The last talk that I went to on Thursday at Tales of the Cocktail Week last week was entitled "Building and Apprenticing Your Team" given by Dushan Zaric of Employee's Only, Jonathan Pogash of the Cocktail Guru, Bobby Heugel of the Anvil, Pamela Wiznitzer of Seamstress, and Zdenek Kastanek of 28 Hong Kong Street.
Dushan started the session by describing how human interaction skills are as important as drink making skills, and he pointed out how Harry Johnson had a section in his book on how to train a boy and teach him to be a gentleman as well as how to teach him bar skills. The job is not just physically difficult to stand for 10-12 hours straight but emotionally difficult as well. Overall, it is hard to like people; as a bartender, if you last a year behind the bar means that you like the others on the staff. Moreover, the weakest member of the team is everyone's responsibility. As an aside, Zdenenk stated that bartenders should read newspaper's every day, otherwise, they are not ready for service and not ready to talk to guests.
In hiring, Bobby described that you are not trying to build a roster, but a team. The individuals can have weaknesses if the other teammates can compensate for them. Pam countered that it was not a team, but a family. You need a balance of personalities; two different bartenders put together will learn from each other. And Dushan commented that before you can be a rockstar, you have to be a member of a band.
In being a leader, you have to instill trust. Dushan declared that you have to lead by example. Walk the walk by being the first to show and last to lead and inspire by example. Be open about about your experience and intentions, know your limits and goals, and be genuine and fair. Zdenek followed up by saying that you should share your weaknesses. Jonathan commented on leaving your ego at the door and be willing to host and expedite food as needed. Talented people are open, honest, and do not balk at new experiences or directions.
How do you identify talent? Jonathan pointed out that skills can be trained so snap up talent while you still can. The right candidate will always see the glass as half full, and trust your instincts in hiring. Zdenek followed up by mentioning that you can teach skills but you cannot teach attitude; moreover, if you do not want to go out with them for a beer after the first shift, then it is probably not the right fit. Often, you cannot choose your staff due and sometimes you inherit them. Dushan commented that military experience is a good sign for it means that they are housebroken.
If you are on the applying end, Pam pointed out that the resumé is a lost art form. It needs to be updated and include references. As a hiring manager, these references need to be called to figure out what the real story was. Furthermore, a best friend in the industry might not be a good fit for a bar. When staging, talking about cocktails might not get you hired, but asking if guests are being taken care of might. Dushan takes things further by having a three month trial period. During this period, he prefers no complainers; if you are complaining, then you are missing the point. If you cannot do anything about the situation you complain about, do not complain. If you have a better way, a good manager will listen. Complaining is a virus and is infectious. Learn to lose this habit.
In describing the best way to manage, Dushan tries to instill a "pass it on" attitude in teaching what you know to barbacks, stages, and apprentices. As a manager, your job is to be interrupted. Pam brought up the point that a lot of staffs do not get along due to jealousy; while press and interviews can hurt those overlooked, high tides raise all ships.To counter this, instill a positive attitude. To accomplish this, have this attitude yourself -- be kind and considerate, allow your team to build your business, educate and share ideas, welcome feedback, and speak as a friend then as a boss. Jonathan followed with the suggestion of being a good person, both kind and generous, and it will comeback to you. Pam helped clarify by suggesting that you cannot yell ever, especially at your barback. Moreover, Zdenek referenced the John Templeton quite, "It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Empower your staff. Do not just give direction but tell them that they are doing well. Do not micromanage, but set goals and reward those goals with praise or prizes. Allow creativity to flow and try to be an open book with your staff. Being a camp counselor makes you ready to manage a bar. The power of validation means that you are paying attention, setting a positive tone, and changing everyone's mindset. As a manager, sit down with people and get to know them; perhaps do this before a shift and take 10 minutes to find out who they are and not talk about business in the least. Ask what problems are in the work place and fix them. And if you want to gain respect of your staff especially as a new manager, take barbacking shifts.