Tag archive for "Management"

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Struggling Supervisors – Coach ‘em Up or Move Them Out

No Comments 04 August 2014

Confirming what many had been sensing for some time, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President, Richard Fisher said recently that increasing numbers of workers are quitting their jobs voluntarily, and concomitantly, employers are finding that it’s taking longer to fill open positions. Those are two fairly strong indicators that the job market is heating up.

But they aren’t the only indicators. For several months, we’ve been watching managers going into a defensive crouch and lowering their work performance standards in an ill-advised effort to hang onto people rather than coach, discipline or terminate, and then face the prospect of replacing them. In many cases they’re turning a blind eye to problem performers, the existence of whom is aggravating to fellow workers and customers alike.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. They’re not yet well-assured that they can get quick internal approval to replace.
  2. They know that hiring a replacement off the street will take time (the talent pool isn’t deep yet for many positions), and it will likely cost them more money.
  3. There’s more than a little guilt involved, as the involved managers know in many cases that the individual is struggling because they themselves have not had (‘er taken) the time to properly train and coach their staff members.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of level 1 supervisors and managers. And, sadly, nowhere do we pay a higher price for this condition. Having an inept or uncommitted level 1 manager wreaks havoc in an organization. Think about it. These are the folks who represent the “last mile” in the management communication and strategy execution chain. They have more daily touchpoints with frontline workers than anyone else, and thus have the capacity to disenfranchise greater numbers of solid performers – the very last people you want to lose.

Three suggestions:

  1. Take a hard look across your organization at your level 1 and 2 managers. Which of them seem to be struggling or experiencing abnormally high rates of regrettable turnover? Find out why, and get them some help if needed. If it’s too late or they are misplaced in their role, take action now, while you still have options.
  2. Resolve to make leadership ability a “must have” for anyone placed into a management position. Specifically, before putting someone into a leadership role at any level, there should be credible reason to believe that they have the courage to make and communicate tough decisions, the humility to realize that they put their pants on just like everyone else, better than average judgment and interpersonal skills, and that they are comfortable in their own skin. Absent any one of these factors, it doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are. Keep looking.
  3. And speaking of looking, you could do a lot worse than to spend time daily working on your talent pipeline. Make daily efforts to give internal candidates, your leaders of tomorrow, some coaching or encouragement. And at the same time, make sure that your external pipeline is well stocked.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, Management

Discretionary Effort Is a Big, Dot Deal

1 Comment 29 August 2013

Since commencing research on what ultimately became our first book, I have taken a rather steely-eyed approach to the subject of employee relations. A data-driven sort, I suspect that, had that research not produced clear linkage between worker attitudes and corporate performance, I would have found something very different to do for a living. But it did, and thus work at the intersection of people and profit has been the main event around here for better than fifteen years.

With each passing month, set of quarterly earnings reports, and new worker engagement survey, there is further evidence that the nexus between people and profit is a big, dot deal. Witness Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report which suggests that lost productivity due to worker disengagement now costs U.S. employers in the neighborhood of $500 billion annually, or roughly 3.3% of our $15 trillion national economy.

Let’s just say for grins and giggles that Gallup’s math is somehow off by one-third on the high side (I doubt it), and that only half of the remaining productivity loss could effectively be captured through better management performance. That still leaves better than a 1% potential improvement in GDP on the table, and very much within our grasp. In relative terms, that would cover the entire defense-related portion of the recent eight year budget sequester, with enough left over to buy the U.S. Navy a couple of new Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The same principle holds true on an organizational level. For fifteen years we’ve documented, most recently in our 2012 book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk,  the outsized performance of employers of choice relative to their peers and market averages. As a case in point, the average annual total stock return for the twelve newly named “Contented Cow companies” during the period 2002 – 2011 was 10.7%, besting the broader market average by a whopping 9.7% annually, creating a wealth premium of approximately $70 billion annually. Nuff said?

In a recent presentation for University of Memphis School of Business students, I ventured that, over the next 20 years, discretionary effort, that extra morsel of effort that is applied exclusively at the will of the individual, will have greater effect on productivity and profits than the continued exploitation of technology. We’re not anti-technology mind you. In fact we tend to be fairly early adopters, but it seems unlikely that we’ll have another equivalent of the Internet invented every decade. Moreover, given that worker engagement levels are presently at sub-surface (whale poo) levels, let’s just say that there is a lot of low hanging fruit.

