How information hoarding contributes to lack of talent in UAE's restaurant leadership (part 4)
I first noticed the need to develop my team when I came to the UAE in 2006. They needed to learn the international standards of operating restaurants for service and safety, so I started holding training seminars for my assistant managers. After completing the training, one of those managers received an opportunity to work for another company in which he accepted.
His general manager came to me — let's call him Sam — in a state of panic, asking that I stop the training seminars. This was a clear indication of how the leaders of the industry view talent development in this region. He believed that educating workers gave them the opportunity to leave us.
First, I thought that he was kidding me, only to find out that he was a strong believer that if we didn't develop the team, employees had no chance of advancing their career with other companies.
My reply to him was typical of what most of us would say to such an outrageous comment, "So it's better to keep an unskilled employee working for you?"
I am sharing this story because I am still seeing signs of this type of behavior. It is appalling how many leaders in our industry think exactly the way Sam did in 2006.
What I see is a total monopoly on information at all levels. If you ask, "Why don't you develop and share your knowledge with your team?"
You will never get the honest answer. You will always hear, "They're not qualified. I don't think they will make it more than one year. They lack loyalty. They have a bad attitude," etc.
The truth of the matter is that the talented leaders in this region believe that teaching others and developing them to a level where they can assume the responsibilities and get paid the big money is a threat to their continued employment. They literally feel threatened by workers who show any signs of intelligence or who want to learn and grow.
When that happens, we see how secretive those talented professionals become. They close the doors, lock computers, attend meetings alone, leave the room when negotiating with someone on the phone, never hold training sessions and never ask about other's aspirations, etc. They become totally unapproachable.
Succession planning does not mean you will lose your job
Another thing, which is nonexistent and causes us great concern when talking about talent in the region, is "succession planning."
As far as the existing talent in this region, those words translate into, "I am doomed to be replaced. I can no longer feel any sense of job security. I cannot hold the company hostage since I am the only one with the detailed knowledge, which protects me from being fired."
In all the jobs I've had in this region, I took a month to scout and a train my successor. I had enough confidence to know that I owed it to the company to train someone in case I decided to leave. The behavior was motivated by my care for the company, not my arrogance of thinking that I am irreplaceable. In addition, I really enjoy teaching.
Talent grows and produces talent
How many talented leaders can you find today that even think about succession planning? How many really care about developing others? I would say that the number would be less than 10 percent of them; 10 percent are the true leaders. They are the true talent, not the 90 percent who are only concerned about protecting their own jobs or saving the company money by keeping great performers and potential leaders down.
Let's go back to the main topic of the series; The lack of talent in the F&B industry in the UAE. Talent does not just happen. Talented people pass on talent. Employees can obtain true talent by having a basic understanding of the business and then being nurtured by a caring talented professional, who takes them under their wing to teach and coach them, allowing them to make mistakes. A good leader is a role model.
Before complaining about the lack of talent, let us examine what we are doing at our level to grow it? Let's not always resort to importing talent from other countries or companies. Let's grow and nurture it locally. Doing so will not only grow the talent pool here, but it will also build loyalty and deliver tangible results.
In addition, it is only fair that when you are trusted to run a company and you decide to leave, you do not leave the company in total chaos. I know some who are proud that the company collapses when they leave it. True leaders view success as the continued success of the company after they leave. They view the true success as having done all they can to ensure continuity without any disturbance of the business.
Growing and nurturing talent is by far a more satisfying feeling to a true leader than all the money in the world.
My challenge to all the true leaders in our great industry
I am not bragging, but I am proud of all the industry leaders whom I was instrumental in developing and coaching over the years in the US and in the UAE. I would never trade the feeling of having one of my graduates calling to ask for advice or to thank me for helping them obtain the knowledge to be a good leader.
If you want to have the same great feeling, I challenge you to start being instrumental in the development of your team. Help them improve their knowledge, get promoted, make more money, and apply all that to improve their lives. In turn, they will do the same, and we will never lack great talent in our region.
Are you up for the challenge?
Topics: Staffing & Training
Murad Alnasur Mr. Alnasur is a veteran of the F&B industry. Prior to arriving in the GCC region, and for over 32 years, he operated international brands in the US. He is currently serving as the COO of FranchiseME and Managing Director of Restonalysis FZE in Dubai.