Oct. 20, 2017 | by Bobby Shaw

With technology today bringing everything from multi-location global meetings to real-time individual location and system-wide business updates right into the palms of our hands, it's safe to say these are truly amazing times for the pizza business. The pace of life seems to quicken by the second, and though that shows no signs of abating, we can, and maybe must, intentionally do some things to slow everything down just a bit. That's particularly important when it comes to developing our leaders.

Technology has given pizza restaurant managers and multi-unit leaders multiple platforms to help staff their operations. There are also great e-learning tools to provide interactive training for your teams, and help you track their progress. We even have inventory management and back-office systems that crunch numbers and deliver a real-time PNL with food, labor and other expenses detailed, right along with bottom-line financial numbers.

So yes, I love technology as much anyone, and firmly believe that it's an accelerator that not only drives sales and traffic, but also helps to develop great people. But as great as technology is, there is still no substitute for high-touch leadership.

"They need you to mentor, coach and believe in them. But truly, you need them more."

There is great power in sitting down with a leader and helping that individual calculate food cost without the help of an inventory management system. There is a huge benefit to helping a leader take their PNL apart and figure out what opportunities exist and then matching those up with what they actually experience on a shift. And finally, there is a much bigger impact made when training programs are more shoulder-to-shoulder and side-by-side, than simply sitting at a computer.

As I look back over my career as a leader in this industry, I find that I've made the most impact when I've taken the opportunity to sit down, face-to-face, with an hourly employee to learn from them, help them deal with a challenge or celebrate a success.

People want to be known. They want to share their hopes and dreams. They want to show you what they're working on and contribute at a high level. And they want to know what’s next for them and how they can grow.

When restaurant leaders take the time to work alongside someone, then follow that up with a conversation that has you sitting right across from them and writing down their ideas, there is simply nothing more powerful. This is what I mean by "high-touch leadership."

High-touch is the right touch for pizza leaders

If there is a silver bullet in leadership development, it is this high-touch approach. When you help someone calibrate their hopes and dreams, walk with them on their journey, and even lead the way and provide coaching and feedback, there is nothing more meaningful. When you see them achieve the goal they’ve aspired to attain, there is nothing more inspiring.

I don't think there has ever been a better time to be a part of this great industry with so many talented leaders coming up through the ranks of our organizations. The challenge is to make sure we are in position to cultivate that talent and create opportunities for these individuals that really make them want to stay and grow with you.

After all, if technology is the accelerator in the restaurant industry, then our people are the engine. And everyone knows, accelerators do no good without engines to make the trip.

So, as pizza concepts continue to pour more resources into building technology platforms, let’s make sure we are also devoting as much of our time and financial resources into creating platforms that benefit our people in all the ways we know are necessary.

But more than anything, turn off your phone and make the time to sit with your people and just take it all in. Bask in the energy of that top performer sitting across from you and let them inspire you to do more, be better, make a difference.

They need you to mentor, coach and believe in them. But truly, you need them more.

Think back to your time as a leader. Remember when someone invested time and energy in you? Think about all those people who helped you get where you are today. Be one of "those people" for as many other people as you can. Then, inspire them to do the same thing for other leaders.

After all, when we talk for hours about succession planning, growth, scalability and creating the right "culture," we're really talking, in many cases, about leaders using a high-touch approach with those working for and with them. That's what makes the high-touch approach the silver bullet for leadership development.


Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Human Resources, Operations Management, Staffing & Training



Bobby Shaw
Bobby has over 30 years in the restaurant business in all facets of operations, from his start at McDonald's in the grill area in 1984 to overseeing 200+ restaurants with Chipotle from 2002-2012 to leading Freebirds World Burrito's resurgence from 2013-2016 to working with the Salad and Go restaurant startup as CEO in 2017. wwwView Bobby Shaw's profile on LinkedIn

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