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Great HR is about Great Management

Great HR is about Great Management

by Frank Roche on October 15, 2008

in Management

I had one of the best restaurant experiences yesterday. It started with not getting what I ordered.

You know what makes a difference in a company? Great management. I’m not talking about CEOs. Sure, they make decisions, but they’re typically so far away from what really happens in a company that they have little genuine influence. I’m talking about line managers and general managers, those people who work with the people who make the things and talk directly to your customers. Here’s what great managers do:

  • Great managers anticipate problems. “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,” said George Santayana. Managers are in place because they’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
  • Great managers support their people. That’s a huge difference — weak managers like to play “gotcha” with their people; great managers stand up for theirs.
  • Great managers resolve problems first and ask what went wrong later. Blamestorming is far too prevalent in business, but it doesn’t work. Fix it, then figure out how to not to have it happen again is how great managers work.
  • Great managers are hopeful. Management is about making choices, whether that is deployment of resources, setting priorities, or getting results. A little enthusiasm that the best days are in the future goes a long way.
  • Great managers like people. Have you ever worked for a boss who got results, but did it by riding the backs of subordinates? That’s not management, that’s intimidation. Great management starts with a belief in people and a knowledge that the vast majority of people try to do the right thing.

Here’s a prescription for HR: Toss out those wasted training classes about employee engagement. Stop trying to do management workarounds. Get out there in the trenches and quit making up stupid policies that are designed to rein in the one knucklehead who breaks the rules. Teach managers about great management, and teach them to not lose their humanity doing their job.

Oh, about not getting what I ordered at lunch yesterday? I ordered chicken, and when the order came, I got ribs. I didn’t order ribs and I didn’t want ribs. I was with four colleagues, and you know how terrible it is to be at a table when someone’s order is screwed up? It can make you want to choke yours down and run out. But it didn’t happen that way.

As soon as I told the waitress that my order was wrong, she went into full-fledged fix-it mode.

  • “Oh, I’m so sorry. I misunderstood you.” (Acknowledging the situation is 90% of the solution.)
  • “I can make you the other one right away.” (Quick answer to the problem. I declined…it was going to take too long. And it’s not like I’m going to fade away if I miss lunch.)

She came back a couple more times to make sure I was okay with the idea. The the manager came over. She apologized, too. Said right away that they, of course, wouldn’t charge me for the meal. Asked again if I wanted anything else. Looked me straight in the eye. I could tell she meant it. And she didn’t hang her employee out to dry, she just fixed it. Simple.

Here’s where it got really great. Even though I told them it was okay, that I didn’t need my dry-rubbed chicken, all of a sudden the manager came up to the table with a meal. “We couldn’t let you leave without something,” she said. “Would you like this now, or would you like me to box it up to go?” I asked for it to go. (It was delicious, btw. And free.)

So, what could have been a really rotten situation turned out great. The waitress knew what to do, took action, told her manager right away, they had a plan of how to fix it, and they fixed it very well. That is how things should be done. I already liked that restaurant, but now it’s going to the top of my list. It’s in Center City Philadelphia. Really great food. Really great staff. Really great management.

I left a big tip.

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