Hello Bruce


Bruce | May 18, 2019, 4:30 p.m.

Are you The Boss, The Manager or The Leader? When I was first promoted to a management position at a local coffee shop some what 5 years ago, I saw myself as The Boss. I needed to control what people were doing, to feel I had full control over the business and how it was running, according to what I believed was right. Was I wrong? Maybe it was the pressure of having all the responsibility, maybe it was the disobedient staff who had been at the business longer than me, jealous that I took the position that they thought was rightly theirs. I had better knowledge of the product, all the skills and beyond which I was always seeking to improve on. I had traveled to developing countries off my own back to learn more about the product and do something that, very few in the industry have done. What I hadn’t learned though, was how to manage people. I’d never thought that deeply into the social intricacy that is required to be a truly successful Manager, or now as I like to call it, Leader.

It was after I had left that place to go on a 3 month road trip around the USA, I returned and found myself in a new coffee shop. They were opening a second location and looked for me to get the place up and running, I was of course up for the challenge, being an advocate of the growth mindset and this being a new challenge and opportunity for me to acquire new skills and knowledge.

This time round it was different. All the staff were new, no one had “been here the longest” so we were all in the same boat. I remember a week leading up to the opening day all of us spending days on end assembling countless Ikea chairs and tables, sharing pizza and debating the best, most effective most efficient layout for the shop. It was during this time I thought, this is OUR shop, WE have built it, WE have planned it, it belongs to me AND my team. It was from here out my outlook on management changed, I was no longer The Boss, but now, The Leader. I would have an idea (maybe a new menu item) and refer to my team on what they thought of it, how could it be better? How would this look? and listen carefully to what they had to say. Or I would ask them if they had ideas, or have seen any part of our system or the cafe in which we can improve on. When hiring new people we wouldn’t just look for skill, knowledge and ability but wether they would integrate well into our family and be willing to take more responsibility than they would usually at other places. “Its ours” I would tell new starters and that it (the cafe) belongs to them as much as it does me or anyone else in the team. I could see this gave people great pride in their work and that giving individuals more responsibility over the shop, gave them a great sense of achievement.

It was our expertise, our automation of work, our family culture that I believe really drove the business to its success in the first year, smashing our targets set by the owners, quickly acquiring (stealing) regular customers from other coffee shops in the area, and essentially making the place profitable within the first 12 months. Which isn’t impossible but is rare in the food, drink and especially coffee shop industry.

As always I will take what I have learned into the future and always be looking for ways improve my leadership skills, Im currently reading How Google Works, a great book on business management and philosophy which is very much similar to what I learned for myself during my years “Managing” Coffee shops. It has a quote that has stuck with me and is completely relevant to what this post and my experiences are about. “Its your title that makes you The Manager, but your people that make you The Leader” Exactly what I was thinking, and coming from Google.

There’s over seven billion people on this planet. We can’t expect them to be, how we expect them to be. But what we can do is find common ground, to take ownership of what belongs to us all, and through this achieve great things together.