These 15 leadership tips will improve your people management skills today

people managementManaging staff is one of the toughest aspects of running a pub.

No doubt you’ll employ many casual workers whose careers – and sometimes attention spans! – lie elsewhere.

Yet, with the right people management skills they can still be inspired to perform their job with pride, purpose and skill.

Whether you want to fire up the motivation levels of your staff, discuss performance issues more effectively, improve your body language, or become more assertive… you’ll find solutions here.

And the best thing? You can action them all today.

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

Peter Drucker, Management Consultant and Author.

1. Share your vision to boost employees sense of purpose

people managementHow does your employee perceive their job? Often, they will see it as a list of menial tasks they need to perform.

Cleaning the bar tops, serving customers, re-stocking fridges… And so on. Hardly inspiring.

You want your team members to take pride and passion in their work. So, here’s what you can do…

Step 1: On a piece of A4 paper, create a brainstorm of the hopes, ambitions and commercial aims you have for your pub business.

Whatever comes to mind just get it down.

For example, perhaps you want your pub to be famous for specific aspects of its service. Maybe you want to have the most knowledgeable staff when it comes to craft beer, for instance.

Or, more generally you want to be the best pub in the area and gain a reputation for having the friendliest staff in the world.

Step 2: Take a look at your list of objectives, and consider the role each member of your team plays. Write down their role, their different functions and how they contribute to the pub achieving its goals.

Your staff have a whole range of responsibilities and each one is important in running a pub successfully.

Step 3: With these brainstorms completed, you should now type up a more formal vision statement for your pub. Nothing too fancy but it should include a section on how your staff contribute to achieving that vision. 

Step 4: Tell your staff. Share your vision with them and help them appreciate how important their role is. You may want to address your kitchen staff and front of house team separately.

Step 5: Praise people who perform their duties in a way that backs up the vision statement.

Step 6: Point out situations where a staff member falls short of service expectations. For example, if a bartender forgets to warmly acknowledge a customer, then remind them of the importance of a good welcome.

Step 7: Share your vision as part of the hiring process.


Recommended reading: “Helping employees reconnect with their sense of purpose” courtesy of leadership coach Tanveer Naseer. 

2. Walk the walk and your staff will follow

people management skills“Do as I say, and do as I do.”

Leading by example is pretty simple. It doesn’t mean furiously performing every duty just to prove your worth.

And neither should getting your hands dirty be used as a way of criticising the performance of your team.

No, this is about setting a positive example.

Step 1: Don’t ask your staff to do anything you wouldn’t be prepared to do.

Step 2: Be seen to do the occasional ‘unglamorous’ job. For example, you might ask someone to clean the coffee machine while you go and clean the toilet.

Because… If the task of doing the grimiest jobs is always given to the lowliest (or newest) staff member, it will seem like a form of punishment. Yet, if the publican is seen mucking in, it demonstrates the task is beneath no-one.

Step 3: Do the job well! After all, you want your staff to follow your example.

As Michael McKinney on his Leadership Now blog says:

“Going the extra mile—doing what needs to be done—helps to create a true culture of leadership in your organization—by example.”


Recommended reading: “Cleaning the toilet can make you a better leader” courtesy of Michael McKinney.

3. Stoke your employees morale with this simple gift

giftgiving“How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.”

Truett Cathy, late restaurant entrepreneur.

The simple act of encouragement is one of the most effective techniques for motivating staff. It’s also one of the most fundamental people management skills.

Step 1: At the start of an employee’s working day, give them a few words of encouragement. Simple things like “It’s good to see you” “I’m glad you’re in today” “Do a great job as always” etc.

Step 2: Keep your eyes open and ears tuned to notice when someone is doing a good job. It may be one particular act, or an ongoing effort by a member of staff.

Step 3: Let them know you’ve noticed and praise them for their work.

And that’s it. Simple yet incredibly important for anyone who want to run a pub – or any other business – with staff who are committed and enthusiastic.

Here’s an example to consider…

Before the pub opens, Clare has been busy cleaning the bar area. She’s polished the bar, dusted the shelves, swept the floor, and given tables and chairs an extra clean. You’ve then walked in, said “hello” and walked on by.

Imagine how much better Clare would feel if you’d noticed and praised her for making the bar area sparkle?

One of the worlds most influential leadership experts, John Maxwell, reckons encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.


Recommended reading: ‘The 5 W’s of an encouraging leader’ by John Maxwell.

4. Simply add a “thank you” to become a positive leader

thumbs upPositive leadership beats negative leadership. Every time. Just think back to when you were an employee and the kind of working environments you thrived most in.

Each technique in this article emphasises positive leadership practices. Yet, there is one incredibly simple thing you can add to your people management toolbox today:

Step 1: Simply remember to say “thank you” when the opportunity arises.

