When I was twenty-one I landed my first real management job as a restaurant manager at a Marriott. And when I first started this job, our food and beverage department was performing dreadfully on our key metric – Guest Satisfaction Survey Scores (GSS Scores). We were consistently last or in the bottom five out of 500 hotel restaurants in our brand.
I thought I brought a lot good programs to my team. I started hosting pre-meal meetings before each shift to discuss daily specials and our focus. I created some nice drink and dessert menus for the bar and cocktail lounge. I was organized, so I did a good job controlling inventory and labor costs. I was creating little jobs for myself, executing them well, and I felt pretty darn good about myself.
At some point, maybe three or four months after I started, Marriott sent a company task force to our hotel to turn the restaurant around. These corporate assassins swept in and fired my boss and a couple other food and beverage bosses. One corporate task force manager sat me down, and I told him about all the cool programs I was implementing. I thought he was sitting me down to tell me what a wonderful job I was doing – the lone superstar among a management team of turkeys. Shockingly, he candidly told me that none of those stupid things mattered even a little bit in the company’s eyes. I was responsible for one thing – improving GSS Scores – and I was failing.
The task force hired a new boss for our department, and my new boss was better than his predecessor. He took me under his wing and mentored me when my management career was just a few months old. He further helped me understand that I needed to focus on the only thing that mattered – results.
I think all young managers need to learn this lesson early in their careers. Us managers create jobs and little projects all the time, and we feel great about ourselves by working on these projects. We create a fancy spreadsheet and then make everyone fill it out. We hold a big meeting and deliver a good speech or host some great team building game. We write down a big list of things to do and then check each line off one by one. This makes us feel like we’re achieving something and being productive. We’re fooling ourselves.
None of the big bosses care about any of this stuff. Sure, spreadsheets, meetings, and to-do lists have a place in most management repertoires. But my bosses, back then and now, most likely don’t even know about all the little things I do on a given day, and they certainly don’t care about these little projects if they’re not getting results. Bosses care about one thing – results – or perhaps more specifically – money.
Today I am a sales manager, so my result is revenue – making the company money. Some of you work in cost centers, so your result is saving your company money. People get promoted for making or saving their companies money. Conversely, people get fired if they fail to make or save their companies money, no matter how hard they were trying. That corporate task force who fired my old Marriott bosses taught me that nobody cares about trying.
I was only with Marriott for a year before I was recruited by my current employer. By the time I left we went from the worst restaurant out of 500 Marriott hotels to average. I like to think I’ve come a long way since then, but even today I need to remind myself to face the brutal facts from time to time. Now, when a boss asks what I’ve done lately, I know he isn’t asking about drink menus and pre-meal meetings. He is asking about results.