Managing vs. Leading

Having been sandbagged by weather in the past, Clan Red approaches long-distance air travel in stages. In this case, we flew to Dallas the night before the international flight, then spent the night at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, before flying out the next day. This time we stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which happens to be in the international terminal used by Lufthansa. It is quiet, comfortable, and we don’t have to worry about lugging the luggage father than needed.

I got to watch a leader at work. It was impressive.

We checked in, had supper, and went to bed. The next morning I went down to breakfast at just after seven, and the Grand Met restaurant was a bit of a zoo. Apparently a lot of people had early flights, and all the tables were full, with more people waiting in line at the coffee shop to grab a bite and race off. I opted to wait for a seat in the dining area, and watched the organized chaos. The staff moved quickly and smoothly, keeping track of things, never getting flustered that I could see, and everyone doing anything needed. I might have sat for perhaps five minutes at absolute maximum before a table opened. I opted for the bbq-hash, black tea, and juice. The food tasted good, and arrived quickly. The waitress was on top of everything, worked very hard, was cheerful, and moved like lightning.

The manager bused tables, helped serve, and filled in any gaps. On my way out, he asked how the service had been and I said excellent, and complimented the waitress. He pulled me aside, asked me to repeat what I had said and wrote it down, and got my initials. It turns out he has a public praise board, and writes down compliments for everyone to see. No wonder the staff seemed to have such good morale, if that’s what the management is like.

Fast forward three weeks. Clan Red comes staggering back into the hotel. We have been awake for 20 hours. The flights went well, but let’s face it, being in an airliner for 10 hours without a pause wears you down, and then comes Customs (and in my case, ag). We checked in and went to supper. Lo and behold, the manager was covering supper. He remembered us, asked how we were, and checked up later. The waitress was just as cheerful, hard-working, and eager to anticipate our needs as the breakfast staff had been.

Come the next morning, same thing. Again the manager kept an eye on things, the staff were cheerful and seemed happy to help. Since it was a weekend morning, they were not overrun with business travelers, so people didn’t have to rush quite as much. Even so, service was prompt and the food quite good. I had something Mexican, with a very good spicy flavor but not overwhelmingly hot, and two eggs cooked over medium. Along with a large pot of black tea, and some milk.

The manager, as it turns out, had worked on cruise ships for a while. I wonder if that’s where he got some of his people skills. You can’t just quit and leave a cruise ship in the mid-Atlantic. Nor can you hire on short notice if something happens. I’m sorry I didn’t get his name, because he really seemed to be an excellent leader with a great support team. Despite travelers being snarly, exhausted, and unhappy, or perhaps because of that, the folks in the dining room all acted cheerful and upbeat. I don’t envy their job. Working food service, or any kind of customer service, is a challenge. Add in severe-weather season, delayed and cancelled flights, people rushing to make up for lost time and cancelled connections, and it must seem some days like an endless wave of unhappy souls.

My hat is off to the manager of the Grand Met. Good food, excellent staff, and someone who is eager to praise and who works hard, leading by example… Bravo, sir, bravo.


8 thoughts on “Managing vs. Leading

  1. > it must seem some days like an endless wave of unhappy souls.

    Back when the airlines ran ads they showed happy people going out to See The World. But in meatspace, all I can remember seeing are people who were irritated, stressed, angry, sad, or all of the above.

    • You also notice that in those ads. the happy, smiling, passengers were all seated in first class, no ads showing those in the cattle car section.

  2. Praise in public and counsel in private works in the commercial sector too! I wonder if he was ex-Navy. 🙂 Glad at least ‘part’ of the trip was good. BIS for long hours is NOT conducive to being a smiling face… Sigh…

  3. There is, and alas I forget where from, cartoon showing a bunch of guys pulling a big stone (obviously for a pyramid, in the cartoon) and a guy sitting at a desk atop the stone. Caption: Boss.
    The lower frame is almost the same, but there is no desk, and the fellow at the desk in the top frame, is now pulling with everyone else, at the front. Caption: Leader.

    I have refrained from printing this for Certain Critters at $WORKPLACE. So far.

    • Indeed. There’s a reason that Father Pax (the Headmaster) insists on teaching a religion class. And acting as sub if his schedule permits. Likewise Sr. Scholastica.

  4. One of my favorite examples of leadership was by George Westinghouse, founder of the eponymous company and supporter of AC power. On his way to a meeting in his plant, he observed a young laborer–a recent immigrant– trundling a wheelbarrow, filled with heavy copper ingots, over an iron slab which served as a track across the yard. The wheelbarrow went off the track and into the mud. As the laborer struggled to get it back on the track, other workers began mocking him.

    Although he was wearing formal clothes, Westinghouse waded into the mud and helped the worker get the wheelbarrow back on the track.

    Without words, powerful messages were transmitted: when someone is having problems, you don’t laugh at him–you help him. When things go wrong, no one is too important to dive in and get his hands dirty.

    More effective than a posted corporate values statement about ‘we must respect our fellow employees at all times’, or some such, don’t you think.

    • Yes. “The sermon you see” is far, far more powerful than words in a corporate memo or on the “Mission Statement” sign beside the breakroom door.

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