was abysmal and the customers were angry and frustrated.

The head guy there was a manager, not a leader.  He gave orders, he didn’t teach.  He didn’t encourage.  He resented time his team took from him.  He didn’t respect his crew.  He was snarky.  When the customer came in and obviously was unhappy with yet another incomplete or inaccurate order, he turned his back on him and ignored him.  In some stores where I had worked, that would have earned him a bag of food thrown over the counter to the back of his head.  I bet turnover in that store is really high.  His crew wasn’t well trained, and they were floundering and he was not helping.

Leaders fill gaps personally, or move people around for best effect.  Leaders get things done quickly and efficiently and teach their crews as well.  Leaders will build up morale, not tear it down.  Leaders SMILE.  Leaders are always training and leading by example.  They don’t just give orders and yell at their crew if mistakes are made.  Pay attention to how you treat your people and how they treat each other.  Test the morale.  If it’s low, you have work to do.  Do it.  And Smile.

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