Step 2: Don’t over do it though. I’ve known supervisors who are a constant burble of “thank you, that’s brilliant” “wonderful, thank you ever so much” “thanks you’re a star” “thank you you’re amazing.”

And after you’ve gone, the staff member says: “All I did was sweep the floor, she must think I’m an idiot!”


Recommended reading: ‘How negative leaders become positive thinkers’ courtesy of that Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell.

5. Be consistent if you want to be a credible boss

inconsistent (1)

“Which policies you decide to enforce or ignore, what you say and don’t say, what you reward and what you punish, what you fund and what you don’t fund–all tell the truth of your heart.”

– Steve Roesler, Business Coach 

Here are a few tips on becoming a consistent and credible leader:

Step 1: Establish a consistent management style. Brainstorm your leadership values and the kind of service philosophy that you want to promote at your pub.

Step 2: Once complete, print out your leadership values and keep them in your diary (or on your phone) and read them at the start of each day.

Step 3: Take an equal interest in all your team members. Don’t let anyone believe you have any favourites.

Step 4: Lead by example and practice what you preach (see section 2: “Lead by example”)

Step 5: If your priorities change. Or there is a change in what you require from your staff, communicate this to them and explain why. Keep them informed.


Recommended reading 1: ‘Consistency and trust’ a few wise words from business coach Steve Roesler.

Recommended reading 2: 94 effective leadership tips’ courtesy of no-nonsense business leader Carol Roth.

6. Remain a friendly boss, avoid becoming a friend

pinky-swear-329329_640Does this sound a bit mean? Leadership expert Dan McCarthy explains why this is so important…

…As a manager part of your job is to judge employees, to rate their performance, discipline them or even fire them. These are not things that friends do to one another. And if you are friends with staff, then taking these actions will be much harder to do.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly.

Here’s how to get the balance right:


  • Take an interest in your staff and their outside-of-work hobbies, interests or studies. Congratulate them on their successes outside of work. (For major achievements you might even consider rewarding them with a beer/bottle of wine.)
  • Consider yourself an uptight, incredibly boring friend.


  • Take an interest in their personal relationships or talk about your personal issues.
  • Meet up with colleagues socially outside of work or seek to become a ‘proper’ mate. This may end up undermining your manager-employee relationship and add an unnecessary layer of social complexity to your day’s work.


Recommended reading: ‘Make your business more efficient with effective employee engagement’ courtesy of Clare Dodd at Turbine HQ.

7. Utilise these listening skills to ensure staff feel valued 

listeningOver the course of 15 years, Leadership Consultant Lee Ellis quizzed hundreds of leaders and managers. He asked them to identity the one key attribute of their greatest leader that made them exceptional.

Guess what the most popular answer was?

“They listened to me.”

Put yourself in an employees shoes.

One boss listens to your ideas and considers your opinions seriously. They might even encourage your input.

Another boss immediately disregards your ideas – they just want you to do your job and not worry about the bigger picture.

Who would you want to work for? Who would inspire you?

Step 1: Give the employees the space to speak. Perhaps they’re unsure of some aspect of their job, or maybe there is something concerning them.

The point is, staff need to feel comfortable talking to you. And you need to give them the opportunity to do so.

Step 2: Encourage ideas and solutions. Most people like the opportunity to be creative, so let your staff know that you’re all ears when it comes to fresh thinking.

It could be ideas for events at the pub, social media updates, or simply a different way of cleaning the bar!

Step 3: When it’s your turn to listen, don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say when they’ve finished. Just focus on what they’re saying.

Step 4: Maintain eye contact and smile.

Step 5: Make an ongoing effort to practice listening, and you will get better at it.


Recommended reading: ‘The Value of Listening’ find more practical listening techniques in the second half of this blog post by Lee Ellis.

8. How to inspire new team members with your inductions

inspireA new employee’s first few days are incredibly important. These are the crucial habit-forming stages.

So, create a detailed induction checklist for your personnel today. This checklist should include the following:

Step 1: Create a warm welcome for your new team member.

Introduce to them your vision for the pub and the part they will play in its success. You can also tell them about the history of the pub and its general importance.

This is your chance to inspire your new employee and get them to understand the culture they are about to enter and their important role within it.

Step 2: Provide practical job training. This is the training that relates to the role and duties your new starter will perform.

Step 3: Provide mandatory training. This relates to important areas of your legal responsibility, including health and safety, and fire safety.

Step 4: Evaluate the training. At the end of the induction it’s a good idea to find out if it’s been effective. Has your staff member understood everything? Is there anything else they need to know or go through again?

Step 5: Pair the new staff member with an experienced and trusted team member for their first few shifts.

For more inspiration take a look at how the Pandora Inn prides itself on high training standards for new staff, which includes learning wine tasting and food pairing expertise.


