On her first night of flying solo as the executive dining room manager at Arbor Glen Senior Living, Amanda Velez had to coach her team through a fire drill. Without much direction, the employees at the Bridgewater, N.J., operation sprang into action. “My waitstaff and I began to assist all residents, running around like mad men, grabbing walkers, pushing wheelchairs—all the while trying to maintain calm,” she says. The chaos that ensued was a learning experience for Velez, who was in her early 20s at the time. Now, she knows to lead with confidence and by example. “I am a firm believer in everything stems from the top,” Velez says. “If I am stressed, it will reflect on my staff.”
Earning the respect and trust of a team can be tough. It can be even tougher as a 20-something. Here’s how young foodservice leaders win over their teams.
After Velez was promoted from within, team members of all ages had to adjust to the fact that she was now their manager. That required a transition period. “Earning respect takes time and no manager should ever rush it,” she says. “Trust the staff and employees to perform their duties as best they know and jump in as needed, as well as when not needed.”
But that grace period alone is not enough. Once trust is earned, it must be maintained with dependability, she says. “If one day I am helpful and present and the next day I am not, trust cannot be built,” she says. “Being consistent with staff and your work will prove to the crew that you are proactive in your role, driven with passion and actually care about your job every day regardless of what is going on.”
Refer to the experts
In her 20s, Patti Ramos learned the power of problem-solving as a team. The director of food and nutrition for Ascension Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, Mich., says forming solutions together helps everyone grow. Ramos tries to greet every associate each day and discuss what they’re working on. “Simply asking ‘why’ can spark a great conversation leading to associate-driven problem-solving and process improvement,” she says. “These simple yet impactful conversations have brought some associates to the next level in their career.”
Putting in the work alongside employees is another tool for young supervisors. “Show them that you are able to get down in the trenches,” Ramos says. “Once your team sees you are willing to go the extra mile for them, they become more likely to do the same for you.” However, providing support only during rushes isn’t enough, Velez says. “Lending help shouldn't only be when 'necessary,' but lent because two works better than one,” she says.