Avoid criticizing the person at all costs, but if you must, praise the person, criticize the category. If you must criticize the person, praise them first. -Warren Buffett’s Management Secrets
“Lindsey, you’re late! We have employees who need to go, and you’re not here to replace them.”
“I’m so sorry! I totally forgot about my shift. I’ll be there in 30 minutes,” she replied.
“This can’t happen again! Please be on time to your shift.”
Warren Buffet’s Management Secrets is one of the only publications describing Warren Buffet’s leadership style. It discusses effective strategies on winning people over, navigating through conflict, and paying attention to your employees.
When trying to compare his advice to other’s, it seems nearly impossible! Here is a man who is the second richest person in the world, a “CEO’s CEO,” and a master of guiding his empire through disastrous economic periods! Most people would only dream of getting to a CEO position – Buffett has managed over 80 of them. I’m not one to listen to just one person, but if I had to, I’d choose this man.
As I listened to his audio book, I began to reflect on the mistakes I made during my first couple of management positions. Although being very sharp and structured with my skills, I failed miserably in the area of constructive criticism. I failed to practice the art of tactful and mindful feedback.
In this one particular business, I wanted to raise the bar in every category. The categories included customer service, cleanliness, community interaction, leadership education, and employee development. The formula needed to attain this was a daunting task, and the processes needed to be implemented was exhausting…but I was up for the challenge. I knew what needed to be done like a contractor knows how to build a house.
Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures
I had calculated in my head, all of the necessary steps in getting this business to operate effectively and efficiently. I needed to update the training, systematize the bar operations, and adjust the priorities. I was building the “framework,” and spent most of my energy explaining my process to my college aged employees.
I would frequently use the metaphor of how we were building a structured house of operations off of a foundation of core values. I preached about providing a structure to withstand any type of weather conditions. I described how components, such as drywall, didn’t necessarily eliminate the flaws in the framework.
We developed better systems rid inefficiency, and an easier platform to measure effectiveness. The vision was in place, and the modern day renovation of this shop’s operational structure was coming together!
Even though the logic and research behind such a grueling task were pure and true, there was still something missing. I remember thinking to myself, what am I missing? Why do I implement systems to ease unnecessary energy expenditure, yet I still feel like I’m spinning my wheels? We should be able to start moving forward with the other stuff. The other stuff being coffee education, teaching the art of effectively up-selling, and diving into the concept of organizational leadership. This was the gift I wanted to give to these employees who normally wouldn’t be exposed to it otherwise.
I asked for feedback, and I was left empty handed. I searched for answers, but couldn’t get any. I just didn’t understand why no one wanted to stay in my “house.” The mechanics were on point, and my calculations were accurate! The measurements were strong, and the numbers were growing. What was the issue?
Then it hit me! I don’t have any comfortable couches in my home! I was so focused on the framework, I was forgetting about the comfort element to it. There was nowhere to sit! Even though people were in a beautifully built home, their legs were tired from standing. Was it truly as simple as my inability to be gentle? Did I spend all of my energy on systems and sustainability, that I forgot all about the art of being tactful, and showing a little bit of grace? No wonder people were leaving! They didn’t feel the comfort of this house, and they’d rather leave than sit on the hard floor.
Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures
Warren Buffett puts it in plain English:
Avoid criticizing the person at all costs, but if you must, praise the person, criticize the category. If you must criticize the person, praise them first.
The need to save face is top priority for an employee. Your empathy towards that need will win their respect, and they’ll go above and beyond your expectations. It’s one of Buffett’s secrets, and it’s now one of mine.
It’s crucial to “shelter” your employees from the harshness of the business weather. It’s important to understand the “structure” of what makes a sustainable business. However, if we as leaders don’t give our employees any couches to sit on, they won’t stay! If there is no grace for our employee’s mistakes, then there is no home for our employees to enjoy.
“Hey Susan, it’s 6AM. Where are you,” I said calmly.
“I’m so sorry! I forgot to set my alarm, and my phone died. I’ll be right over!”
“I’m just glad you’re okay,” I replied. “Hurry on over, our customers need their coffee. They’ll be bummed out if they don’t get to see you.”
“Okay, Anton. I’m really sorry! I’ll stay extra if you need me to.”