Recommended reading: ‘New team member? Perfect the induction with this checklist’ courtesy of recruitment specialist Robert Half.

9. Execute on-the-spot feedback to maintain standards and motivation

staff feedbackSo, you’ve given your staff an effective induction.

Does that mean your job is done?

Not quite. Because let’s be honest, we’re all prone to forget things.

So, here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Take the time to observe employees as they go about their job.

Step 2: If you notice anything they could be doing better, then point it out to them in a positive way. Also, remember to praise them for the work they are doing well.

Step 3: Do it at the time – not later on or tomorrow.

Step 4: If the staff member is still not carrying out your instructions, ask if there is something about the duty they are finding troublesome. And if there’s anything you can do to help them.

Susanne Madsen offers really useful tips for providing effective feedback:

“If people are to do their best, they need to know what they are doing well and what they could do better. Everyone needs feedback…”


Recommended reading: ‘Top tips for providing effective feedback’ courtesy of the aforementioned Susanne Madsen.

10. Take these steps to ensure your body language is speaking right

body languageBody language experts will tell you that the human brain is hardwired to evaluate people within seconds of meeting.

The way we walk, the way we hold our body, the way we make eye contact; they can all make powerful impressions on how people perceive us.

So, what can you do?

Whole books have been written on the subject, but here we’ll strip it down to five simple fundamentals.

Step 1: Get into character – who are you? You’re a friendly, positive, forward-thinking boss who’s ready to take responsibility and inspire staff.

Just getting your mindset or attitude right, will automatically influence the way you use your body – for the better.

You might even consider using a real-life manager you admire, as inspiration.

Step 2: Stand tall, pull your shoulders back, and hold your head high. This is a confident posture and suggests good self-esteem.

Step 3: Steady eye contact demonstrates that you’re paying attention to the person and transmits your energy to them.

At the same time, making eye contact means you get a more accurate understanding of how someone feels. This doesn’t mean holding an unerring glazed stare – that would be a bit creepy.

Step 4: Smile slowly. A smile is warm and welcoming. A slow smile is even more reassuring as it suggests natural warmth and confidence.

Step 5: Shake hands. Making physical contact is a primal instinct and by shaking hands you remove any awkwardness between you and the recipient. You will both feel more relaxed as a result.


Recommended reading: ‘Why first impression stick’ by leading body language coach Carol Kinsey Goman.

11. Boost your authority by mastering industry knowledge essentials

apple-256263_640 2To further your authority and credibility, it helps if you a firm grasp of the industry knowledge essentials.

As a publican, you should be an expert in virtually every aspect of how to run a pub. Plus, you should be a reliable source of knowledge and wisdom for your staff.

Here’s how to get a firm grasp of the industry knowledge essentials:

Step 1: Make sure you’ve had cellar training – don’t just leave it to a designated person. BII and Cask Marque are two of the best known cellar training providers.

Step 2: Keep updating your trade knowledge and take the time to read trade publications. You really should subscribe to The Morning Advertiser magazine for free as a pub owner, or alternatively sign up to their website for the latest updates.

(The Morning Advertiser has countless useful articles and guides about the latest food and drink trends, as well other industry developments.)

Step 3: Keep your ear to the ground for local news. Buy your local rag to stay informed about local business developments (local pub and restaurant news, for example), plus opportunities to exploit and threats to navigate.

It also means you can easily join the conversation with locals.

Step 4: Don’t get complacent about your level of knowledge, there’s always new information to learn. Be keen to keep on learning.

Step 5: And if you don’t know something… it’s okay to admit it. As Peter Stark writes in his ‘top 10 traits of a confident & competent leader‘ it’s okay to admit a lack of knowledge, so long as you commit to finding the answer.

Step 6: Pass on your knowledge and expertise to staff members to help them feel valued. It may also enable you to delegate more tasks.

As HR specialist Ashley Kate says:

“By choosing the right team to do tasks that can be delegated, the manager can focus on their strengths, and then make best use of the strengths of employees.”


Recommended reading: ‘The art of delegation’ by Ashley Kate

12. Take control with these simple assertiveness tips

megaphone-297467_640Anyone can be assertive. The difficult part is doing it in a well-mannered, concise and easy-to-follow way.

You can assert yourself more confidently with these practical tips:

Step 1: Associate your need to instruct or correct behaviours, with a positive outcome.

So, if you’re advising a worker to improve the way they speak to customers… the result of their improved behaviour will be happier customers and a higher likelihood of them returning.

In other words, your advice can bring in more money to your business.

Step 2: Remember some of those body language tips… Make steady eye contact, smile, stand tall and pull your shoulders back, and speak clearly. (See section 10)

Step 3: Keep it short and be clear. This increases the impact of what you say, and reduces the chances of confusion.

Step 4: Check that they understood your point, “Are you okay doing that?”

Step 5: Thank them for a positive response.


