When Kim Normandin took over foodservice operations at Muir Middle School in Milford Township, Mich., her team members were used to a supervisor who would solve everyone’s problems for them. After 10 years as a McDonald’s manager, that just wasn’t how Normandin operated. “My style is, ‘What is the problem? Let’s figure it out together,’” she says. After a year, the satellite manager says she’s won over about 97% of her team, but it was a struggle to encourage staff to become more self-sufficient.
Check out how Normandin and other operators get employees on board with new leadership styles.
1. Build a team
To encourage information sharing and working together to solve issues, Normandin focused on creating comradery. She started with suggesting a potluck. The simple idea took the team about four months to agree to because people did not want to have to stay after work hours. So instead, the operation held the potluck throughout the day, taking five to 10 minutes to grab a bite with a co-worker and share recipes. The potluck was followed up with a book trade and a holiday gift exchange. The events brought a common bond to the group, which sparked more communication and teamwork, she says. Now, the staff determine how much product needs to be prepped and packed on their own. “When you’re working at a job and you can just come in and do your job, that is a rewarding experience,” she says. “I trust them and trust their decisions.”
2. Soak up knowledge
Starting with a “watch, listen and learn” approach helped the Hendricks Regional Health team in Danville, Ind., transition to new leadership. Martha Rardin worked alongside her new team when she began as director of nutrition and dietetics for the hospital. “I got to know a little about their personal lives, aspirations, trials—about what the department did well and where they thought we needed to improve,” she says. “I received many good ideas that often matched my observations.”
Rardin also read all associate files to get up to speed on any performance issues. The background research helped the green director create plans for coaching and setting job expectations. To this day, Rardin takes the same approach with new associates. She spends 10 to 15 minutes with them to learn about each other and show appreciation.
3. Take action strategically
Like Rardin, Paul Luchi, director of nutrition and dining services for Clovis Community Medical Center in Clovis, Calif., injects his style slowly and methodically. First, Luchi spends time with the staff to learn what’s expected of them, and doesn’t make recommendations right away. However, he immediately shares nonnegotiables that directly impact patients, guests and employees, so that everyone understands who he is and what he expects. After six months of digesting, leadership then has a complete understanding of objectives, goals and expectations. “With [supervisors’] help, the message is delivered to the front-line staff, and from there we will manage them up or manage them out,” he says.
4. Talk it out
As John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore transitions from a contract to self-operated operation, a key to that change has been adding more opportunities for feedback, says Linda Paren, director of food services. Paren has leveraged daily huddles, department meetings, celebrations and evaluations to disseminate and gather information about the process. “The goal must be reinforced many times and through different communication channels,” she says. “As leaders, I feel you need to be visible, communicate often and be an active part of the change.”