Industry News | May 21, 2005

You Be the Coach

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What does it take to create new leaders in your organization? In our sports-crazed society, it makes sense to look at athletics as a model.

This is not exactly how Ron Yudd put it in his session called "Executive Coaching for Restaurants: Develop Your Managers into Tomorrow's Company Executive and Industry Leaders," but it's an apt comparison. The point of Yudd's seminar, as he explained it, was to explore the concepts of effecitve executive coaching --- which means learning what effective coaches really do how to apply effective coaching techniques when developing your key players.

Yudd began his seminar with a personal recollection of attending his first NRA show exactly 25 years ago in 1980. He was a young, 20-something restaurant GM, and his boss took him to Chicago after they had won an annual menu challenge competition. The memorable part of that trip for Yudd was that his boss put him out front as THE guy responsible for winning the competition. It wasn't the chief exec or the area manager who got the attention --- it was the GM.

The point? Coaching is about being selfless, about helping the other person. Yudd also noted that he hoped his daughter, who is graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, will run into someone in her career who had learned how to be an effective executive coach.

The next major point Yudd made was that, in executive coaching, the focus should be on leadership and management skills --- not systems and procedures. This is perhaps a tough concept in quick-service, where so much of our operations focus on executing the system properly. Of course that's important, but when it comes to developing your next-generation leaders, you have to think more broadly.

A general theme that ran throughout Yudd's seminar is the importance of blending professional and personal lives. He pointed to Applebee's as an example, where GMs, during training, meet with a "life coach" every 2-3 weeks to discuss what's going on not only at work, but also at home. This is particularly effective for today's 20-somethings, notes demographic expert and QSR columnist Steve Weiss, as this group tends not to see a distinction between their personal and professional lives.

Given these points, Yudd shared some of the things effective coaches really do:

  • Make sure expectations are clear. If your players have to guess at what you want, chances are pretty good they won't get it.
  • Identify what the person they're coaching needs to know to be successful.
  • Create accountability. As an example, Yudd suggested insisting on a weekly meeting in which the player is required to read, say, a chapter of a leadership book, then discuss that chapter.
  • Draw a roadmap --- i.e., identify the points along the road to success.
  • Learn along with the player. After all, if you're going to recommend books to read...well, you have to know what the right books are.
  • Keep the player focused on the end results.

    It's pretty clear that being a good executive coach isn't easy. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to make it work. But what drives the desire to do so? According to Yudd, it's based at least in part on the idea of "succession planning," or how you're going to replace yourself to keep the organization going when you're no longer involved.

    Hearing all this, it's tough not to think of the American Express commercials featuring Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski that ran during the NCAA tournament in March. As he put it, he's not just a coach, he's a leader. That pretty much describes what a quick-service operator needs to be as well.

    For more information on Ron Yudd, visit www.ronyudd.com.