Both are important every day. Leading is the ability to develop a vision and articulate it in a way that your team can understand, embrace and act upon. Leadership is in many ways about how you inspire and motivate. Managing is the way you empower your people to help bring your vision to life. It’s the plans and processes you put in place and the actions you take day in and day out to help your people be more effective and impactful.
One of the biggest challenges today is the increasing pace and breadth of communications. The 24/7 nature of our business challenges you to be thoughtful and reflective – and do it more quickly than ever! The time for both seizing opportunities and responding to issues has been significantly condensed, so you have to focus even harder on being prepared and always ready to move. What’s more, in today’s digital environment where issues quickly spread, there are rarely any more “isolated” incidents. So you have to be prepared to manage nearly all of your communications across multiple mediums and at a global level.
Employees are eager for information, interested in the facts, and passionate about their work. Keeping people engaged involves helping them continuously recognize the value of what they do. Providing a clear line of sight on how their work contributes to the larger success of the company goes a long way in helping people feel energized and proud. In addition, it’s crucial to be as authentic and transparent as possible. Having your employees feel the company is talking with them in a timely and honest manner is foundational to building a culture of trust and collaboration across the organization.
Our employees recognize that we live in a world where everything is discussed and debated. It is important to be open and candid with employees, arm them with the facts, and remind them of the journey. Our people recognize we cannot be all things to all people. The key is to not be defensive, embrace the notion of debate to drive change, and know when to agree to disagree. That said, we preach continuous improvement across our organization – not just in our operations and service but in how we affect communities and the larger world. So what we all focus on together is evolving to meet the changing needs of our customers and always showing a commitment to doing better across every aspect of our brand.
It is more about evolving the two groups and working more closely together to better meet the needs of the business. The customer is at the center of all we do – and the customer rarely distinguishes between U.S. messages and corporate/global messages. It’s all McDonald’s. So it makes more sense for us to work collaboratively and with a common goal and purpose. It allows us to be more nimble, responsive, and able to speak with a unified voice.
We have 1.8 million employees in 120 countries. To stay unified across our system, we take the approach that we cannot have one message internally and another externally. Due to this philosophy, it was less of a transition for me to move from external to internal communications than you might see in other organizations. We are joined at the hip with our external and internal communications partners around the world. This alignment is hugely important, and enables us to maximize opportunities and stay in front of crisis preparedness.
Jim and I have five kids, and they expand our horizons, and challenge our thinking every day. They have helped me understand that you really need to prioritize. You can quibble about a lot of small things at home with your kids and you could do the same at the office every day. That is not very productive. Working toward a common goal and addressing differences and challenges and then moving on are part of a healthy environment at work and at home.
Giving back to the communities we serve has always been foundational to our brand. Our franchisees live and work in the communities where they operate their restaurants. Through Ronald McDonald House Charities, our franchisees, suppliers, employees, and customers all try to help make a difference for families and children around the world. As we work to make a positive impact, it’s important to talk about our efforts both externally and internally. Externally, we want to give people a better understanding of our principles and commitment to doing good; while internally our focus is on instilling pride and energizing our people to carry on our values and remain community-minded.
Everyone can lead in whatever position they are in. You need to bring strong ethics and integrity to the job, while being willing to grow and learn from mistakes. No one is expecting perfection. However, you have to be ready to continuously adapt and evolve in this fast paced and virtual world. Be a player, not an observer. Energy and enthusiasm are infectious.
Interview By Sarah Grange