A quick decision not only promotes a sense of confidence about the business—a sense that leadership is connected and in control—it also teaches people the value of being able to think on their feet. This is as valuable a lesson as any that you can share with those with whom you work. Encourage people to use the knowledge they have to make decisions on the fly. Urge them to be creative and approach problems from new perspectives. Tolerate mistakes, as long as someone comes away having learned something from the experience.
Be hands-on and work one-on-one whenever possible.
It’s also helpful to be a hands-on teacher, one who works one-on-one whenever possible to help others learn and improve. I love working closely with my marketing and advertising people to show them how I think an ad or campaign might be improved. They may not love it as much as I do, but I like to think that everyone learns from it—including me.
Sometimes the best lessons are taught in an environment where not everyone is comfortable or, for that matter, happy. To drive home a message, I’ll do certain things that, with the goal of teaching in mind, aren’t particularly nice at the moment.
When we were still relatively small, we had a meeting of general managers. One of them explained that he was actively recruiting new employees and said he wanted to create his own logo to help do that. I wasn’t very happy.
I told him in no uncertain terms that we had a marketing department and we already had a logo and it was in place for very good reasons. I said there was no way I was about to permit a new logo to distract from the overall message of the company. I realized at the time that I was singling him out in front of the others. But I also realized that my meaning was absolutely clear—I knew that no one else in the room would ever do or even suggest something like that again.
Afterward, I went up to the general manager and apologized for how I had treated him. I told him I hadn’t meant to be so hard on him but that he had given me an opportunity to drive home a message. That’s something that happens a great deal, and I always make a point to put my arm around the person and explain why I did what I did. I want their memories about the experience to be short. I want their memory of the lesson learned to be long.
Make good work an expectation, not an exception
Great work should be recognized and rewarded, but remember, doing your job well is something to be expected, not constantly applauded. That comes back to culture. Your culture should mandate top performance. If employees do their jobs well, that’s great, but that’s also to be expected, not recognized as something special or out of the ordinary. Taking a one-on-one approach should be applied to everyone with whom you work, not just certain people.
In my restaurant division I tell my upper-level managers this: don’t ever think you’re too important or too busy to teach a busser or to help train a cook.