Almost 10 years ago — in what seems like another lifetime — I managed a buffet-style pizza restaurant in my North Carolina hometown.It was a brand new restaurant, and very busy. Much of the work was in the prep-time. We cut veggies, folded boxes, and prepped the dining room for service. While all of these items took time, what took the most amount of time was making the dough.
Each morning, a manager and staffer started mixing dough, checking the previous night’s batches, weighing out individual portions, rolling it out into would-be pizza crust, and panning dozens of pizzas multiple times a day. It was the first thing we each morning, and the last thing we checked on every night. We made dough endlessly.
Prior to the grand opening, a couple of us got to fly out to corporate offices and learn to make things the right way. It was great… ok, it was exhausting. I never would have imagined that pizza dough was so technically daunting. Hours were spent explaining water/yeast balance. Specific machines worked to keep things consistent. One brand of industrial mixer was used… no exceptions. Ovens had to convey pies through the belt at a specific speed, heated to a certain temperature. There were diagrams, recipes, and reminders printed everywhere. And that was just for the dough. But I learned why it was all so important pretty quickly into training and opening.
We were busy. 60+ employees, and only a handful of us knew how to make anything. So we trained endlessly. And then we opened. Here are some highlights.
We ran out of dough on day one. We were so busy making pizza, we forgot to make dough. Then, one batch had been made, and then got skipped over. Ever smelled spoiled dough? It’s memorable. Another batch got pulled up front, but it didn’t look quite right. It was almost soupy. Too much water. So it got tossed. Another batch was rock solid. Not enough water. The mixer broke in the first week. The conveying oven burned the pizzas. I’m almost impressed we got to stay open.
Corrections and Short-Cuts
Sometimes, poorly made dough could be ‘saved’. There were tricks to tighten up soggy dough. There were even ways to make dough in 2 hours, where it normally took 6-8 hours to mix, knead, and then leave to rest and rise. But most of the time, a loss was a loss.
And learning what a loss looks like, what losses can be saved, and what processes you must be beholden to is imperative for continued success. So here are some lessons learned from my dough-making days:
Sometimes, Failure is Failure
A logical sign of business growth is growing pains. You have a plan, things change, and business outperforms or underperforms expectations. This all culminates in one clear business inevitability: failure. You miss something. You underestimate busyness or personnel. You assumed. You bought high, when you should have bought low. You made a quick decision that should have been thought through better. You failed. Everyone fails. There are countless examples of failing in the pursuit of excellence, and they can all be found somewhere online, so I will spare you the analogies to Oprah, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, and Eminem. But as John Maxwell wrote, “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to…failure”, so the failure is not even up for discussion. Proper business development almost requires failure. But the responses we have to failures often have a much longer lasting effect on business and peace of mind than individual failures ever could have.
Overworking the Dough: Micromanaging
We all know what this is and most of us fear it becoming true of us during some season of leading our businesses and organizations. But in regards to our responses to failure, many of us overwork. We move from leadership and delegation, to management and a fixation on handling details. Micromanaging is not always a condition of other people’s failures. Sometimes that drive to overextend ourselves and reclaim the nooks and crannies of our operations is a response to our own mistakes and missteps.
Regardless of the justification for micromanagement, the dangers to your business growth are the same. Micromanaging neuters leadership. It’s hard to be an Alpha-type leader when you’re mired in the minutia and daily details of business. Leaders lead, and being so focused on the many aspects of your entire work keeps a capable leader in the management pocket. And management is no place for a leader.
But on occasion, admittedly less often in my experience, we fail in a completely different direction.
Leaving the Dough to Make Itself: Macromanaging
The micromanager is concerned with how the dough gets made, every single time that it gets made. The macromanager believes so much in their hiring processes, team empowerment, and ability to delegate that they have walked away from leadership, management, or even doing much more than their employees do, where daily operations are concerned. Some leading thinkers on operational leadership believe that macromanagement is really just an overreaction to culture and how we’ve vilified micromanagement. And this makes a lot of sense. If my team hates my tendency to helicopter over all of their work, then I should just back way off and free them up to… potential tank my business. Imagine a workflow without accountability. That’s the real shortcoming of micromanaging your business.
The Sky Is Not Falling
If you’re reading this and thinking that your management style is now under attack, just hold on. Some situations require the leadership to step into a detail-oriented role. Other times, when a great hire is made or a system works so well, the leader is allowed to step back and trust the process and team. Here are a couple shocking statements: Not all micromanagement is bad leadership. Not all macromanagement is bad leadership. So don’t sound the alarm when your intuition compels you step up or step back. Go with it. You’re a leader for a reason, and when you get a gut feeling to do more or do less in a given situation, go with your gut. But as a general practice, avoid long-term hovering or a level of unchecked empowerment that eliminates your role as the leader.
It’s Never Always Right
Is that bad English? Probably. But it’s still accurate. Business is never always right.
And being prepared for those failures is an indication of solid business development. So as you go, let’s do a quick evaluation of where you are as a business leader.
Are you exhausted by the details of your daily operations, but you’re well-staffed and constantly battle your labor dollars or percentage? That’s textbook micromanagement.
Are you stressed that your business no longer matches your vision, you seemed to have lost operational control, or you can’t seem to find your place as a leader in your company? Textbook macromanagement.
And how can you avoid either of these business leadership pitfalls? Embrace failure. Learn. Lead. And if you have a question, fire a message my way (email@example.com).
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