General Managers lead your company’s operations while acting as the bridge to the other executives. They cast an enormous shadow on a company, for good or bad. Should general managers even care about being admired? The admiration is not for them, but the image of the company. GMs must master the art of the trip-pod, serving the employees, the customers, and the public. If you are an aspiring GM or have been in this role for many years, there are nine rules for winning over your employees’ admiration.
Don’t be quiet, but don’t be loud
A GM who is rarely seen or heard is a bad sign for employees. Even if the company is in great shape with substantial quarterly numbers, company directors will question running the show. Without a voice, the GM cannot keep the senior leaders engaged in their roles. Being too quiet — not engaging with employees, mostly directors of the company makes the leader untrustworthy.
On the opposite spectrum, a GM who comes in too loud with drastic changes and heavy involvement without understanding its real problems comes off as either a micromanager or dictator. This type of authoritarian leadership is probably required for businesses in dire ruin, but not the average company. People want to be led to incremental change and feel involved in the success of something bigger than themselves.
Do not take credit for the success, only failures
If a company succeeds, the GM should give full credit to the employees and publicly share it using specific employee names. Let’s say your hotel is credited for the success of an in-house renovation project, honor the department and all of the employees who did the work. Maybe it was your idea as GM to launch the project, but give up the ego of taking the credit. When all the departments provide updates at the quarterly meeting, take the time to recognize individual successes.
The only thing a GM should be taking credit for is a failure. If someone on the team, in a department that the GM never interacts with does something shady or costs the company money, guess who is at fault?
In 2008, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, took credit for Starbucks’ failure during the recession. He knew this had been brewing (sorry, I had to) for a few years when he walked into one of their cafes at the time and could no longer smell roasted coffee. The culture was upside down, and Schultz took extreme ownership of that failure. By accepting the defeat, Starbucks could realign itself, get back to basics, and exponentially grow.
Hire the right leaders
GMs are not required to come up with the big company saving ideas (at least not all the time). A strong leader knows what and how to delegate responsibilities to the right people to make things happen. The most important thing a GM can do is hire the best person for the job, allowing them to lead with passion, fire, and enthusiasm. Carefully consider should hiring decision-makers. One of the quickest ways to lose admiration is to hire the wrong person. Employees will immediately question their GMs priorities, abilities, and (let’s be honest) sanity.
Yet, if a GM consistently hires intelligent leaders filled passion (and compassion), they will be viewed admirably by the entire trip-pod.
Destroy cliques and favoritism
Shit falls downwards, which means if you favor individual managers, you will find division from the top down. Unfortunately, high school mentalities never leave; they infect your future workplace. Cliques exist, and malicious gossip is their weapon. If a GM shows favoritism, it won’t take long before all the middle managers let it destroy morale and camaraderie.
A sound general manager should be firm, fair, and consistent with everyone (even the leaders they don’t play golf with on weekends). One change that should be made when entering a new company is the breakdown of silos by enhancing communication between leaders and departments.
Stop worrying about loyalty
As of 2020, 48% of the workforce consists of millennials. The data suggests that millennials are not loyal to companies like people used to be, but I don’t see it this way as a millennial. We don’t commit to companies without a clear purpose and a vibrant plan to add value to their vision. We are loyal to influential corporate culture, not finicky leaders and high-school drama.
As GM, stop worrying about loyalty and trust your people. Don’t be offended if they are not loyal to you personally, but establish a positive culture that makes them proud to dedicate their time and effort to create.
Sit in the fire
When the building is on fire, the GM is there to fight it with his team. During Hurricane Irma, our hotel was functional with a full house of guests. Our GM spent the week in the hotel, working 24/7 with the entire team to preservers through the trials and tribulations of power outages, food shortages, and disgruntled guests.
Employees remember those who fight with them during these distressing scenarios. A bond is created between what is commonly seen as the untouchable GM and the lower-class, hourly-folk. The more you fight with them, the more respect they will have for you.
Remember, you are now Brangelina
Simply put, people are watching you always. Everything you say and do is scrutinized when you are a GM. Your non-verbal language is of great importance. Forget to say good morning to someone, and you have generated fear in an employee for the entire day, making them less productive because they feel their GM hates them. People often think this way in corporate environments.
As Brangelina, you have no control of the public’s view of you, but you can control what is reported. It would help if you weren’t fake or unnatural but genuinely pleasant with everyone you engage with throughout the day, complete control of your emotional responses in front of your employees, and curious about their lives. The more questions you ask employees, the more you control the narrative on what is reported about you to others.
Review your direct reports
I shouldn’t state this, but I have seen many GMs avoid the simple habit of offering a performance review to their leaders. The domino effect is that those leaders choose not to review their staff. Soon, you have a corporate culture that cannot hold anyone accountable or motivate them to stay with the company.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, would make his reviews simple to everybody. He gave them a small card that told them what they were doing well and what they needed to improve. He did this about four times throughout the year. His reviews became nothing more than consistent feedback.
The GM should be the first one at all employee events, volunteering to get in the dunk tank at the corporate carnival and outrun the whole team at the corporate-run. They should eat lunch with their employees regularly, rather than dine in the private restaurant that is off-limits to employees. Overall, the GM must be approachable, able to talk to people they don’t know. By just showing up, your team will admire you.