A hands-on manager, owner, or operator takes the time to get involved in the everyday workings of their business, stay abreast of the needs of their brand, and, most importantly, keep a finger on the pulse of their employees’ satisfaction and skill. Making the effort to connect personally with team members can be an immediate game-changer; personal attention helps employees feel noticed, appreciated, and happier at work.

Moreover, a hands-on management style is a tool for identifying top talent, building the strongest team possible, and improving a brand’s efficiency, skill level, and quality.

We heard from three industry experts on how managers can stay involved in their concepts—and what rewards come along with that involvement.

Kyle Welch / Franchisee, Cold Stone Creamery

An owner should never start seeing themselves as something other than an operator. Owners should look at working in the stores as preventative maintenance. Every Friday morning I go in to one of our locations and detail clean the store with the whole team. I really think that “deep cleaning party” is the best way to diagnose and fix anything in the store. It’s a time for everyone to work together, and the best way to rally the troops and build morale.

My best practice is, during the interview process, focus on personal stuff. Ask about someone’s proudest accomplishment, hobbies, and family life. I ask about the personal first, then I’ll hit them with some business acumen questions. I make a log with all of the information from the interview and use that to connect with my employees. I recently interviewed an employee for a promotion, and during the interview she mentioned that her daughter is really into Hot Wheels. That’s how I’m going to start my conversations with her during our calls and my in-person visits.

I love finding hidden talent. We’ve grown a lot through acquisition. When we buy a store, we use the first team meeting to introduce ourselves to the team and have them introduce themselves to us. We’ll ask a question about a recipe build, and there’s always someone quiet who is secretly an all-star. Engaging with all of your employees helps shine a light on the diamonds in the rough and opens your eyes to the hard work and dedication of a lot of your staff.

Tony Penn / Owner, Penn Ultimate Consulting & Penn Restaurant Group

Consistent communication through various means is critical. There is no substitute for face-to-face human interaction. Make it your first priority to get to know your team as individuals. When you arrive on-site, you don’t want to hide, nor do you want to always lead with some business directive. Learn as much as you can about what is happening in their lives and be sincere. You have to be an engaged listener when speaking to your team and allow them to have a voice in some of the decision-making. What is most important is that those working at the unit level see and feel the commitment from the operator/franchisee.

Most people, whether they’re at work or not, want to feel a part of something. Engaging staff and showing that you truly care will create buy-in from your team and will provide them with a feeling of ownership. Once you have that buy-in, most employees will perform at a higher level and will bring others along with them. It’s then you’ll find the hidden gems in your team, along with some great ideas to take your business to another level.

Jim Harter / Co-author, “It’s the Manager”

The people close to the action—close to customers—will have insights that someone separated from direct customer contact will miss. They will also have insights that need to be taken into account when decisions are made about the overall operation. People close to the customer also potentially have ideas that may lead to efficiencies that save money or new developments that can grow the business. Personally engaging with the business also makes people feel involved, which affects whether they will do things in the overall best interests of the operation.

Ask employees how they like to be recognized. Have them discuss a recent success, and ask them who their best partners have been. Ask them to describe their future—what they want to be doing in five to 10 years. Get to know the strengths of the team members. Schedule regular check-in conversations to discuss successes and barriers to success. During role/relationship orientation and semi-annual reviews, ask them about their purpose, goals, metrics, development, strategy, team, and their life. Work and life are more blended than ever before; ask about their well-being both at and away from work. Spend time listening versus delegating, and focus on moving from a culture of boss to coach.

Business Advice, Employee Management, Restaurant Operations, Story