Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Going to Bat" For Your Team

After my premature departure from my four year institution, I got into the restaurant business.  And by getting into the restaurant business, I mean, I started driving pizzas for a living.  After a year of living the good life, my manager approached me about taking the dive into the shitty glorious job of managing restaurants.   I took it on because I saw it as a challenge, even though it was a pretty huge pay cut (if you don't care much for your car, the pizza delivery occupation can be relatively lucrative.)  Moving up through the ranks of the the chain restaurant business is pretty straight forward: shift manager to assistant manager, assistant manager to restaurant manager, and so on.

Eventually, I became next in line for a restaurant manager position, and finally a store opened up.  The outgoing manager I was filling the position for was an intelligent and outspoken woman, who was leaving to be a full-time parent.  She had built a really great team there.  They were motivated and believed in team work, which had resulted in extremely low turnover (relative to the business).  The team loved her, and they were all pretty sad to see her go, so I was moving into a tough transition.

One of the more senior people on this team was a delivery driver named Roger, who had been there for like 10 years, which is an eternity in that business.  Roger was a religious guy, but not in a "read the bible in the corner on your break" kind of way.  What he would do is drop little comments, about how what you were doing wasn't virtuous, which on occasion was pretty funny. 

After a couple of weeks I decided to grab a couple of the more senior people and see what they missed about her (which looking back was pretty smart, considering all the other stupid stuff I was doing in my life at the time.) 

In addition to being great about pointing out the fact that I was going to "H-E-double hockey sticks", Roger was extremely insightful and candid.  What he said has always stuck with me:

"She went to bat for us."

It so was simple, but striking to me (pun intended.)  What was most important to him is that she would make sure that any issues he had were paid attention to and followed through on.  If he had a grievance, she stepped up the plate and addressed it right away.  If she noticed that there was something destructive on his plate, she went to bat for him and worked to remove it, whatever it took.  On occasion she struck out, but what was important to him is that she stepped up and made the effort.

I took his advice, and tried to carry that on there.  We did lose some people, and we had to do some rebuilding.  But I think there were quite a few people that stayed because I went to bat for them.  Roger was there dropping hints about my looming trip to purgatory until the day I left.

To this day, what he said sticks with me, and I've tried to make it part of the principles that I live by.  Go to bat for your team.