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CWAA: A Tipping point

January 25, 2016

I recently had lunch at a small hometown restaurant. They served various vegan alternatives, grass fed beef, and all organic vegetables.

But the menu is not the point. When the check arrived I noticed there was no spot for a tip but that an 18% service charge had been added.Unknown

As a San Francisco resident I’m aware of the national debate over tipping in restaurants.

In an effort to equalize pay between front of the house waitstaff, and back of the house cooks and other employees, many  larger restaurants are experimenting with eliminating tips.

This was the first time I had seen it in practice at a smaller business.

In my younger days I spent many hours working as a cook, dishwasher and  bus boy and am painfully aware of the disparity in pay. While the waitstaff is the face of the restaurant, they are dependent on the kitchen for the quality of the meal, the dishwasher to make sure everything is cleaned and the busboys to ensure table turnover.

The dining experience is a combination of everything, so why should the waitstaff be the only folks to benefit.

Minimum wage laws have tried to bridge the gap and have led to the latest version of experimentation.

So, when the waitress returned to collect my payment I couldn’t help but do  little market research.

“How long have you been a no-tip restaurant?” I asked.

“Two or three months,”  she said. “And?” I asked waiting for a diatribe on how much less she was making and how she hated the new system.

She surprised me with “I love it,” and went to explain that every week they get a full financial statement from the owners, explaining gross receipts, tax and expenses and an explanation of what they were receiving as pay.

“My pay is much more predictable, and while it’s a bit less than I made before the switch, as long as business overall is good, we do fine.” She said the most of the other staffers felt the same way and that she thought the kitchen staff was much easier to deal with, now that they had a direct impact on their own pay.

She then added that the most important factor was the openness of the owners to list the overall gross receipts and expenses and explain how the pay was calculated. “I can see how that might be a problem at other locations, but here they are very open, and we all know what’s going on.”

I wish the results at other restaurants had been as clear cut. And, from a management standpoint I doubt every owner would be able to be that open. But this was a small business with a stake in the community and their philosophy seemed to fit the spirit of the no-tip effort.

Can we all agree that all restaurants should adopt this system.

American restaurants should take a page from their European counterparts and professionalize every aspect of the dining experience. We would no longer have to agonize over what tip amount was correct and the the overall restaurant experience would be enhanced.

If everyone from dishwasher to executive chef knew that their pay was contingent on keeping the customers happy and ensuring a return visit we’d all be a lot better off.

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Getting Away, Southwest Style

July 16, 2013

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 2:45 pm

By now most of us are pretty bored with stories pointing out bad customer service on airlines. But sometimes they can lead to a valuable management lesson. At least I hope so, and if not I’m sure I’ll feel better anyway.

Recently, I was traveling from Boise, Idaho to Oakland, California on Southwest. Plane was scheduled to leave at 6:50 p.m. and was, of course, the last flight out to the Bay Area that day.

Unexpectedly I arrived early, only to find that the flight was ‘delayed slightly’ according to the agent at the ticket counter. So, 6:50 departure, became 7:05, then 7:30 and then 7:55 and then 8:30. By now it was 6:00 and the gate area was filled with folks waiting for a gate agent to see if their connections would be O.K. One traveler even unsuccessfully called the airport paging service to ask that an agent come down to the gate area.

Around the time we should have been boarding, an agent finally shows up and promptly walks away to use the rest room. O.k, so nature calls, it happens. Of course, when she returns she is inundated with passengers wanting to know what to do about their connections.

Her first act is to get on the PA system and say, “Look, I really don’t know what’s going on, and until I do, I don’t have any answers. These things happen all the time, but the more you people stand up here asking me questions the longer it will take me to sort this out, so please do not come to the desk area.”

Two hundred shocked passengers retreated in fear.

But, here’s my point. Southwest knew the flight was delayed when they sent her to the gate, don’t you think she should have known what was coming and possibly checked out the situation before she got to the desk?

Flight delays may happen to her all the time, but to most of the ticket holders in the waiting area, it was just a bit more stress they didn’t need.

Eventually, it all got sorted out and people were rerouted and booked on flights the next day…and we made it back to the Bay Area 2.5 hours late. But it sure seems like a manager might have suggested she show up prepared, so that she wouldn’t be treating her paying customers like third graders waiting for recess.

Certainly made me an ex-Southwest customer.

