I went out to dinner the other night, and – despite reading good reviews about the restaurant – I had a pretty bad experience. It was the slow service in particular that caused problems.

After we sat down, it took about 15 minutes for us to be acknowledged by our server. Drinks took what seemed like forever to arrive. The table next to us literally had to wait about 40 minutes for their drinks to show up. Eventually the server brought the drinks after bringing the meal to the table and being reminded that they had yet to receive their drinks.  Another table not far away was not as patient – they got tired of waiting and just left.</p>

The server was clearly inexperienced and had too large of a section.  I took pity on the kid, as I probably had similar nights back when I waited tables. It’s not an easy job, and it’s really tough when you’re a newbie and you’re in the weeds.</p>

Instead of taking my frustration out on the kid, I blame whoever his manager is. (Note: I have no idea who his manager is because he was nowhere to be seen).</p>

Three management lessons I took from the crappy dinner experience:</p>

  1. Have your team’s back and get involved

    In the situation of the busy restaurant, the manager should have been out on the floor bussing tables, taking drink orders and running food to help the young server who was hung out to dry.  Managers who help out alongside their reports not only earn incredible respect and appreciation from their reports, but they learn a lot about which operational processes are working and which are not.

  2. Talk to customers

    I had some excellent managers back when I waited tables. Along with having my back (see #1), they would spend a lot of time out on the floor speaking to customers.  They would make sure the customers were happy and would do anything they could to fix things if they were not.  In short: more valuable things learned for the manager simply by being present.

  3. Measure and act accordingly

    After spending some time in the trenches with the team and speaking with customers, a manager will have learned a lot about the state of his or her team’s morale and competencies, operational processes, market and a lot more.

Take what you learn from doing the things that a manager should be doing, and steer the business accordingly.