Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

How to Spot a Leader: Growing Baristas into Managers

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Growing baristas into managers is much like growing coffee. You could just pick a lot of cherries and process them with whatever equipment you have available: chances are, you’ll have produced some okay coffee. Same with managers. But if you put care and thought into the process, if you consider the varietals and personality types, and if you process and develop with a goal in mind, then you might just end up with a 90+ manager.

And I should know. At the interview for my first ever coffee job, I expressed an interest in management. After two months of hard work, I’d proved myself and was managing the shop. Two months after that, I practically ran the place by myself since the owner had moved to a different state. Then I trained my replacement as I also prepared to move. And I’ve trained a lot of managers since then.

So what did I learn? Quite a lot, but there are four things in particular that I swear by.

Spanish Version: Cómo Localizar a un Líder: Baristas en Formación a Gerentes

ripe coffee cherries

Pick your manager with as much care as you pick your coffee. Credit: Pixabay

1. Define What You Need

Before you call up your favorite employee and tell them they just got promoted, take some time to define exactly what you’re looking for – or you might end up regretting your decision.

Not all managerial positions are the same. If you want a head barista, you’ll need a people person capable of motivating others. When you’re in the weeds and there’s a queue out the door, your team have to be able to look to them. Yet this person should also be firm, capable of setting standards and training new employees.

If you need an operations manager, on the other hand, they may not need to be as outgoing. Instead, they should be detail-oriented – the kind of person who can stay on top of ordering supplies and make sure that things are running smoothly throughout the cafe.

The bottom line is you’re the person who defines what positions your baristas are going to be promoted to. So define it before you lose a good barista and gain a bad manager.

barista behind the bar

Do you need a slow burner or a hot spark? Credit: Matt Biddulph via Flickr

2. Look for Leaders

No matter what the position is, you need someone who’s a leader. A good manager will make everyone do their work well. But a good leader will inspire them to do so. Leaders work shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the team, helping them to accomplish the goals you – or they – have set.


So how do you spot a leader? Well, they say the cream rises to the top. Look for those who are already taking on more responsibility. They’re the ones eager to take things off your plate. They offer helpful tips to new employees, even if they aren’t directly involved in their training. And the rest of the team will have started to look to them when things are difficult.

baristas behind the espresso machine

Does your potential new manager offer to train others? Credit: Olin Viydo via Flickr

3. Watch How They Treat Others

You can tell a lot about someone by watching how they treat their subordinates. And this is important because power is a dangerous thing. I’ve seen some great employees become tyrants the minute they’re given the title of manager.

A good manager lifts their team up rather than brings them down. They give credit where credit is due. They share both the responsibility and the success. They do whatever is in their power to help others succeed. And in doing so, they motivate their team.

man giving coffee to homeless man

Does your manager-to-be help others? Credit: Darinka Maja via Flickr

SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Barista

4. Give Them Increasing Responsibility

The true test of how someone will perform as a manager is to start giving them increased responsibilities. If your barista is ready and willing to become a manger, it will soon show.

Start with small tasks and increase the level of responsibility as you start to see good results: you don’t want to overwhelm your prospective new manager or make them feel underappreciated. Nor do you want to confuse them.

Even when you reach the stage of official management training, you’ll want to take it slow. It may even be helpful to give them the option to learn certain parts of the job later on: information overload often results in exasperation and can make it harder to remember everything necessary for a position.

cafe business meeting

Are they ready and willing to be your right-hand man? Credit: Pixabay

Remember, not everyone is cut out for management and sometimes even the best of employees won’t make a good manager. Some people are content to punch the clock, do a great job, and go home. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, you need those people. After all, a leader can’t be a leader without people to follow them.

But it’s crucial that the people you promote to management positions are capable leaders. Follow these four steps for managers that you can trust to help head your café, and you won’t be disappointed.

Written by E. Squires and edited by T. Newton.

Perfect Daily Grind.

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