Recommended reading: ‘6 keys to assertive communication’ by life coach Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT. 

13. The art of taking decisive action 


“Being decisive is simply the most rational way to take on any problem…”

– Scott H. Young

In other words…

Information > Conclusion > Action

Scott H Young’s blog post offers detailed advice on how to achieve effective and efficient decision making.

One key lesson to learn is that making a wrong decision is rarely going to make or break your business, but endless procrastination will.

Plus, by practising the art of decision-making, it sharpens your instincts for the future.

Step 1: Gather all the information required to make a decision.

Step 2: Analyse the information and draw your conclusion.

Step 3: Still finding it difficult to come to a decision? Perhaps you need more information or a second opinion. If so – and if you have the time – your decision is to get that information first.

Step 4: Take action.

Step 5: Learn from the results – good or bad.


Recommended reading: ‘Be decisive’ by self-learning guru Scott H. Young. 

14. The basic principles of politeness every boss should know

polite mountieIt should be an obvious point, but it’s worth stressing. Taking a polite approach in everything you do, should be an automatic part of your management style.

Being respectful and considerate of your staff will increase your authority and likeability in their eyes.

Like the Canadian mountie stereotype. >>

Step 1: Remember to say “please” and “thank you” and all that basic good etiquette your parents and teachers taught you.

Step 2: Adopt a positive attitude when asking for tasks to be completed or when correcting certain behaviours. Everything you say or do is geared towards achieving a positive outcome.

Step 3: Smile and make eye contact.

Step 4: Refer to the staff member by name.

Step 5: Apologise if you’ve made a mistake – as you would expect them to.

Step 6: Avoid adopting a ‘snivelling’ form of politeness. Don’t apologise when there isn’t anything to be sorry for and don’t mistake politeness for a constant and overwhelming need to be nice.

Business etiquette expert, Barbara Pachter, offers a useful continium for politeness.

It goes like this: on one end you have “too nice.” At the other end you have “too tough.” In-between is “polite and powerful.”

How do you get to be polite and the powerful? Barbara explains…

“You are polite – you don’t yell or swear. You’re powerful – you speak clearly, calmly and directly. You don’t love conflict, but you know how to handle and resolve it. You are available to your employees, and spend some time getting to know them…”


Recommended reading: Are you too polite? Learn the three faces of communication’ by etiquette expert Barbara Pachter. 

15. Employee performance problems can be awkward, here’s the solution…

office-336368_640Discussing employee performance is something almost every manager dreads.

Actioning some of the previous people management tips will make the process a lot smoother.

Step 1: In the first instance, you need to be around to observe. So, you’ve been able to see how they work and you’ve given them on-the-spot feedback. In most cases, the situation will be resolved there.

Step 2: But if it doesn’t… Have a more in-depth conversation with them on why it matters. Why it’s important for the business they correct their way of working.

Step 3: Still no change? Then it’s time to sit down at the computer and type up what the team member is doing wrong in a purely factual way. Use specific examples. Then write down why it matters to the business operation.

Step 4: Consider, is there anything that extra training can help with? Are they able to action your requests? Is there anything that could be stopping them? If so, take the necessary steps to help them and see if that solves the problem.

Step 5: Arrange a formal meeting and rehearse it in your head beforehand. What you will say? How might they respond? Again, you can write this down.

Step 6: The meeting. Explain to them what it’s about. Tell them the problem you have and list the specific examples of poor practice that you have previously discussed with them – that still have not been rectified. Tell them the consequences of their behaviour.

Step 7: Give them the chance to respond. Allow them plenty of time.

Step 8: When they’ve finished making their point, get conversational. Remember the objective is to solve the problem, not get irate.

Step 9: Come to an agreement about what will happen from now on. Make sure they agree on the change that needs to be made, and the consequences if they don’t.

Step 10: Make a written record of the meeting and what you’ve discussed, and what they’ve agreed. Date it and then get both parties to sign it.

Step 11: Follow up the meeting. If they’ve improved their performance to your requirements, then praise them for it.


Recommended reading: ‘How to talk to team members about performance’ by wisened leadership maestro Wally Bock.

For the legal aspects of staff dismissals, check out UK Government guidance.

Are you ready to become a better leader?

Just actioning a few of these tips will improve your people management skills for the better.

You’ll start feeling more at ease, more capable of getting the best out of your staff, and more confident that you can achieve your broader management goals.

We’d love to hear how you get on…


Image of Canadian Mountie by Paul OCC


  1. Excellent list of 15 leadership tips. I will blog about it and spread your message! Thanks for sharing. Jann


  2. Thanks Jann, we’re glad you liked it! Feel free to share the link…


  3. Very comprehensive list of tips, great article. I would like to add:
    As a manager, it’s incredibly handy to have a wide variety of leadership styles that can be applied to different situation.


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