Tips & Tricks

10 Leadership Tips From America’s Corner Deli Guy

Thirty years ago today, two former University of Michigan students who had met in jobs at a restaurant opened the doors of a gamble. Zingerman’s Deli was meant to replicate a great New York deli, except that it was located in a college town.

Nobody knew had a clue if the concept would work 600 miles fromManhattan. But three decades later, Ann Arbor has become as well known forZingerman’s as it is for the university.

10 Leadership Tips From America's Corner Deli Guy

10 Leadership Tips From America’s Corner Deli Guy

Ari Weinzweig, Co-Founder of Zingerman’s

The original deli has foodies waiting an hour or more on the weekends for its fat, meaty sandwiches, like corned beef  and the beef brisket that was featured on Oprah. Its wide variety of offerings has landed the deli on dozens of best-food lists, including Zagat.

And, the Zingerman’s brand has grown to include a $40 million empire, with eight businesses, including a full-service restaurant, bakehouse, cheese-making operation, coffee roastery, mail-order and more.

Co-founder Ari Weinzweig has become an evangelist for customer service, spreading his philosophy in training classes and books.

His latest, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Learning Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader, is just out from Zingerman’s Press.

It’s a followup to his 2010 book, “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1,” which was named one of Inc Magazine’s best books for business owners last year.

Like a Zingerman’s sandwich, it’s stuffed full with ideas (more than you can digest in one sitting) that can apply in any work place, whether it’s a small business or a corporate department. Here’s one highlight.

The A to V list.

A stands for “the stuff we all aspire to,” Weinzweig says. V stands for “victim” or as he puts it, “the things that ineffective leaders do that create a culture in which victims rule.”

Weinzweig says nobody sets out to let victims play a starring role, but it happens anyway.

“Bosses behave badly, they believe the worst, they act arbitrarily, angrily, and inconsiderately,” he says. Inconsistency rules: “One week they act like autocrats, the next week they’re inclusive, and in the third, they’re neither – just following the rules sent down from corporate.”

Managers don’t often know when they get get bogged down in V-list actions, so Weinzweig lists the correlating A-list actions to help them understand what’s happened.

Here’s a top-10 list.

1) A-list: Be considerate. V-list: Be rude.

2) A-list: Be consistent. V-list: Be all over the place.

3) A-list: Be reasonable. V-list: Be arbitrary.

4) A-list: Good energy. V-list: Bring bad energy to work.

5) A-list: Be humble. V-list: Hog the credit.

6) A-list: Take responsibility. V-list: Act like you didn’t know.

7) A-list: Show your belief in those around you. V-list: Constantly criticize.

8) A-list: Follow through. V-list: Drop the ball regularly.

9) A-list: Listen well. V-list: Tune out.

10) A-list: Be real. V-list: Fake it.

Says Weinzweig, “While I won’t guarantee you that living the A-list religiously will get you into heaven or even get you the greatest results in the history of your industry, I will say it will keep you squarely, spiritually, and at least solidly in the game.”

By contrast, “moving an ineffective, angry, organization from V to A isn’t going to happen overnight,” he says. But once managers make the commitment to change their organization’s behavior, “it gives the victims of the world very little to work with.”

See Weinzweig talk about Zingerman’s philosophy at our public media project, Changing Gears.

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