March 15, 2018. By Lori Patterson:
“Leadership is more than management”. This theme is repeated time and again in: The Perfect Mix: Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned as a Bartender. In this book by Helen Rothberg, PhD she describes how interacting with various types of people successfully requires a defined set of ideals, and the understanding that while you can’t control what happens, you can control your reaction. Further, you don’t always need to complete a dissertation to learn how to succeed with integrity and live a happy life…you can learn on your own and this book offers advice on how to do so. In short, Rothberg makes a good argument as to why bartending can help to define the idea of leadership.
Leadership is more than management. Rothberg explains how leadership is about achieving a vision and sometimes tasking risks. Leaders are expected to be knowledgeable and experienced while understanding being wrong can sometimes be good, allowing you to take a chance outside of the norm. Leaders know who they are and who they want to become, and they also recognize that what worked in the past may not work in the future. She demonstrates how her ADVICE can help you stay focused and grounded on your quest to meet goals or find solutions:
Action – You can choose to act. Make a change. Do more, say less.
Determination – Find your own way to make things happen, often outside of the normal realm.
Vision – Know where you want to go and have a purpose.
Integrity – Know who you are and always be that person. Be constant and true to who you are.
Communication – Be sure to include others who are or will need to be invested in your vision.
Empathy – Care about how your actions and decisions affect others.
Rothberg pursued a bartending job after learning that the restaurant owner had a firm policy to hire men only for the position. She plead her case and offered to work a shift for free to prove herself. In doing so, she made a choice to show the owner that he was wrong without asking him to take a chance. She was offered the job and stayed for many years, increasing sales and helping to make big decisions, ultimately becoming a trusted confidante of the restaurant owner.
Although she could not control his opinion, she could control her reaction. Rather than choosing to complain, whine, or make excuses, she decided to do something about it. She explains how determination comes in many flavors: proactive, reactive or radioactive (explosive) and in the example above she proved her ability through proactive determination. It seems there is never enough time and sometimes you must depend on your perceptions and experiences when trying to make decisions as this restaurant owner attempted to do. Sometimes, those ideas are wrong and being open to testing them can have a good outcome. A good leader knows when to act and when to stand back and watch or listen. They have perspective. They take action. Leaders see people as individuals and have the wisdom to encourage authenticity in others as they lead by example.
Leadership is more than management. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “A good manager gets things done in the dark, a good leader turns on the lights”. We have all worked with managers who think they are leaders, and Rothberg has her own examples as well. At one point during her bartending stint, the restaurant was closed for two of the slower weeks of the year. When the employees returned, the restaurant name and theme had been changed, however the employees had not been told and were not fully trained on the new concept.
They had not prepared the regular customers for the change and the staff was clearly not on board; the key players were not included in the vision, but instead were left in the dark. They were told, “It’s not personal,” but to them, it felt personal. They were long-term employees and a close-knit group. If the vision had been shared with the staff, they would have been more willing and able to support the new venture much faster than they eventually did.
Another interesting story mentioned in this book involved an unruly customer, of which there were certainly many. This customer was visiting from out of town and began harassing the bartender, going back and forth with her and the other patrons. Eventually, one of the regular customers, who also had a bad temper, hit the harasser over the head with a beer mug. The bartender called the police and knowing that both would be taken away, still would not allow anyone to leave the scene. The customer who hit the harasser was arrested and the others were upset that he was not allowed to leave the bar before the police arrived. This bartender knew the regular customer, but wanted to stand for her principles and not show favoritism. She needed to set an example of what would be expected of all patrons who visited. Integrity: it’s easy to define, but sometimes hard to live.
Not all customers will have equal appeal. You won’t always see the curveballs coming. In the previous example, the bartender was trying to ignore the harasser, was not paying close enough attention and did not expect the escalation that occurred. She didn’t notice the non-verbal signals of clenched fists and tensed jaws. She was in denial and thought she could handle the situation based on her experience. Rothberg reminds readers that as a leader, it is important to look for all information available and not create an environment where only the positive or good information flows to the top. Keep lines of communication open and the flow of information continuous.
Rothberg explains that communication is about creating meaning and it is almost always most helpful if received sooner rather than later. Further, clear communication shows empathy as well. People feel valued and included. Empathy helps build community and grounds people and organizations.
The cliché is to never judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I had great luck choosing a book by the title. The book lived up to its catchy title, and I would recommend it to anyone just starting in the workforce or who may be in between jobs. The Perfect Mix demonstrates how each experience and interaction can factor into your next move in life. There are many more stories, examples and even cocktails inspired to help remedy situations included in the book. She concludes with a final word of advice for leaders…“be who you are and continue to become.”