I recently watched “The Founder”, the story of McDonald’s restaurants, and although the movie portrayed Ray Kroc in a not very ethical light, I was curious to learn more about the story. What was the difference between Ray Kroc, who took over and grew the concept that the McDonald’s brothers had founded, and the two brothers? Why was he able to grow the location to the monolith that it has become today? The brothers had achieved great financial success, and had sold some franchises, but lacked the vision or desire to take it big. They had attempted and failed and given up on the process, they were great operators, great managers, but lacked the leadership skills and talents to take their company worldwide.
They were what I call top performers, or skilled producers. Very good at what they do, but lacking in the ability or knowledge to improve their effectiveness by improving their leadership abilities. When we went from one location to 2 then 3 in the space of 2 short months, we were faced with the same problems. James and I were very skilled producers. We had what it took to create a successful restaurant that was profitable and had a loyal fan base and employees. We went blindly forward on that foundation and signed leases for locations 2 and 3, which opened each one month apart. This was a real test on our leadership. I thought that it would be easy to duplicate the success we had at our first location in these 2 new ventures. We recruited, hired and trained the new management team, not really investing the time or even knowing about leadership. We thought it was as simple as hiring experienced managers, paying them well, putting them in there to do their management thing, and it was done. Wrong. It has taken us 5 years of learning and growing to realize that a title does not gain you much in the way of influence or success.
We had seen the coming and goings of many managers in our company when I finally hit a wall. It was so exhausting and expensive to keep rebuilding the management team. Every time we had a change in leadership, there was a trickle down effect on the entire company. The new manager invariably alienated some of the people on the team due to their unique style, and employee turnover was the unfortunate result. I knew that in order to change this cycle I needed to change my thinking. I resolved that I was going to change the direction of our organization. I would no longer hire anyone into a position of leadership out of desperation, and with a very rare exception would I hire from the outside for leadership roles. Thus began our culture shift to one of internal growth. Instead of pushing our growth to the outside, through opening more and more locations, we turned our focus inward to our people. We began the long yet incredibly fruitful process of investing our energy in our team.
The benefits have been compounding. The people we work with that are already invested in the culture know what we are about. They already have the foundation and we are working with them to fortify that base with the skills they will need as they grow into leadership positions with us. We are sharing with them what leadership looks like, it means believing that the power is in the team, never in any one individual. It means taking responsibility for the team if you are a leader, and if something goes wrong or you fail to achieve a goal, its always a leadership issue. It means giving credit to the team when things go well, and taking the blame when they don’t. It means connecting and caring about the people who are following you, and looking for the potential of future leaders. This is the path to the next level of success. You can absolutely have success without leadership, but the only way to maximize your impact, whether in your family, organization, or life, is to bring people along with you on your journey to success.