Trace Conway

Trace Conway

Director of Operations of Butcher & Bee

There are countless lessons that I have learned, but the one that keeps on bubbling up recently is the difference between leading and managing. It is far easier to direct and correct behavior to achieve solicited results of an efficient and educated staff, but it is far more beneficial to inspire and lead a team in the desired direction. This difference has been pivotal in the recent months while our industry has suffered tremendous losses in guests, stability, safety, and certainty of our future. Through true leadership, we have the ability to create loyalty and a shared vision that can provide a sense of strength, especially in these unprecedented times.

I knew this was the right profession for me during my third and final interview with Morgan Stanley. Although I was very excited and nervous about moving further into the corporate world and putting my master's degree to good use, I was more excited about a set of custom knives that were supposed to arrive that same day. After arriving home to examine my beautiful knife set, I went over the conversation in my head with the interviewer describing an underlying and unspoken sense of conformity as part of the culture. I knew he was speaking of my bleach blonde hair and various, visible ear piercings. It was a true "A HA!" moment for me; I could change how I presented myself and conform and likely be "successful", or I could spend my time freely being me and wielding knives around others who also don't fit the mold. That was twenty years ago and I haven't looked back.
We talk at our daily lineup about anything hospitality related to get everyone engaged on a level that inspires them personally, whether it was a recent dining experience, or a meal they cooked at home. We have an ingredient of the week and have someone from the kitchen come out and talk about that ingredient, it's history, why we use it, what it is used in, and why guests should be excited about it. We also invite local farmers to talk about the foods that they grow and excite them each season. We curate farm trips where the staff can visit the local farms where we buy products from and get a hands on experience, ask questions, and feel a deeper connection that they can then share with our guests. Additionally, we ask that each member of the team present a wine each week to the staff. Any wine, on our list or not, something that they want to learn more about, we taste and discuss as a group. This information has a much longer lasting effect than if we tried to disseminate information from only the leaders down to the staff level.
I went to school for leadership and training and I enjoy learning about many different views, strategies, and outlooks on creating a positive company culture and continued employee growth. During the shutdown, our company partnered with Zingerman's training team to create webinars for our team covering topics like energy, leadership, and hope. Personally, and as a company, we are always looking for ways to offer continued learning opportunities whether it is internships, books, or classes.
I couldn’t do my job without my team of leaders that make me look like I am doing my job better than I am most of the time, that talk me off the ledge when needed, offer advice and alternative views, never hesitate to disagree with me when I veer off track, and hand me a negroni at always the best times. Those are my rocks, that means you -- Emily Tuten, Amber Hogan, and Bryan Weaver.
In order to have true leadership, you must have a strong understanding of the company core values, believe in those values, and effectively communicate those values with the team. If the team shares and in turn believes in the same path, you will find that you have created a team that will bind together and trudge through the tough times together.
One great piece of advice that I still use to this day, especially when hiring for leadership positions, is to spend the majority of the time trying to figure out what makes the person tick and not necessarily a review of past accomplishments and positions.
If you can determine what motivates a person and how they view the world -- and if that is in sync with the company core values -- the chances are you will have a longer lasting relationship. Imagine that you are sitting down to dinner at your family dining table. Would you feel comfortable with that person there? If not, it is likely not a good match. In this industry, we often spend more time with our work family than we do with our own, so it will be more pleasant if you enjoy their company and you agree on the fundamentals of how the world works.
I spend as much time at the beach as possible to maintain a healthy work/life balance. It is my restorative, happy place that always brings a sense of centeredness and understanding that whatever the stress is, it pales in comparison to what is out in the world at any time. I am lucky that I live only a short distance away and have the ability (and a restless 6 year old to help me) to rise early and head to the ocean, even for 20 minutes to clear my head, shuffle my feet in the sand, hear the waves rolling in, feel the sun on my face and start my day restored.
I spend time trying to understand what drives people and how they view the world. People who enjoy learning and teaching, as those are the ones that invest in themselves to continue to grow and learn and in turn value growth for employees. People with a sense of community, those that give back, and naturally enjoy being hospitable, even if they aren't from a traditional restaurant background. Those who value health and wellness as taking care of yourself is the first step to being able to take care of others. People who have clear goals and have identified a path, even if they haven't followed the path directly, it shows a sense of ambition and thoughtfulness.
Effectively managing people, or in other words being an effective communicator is an important skill to possess. It is one of the most difficult skills to learn as it takes understanding how and why others behave and react the way they do. Everyone needs to be communicated with differently in order to be an effective manager of managers, and at the same time it needs to be in a way that is viewed as fair and equitable.That is one of the most important factors of a happy workplace. Additionally, the ability to solve problems while thinking about the big picture and long term outcomes. Are we creating a solution that solves a problem we are having now in this moment of time, or creating something that will be useful even if the players or circumstances change?
For those in the position of running an operation, I recommend reading: “Traction” by Gino Wickman, and "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek for how to think and strategize from the top down; “Simply Said” by Jay Sullivan for understanding alternative ways of communicating; for both hourly staff members and new managers, I recommend “Setting the Table” by Danny Meyer, as it is a complete guide to the type of thinking it takes to be happy and successful in this industry. Also, “The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten is an entertaining and informative read that looks at many of the popular myths and misconceptions of food tied into history, facts, and personal anecdotes.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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