By Tony Deblauwe
A quick review of this week’s episode reveled how vastly different leadership styles can be from person to person and company to company. In the debut episode, Larry O’Donnell of Waste Management, was profoundly impacted by the pace and rigor required to perform all the jobs in the company. At the end, he made big changes that reflected concerns over policy and skill set.
When Hooters CEO Coby Brooks visited several Hooters chains, he too was immersed in the stress of retail food management in a way he was not used to for several years. Plus he had the added burden of living up to the legacy of his father who was a figured reversed by most. He came across three distinct situations:
PR about the Hooter girl brand
He went on a street corner with a couple of employees to promote the local restaurant. He was faced with criticism about how the brand and outfits are demeaning to women. Despite the fact he admitted he was comfortable if his two young daughters became Hooters girls when they grew up, it was strange that after so many years he seemed generally perplexed that this attitude was out there. I’ve always wondered how the outfits demonstrate a bona fide occupational qualification but I guess there are sound legal reasons for that. Nevertheless, when he revealed himself, all he did was allow these two employees to assist in PR. Not sure what big change that will accomplish (and why these two employees) but I guess there are changes we might see in the future.
Stress over time management (work-life balance)
One manager who I thought did an excellent job of managing morale and business had difficulties managing time and family. She was very personable and I thought was going to be promoted to a training position or somewhere more corporate where she could find balance and show new managers how to be effective. Instead, in the reveal, all Coby did was give her two weeks vacation anywhere she wanted. How does this impact the issue of time management in the restaurants? It seemed like he missed the opportunity completely to reward a great manager and allow her to get involved in production planning. This was a great gesture for a hard worker but where is the change to the business?
Poor management style (harassment)
This has to be the largest oversight of all. In one store, the manager runs a “contest” to see who can get off work early. This “contest” involved eating a plate of beans the fastest. Coby watched and did not break his cover, but decided to leave and place a call to the franchise owner about it. In the reveal, all he told the manager to do was to apologize to the employees. I don’t know about
Of course all these shows are edited for television and have gone through tons of legal rigor between shareholders and the executive staff to not cast the wrong message or show how broken a company might be. From a leadership perspective, experiments like this are great and can yield significant changes in operations and process if allowed to. I’ll admit I’ve never dined at Hooters so I can’t comment on the quality of their food products. In the case of Colby of Hooters, I’m curious if anything he did will result in Hooters becoming family friendly. That would be a radical brand change but it could be beneficial to their public image.