Here are a few steps wise managers and organizations are taking to improve worker engagement, and thus unlocking discretionary effort and better business performance:

1. Getting serious about personal development plans - For years (no, decades) most of us have paid lip service to creating and executing personal development plans with our staff. A funny thing happened as we began the climb out from the Great Recession. Workers at all levels began making it known in no uncertain terms that as long as they were going to have to provide their own job security, they expected more and better help in the learning and development department. Indeed, analysis of any legitimate engagement study reveals that learning and self-development are always among the top 3 engagement drivers. Aside from better developmental assignments, workers are looking for help with securing professional accreditation and KSA’s to make them more competitive for their next job (hint). As but one manifestation, overtaxed L&D organizations are turning with greater regularity to external coaches to  partner with high potential employees to help execute those plans. That is particularly the case with newly promoted organizational leaders (at all levels).

2. Reacting quicker to misfits and poor performers – Fans and even casual observers of Major League Baseball were witness to an unusual social drama this summer wherein two dozen or so players suspected of cheating via performance enhancing drugs were left twisting in the breeze for months as the league figured out what to do with them. In the interim, not just the involved players, but their teammates and fans grew highly agitated over the agonizingly slow pace of justice (about as slow as a Yankees vs. Red Sox game).

Taking a lesson from Major League Baseball perhaps, smart leaders recognize that being slow to move on people who either don’t fit or can’t / won’t perform is unkind to the person involved, and it poses a terrible drag on the morale and productivity of those around them. To be sure, really good leaders, the ones we call Leaders of Choice, are neither reckless nor callous about dealing with these matters, but once it is apparent that the situation is untenable, they act.

3. Getting better seed corn – Any good baker will tell you that great cakes start with great ingredients. That is as axiomatic in the workplace as the kitchen. If you want contented (read engaged), high yielding workers, it’s important to start with folks who have sufficient bandwidth, desire, and the capacity to be contented on your team. Over the course of the Great Recession and our climb out from its depths, many of us have not taken time to sharpen our sourcing and selection processes, to wit we could quickly be disadvantaged as hiring resumes (and it is).

Moreover, it has been so long since some of us were in a serious recruiting mode that we have missed much of a generational shift in the workspace. Consider, for example:

  • How mobile-friendly is your recruiting process (end to end)? For that matter, how candidate-friendly is it? (Remember, 138 characters + an RT can make a big difference.)
  • What have you done lately to establish, burnish, and take advantage of your employer brand? Are you regularly doing employee surveys to get feedback from the people who define that brand?
  • Do you have serious Millenial involvement in your recruitment process? Never mind involvement, let them run it.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

by Bill, Management

On ObamaCare, Employers, and the Full-Time vs. Part-Time Decision

4 Comments 18 February 2013

With full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) now within sight, every organization with a payroll and a modicum of good sense is getting serious about determining their strategy and tactics with respect to the act.

Some have already decided to go ahead and upgrade their health care insurance programs to make them compliant with both cost and coverage requirements of the act. Many are taking a “watchful waiting” approach to see how the first few organizations that pay a fine and dump their workforces (in whole or in part) onto the state insurance exchanges fare. Many others, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, signal that they will be shifting even more to a workforce constituted of part-time workers in order to escape the act’s coverage requirements. At first blush, the act seems to incentivize some to do just that. Although every management must decide what’s in the best interest of their stakeholders, it is this last group that we’d like to focus on.

In a recent webinar sponsored by People Report and Black Box Intelligence (very credible organizations that provide info. services to the restaurant industry), the unmistakable take-away was that reliance on part-time vs. full-time workers will be a Big.Dot.Issue. 82% of the mostly restaurant managements surveyed indicated that cutting worker hours in order to reduce the number of full-timers with mandated benefits would be their likely approach. Further, 80% of those surveyed indicated that it was their intent to hire a greater ratio of part-timers going forward.

On the surface, swapping one full-time worker for two or more part-timers seems a perfectly sensible thing to do if it helps you avoid a significant expense for worker health care benefits. Yet, managements that make such a move based purely on avoiding the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance are opening yet another, possibly costlier can of worms.

