Leaders are People Builders

WendysMark True recently wrote about his experience at Wendy’s. I wonder if they’re putting something strange in the deep fat fryer, because I had my own interesting experience last night.

My wife and I walked into Wendy’s and ordered our meal. My wife ordered a side of chili with her combo. The pleasant young man filled the chili cup and brought it to our tray on the counter. Just then the manager came over and grabbed the chili cup. "What are you doing?" she yelled. "You gave them too much! Look at this line! Look at it! Do you see it? You’re only supposed to fill it to this line!" The manager then walked back to the chili pot, poured out the contents of the cup and then rescooped one ladle full of chili into the cup. "Here! See the line? Don’t ever fill it past that line!" she barked handing him the cup. The humiliated young man sheepishly walked back and placed the cup back on the tray.

As a leader, I believe you are called to build people up. Your job is to assist in building better people, better customer servants and future leaders. A couple of leadership lessons screamed out at me from the observing what I observed:

  • Don’t criticize your team members in front of others. Her tirade brought an uncomfortable and negative atmosphere to all the workers behind the counter and all the customers in the restaurant. It was destructive to everyone around. It would have been appropriate to pull the young man aside and speak to him privately.
  • Don’t beat people down, build them up. She was not teaching or training – she was crushing her employee’s spirit, making him feel devalued, and destroying any chance to motivate him to want to do a good job.
  • Consider the customer. She was so intent on criticizing her employee that she had no concept of the message she had just sent to her customers. The message we heard was "Wendy’s is so cheap that we will pull your chili cup off the tray and take some out because we’re only give you ONE ladle full of chili!" It was not surprising that my wife barely touched the chili.

Are you building up the people around you, or tearing them down?

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Flickr photo courtesy of Felisdeityus

  6 comments for “Leaders are People Builders

  1. June 30, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Tom, what a refresher. Did you know the brain builds new dendrite connectors for what we do…? Build people up, and you also build brain cells for so doing. That grows into a habit in ways that tangibly rewire the brain for building people up. Another support for why we need to try out even more doable strategies for “human building” as you show here so well. Thanks.

  2. June 30, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Wow, Ellen! Thanks for the additional slant. It’s encouraging to know that doing the right thing helps ourselves and our brains as well as others. Who knew that building up someone else is also exercise for your brain!
    Maybe we have fodder for a new exercise show on the Fitness channel. “Okay everyone! Build up those dendrite connectors! Encourage! Compliment! Help! Encourage! Compliment! Help!”

  3. July 2, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Gosh, Tom. What a great post! Such a telling experience. My temptation would have been to say to the young lady, “Could you tell the young man not to worry that we understand that mistakes happen and we’ll be back to see him.” 🙂

  4. July 2, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    I think she was oblivious to the fact that customers were standing across the counter. No sooner had she dressed down the kid that she was off to tyrannize the kitchen. I felt bad for anyone who had to work for her.

  5. July 3, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Amazing story. I’ve seen some poor behavior in managers who are oblivious to the effect it has on customers, but I’ve never seen anything that bad.
    She didn’t care about her employee or her customers. The manager from hell for her employees, customers, and employer.
    The problem here is the person who hired her and alllows such an unprofessional bully to lead the staff.

  6. July 5, 2006 at 10:33 am

    You’re right, Dave. Sounds like they need a good QA program 🙂

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