 

 

 

 

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Manhunt Management Decisions

April 19, 2013

You wouldn’t think the on-going manhunt in Boston would lead to bad management decisions, but it does. Many of the firms in the Boston suburbs have employees who live in the affected areas. This leads to a decision about whether or not to open.

One Lexington company put out the following statement:

“In light of the current public safety issue arising from the search for the second suspect, please your discretion as to whether you come into work or work from home. There are no warnings about Lexington specifically, but several neighboring communities have been urged to stay indoors and close their businesses. … will remain open today but please do what you feel comfortable with.”

This is a cop-out of the highest order. (excuse the pun) Employees should not even have to make the decision. The company, if it’s really worried about the safety of employees, should just close up for the day.

Why force your employees to make a tough decision and worry about whether they will be docked for a day’s pay. Why create an artificial division between those who ‘made it in’ and those who felt better staying home – whether they were in the affected area or not.

This is just bad management from a firm which seems more concerned with it’s own liability than its employees.

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It’s Been A While

February 3, 2012

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations — Tags: , , — admin @ 2:15 pm

It’s been a while since my last post.

I’ve been inundated with non-mail, and since no-one asked I’ll just let you that while the blogosphere apparently hasn’t missed me, I’ll offer an excuse anyway.

Newton I. Riess, August 15, 1920 - October 30, 2011

My Dad passed away at the end of October. I was 6,000 miles away from him at the time and quite frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing anything for a while.

I’ve mentioned my Dad several times in postings, both for his use iPads and iPhones at 91 and just because, he was my dad and influenced everything I wrote in some way.

He led a remarkable life as part of ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and in future posts I’ll tell you more, but for now I just wanted to let any faithful readers know where I’ve been and at least start down the road to more regular contributions again.

Thanks for your understanding and since I try to focus on management tips I will offer one bit of advice. If you are a manager and an employee loses someone close to them, keep in mind that the impact can last much longer than just the immediate aftermath of the funeral.

In some cases it can take years before productivity returns to normal.

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What Color IS your Parachute? – A Review

October 24, 2011

Dick Bolles, or Richard Nelson Bolles- as many folks know him, has been writing his ‘Parachute’ books on career development for 40 years. The latest edition of his signature series continues to be a must-read for anyone looking for a new career or the thousands of career specialists who have followed in Bolles’ footsteps.

You might think that, at 84, the internet or current events might have passed Bolles by, but his 2012 “What Color is My Parachute,’  is up-to date and filled with the same kind of useful information contained in the other 39 versions. In addition to the links I was particularly impressed with his comments about the Microsoft purchase of Skype and what it might mean for distance coaching.

You may not agree with everything he says or suggests, but he lays out sound guidance on everything from finding your mission to negotiating pay.

What you won’t find is any reference to parachutes or colors- a burden that Bolles has been saddled with, since the title of his book was first suggested. When I met Bolles recently he was careful to explain where the phrase came from – an offhand remark he once made about some Episcopal ministers who were going to be out of jobs soon – and that it really has no relationship to his lifelong work.

Bolles uses the tried and true techniques he discovered by accident 40 years ago and combines them now with web resources to create a modern tool for job hunting. His links and references, which are also available on his website, are well worth the price of the book.

They key component of his work is the self-inventory ‘Flower Exercise’ that he suggests everyone use to both define their job search and their skill set. The reality is that you don’t have to wait until you need to look for a job to use the exercise since  everyone should probably do this kind of self assessment on a regular basis.

Starting the search for a new job does not just occur when you are out of work but can happen any time.

Bolles writes in a simple, folksy style that is easy to understand  and very clear. There is no professional gibberish or double-speak that many professionals like to use. It’s just information, suggestions, strategies and real world common sense.

You may not use everything, but it can be a helpful foundation for self exploration as well as practical tips for interviewing and research. I have some issues with his suggestions for trying to research jobs by setting up informational interviews. I don’t think it’s as easy to do as he suggests but I would never suggest that you shouldn’t try.

Bolles, a former Episcopal minister, makes no secret of his faith and its role in his life and career. He makes no apologies, but tries to limit his faith-based approach to the ‘Pink Pages’ in the appendix but it doesn’t detract from his advice and the usefulness of the book.

Bolles also offers advice for career coaches. In fact it seems at times that his book is directed at coaches and not just the average job hunter. But in my mind that just makes it more useful. His suggestions for finding a coach are important no matter what side of the equation you are on.

One note: I bought the e-book version of the book and while it makes it much easier to get directly to the many links listed, it has made a mess of the charts and graphics. Having read other e-books I know this does not have to be the case, but it’s unfortunate. I hope it will corrected, but I plan to purchase a printed edition anyway.

In short, not matter what version you buy, read the book and you’ll be much closer to a successful career.

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Can This be Right?

August 31, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,Management — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:21 pm

During a recent coaching session, my client, gave me a copy of her most recent performance review saying, “I need help fixing this.”

While she was rated exceptional in several areas, her supervisor said that her employees found her “curt, and abrasive”  and they felt unappreciated. She runs a group of about 20 in a facility with about 100 employees. They have a matrix organizational chart so each person may have responsibilities to several managers.

She said that she had asked her supervisor for specific examples he could not provide any.

To say she was perplexed was an understatement, especially since this was the first time in 4 years, she had gotten this kind of feedback.

At first, we discussed how managers are often not the best judges of their own performance, and then I asked if she could think of any instances that might have led to the criticism. She could only cite one fellow manager who she admitted she had “issues” with, but  said she had never heard any of her group even mumble anything about her management style. (NB: She holds weekly status meetings with the whole group and meets regularly with direct reports.)

She admitted she was very confident and could be blunt but she didn’t sense any problems.

We went through her daily and weekly routines. I tried to help her analyze her interpersonal contacts, and offered some suggestions about how she might make some changes, but I had to admit, I was a bit perplexed.

After spending a  number of hours with her, and reviewing how her department worked and her interactions, I couldn’t figure out what her boss was getting at either. She is direct, but after 4 years, with minimal turnover, employees usually come to understand a manager’s communication style and adapt to it.

We even spent some time exploring whether she was miscast as a mid-level manager and was more suited for another role outside the company.

As we talked, over several sessions, I could not find any patterns in her presentation that was anything but professional, knowledgeable, confident and caring. She didn’t strike me as the kind of pathological, egotistical boss that fills the pages of most management textbooks.

She wasn’t familiar with many of the terms of Emotional Intelligence, but she seemed to have a good sense of the tools and was already using some.

In the end, I tried to assure her that she was on the right track and while she could make some changes in listening and trying to be attuned to the needs of her staff, maybe the best option was to just assume her boss was basing his critique on bad information, or on a single example. Possibly, he was just wrong or more euphemistically, ‘ill-informed.’

Three weeks later, she learned he was being eased out of his position, so maybe, there was something else going on.

The lesson: I would never ignore what’s on your performance review, but if it doesn’t ring true, you may need to question some of the underlying assumptions and decide for yourself if changes are warranted.

 

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Public Speaking 101

August 3, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,Journalism,observations — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:24 am

I recently attended a professional meeting to hear an expert on a topic I find interesting.

The actual topic is irrelevant, as is the speaker’s name.

When I arrived the registration table there were a number of brochures from the speaker, none of which seemed to focus on the advertised topic. I mentioned this to another attendee and she agreed, noting she was a bit surprised, but thought maybe the marketing materials were intended for a wider audience.

Fair point, I thought, since it was s pretty small group and she probably wouldn’t have created something just for this event.

I happened to meet the speaker before the event started and mentioned my concern and she explained what she had been told to address, which was, again, different from the original advertised topic.

When the lecture started she apparently switched gears again, asking the audience, what they wanted to hear. A noble idea, but what followed was a rambling, disjointed series of answers to audience questions. Some authoritative and others, she admitted, were not her area of expertise.

I’m not sure how the evening evolved into it’s final form, but I felt was a waste of two hours of my time. Maybe it was my fault, for expecting too much, but maybe, she should have just lectured on a topic that matched her expertise.

That’s all I really expected and would be a minimal goal for any presentation. My advice, next time you are asked to speak, just talk about what you know, in an entertaining and engaging style, and don’t worry about the preconceptions of the audience.

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What’s Important in Business

June 13, 2011

Recently I helped to host a career networking night for my Alma mater, Bucknell University. We do an event twice a year at interesting locations around the Bay Area and focus on career advice for alums.

Amy Klement, Vice President Omidyar Network

Last week’s gathering was at The Bechtel Corporation,   where Peter Dawson, (CFO) and his wife,  – parents of a current student  – sponsored the evening, featuring the Dean of the College of Engineering, Keith Buffinton as well as 1996 alum, Amy Klement.

Amy focused on her career path, at Paypal, EBay and now as Vice President, of Omidyar Network. To say her  career has been on the fast track is an understatement. But after listening to her talk, it’s easy to see why she has been so successful.

