Learn How Leadership Roles Vary Across Companies, While Still Catering To Fiscal Goals

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The responsibilities of leadership, hmmm, not a small topic.  

Regardless of the to do list, resolutely clear is that actions and behavior are important.  This writer’s belief is that Culture equals Brand and Brand experience is Culture.   Inspiration, harassment, high performance or not, all come from leadership.  Brand Experience (internal for staff or external for our customers and guests) really is Culture.   What we accept, what we don’t, what we support or don’t support, all flows from Leadership.  

Our focus on leadership is also important because, at the operations level, regardless of industry segment, managers are leaders by default.  Management and Leadership are both the same and different in many ways.  It’s rare to talk about the nuances, and even rarer to train leadership skills definitively.   

In this second of a three-part series, my intention is to build on what I shared on leadership expectations from experience with over 1,000 operators over thirty years. In this edition, you’ll hear the opinions of three C-suite leaders from very Brand Conscious Companies regarding leadership, management and growth.

On my “leadership panel,” you will meet the following people:

  • Adam Reed, COO of Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar’s parent company, Big Red F residing in Boulder, Co.

  • Nick Sarillo, founder and president of Chicago-based Nick’s Pizza & Pub, the number six highest producing independent pizza chain in the US; and

  • “Brandon,” COO of a Seattle-based publicly traded international QSR, who’s asked to remain anonymous   

Their answers may surprise you.   


“Hi guys!  I’ve got two questions for you today regarding the role of leadership in your companies. What are the three most important roles of leadership in your company?”   

Nick started off, “First and foremost for us is that leaders MUST be a model of our company Values, and being transparent is critical.”  

Adam, jumped in there, “Being aware of Team Dynamics is first for us.  This is the case because we have 5 units of Jax, 10 other restaurants and four other concepts in total.”  He went on, “team development is a must because of this, (I agree with Nick) modeling our Brand is core, there’s an opportunity and real need for engagement with the team, leaders need to be harder on themselves, harder on myself, than on my team to lead the way.”  

From our big board participant, “Brandon”, “Leaders must focus on shareholder value quarter by quarter.  However, a lot’s shifted since I first started my career.  There’s little doubt a leader on our team has to inspire their team.  Screaming doesn’t work very well.  Leadership communication and delegation skill is what’s most important in our brand.  This means our goals have to be clear.   Yes, we must hit our fiscal goals, at the same time leaders, any leader, has to walk their talk.”

As you’re reading here, my offer is to read between the lines, for all three of these C-suite leaders, fiscal performance is a MUST.  That said, as our dialogue went on it was clearer all the time that fiscal performance is a focus at all times, and is an outcome of systems and other leadership expectations.

Adam built on Brandon’s comments, “Leader’s must have success adherence in cost of goods achievement, as well top and bottom line.  Our goals MUST be hit,” he paused a second and smiled, “However these fiscal goals are directly related to our clarity and training on HOW to hit fiscal goals defined.”

After another slight pause, Adam continued, “Leaders are expected to mentor managers to achieve these numbers.  We have fiscal systems in place to achieve the numbers we define as excellent.”    

Nick jumped back in, “What you guys are talking about, we name “self-discipline.”   We consider our defined fiscal goals no different than our training goals, our opening and closing side work, our prep. “Of course we do this.”  Nick went on, “This, that is, anything we do, is supported with training in “how to”.   From there on a leader at Nick’s, as you said Brandon, “walks our talk.”   That’s Culture, that’s our brand.  Are we 100 percent?  Certainly not.  At the same time, our coaching leader to leader, manager to manager is constant throughout a shift; not just once a week or at training sessions.”    

It was interesting to me to see the group nod their heads as Nick added, “There’s one more behavior or system that we expect and that’s belief in our people. This leads us to fiscal transparency. One leads to the other. I’m not talking about trusting and hoping our leaders and team follow through. We’ve found that’s a recipe for failure.  What I’m talking about goes back to self-discipline again.”  

Nick had the groups attention, “We expect leaders and team members to Trust, and Track performance. Track performance means our fiscal goals achievement or our minute by minute performance as guests are greeted initially at the door, or a first approach to a table is completed.  We have defined excellence and have systems to support leaders and team members to achieve excellence. We do not count on common sense.  These systems, definitions if you will, allow us to be transparent. This means we expect our leaders to share fiscal information, and we do.   For us, this means a full financial statement and balance sheet so team members can see where we are at any given moment. From open books, we have a definitive profit sharing model, as well. I believe this transparency is a must for leaders.  Please hear, we have systems and training in place to support performance and we transparently track and share everything about our business.”   

Listening to these three company officers, the answer to my original question was not linear.  Regardless of the nuances between Adam, Nick, and “Brandon,” the response from each was an integration of leadership behaviors that supported team performance that in turn supported fiscal health.    

Here’s a question for you: “Each of you has way more than one unit in operation, Brandon you’ve got hundreds of units.”  

“Each of you have managers that “run” your restaurants.  During any shift, who’s the official leader?” Immediately and unanimously came, “The manager!”

Another question then, “How much training do managers get about leadership?   Many of the  managers reading this blog will say they get minimal training to manage, let alone to lead.  What about for your companies?”    

All three acknowledged two things. “You’re right, managers are the default leaders.” And, “We could do more, need to do even more.”  

Nick started to laugh, then jumped in, “No doubt we could do more.  At the same time, we often say, that “Nick’s is a leadership school that looks like a pizza restaurant.”  We hope we’re breeding leaders, not just our managers, our team members.    

From Adam, “We feel like we’re looking for and hiring intrinsic leaders to be our GM’s. From there, behaviors trickle down to the management team and staff.”

With Brandon sitting with the biggest hiring pool and cash flow by far, “like Nick we have profit sharing for GM partners, and bonus systems for other team members,  We provide scholarships and other programs to evolve any team member in their leadership and management skills.  Could we do more? No doubt. And I feel like this is one of our strengths and why we’re as big as we are.”   

In closing this segment, there’s no doubt leadership shows up intrinsically. Most companies have leaders that show up with no title, they simply lead shifts, lead performance or disruption.  The choice of positive (or negative) leadership shows up by design far more easily than if by accident. Let your Culture pull your Brand up. My offer having spent time with these three leaders and many others along the way is clarity about Culture AND Brand is a choice. The first job of any one of us reading here or leading is to take the time to be conscious about our behaviors, our habits and actions. Have fun on your journey! Stay tuned for part 3 of our leadership series coming soon!

By Rudy Miick, Industry Expert