Regardless of the number of hours each person works, the addition of each incremental real, pulsating human being (RPHB), aka “heads” to the beancounters in the crowd, adds significant complexity and cost to the mix. Here are just a few of the factors to consider:

  1. Additional pressure on the physical plant (think bathrooms, parking spaces, work stations, et. al.)
  2. The task of communicating with and leading, directing, guiding the workforce becomes more complex. At some point, additional managers must be hired due to span of control issues.
  3. Recruitment and training costs go up, way up.
  4. Barring some clear and reasonably predictable way to migrate from part to full-time status, you must either recruit from a totally different demographic, or face the prospect of having a bifurcated (and not necessarily enchanted or engaged) workforce. (Think A-scale and B-scale and how well that worked for commercial airlines.)

We don’t advocate one approach over another. Rather, that each management team get beyond the surface considerations and consider all the implications. And, not to put any pressure on you, but you need to do it soon.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

by Bill, Leadership

The Ding Dongs Wore Suits – How Hostess Lost Its Buns

No Comments 02 December 2012

A couple weeks ago, a good friend asked my opinion on the expected failure of Hostess Brands Inc., the 85 year-old maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Hostess CupCakes, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs. His question prompted a flashback to regular visits my college buddies and I made decades ago to the 24-hour lunch counter at the Hostess bakery in South Miami after some, ah-hem… late night studies.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I suggested to my friend that the company was probably doomed on at least two basis:

  1. They found themselves trapped in an ultra-competitive industry, making products that fewer and fewer people were willing to buy and eat.
  2. It is clear that, for quite some time, Hostess customers, employees, and owners had been failed by an under-performing management.

Many have suggested that the straw that broke Hostess’s back came in the form of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union’s  refusal to accept the pay cuts contained in the company’s final contract offer. The union’s recalcitrance didn’t help matters, but as much as we might like to put the lion’s share of blame on them, this unfortunate saga didn’t begin, or end, with the unions.

Hostess was like a cow that was being milked every day, with no thought whatsoever given by dairymen to the condition of the pasture or feed lot, the need for veterinary treatment, milk production technology, or even the market for their products. Whenever management got in a pinch, they sold the cow, renamed her, or filed bankruptcy. The end result in this case, after three changes of ownership since the 1980’s and two bankruptcies, is that some 18,000 people got the ultimate pay cut, the “turn-around” managers get court approved bonuses, and the bakery will be liquidated, one slice at a time.

Are there lessons in this sad affair for the rest of us? Sure. Here are but two of them:

  1. Stay away from any organization that is bereft of a cogent, convincing long term strategy, and is being run instead purely for near term financial gain. If management can’t credibly explain with something as simple as a crayon, what their business stands for and where it’s going for the long pull, run.
  2. Have the courage to say no, when it matters, not after the fact… to employees, to unions, and bankers. Otherwise, you end up like GM and Chrysler, circa 2008, and yes, Hostess.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Leadership, Management

A Manager’s Second Greatest Contribution

1 Comment 17 March 2011

I’ve long maintained (no original thought here) that the most important thing a manager, any manager does is make decisions about who does and does not wind up on the payroll. That is especially the case in an environment where there simply are no spare parts, ‘er humans, and each person’s contributions or lack thereof are vital.

The next most important managerial contribution is getting the “system” off peoples’ backs so they can actually do the jobs they were hired to do to the very best of their ability. What do you mean by “system” some would ask? I’m talking about rules, procedures, methods, customs, policies and the like. Things that were probably once appropriate and well intended, but make absolutely no sense in that moment today when the rubber hits the road. I’m not railing at all procedures and policies mind you, just the clunkers, of which there are plenty.

I saw a perfect example yesterday in the Atlanta airport. Hustling through Concourse B, I decided to grab a sandwich before my flight, so I stopped at the Muffulettas’ vending station. Two staff members were there busily counting merchandise and cash. I stood for a moment, then interrupted the lady counting the food items and asked if I might purchase a sandwich. Before I even finished asking, and with her back still turned, she replied, “We’re on shift change. You’ll have to wait about ten minutes.” “But I just want to buy a sandwich” I countered, to which she replied, “I can’t sell you anything for about ten minutes. We’re on shift change.” Thud.

Flummoxed, I stood there for a couple of minutes with a $10 bill still in hand. In that time span, four more hungry travelers approached and got the exact same treatment. Two of them uttered some not so nice words at the women before walking off. As I, too ventured off for a sandwich place that might be more open for business, I thought, “what a crappy way to make a living.”

