Leaked Applebee’s Email Reveals How Managers View Employees

Several years back, I had a comment on one of my articles that I will never forget.

The reader said, “Being an employee of several different companies, I can honestly say that I’ve felt like nothing more than a line item on a spreadsheet somewhere that an accountant is desperately trying to eliminate.”

I’ve thought about those words a lot over the years, and I wish they weren’t true.

Sadly, in more than thirty years in leadership, I have seen countless managers who see employees this way – a cost that needs to be eliminated.

In the past week, one of those managers made headlines.

You might have seen the news. An email from Wayne Pankratz, executive director of operations for Applebee’s restaurant, was leaked onto Reddit.

In the email, Pankratz encourages franchise managers to use the current economic challenges of inflation and high gas costs as an opportunity to lower overall employee wages.

He argues that, as prices rise and government stimulus money wanes, people relying on unemployment funds will look for work. He says this will create an advantageous labor market for the restaurant chain allowing it to hire employees at a lower cost.

He sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity to reduce Applebee’s personnel expenses and increase profits.

Pankratz has the same view as many short-sighted managers – they see employees as a cost and not an asset.

Short-sighted managers see employees as a cost and not an asset. Click To Tweet

By seeing people only as a costly expense, these managers think the quickest way to make more profit is by reducing people or salaries.

They look at employees as an expense or a problem that must be reduced or eliminated.

Great leaders see things differently. They consider employees as an asset.

In accounting terms, assets are company resources that have future economic value.

Instead of seeing employees as a problem, great leaders see them as a valuable resource. They know that people can grow sales, satisfy customers, improve processes, and innovate products. They can also do countless other things that add money to the top and bottom line.

As a CEO, I see daily examples of this in my business.

If you think of employees as an asset, you treat them differently. Click To Tweet

If you think of employees as an asset, as I do, you treat them differently. You understand the importance of keeping them happy and operating at peak performance. You recognize the importance of leadership.

You realize your team will be at their best when they are loved, appreciated, respected, engaged, and acknowledged.

It seems simple to me, but it’s not often practiced.

Where do you stand? Do you see employees as an expense, like Pankratz, or an asset?

If you see employees as an asset, you know the importance of leadership.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

 

 

[Photo by Taylor Davidson on Unsplash]

Why Leadership Matters

One leader can make a difference in any situation and any organization.

You might have seen the news this week that Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was discovered in Antarctica after sinking more than 107 years ago. Searchers found the ship 9,842 feet below the surface of the Weddell Sea on the northern coast of Antarctica.

While the discovery is considered a significant historical find, I can’t help thinking about the man behind the ship, Ernest Shackleton. He was a man who faced the ultimate leadership test and came out on top. His actions demonstrate why leadership is so important, especially when things go tragically wrong.

If you know the story, Shackleton and his crew of 27 men left England in 1914 on an expedition to cross Antarctica on foot. But the mission failed.

Five months into the journey, the Endurance became hopelessly stuck in the thick, impenetrable ice in the Weddell Sea. Nine months later, the shifting ice crushed the Endurance leaving Shackleton and his crew stranded on the ice flows.

Shackleton faced one of the most challenging leadership tests in history. Click To Tweet

With no hope for rescue, Shackleton faced one of the most challenging leadership tests in history. His mission to transit Antarctica was over, but he had a new goal – to keep his crew alive.

He led his team in the most brutal conditions on the shrinking ice pack for six months. Eventually, they reached the uninhabited and remote Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five crew members set sail in a 23-foot-long open lifeboat to get help. They needed to travel more than 800 miles to reach the whaling stations on South Georgia island.

Shackleton and his men endured storms, heavy seas, 50 mph winds, and ice build-ups on the hull that threatened to capsize their vessel. One of his crew later said, “It was the most amazing suffering.”

Two weeks later, they reached South Georgia, where Shackleton arranged a rescue of his remaining crew on Elephant Island.

On August 30th, 1916, the remaining crew members were rescued more than two years after they left England. Every one of his crew of 27 men survived the ordeal.

Ernest Shackleton proved why one leader can make a difference. Click To Tweet

Ernest Shackleton proved why one leader can make a difference. Consider these five leadership traits Shackleton demonstrated:

He didn’t panic. He just changed the mission. When it was clear that they would no longer be able to carry out the expedition’s mission, Shackleton pivoted to a new goal of getting his men home. He made sure everyone knew the new mission.

He provided hope. By focusing on the new mission and formulating a plan to carry it out, he sparked hope in his team. Without Shackleton’s leadership, his team might have died hopelessly on that ice pack.

He took care of morale. His men faced brutal conditions with limited supplies and food. Shackleton kept things light with humor and kept his crew occupied with assigned work. He did his best to meet the needs of everyone on his crew. He knew that if morale faltered, so would their chances of survival.

