How Superman can help your managers (and maybe you) communicate better with employees…

By | November 6, 2007

One of the biggest issues within the coffee business and the hospitality industry in general is the fact that many of our managers are very young. People get promoted into manager positions at a very young age, often just because they happen to be good at their job.

I do a lot of young manager training and mentoring and the main aspect that I focus on is trying to get them to assertively deal with their staff. Not just problem employees but day to day motivation and communication. Generally they do one of two things.

1. They shrink back from assertive communication and either just do the job themselves or communicate weakly and without clarity or…

2. They become “shouty” managers and rant and rave to get the job done.

Neither solution works but it’s often hard for managers, in their mid-twenties, to properly deal with seasoned veterans who may be ten or twenty years older. Much of what I teach involves changing tone, body language and going through a variety of exercises to help create confidence and explain how to communicate effectively.

The issue of body language is huge for assertive manager communication and I came across a little bit of video on Youtube that very clearly explains the difference between a weak manager and a strong assertive manager. It’s when Clark decides he’s going to come clean to Lois and then chickens out. You see this huge change in body language and tone as he shifts between the two parts of his character.


The issue is to try and get our staff (and indeed ourselves) to act and communicate much more like Superman and much less like Clark Kent.

4 thoughts on “How Superman can help your managers (and maybe you) communicate better with employees…


    You hit the nail on the head with that one. I reckon this is the single biggest problem we face in our business at this present time. We are expanding and finding that we no longer have enough people in house capable of moving up the ladder.
    Finding good staff, no make that great staff has become as important to us as our coffee, our food, our service, our systems etc. But where do you find them and how do you keep them?
    Hugh made a comment which has stuck with me on a recent visit to one of our stores, he said ‘ God your staff seem to really enjoy their work’ I have been watching the staff of late trying to figure out were any of them ready to take on more responsibilty. What I quickly came to realise was that the more resposibilty the member of staff had the less they smiled, the less they seemed to enjoy being there. The younger staff lacked confidence and would certainly have difficulty with older time served members of staff. I see this as being a problem which is going to take some sorting!!
    Great post

  2. wpm1955

    This principle can be applied to many businesses, including the business of being an effective teacher in the classroom. (I’m a teacher.) Thanks for this great post.

    Madame Monet in Morocco

  3. John Richardson

    Madame Monet – you’re absolutely correct. It’s really a fundamental of all communication.

    Darren – it’s been one of my bugbears for years because I so clearly remember back to when I was in my early twenties and managing staff who were ten or even twenty years older. I bought countless assertiveness courses and read loads of books to try and get myself over the hurdle. It is extremely stressful dealing with older more experienced staff who just tut or smirk when you ask them what to do. I thought it was just me but it’s a problem I’ve witnessed in every single business I’ve owned since then and I honestly don’t think I have a client who doesn’t suffer from it in some form these days. Ultimately it’s just the way we structure the industry – loads of training for chefs or even baristas but very little proper management training for our young managers.

    Your “where do you find them and how do you keep them” line is one that I hear constantly and the probblem is there is no simple answer – it’s part of a long term mindset. I’m seeing a new client tomorrow morning who is asking that question and revisiting an old one in the afternoon who is also asking the same thing. I was with a client yesterday who joked that their bookeeper was running out of P45s. i.e. you’re not alone.

    It starts with of a fundamental shift of mindset really for most people and then a dedicated program of recruitment, induction training and ongoing training coupled with fairly relentless strategies for retaining the staff that are there. But it has to be part of a “whole”.

    It needs to start with a business that people want to work for and be proud of and lead, at every stage, with great training to consistently better staff who are pushed but supported by ongoing training. i.e. you need to keep the confidence up along the way.

    It isn’t something that can really be answered in a blog post really but maybe that gives you some vague pointers.

  4. Phil

    Like Darren says – you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    I’m a regular reader and just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed your last two posts. It is incredibly refreshing to read comment on the coffee market that isn’t obsessed by the perfect espresso or even the stock price of starbucks. You have a real deep knowledge of how the industry actually works from the inside and facing the customers.

    Great stuff and please keep it up. When can I hear you boys speak? Do you plan on visiting the US?

    I enjoyed the book greatly too.


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