These two women get ten minutes at the beginning and end of each and every work shift ruined by a process that unintentionally but decidedly turns them into idiots in the eyes of customers. They didn’t invent the shift change process, but they have to live with it, and judging from personal experience, it improves neither worker performance nor earnings.

These are the kinds of things that, just like a pinch of sand in the shoe, wear people down, make them crazy, and cause them to unplug, whether they actually leave the job or not.  We’ve all got them in our workspace, and it is up to those of us who are in leadership roles, regardless of the number of stripes on our sleeve, to relentlessly find them, root them out, and make it a tiny bit more possible for our people to do their very best work.

And speaking of best work, I did see some of that yesterday, too. Shortly after arrival at Kimpton’s Ink48 Hotel in New York (and still hungry), I called room service and ordered some food, which was soon delivered by a server who is a recent immigrant from Tibet. In halting but perfectly serviceable English, he politely introduced himself, inquired about my stay, told me that he was proud to work for Kimpton, and explained that he looked forward to being of service both today and in the future.

When replying to his question about where I’m from, I told him that I’m from Tennessee, which drew something of a deer in the headlights look. After a little further explanation to no avail, I quickly popped up Google Maps on my open laptop and showed him, mentioning that the state was home to Elvis, and a couple more localisms. End of story, or so I thought.

A couple of hours later, after calling to secure permission, another room service server delivered a gracious, handwritten hospitality note from my new Tibetan friend, along with a bucket of ice and two miniature bottles of guess what? The world’s best sipping whiskey, which just happens to be made in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

From a socio-economic standpoint, this fellow’s job is very much on par with the two ladies I ran into earlier in the day in Atlanta. He delivers food to guest’s rooms, and they sell it out of a refrigerator in the airport. But that’s where the similarity ends.

They get worn down each day by at least one dumb process designed or approved by someone who I suspect hasn’t spent one hour watching what kind of aggravation it brings to others. The Kimpton guy, working for a management team that has obviously told him to do what it takes to be nice to guests, is free to do his very best work, and it shows.

Evidence abounds that workers who believe that they have an honest shot at doing their best work deliberately turn up the boost on their discretionary effort, because performing at that level is exhilirating. Those who don’t, mail it in. So the choice is there for each of us to make. Do we want to invest a little time every day making the path a bit clearer for our folks, or do we want potential customers putting their hard earned money back in their pockets and walking next door?

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the newly released book,Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Think About It...

Should Wal-Mart Be on Your Resume?

No Comments 14 July 2009

Our 1998 book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, called attention to the substantial advantage in business outcomes achieved by companies with sensible leadership and employee relations practices. In it, we compared the difference in business results for a group of 6 companies with reputations for being great places to work (Contented Cows) versus a half dozen of their direct competitors with not quite the same workplace reputation (Common Cows). One of the companies profiled as an exemplar was Wal-Mart.

Despite very good business results, in the intervening years Wal-Mart has suffered more than its share of reputational black eyes inflicted by competitors who’ve endured countless beatings at the hands of the beast from Bentonville, labor unions that have grown weary of the company’s strident union-free posture, and yes, some mis-steps of its own.

Through it all, we’ve defied popular sentiment, maintaining instead that Wal-Mart is still a pretty good place to work, not to mention a convenient place to shop for a huge assortment of items at relatively low prices. Is it sexy? Nope, not one bit. Though I’ve never worked for the company, I get the distinct impression, gained from hundreds of store visits, interviews, and talking with acquaintances who do work their, that the work can be taxing (think long hours, hard floors), not especially lucrative, and, with  2.1 million people on the payroll (fully 50% larger than the active U.S. military), not particularly flexible. Moreover, consistent with lessons learned from other high performance workplaces, evidence abounds that employment at Wal-Mart is not for everybody. But it is right for a lot of people, and if you’re currently looking, you might give it some consideration.