He led from the front. Shackleton suffered as much if not more than his crew during those two years. He personally led the mission to South Georgia in a small open boat in the Antarctic because it provided the best chance of rescue.

He never gave up. Despite every obstacle put in his path, he never gave up. His men were motivated by his steadfast persistence.

When Shackleton was later asked about how he overcame all the challenges he faced on that ill-fated expedition, he had the most humble answer. He said, “Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” - Ernest Shackleton Click To Tweet

I encourage you to read more about the Endurance Expedition. One of my favorite books is Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell.

Shackleton’s story provides us with a great example of why leadership matters.

One leader can make a difference in any situation and any organization. So, the question is: What can you do today to make a difference with your team?

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

 

 

 

[Photo credit: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic]

Leadership Advice for New Managers

I get this question a lot, “What leadership advice would you give to new managers?”

Honestly, being a new manager is exciting. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in a new role or a brand new leader, everyone will be watching you.

One of the most important things I have learned in more than 30 years of leadership is that the first 100 days are critically important. This is when the new leader sets the tone for how the organization will be run under their leadership.

There is only a small window of time when you have the full attention of the workforce so your actions need to be carefully considered.

The first 100 days are critically important for new leaders. Click To Tweet

You are under a microscope and everyone is closely observing your every action. Everything you do is seen. Everything you say is dissected and discussed.

This is good news!

It means you have an opportunity to make a massive impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you in these early days.

Here are 10 activities to consider in your first 100 days in a new leadership role:

 Let your team know who you are. Every time a new leader is assigned to a team there will be anticipation. People will have concerns and expectations. It’s important to have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself. Use stories and examples to let them see your character.

Get out of your office and be visible. Spend time where your people are. Actively listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas. Be open and engage them on the subjects they care about. Get to know them by asking open-ended questions. Let them get to know you as well.

Meet with key employees. Don’t assume you understand the problems and challenges facing your team. I like to have one-on-one meetings with as many people as I can. I want to know the biggest challenges and most important issues facing the organization. I also want to understand what needs to be addressed first.

Set expectations early. People want to know what you stand for. Communicate your expectations as soon as you can. Let them know what is important to you as a leader. I typically send a list of my top 10 expectations to my team in the first few weeks so they know what I expect and they don’t have to guess.

Set an example. Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. If you expect people to be on time, you need to be on time. If you expect managers to get out of their offices, you need to be out of your office. If you expect people to wear their safety equipment, you need to wear your safety equipment. It’s simple. Just as children follow a parent’s lead, your team will take cues from you.

Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. Click To Tweet

Signal your priorities. What’s important to you will be seen by your team. If you spend the first two hours of each day on your computer and not with your team, they will see that. They will assume they are not as important as your e-mail. If you concern yourself with only the inventory numbers and not the on-time delivery results, they will think you don’t care about customers.

Create a buzz. Take advantage of the early attention you have and do something to get everyone talking. Make it extreme so the message is clear. This is something I like to do. In one manufacturing plant, I had the maintenance team paint over all the signs for the reserved parking spaces for managers, including mine. The message was simple, there is no special treatment for managers. We are in this together.

Communicate with employees regularly. During a leadership transition, employees will want to know what’s going on. Will there be any organizational changes? What are your initial observations? How are things going? It’s good to send a weekly e-mail to your team to let them know what you are seeing and what they can expect. In the absence of good communications, there will be worry, speculation, and rumors.

Create the mood. We all know attitude is contagious. Regardless of how you feel, you need to be upbeat and optimistic around your team. You still need to be empathetic when you have serious issues to deal with, but if you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, the team will demonstrate the same behaviors. In the same respect, if you are quiet, unresponsive, angry, abrasive, or sarcastic, life will quickly get sucked out of your team. Think about what mood you are conveying every time you are with employees.

Cast a vision. At the end of the first 100 days, your team’s strengths and weaknesses will be clear. You will also understand the opportunities and threats. The goal now is to communicate a clear vision for the future. Consider where you want to go and how to get there. Communicate this vision to your team in a way that is clear and concise.

Leadership in the first 100 days is an exciting time. You are under a microscope which means you have an opportunity to make a huge impact if you take advantage of all the attention on you.

If you want to become a better leader, order my latest book You Have the Watch: A Guided Journal to Become a Leader Worth Following.

This guided journal provides daily leadership guidance and reflection for an entire year. Each week, you will learn a new leadership skill. Each day, you will explore a new facet of that skill. As you do the work and put in the reps as a leader, this journal will be your constant companion. By the end of the year, you will master fifty of the most important leadership skills.

 

 

 

[Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash]