Productivity Matters: How to Improve Leader Productivity
In the hospitality industry, and every industry for that matter, there is a constant desire and need to increase leader productivity. We use variables such as covers or rooms divided by the number of variable labour hours for any given position to measure efficiency. These measurements are also the basis for many other calculations, and as a scheduling tool – covers are up, so schedule more people, lower rooms booked, so schedule fewer front desk agents. They can also be used as a metric to measure individual employees’ performance or training progression.
There is no productivity measurement in leadership positions simply because leadership hours and wages are generally considered fixed expenses. How do we know if leaders are productive and they are using their time to the fullest? There are ways to measure overall performance, such as service scores, employee surveys, and financial results. However, in more extensive operations with multiple managers and supervisors, it isn’t easy to know who is contributing and who is not.
Leader Productivity Then and Now
It was never an issue in the past, and not because of work ethic or superior skills. It wasn’t an issue because people were just expected to work until the work was done. Hospitality was an industry known for people working long hours and more days than a typical work week, and it was not uncommon to see leaders working on their day “off.” You were just expected to do it, and when a new or inexperienced person would ask for help, they were told to dig in, figure it out, and get it done. Or they would hear phrases like “Welcome to your job, go figure it out.”
Thankfully, the hospitality industry has changed dramatically over the last few decades, where new and existing leaders are unwilling to work the insane hours that used to be the norm. The days of working six days in a row, 12 or 14 hours a day for any length of time, is or should be, a thing of the past, and for a good reason.
Now It Matters
It goes without saying that this financially impacts the operations, not to mention the challenge of finding enough qualified candidates.
Let’s look at an example of an operation with three supervisors.
Past – Each one working 5 days X 12 Hours = 60 hours for a grand total of 180 hours
Present – Each one working 5 days X 8 hours = 40 for a grand total of 120 hours.
There is a void of 60 hours per week, and the owner would need to hire another full-time and part-time supervisor to fill it.
Depending on the operation, there may be no other option if the hours worked are directly associated with the business’s operating hours. In other cases, improving leadership productivity or reducing administrative tasks may reduce the hours enough that additional people are not needed.
Improving Leader Productivity
Looking back, there were many times people did not need to work long hours or come in on their day off. They may have done it due to peer pressure, or it was an environment where it has always been that way. This created some bad habits where leaders became used to taking 12 hours to do 8 hours of work. I mean, if you will be there anyways, why rush?
What do you think happens next?
Looking at the example above, telling everyone to start working a 40-hour workweek may be difficult. The supervisors will likely struggle to complete their work as they have not developed the proper planning and organizational skills. They may also engage in time-wasting activities, and these habits can be difficult to break.
In the Beginning
When leaders are hired or promoted, there always needs to be a discussion about the importance of meeting deadlines and that they are depended on to complete the work. It is also important to let them know if they need help meeting deadlines to be proactive and come see you in advance for coaching or assistance. This places the appropriate emphasis on the work, the deadlines, the importance of their contributions, and planning.
So, What if a Deadline or the Work is Missed?
There will be times when the work is missed or deadlines are not met, and the leader only lets you know once the deadline has passed. Ideally, that would never happen, as you should have been informed in advance to provide the resources, support, or coaching necessary to meet the deadline.
In my experience, when this occurs, the leader will often blame the workload, lack of time, and other responsibilities as the reason. This is a great time to reiterate the expectation of informing you in advance so deadlines aren’t missed, and you can provide additional coaching.
I Don’t Have the Time
It can be very challenging when a leader says they do not have time to complete specific tasks. Depending on the circumstances, they may have needed more time.
But what do you do when a leader says they do not have time, although no one else in the position has a problem completing their duties? Or when nothing out of the ordinary occurred?
In the past, this is where the “Welcome to your job, now go figure it out” line would come in. Come to think of it, this may have been someone’s early interpretation of empowerment.
We all know that people in leadership positions generally want to work independently, be empowered to make decisions and perform the work in the best way possible to meet the outcome.
So how do we give leaders the freedom to do the job without micromanaging them?
First, asking questions and not making statements when discussing the situation is essential. Although you may know the problem, it is much better if you can help the person come up with the answers on their own. Try to find out where they can eliminate time-wasting tasks, where they could prioritize better, or where they need more specific training.
A great way to help people identify ways to improve their personal productivity is through a time study. This study will not only help with the situation above, but it is also something that everyone in every position needs to do from time to time. We’ve all had the days that just fly by, and these days can lead to weeks, months, and years. We never seem to have enough time to finish the big stuff and are running or reacting to everything happening now.
What is a Time Study? Time studies are used in lean management to improve efficiencies and develop a standard process time; however, the same principles effectively improve personal productivity.
There was a time that I was falling behind on projects and felt that I did not have enough time in the day, but I could not put my finger on it. One day I decided to conduct a personal time study. I would record the time when I started and completed each task. It took only a short time to see where my time was going. The following example shows how a time study can paint a clear picture.
The New Leader
In the case of the new leader, below are several tips that could help, but the first step is determining where time is spent. Have them complete a time study for their next full work day and review it with you. My guess is they will likely manage their time more effectively, which can immediately solve the problem. Or it will identify areas where additional training would be helpful. There is likely a learning curve the leader and manager need to acknowledge.
What Else Can Be Uncovered?
When diving into a time study, looking at the “whys” is important. In the example above, three people may come to say hi to see if there are any priorities or anything they should know. A solution may be to have a 10-minute meeting at 8:00 am where everyone gets the “floor” for 2.5 minutes. This would save 24 minutes in the first hour alone. Then you can catch up on the casual conversations over lunch. Don’t get me wrong; it is not all about business, and those casual conversations may be very important.
There are several strategies to improve personal productivity. In the hospitality industry, it is easy to become consumed with what is happening, and we do not allocate the appropriate time and resources to projects and planning.
- Set SMART goals: Make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. It is helpful to break these down into smaller tasks as it may be easier to fit in time around your other tasks. A three-hour project vs 10 X 18 minutes would have the project completed in two weeks.
- Prioritize: Prioritize your tasks based on their importance and urgency. Have a running to-do list.
- Plan tomorrow today: Most people plan their day in the morning, but this can lead to jumping on the wrong task, or early distractions could cause you to wing it. Plan tomorrow at the end of today.
- Must-do: From your to-do list, highlight what you will get done today and stick to it. This will keep you on track and provide the sense of urgency needed. It will be much less stressful than leaving important tasks behind.
- Minimize distractions: This can be very difficult in the hospitality and restaurant environment, but it needs to be done. Turn off notifications on your phone (if there are some you can not miss, set them as priorities), have one screen or tab open at a time, and close your door. If you train and empower your team, there should be few distractions or only the important ones.
- Take breaks: Take regular breaks from your work. This is an excellent time to walk through the operation and answer any questions. Beware of the time and avoid getting stuck in other time wasters. Or stay in your office and take a few deep breaths and stretch.
- Delegate: If someone else can do it and has time, let them.
- Say ‘No’: If it is unimportant or does not align with priorities, then say no. Otherwise, you could get caught up working on things that detract from your goals. Don’t let someone else’s idea become your work.