Leadership & French Fries

Leadership & French Fries

Near our offices in Menomonee Falls, WI, there are two of the same fast food restaurants that are exactly 2.7 miles from each other on the same road. Assuming they have the same franchise expectations, access to common processes, procedures, trainings, and nearby talent pool, things should be relatively the same, right?


There is a night and day difference between the two stores.

Store A, even located in a slightly less affluent area, towers over Store B in every comparable way. Every. Single. Time.

Store A’s employees were pleasant, upbeat and spoke clearly & kindly. They were fast and efficient. They thought of all the little things, like extra napkins when they saw kids in the car, or wiping down the outside of my glass when they noticed the soda machine spluttered. When peering into drive thru window, the equipment was polished, the floors were clean, and the counters clutter-free. People spoke respectfully to each other and smiled.

And oh my, the food. The same food that everyone serves was different somehow. The french fries were hot and crispy. The sandwiches were assembled with care. It even actually closely resembled the marketing images! I can not rave enough about the quality from start to finish in every conceivable way.

It became a game to go to both stores over the next two years to be proven wrong. And while the faces may have changed, the experiences never did.

This absolutely baffled me—but then I realized it was an perfect example of amazing leadership.

From recruiting, to hiring, to training, to coaching, to feedback, it was clear that Store A knew what they were doing.

Great Leadership…

…demands excellence. Accepting mediocrity will attract mediocrity. Setting the bar aggressively high and then insisting that it is met is just good for business. It’s ok to expect exemplary work and hold those accountable that do not deliver. The small details often translate into the big details for your customers, and ensuring that the little touches are consistently executed leads to success.

...insists consistency. Businesses cannot survive on a handful of high performers being awesome some of the time. Finding and retaining the talent that can consistently deliver not only takes the burden of “babysitting” off your back, good talent is also contagious. The rest of the team sees what the expectations are and follow.

…gives frequent and timely feedback. If the team isn’t delivering excellence on a consistent basis, it’s time to coach them up or out. Either they rise to the occasion or they realize that this is not for them. Be specific in your feedback, express the impact of their behavior and what the expectations are moving forward.

…makes the right decision (especially when it’s tough).  Finding the right candidate (that not only can do the job, but also fits cultural expectations) after all the time and energy spent feels nothing short of a miracle. Allowing one bad egg because it’s “easy” can result in countless issues down the line, including unnecessary expense trying to correct mistakes and time spent coaching. Standing firm to take the time to hire right is how businesses stand apart from the rest.

Great Leadership Focuses on Great People

Great leadership isn’t just seen, it’s felt. Great leadership requires excellence, demands consistency, gives needed feedback and makes the hard (but right) decisions.

In a world where competitive pressure is only increasing, focusing on your people could be your key differentiator.

To the blind eye, it’s just french fries made well. To leaders aspiring to do more than manage, it’s inspiration.