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What Real Leaders Do

Visiting restaurants is where I learn the most important leadership lessons. Better than conferences, books, speeches, and blogs. Restaurant leaders don’t complicate leadership. They do leadership.

Meet Min Cho, leader of the Popeyes restaurant on Osan Air Force Base in Korea. Min Cho is no ordinary leader. Last year she won the coveted Popeyes Gold plate for running the best international restaurant in our system. I wanted to visit her and learn from her. And I am so glad that I did.

“A leader is one that knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
~ John Maxwell

After looking at the spotless, organized, smooth-running restaurant that Min Cho leads, I asked of her:

“Please tell me your leadership secret.”

Without taking a breath, she said, “I focus on my people. I find that when I do that they take good care of the customer.”

“Tell me more,” I said.

“My people have been with me a long time. We are like family. We live in the same town. We often go out to dinner together.”

“How do you keep thing running well during the day?”

“We talk often. We have three 5-minute meetings each day. We remind ourselves to take good care of the guest, explain the specials, and always up sell dessert. It doesn’t take long, but it keeps us all on the same page.”

At the end of my time with Min Cho, she says to me, “Tell me what your leadership secret is?”

And I said, “My goal as a leader is to be like you. I want to focus on the people. Make sure they have the preparation and resources they need to be successful. I want them to feel like they belong to something important. I want to communicate with people so that we are all on the same page. Frankly, Min Cho, I hope I am half as good a leader as you are.”

“Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.”
~ Tom Peters

Meet Amelia Binto Rahman, leader of a new restaurant at 313 Somerset in Singapore. Amelia opened a new restaurant this week, starting with a friends and family night on Tuesday to make sure everything was ready to open on Wednesday. But just four hours before the big event, Amelia was attending a leadership training workshop that I was teaching at a nearby hotel.

I walked up to Amelia and said, “How can you be her at this workshop, looking calm and collected when your new restaurant is opening in a matter of hours?”

She says without hesitation, “The leader must be calm. It tells my team that I have complete confidence in them. They are prepared. There is no need for me to worry.”

Sure enough, the event went off without a hitch. Her team was prepared and capable.

So later in the day I asked Amelia, “Have you always been so calm, collected, and capable?”

“No. Actually I used to be quite different. I used to run around and yell a lot and I was always stressed. It was not a good way to lead. I have changed the way I lead and it is working much better now.”

“Leadership is expressed, not so much in words, as in attitudes and in actions.”
~ Harold S. Geneen

There are leadership lessons from real people…

  • Focus on your people.
  • Treat them like family.
  • Talk to them often.
  • Help them get ready for the opportunities ahead.
  • Be calm.
  • Exhibit confidence in your people.

These are the attitudes and actions of leadership.

0 Responses

  1. I totally agree with the semtiment of this post! Focusing on people is the key to having a successful team. I find when I spend time explaining the goals and the “whys” behind them, the team is excited to execute them because I have empowered them to determine the “hows” of accomplishing the goals. I will also add that when I spend time just talking to my team members, I get this high that allows to be more strategic and find ways to help make their jobs better. It is a great endless loop of high energy when you focus on people!

    1. Stephanie, I could not agree more. It is so energizing to get to know our leaders. I often say “I must know you to grow you.” When I know the person, it gives me so many ideas on how to put their talents to work and how to grow their capability. As you said, “an endless loop of energy when you focus on people.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Cheryl

  2. “Help them get ready for the opportunities ahead”. Sometimes it means joining with them to jump the first hurdle together. A talent on my team just couldn’t catch the vision of a new idea recommended by another team member who knew the market. By joining with them on their first meeting with a new contact, the talent recognized the potential, did a great job during the meeting, and within one hour post-meeting lined up another new contact, feeling equipped to handle solo.

    1. Hi Pam, Great addition to the conversation. Coming along side and teaching or role modeling is such a powerful way to grow our people. I’m not sure why we so often skip this step and think that people will figure out what we want through ESP. Working along side people is part of setting expectations and teaching capability. Thank you for sharing your example of this. Cheryl

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