“Well, I’m going to get him an administrative assistant and an assistant manager at least, and maybe some more line staff,” Alan said.
“He’s that valuable?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” Alan said. “He’s one of my best managers, so I have to do everything possible to help him succeed.”
“Because if he fails …” I started to say.
“Because if he fails,” Alan interrupted, “then I’m the one who gets sucked in to cover, and she (Alan pointed to his wife who was talking with my wife) is not going to be happy if I wind up spending any more hours at work.”
We were having dinner with a couple my wife and I are good friends with. Alan is an owner/partner in a company that runs a number of restaurants, and the manager in question does a great job running his most profitable location.
Unfortunately, Bill (the manager) and one of the waitresses had gotten each other in the family way. Now, there is no type of harassment in this story, but there is going to be a shotgun wedding where Bill goes from single restaurant manager to newly married father, running a location now one server short (at least for a few months). My friend Alan, for his part, is acting like the cavalry coming to the rescue of one of his most prized employees, rather than reading him the riot act and running him out of town.
A few nights later, I’m having dinner with some old work colleagues when one tells me she’s considering getting out of publishing all together and opening a Jersey Mike’s Subs franchise. Why? Well, she’s tired of the corporate world and has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s a smart lady and, as such, had already done some very good due diligence, including contacting a current franchisee to ask: “What surprised you the most about running one of these locations?”
“It’s the fact that you become so involved in your employee’s lives,” she said. “Usually, the people you employ are going to be young, and so rather than just being a manager you become a friend, an aunt or even a mother to them.”
A few days later I was grabbing my once-a-week lunch at a franchise called California Tortilla and happened to get into a chat with the young girl at the counter. Thinking she was an employee, we had some small talk until she revealed that she was, in fact, the owner. She’d been halfway through college and told her parents it just wasn’t for her. After eating at a California Tortilla location and finding out about franchise options, she’d convinced her parents to let her use the rest of her college money to invest, and so she did. Now, her sister is opening their second location a few towns away.
Her biggest issue? “It’s getting good workers,” she said. “And you really do become a part of their lives. You get to know everything that’s going on with school, their other jobs, their family and friends, etc. And I just want them to come to work!” she laughed.
The lesson here? As leaders, you may have the same wish that your employees would just leave their private lives at the door, but perhaps, if that’s the way you feel, you’re not quite fit for leading. You see, you should care enough about your folks so that when they share their non-work-related trials and tribulations, you consider it a gift and not a burden. It’s simply part of your job, not an irritating unnecessary infringement upon it. Of course, there is a balance to everything, and people can always go overboard — you do have to run your shop and things have to get done. But for those who have proven their commitment to the mission, take a serious listen and do what you can to help them through their troubles.
Especially for your best and brightest, for your direct reports, for those too big to fail, jumping into the breach and making sure they brave the current crisis is simply good business, otherwise you’ll be the one sucked into the void, leaving your spouse none too happy.