Leadership and management are two terms inextricably tied together. In fact, these terms are so closely associated that it's easy to mistake one for the other. But in order for all foodservice professionals to be successful in today's business environment, they need to be able to not only understand the differences between leadership and management but also be able to balance the two.

Gina-BrinegarGina BrinegarThree major differences separate managers and leaders: counting value
versus creating value, circles of power versus circles of influence, and managing work versus leading people. And nowhere is that more evident than in today's foodservice consulting community.

For those businesses that successfully navigated the economic downturn, creating value was a necessity. Nonetheless, by adding value to relationships and projects, consultants increase their circle of influence in the process.

Generally speaking, members of the design and foodservice industries now see many of today's successful consultants as thought leaders, often asked by manufacturers, reps, operators, general contractors, architects and engineers to provide an expert opinion. To be considered thought leaders, though, foodservice consultants need to remain current on innovations in our industry. And, in doing so, it is incumbent upon consultants to make sure their entire teams do the same. Today's consultants also have to take the lead on many projects and educate the architects, engineers, operators and other stakeholders.

While managing the work will forever be a core competency, by leading project teams consultants gain the ability to influence, motivate and guide the design team toward successful outcomes. It's not easy, and successful consultants and other foodservice professionals will juggle leadership and management on a daily basis.

So the only way to balance leadership and management is to link them. It has been said that any efforts to separate the two will likely cause more problems than it will solve. Here are a few points I have considered that compare the two:

  • Leaders focus on people; managers focus on systems
  • Leaders inspire trust; managers rely on control
  • Leaders develop; managers maintain
  • Leaders do the right thing; managers do it right
  • Leaders innovate; managers
  • administer

Balancing these behaviors is an art form. Focus too much on the people and you can lose sight of the systems; and in times when business is extremely busy, it is difficult to foster development while maintaining the status quo.

Innovation through Collaboration

For operators and architects and other members of a project management team to maximize the return on their investment in a foodservice design consultant, leadership and management must be seamless. Many firms, like ours, often give people the title of "project manager," a task-oriented term that easily dismisses the leadership skills operators now expect consultants to bring to the table.

Given that the foodservice industry remains in a constant state of evolution, how can consultants and other foodservice professionals strike the proper balance between leading and managing? Well, much like foodservice design, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. A lot of it depends on the individual, the company and its corporate culture.

Personally, instead of manning a booth at regional conferences, I find it more productive and rewarding to spend time with clients reviewing what is happening in the industry and how it translates to creating an innovative facility that meets their needs. In order to keep abreast of new developments in our industry, we also have to attend industry functions and spend time with our manufacturers' representatives, or our knowledge base may erode. And this does not apply only to company leaders. Every member of the team benefits by attending seminars and conferences and by having regular in-house training sessions led by other staff members or representatives from the industry.

At Webb Design we have daily 15-minute huddles. Every staff member attends, and everyone is scheduled to share something inspirational or a new industry development with the team. This encourages open communication among the team and gives everyone a chance to develop presentation skills while getting to share their thoughts on a topic of their choice. By learning from each other, we continue to become more innovative.

Since there does not seem to be a large influx of talent coming into our industry, we all have to bring together experts from other foodservice-related disciplines that will help deliver the most effective and efficient design. One method we use to bring more options to the design team is to form strategic partnerships with other consultants, as well as chefs, manufacturers' representatives and kitchen equipment contractors.

Collaboration alone won't be enough for the foodservice industry to sustain growth long-term and continue to develop innovative solutions that adapt to consumers' changing expectations. The only way to accomplish this is to collaborate more and attract young, talented individuals.

The answer lies in continuing down the path the consultant community has followed the past few years, namely gaining more visibility in the design world. This makes foodservice design more attractive to individual members entering the workforce and allows them to see this industry as the exciting career choice we all know it to be. The way you conduct your business, both internally and externally, will attract the new talent your business needs to be
innovative and grow.

If you want people to develop and stay within your organization, you need to live and breathe many of the
following leadership qualities:

  • Leading is making a difference
  • Have a vision
  • Live your values
  • Be present in the moment
  • See the good in all people
  • Follow your heart
  • Trust
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Be congruent, authentic, heartfelt, engaging, inspiring
  • Grow, develop, evolve

These characteristics speak to Millennials. The younger staff members on our team are extremely team oriented, look for a sense of purpose and expect continued communication. If we can continue to be thought leaders and live out some of these outlined leadership traits, attracting and mentoring the necessary talent will come easily.

During the economic downturn, many architectural firms scaled back to having skeleton crews work on their projects, which allowed foodservice consultants to assume a more prominent position. As a result, foodservice consultants had the opportunity to share our knowledge and leadership skills with the rest of the design world. Now that we find ourselves operating in the new normal, so to speak, consultants have more of an opportunity to lead teams, which gives us the chance to share our vision and, in turn, have a greater impact on our projects.

Naturally, with this great opportunity comes great responsibility. Today's foodservice consultant must be able to think beyond problems, have a vision, inspire others to believe in our knowledge, experience and skill sets as we convince them to follow us on the journey of turning challenges into opportunities.

Assuming a more prominent position in the design process gives foodservice consultants an opportunity to play a greater role in concept development and help clients develop a clearer vision of their projects. Today's consultants also need to provide foodservice directors with the necessary tools that will help them gain approval from the c-suite.

What it comes down to is providing the best customer experience. Doing so requires a delicate balance of mastering strategy, and innovation by design, as well as understanding and meeting key performance indicators. Seems simple, right?