What Wal-Mart lacks in “sexy” it makes up for in “steady”, something a lot of us are finding renewed appreciation for as the economy continues to quake and quiver. To wit…

  • Unlike employees at 3 of the 6 designated “Common Cow” companies (Consolidated Freightways, United Airlines, and General Motors) and a long list of others that have gone through bankruptcy since the book was published , Wal-Mart employees have enjoyed growth, relative prosperity, and job security.
  • Despite all the carping from organized labor about the company’s conservative approach to pay and benefits, Wal-Mart is now among the retail industry leaders in workforce health care insurance coverage. Indeed, the industry’s largest trade group, the National Retail Federation is apoplectic that Wal-Mart has endorsed congressional proposals that would require employers to provide health insurance for their employees
  • And, they actually are doing some exciting stuff on the environmental front. The company is currently working with environmentalist and entrepreneur  Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia) to develop and produce recyclable clothing

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

P.S. Bill Catlette does not currently own Wal-Mart stock, nor has he ever taken a dime from the company.

by Bill, Management

Effective Business Integration is More Than Just a Paint Job

No Comments 17 May 2009

Upon returning from a trip to the Florida Keys Saturday, I saw a bright, shiny, freshly painted Delta Air Lines 747-400 jet parked at the adjacent gate as we pulled into Terminal E at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. In all likelihood, the plane recently bore the markings of Northwest Airlines, now in the process of integrating with Delta.

To their credit, the folks at Delta and the 25 or so “integration teams” responsible for planning and managing the execution of the merger (‘er acquisition) are moving with purpose and pace, and for the most part seem to be getting it right. Our flights this week were all unremarkable, on-time, and checked luggage showed up as expected.

Airlines are big, complex organizations with lots of critical moving parts and though many have tried, you  can’t simply slap a new coat of paint on a few airplanes, hang up some fresh signs, and call it quits. Just ask a few folks who regularly fly US Airways. Though Delta and Northwest are still operating as separate carriers, it is clear that there will be a day sometime in the next year or so when there is only one entity.

One aspect of the Delta-Northwest integration, and for that matter most business mergers that lags, however, is the integration of different (vastly different in this case) organizational cultures. While Atlanta-based Delta is known for hospitality and manners, Northwest excelled at other things, to put it charitably.

Though they may be wearing new uniforms, too many of the new Delta folks are still wearing Northwest attitudes. Just as there continues to be a struggle within the combined group about whether or not various employees will be represented by a labor union (I hope not), employees are figuring out what the new standards are for performance and behavior. It all pretty much reverts to the old “barrel of apples” axiom, and management must take pains to quickly assert its will before the wrong group of apples reaches critical mass. I don’t know where it is on the transition checklist, but this is one of the things that can’t wait. If management convincingly establishes smiling faces and polite, professional exchanges with customers (and others) as the norm for the new organization and models that behavior, it will come to pass. If they don’t, well, you know what they say about the barrel of apples.

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

by Bill, Management, Meeting Goals, Think About It...

Things are Getting Tough for Restaurants, but Wage & Hour Violations Not Worth the Risk

No Comments 08 July 2008

TimeclockWe do a fair amount of work with the hospitality industry, and to be sure, they are feeling the pinch right now. Operating on the leading (bleeding?) edge of the economy, restaurants and other food service operators tend to suffer a lot of the early pain in an economic downturn. Just ask some of the folks at Starbucks.

The current climate is especially pernicious because the very factors that are reducing discretionary spending are also causing food costs (especially dairy products and seafood) to skyrocket. As a result, restaurant operators are scrambling to take costs out of the system, and yet do it in a way that doesn’t totally alienate the guest.

Inevitably some turn to their employees, as they well should, to find ways to do more with less. But, unfortunately, the industry’s “just get it done” culture that operates fairly well most of the time can put the entire enterprise way out on a legal limb when little things like time clocks come into play. In the past month, I’ve overheard food service managers in two different chains tell employees to “get it done” while in the same breath admonishing them that, “there is (wink) no (wink) overtime.” Translation – I expect you to do it off the clock.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the person complies. I say “unfortunately” because in so doing, the fuse on this little liability, which can be a very long fuse indeed has just been lit. In some cases the person, a gung-ho employee goes along with the program, and for so long as they remain gung-ho, nothing comes of it. Many others aren’t as gung-ho or benevolent, however. Some will be receptive to advances by labor unions, employee “advocacy groups” (fronts for unions), or attorneys who prefer to do their ambulance chasing with a fork. Others prefer to impose their own remedies and take advantage of a target-rich environment by beginning to confuse their money with the company’s (or guest’s) money. Either way, the business loses, and the losses are bigger than you might imagine.

Despite having a largely pro-business judiciary for some time, employers are getting whacked with stiff fines and settlements as the result of federal wage and hour law violations. The July 14-21 issue of Business Week (p. 7) reported an adverse ruling against Wal-Mart by a Minnesota judge in a case involving 2 million alleged separate instances of employees being forced to work off the clock or cut short their breaks. According to the article, in addition to the $6.5 million back pay award, the company could potentially be liable for punitive damages up to $2 billion (based on a $1,000 per event maximum penalty).

