A crippling QSR leadership problem: Fear at the top
Everyone knows how important leadership is to the long-term health of any organization, and we strive to be the best leaders we can be. But knowing how important leadership is won't be enough to help an organization accomplish its goals and objectives. We have to be great leaders who create a culture that supports the organization and creates the future. And in order to be a great leader you really have to surround yourself with the best people who are as good or even better than you.
That's right. Better than you are.
That's what enlightened leaders do. Unenlightened leaders, on the other hand, do just the opposite.
I had an experience with one of my companies several years ago where I met with the leadership team running the restaurants and overseeing the operations in a particular market. As I got to know everyone on the team I realized that everything they told me was almost the polar-opposite of reality.
For instance, most of the folks who I was told were low performers, were actually quite good. Meanwhile, most designated to me as the company's top performers were, in fact, mediocre at best.
Though this struck me as being incredibly odd, after spending more time with the team, I soon learned what was really happening.
Leading from fear
Unenlightened leaders who operate from a place of fear do not want to bring people on who potentially might be better than they are. They feel threatened by top talent and would rather keep people around them who will not challenge them, strive to be better, or help those around them become better either.
"When we put an emphasis on hiring the best people, then ensure that they are trained properly, and allow them to work in their strengths zone, we cultivate a culture of excellence that raises the bar of performance for everyone on the team. ... In fact, Gallup research shows that people who get to use their strengths every day are six times more engaged in their jobs than those who don't."
It becomes a cyclical nightmare where mediocrity breeds mediocrity. And while it may feed the leader's ego, as well as his or her need for control and feelings of superiority, it will destroy an organization if left unchecked.
In this particular example, I began to see that the leadership was afraid that their performance issues — and the root causes of those issues — were going to be exposed. So they stayed with mediocrity instead of bringing in the very best people and getting better, together. Once we began to make the necessary changes, we found talent in the organization that we didn't know existed and we got better in a hurry.
An enlightened leader fully understands the work they do is not about them, and that bringing in talented employees who can make everyone around them better — including the leader — is what creates a culture that supports true innovation and allows an organization to thrive, and not just survive. An enlightened leader realizes that tenure doesn't always equal excellence and developing future leaders means that you build a culture of leadership development that is sustainable and reproducible, which is the key to long-term success.
When we put an emphasis on hiring the best people, then ensure that they are trained properly, and allow them to work in their strengths zone, we cultivate a culture of excellence that raises the bar of performance for everyone on the team. That will help ensure that the efforts put toward leadership development will have an amazing return on investment. In fact, Gallup research shows that people who get to use their strengths every day are six times more engaged in their jobs than those who don't.
So why not be that enlightened leader? The one who helps their team uncover their talents and direct their strengths to allow them to perform at their very best. In these circumstances, you create a culture that continues to reinvest in the next generation of leaders — individuals who will never fear surrounding themselves with people who are better than they are.
As a result they will accomplish more than they, and you, ever thought they could. And that is what keeps the goodness happening over and over again through a culture of sustainable leadership development.
Bobby Shaw Bobby has over 30 years in the restaurant business in all facets of operations, from his start at McDonald's in the grill area in 1984 to overseeing 200+ restaurants with Chipotle from 2002-2012 to leading Freebirds World Burrito's resurgence from 2013-2016 to working with the Salad and Go restaurant startup as CEO in 2017. www