One of my core beliefs about leadership is that you need to treat employees as individuals. It is not useful to treat everyone in the same way.
I spent some time recently with the CEO of a very successful Winnipeg restaurant chain. This CEO has grown the business from a handful of employees to hundreds and from 2 locations to 7. He is an impressive leader, and he shared with me his simple model for dealing with different types of employees.
He categorizes staffers as A, B, C, or D employees. A being the most desirable; D the least.
Here was his take on each of the types:
D employees need to be shown the door quickly. There is usually just too far to go with them to make the effort worthwhile.
C employees are most often veterans who know the job but have brought bad habits and a poor attitude with them. They need to be told directly that we see them as having a poor attitude. We need to point out the role models we wish them to follow (the A’s) and help them understand all the benefits of becoming an A. Improved job satisfaction and more hours being two big ones.
B’s are most often newer employees. They have the desire to do well and need help learning how to do the job. They need to be trained and mentored by the A’s, not the C’s. The A’s will model the correct work habits and the right attitude. It is very important not to have the C’s teach the B’s. This seems obvious, yet I have made this mistake myself and have seen others make it, too.
A’s are typically overlooked and that is also a mistake. They need to be given the most hours, they should be treated the best, and they need to lead the B’s and be the model for the C’s. The quickest way to turn an A into a C is to spend your time, energy, and creativity trying to turn around your C’s and D’s instead of nurturing your A’s.
One of the criteria this CEO uses to know when he can open a new restaurant is that he has built up enough A’s to seed the staff. He sees A employees as his most important assets and he treats them accordingly. When you get great service at a Stella’s restaurant in Winnipeg you will now know why, and perhaps you will be inspired to apply this same thinking with your team. The key take-away is to not treat each employee the same, but rather to treat each according to their attitude and ability.