Eric Greenwald | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Eric Greenwald


Grimaldi’s Pizzeria opened its first restaurant serving New York-style coal-fired pizza in 1990 under the Brooklyn Bridge. The chain, now headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, now has 46 locations, including Florida, Texas, Nevada and South Carolina. Eric J. Greenwald, president and chief operating officer of Grimaldi's, in 2003 helped launch the brand in Arizona, where it has seven locations. He also serves as co-chair of the Pizza Industry Council of the National Restaurant Association.

The Mistake:

I thought that in order to be successful you should manage by fear.

Poor management skills can have long-term effects and can infect any organization. Every manager has their own style and beliefs in how to supervise their employees and what tools are effective.

I started as a manager in the late '90s. I thought that in order to be successful you should manage by fear. I controlled my staff that way, demanding them to execute tasks, with the belief that they would work harder. With this management style, I avoided showing emotion and compassion, which portrayed me as an unapproachable manager.

When a supervisor instills fear in their employees, it creates a negative work environment. The employees suffer from anxiety and stress and, ultimately, they don’t work to their full capability. My employees quickly went into survival mode. The service quality went down and they were no longer interested in the well-being of the company. There was a lot of turnover at the location and I realized that was not an effective way to be a leader.

I recognized that being intimidating only gets the bare minimum done. 

The Lesson:

I quickly learned that there are two methods of management: fear or respect. The former consists of yelling and being intimidating. Managing with respect is when you know and understand your staff. I realized that to be an effective manager, it is not always about being a “boss,” but also about listening and respecting your employees. I recognized that being intimidating only gets the bare minimum done.

To be truly successful and run a great team, it’s important to lead by example. I believe it’s important to treat people like people, not as a means to an end. If staff members have a problem, they should feel comfortable and confident enough to approach you.

On one particular day, I walked into work and an employee told me he was going to take care of a leak in the bathroom, which would leave the bar unattended. I asked him to stay behind the bar to take care of the guests – continue to give great service – and that I would go fix the problem.

Throughout that night, I felt a new sense of respect from that employee and the staff that I did not feel before. Employees respect their management much more when they see them willing to get dirty in the trenches with them. Since that day, I noticed my staff would go above and beyond for me when I was managing out of respect, not fear. 

I began managing out of respect, knowing and understanding my employees, and setting examples of the work culture I wanted Grimaldi’s to represent and embody. I believe that highly effective managers create a culture with a dynamite team that is ready to work hard every shift. This portrays itself in the great service the staff provides to the customers, which in turn puts Grimaldi’s Pizzeria ahead of the competition and makes the guests continue to come back to our establishment.

Better results are received when the staff feels respected by their manager.

Follow Grimaldi's Pizzeria on Twitter at @GrimaldisPizza and the National Restaurant Association at @WeRRestaurants.

Photo courtesy of Eric Greenwald

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