She is human, genuine, honest and real – all qualities that are is short supply at most businesses today. She understands that  her Emotional Intelligence has been the key. It’s also a point that most most people simply don’t get.

Every six months another book comes out about emotional intelligence, and, as Amy points out, executives claim that it is more important than traditional I.Q., but most businesses are still filled with executive who have very little of it.

I’ll leave a more complete explanation for later posts, but I think Amy’s 20 minute talk is worth listening to.

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“Just Stop It,” Rarely Works

May 30, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,Management,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:39 am

Recently Harvard Business Review (subscription required)  had an article by a former CEO  explaining that he used to be a micro-manager.

He’s retired now, but the executive said that he didn’t realize what he was doing until one of his senior employees  told  him to “back off,” because he was “driving them all crazy.” Of course the CEO did and the the company has gone on to reach great heights. Everyone lived happily ever after.

While the whole premise of a CEO pointing out his or her own failures (in the magazine’s Failure Chronicles section) is a bit self serving, I have to admit I find it a bit disconnected from reality. The point was brought home recently when a new client of mine, called to ask for some career help.

We talked about why she might be leaving her current job, and she made the same point. ‘My boss is driving me crazy, with her micro-managing,” she said. My client has been with the company for almost 10 years and her boss has been there even longer, so she’s no rookie, and she admits her boss has always had the same problem.

She’s a senior manager and told me she’s tried to confront her boss, but that her boss  just did not see the issue the same way. As an example she told me that  in 2010 they had decided to update their logo, and marketing materials. The project was supposed to be completed by January 1 of 2011, but as of mid-May they are still awaiting decisions on a host of minor issues that the CEO insists on making.

It would be fine, except the CEO travels extensively and will not let anyone make decisions in her absence.

My client says she has tried to talk to the CEO about micro-managing but the boss just sees it as her job and refuses to acknowledge that anyone else could make the decisions.

In my experience, this is closer to reality. CEO’s, particularly those who have come up through the company ranks, have a tough time letting go of decision-making, especially in areas where they feel comfortable. They may take on new responsibilities but they have a tough time letting subordinates make decisions.

There are other factors leading my client to look for a new opportunity, but micro-managing executives are an all  too common problem in most companies  – and a simple “stop it, you’re driving us crazy,” very rarely works.

It’s like psychotherapy the “stop it” approach may not be the best technique. If you don’t believe me, watch this.

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“Feel the Fear” – Dated but Worth a Read

May 19, 2011

Filed under: Book Review,Coaching,Management — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:00 am

I saw Susan Jeffers “Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway,” mentioned on a coaching forum and thought that it might be useful for me and my clients.

After all, the book has been around since 1987 and  launched Ms Jeffers into a leading role in the self help field. Whether or not she’s the ‘Queen of self-help” as her book jacket proclaims is probably up for debate, but she was certainly  a leading voice.

Her book is well written, easy to understand and filled with examples to help explain her theories. From that standpoint I wholeheartedly recommend it. From a coaching standpoint I think it has a great many ideas that can be applied to clients who may be stuck or afraid to take action.

This is particularly true of the first nine chapters where she presents the nuts and bolts of her approach with techniques and exercises designed to get people moving… in any direction… but at least off square one. Her concepts on reframing situations, decision making and dealing with issues holistically were pretty new in 1987.

I guess that’s where some of my reservation sneak in. As I read, I couldn’t help but think that somehow it all seemed a bit dated. I was reading the 20th anniversary edition, published in 2007, but it didn’t appear that many examples or theories had been updated. Not that people and their roadblocks change that much, but it could just have used some examples from something I could identify with more easily.

After all, in 1987 no-one knew what ‘www’ stood for, and Steve Jobs was running NEXT Computer, probably thinking, “I wonder how I could be more Important.”

Maybe it’s just living in the Bay Area, but I think the world has changed significantly since 1987.

Ms Jeffers’ last two chapters venture more into the spiritual realm, starting with love and trust and moving on to the ‘inner void.’ Worthwhile areas to explore but definitely a bit of a departure from the first chapters. Looking over some of the titles on her web page, it’s clear that she has gone on to expand many of the chapters to individual books.

But, “Feel the Fear…And do It Anyway,” is a great introduction and has lots of suggestions for dealing with clients who can’t seem to find the motivation to get started and I would recommend it.

Now, I just have to figure out why I wasn’t more motivated when I finished reading.

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