Similarly, the June 20 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News (p. 6) chronicled an expected $3.9 million settlement of two wage and hour related lawsuits against Fireman Hospitality Group, the New York operator of upscale restaurants such as Redeye Grill, Cafe Fiorello, Brooklyn Diner, and Shelly’s.

Any way you cut it, working people off the clock, or funding operations through some of the nefarious tip sharing arrangements that pop up from time to time is simply not worth the risk. Whether you’re serving tacos or t-bones, it takes a hell of a lot of covers to pay one of these supersized fines.

For the rest of us, who spend our time on the other side of the plate, we would do well to remember that when we do dine out, we’re really not going to balance the household budget by stiffing a deserving server out of a tip. Do the right thing, even though no one is looking.

by Bill, Management, Think About It...

Plane Pains

1 Comment 19 April 2008

airport linesForty years ago I experienced my very first commercial aircraft flight(s) on a trip from Charleston, WV to Sarasota, FL to visit my grandfather. Though the second flight leg, from Atlanta to Sarasota was canceled, something I found a bit unnerving as a teen-aged newbie flyer traveling alone, everything turned out okay. I suppose in retrospect it was good preparation for things to come.

In the intervening years, as a veteran business traveler, I have experienced thousands of flight legs, millions of air miles, and I dare say at least a hundred canceled flights. What I have not experienced until this year however is the kind of meltdown of the American air transport system that is going on at present.

When America’s largest air carriers decide to park, at one time, an entire aircraft type for inspections, re-inspections, or re re-inspections relating to an eighteen month old (non-emergency) airworthiness directive, something is broken indeed. As chronicled in the April 10 USA Today, and Joe Brancatelli’s Biz Travel Life, over a quarter million air travelers have been inconvenienced in the past week as the result of American Airlines’ grounding of its MD 80 and 90 series fleet, for the 2nd time in two weeks.

When four, count ‘em (ATA, Frontier, Skybus, Aloha) airlines go bust in the same week that four of the six legacy carriers (Delta, Northwest, Continental, United), also formerly bankrupt companies, are pursuing shotgun weddings, something is amiss. Ditto for the fact that, according to a study published on 4/18 in USA Today, air travel in the U.S. took longer (30-40% longer in many cases) in 2007 then it did twenty years ago! And while all this is going on, the Department of Transportation’s uppermost priority is… get this… drumroll please… increasing denied boarding compensation for the handful of travelers who actually wind up getting bumped from a commercial flight. Yikes!

Wassup?

1. Contrary to what one might conclude when boarding one crowded commercial flight after another, we’ve still got too many aircraft seats chasing paying fannies.

2. Carriers are being allowed to use the bankruptcy process as a low cost way to gain unfair competitive advantage. Why, for example, should American and Southwest have to compete against an entire field of competitors who (some more than once) have used the bankruptcy process like a washing machine to wipe away the burden of debt and employee obligations? Perhaps the door to the bankruptcy court should henceforth be limited to “first time flyers.”

3. The FAA has been lame in dealing with flight scheduling, the enforcement of safety rules, and the management of its own workforce. Found recently to have been a bit too cozy with Southwest, and perhaps others, they are now engaged in a chest pounding smokescreen that precipitated the recent groundings. Further, by allowing air carriers and airport operators to schedule more flights at peak times than could possibly be handled by an aging infrastructure on a bluebird day, they are as much at fault as the industry itself. This is an agency just begging for privatization.

4. It’s the fares, stupid. Air carriers, most notably the legacy carriers, seem bent on self destruction by  maintaining fare structures which absolutely hose the business traveler while putting leisure travelers on the same planes at fire sale prices. You can be absolutely certain of two things when you board your next flight: No two passengers on your plane paid the same fare, and everyone got a cheaper seat than you did.

5.  The absence of a cogent national energy policy is killing us, and the aviation industry is but a single manifestation of that fact. According to IATA, the price of jet fuel has increased by 69% yr/yr. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some leisure fares out there where the fuel surcharge portion of the ticket fee exceeds the basic fare. One thing each of us can do is to elevate this item from our own consciousness to the national stage, and demand reasonable solutions from those who would ask for our votes.

End of rant… I’ve got a plane to catch.


ABOUT US

Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.

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