'Lean In' to Keep Learning
One of my great mentors and first “real” boss, Roger Peters, had loads of insight and common sense. During our 18 years of working together in development and operating 81 Hardee’s fast food restaurants, I took away many lessons that I have used in the 22 years since we took different paths.
Lesson 1: “Lean In” to keep learning. A perpetual student of business, Roger had an insatiable appetite to learn from leaders and entry-level employees, alike. Instead of standing back and watching things happen, he was driven to lean in, get close to the action and experience things first hand. His persistence likely makes him one of the only small business owners to get 1-on-1 meetings with both Ray Kroc and Jack Welch. On the opposite end of the power spectrum, he would also show up at a restaurant at 5 a.m. to learn how a biscuit maker starts their day.
He would often recite the phrase, “When a learner is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.” And that “learning to learn” is a skill in itself.
Pause: How well do you fill the role of an active learner? Where could you improve?
He would “lean in” to let others be heard through “bean suppers,” which was a tradition that started in the early days of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Members of all levels of the clinic staff would come together to eat together, talk together and build community. Roger believed that every team member - whether a biscuit maker, grill cook, manager, VP or custodian - deserved the opportunity to engage, learn and share their perspective.
Today, that practice lives on through our “brown bag lunches” here at Alliance Franchise Brands.
Pause: How are you and your organization fostering an environment where all voices are heard? Where could you do better?
He helped me and others around him focus on learning to “Lean In” to lean thinking!
Roger was almost obsessed with eliminating unnecessary programs, process steps, etc. Whether it was saving a half-step, thousands of times in a restaurant, or finding a way to grow 1% of margin in a pennies business, he conditioned us all to value our time, talent and resources.
His words continue to come back to me weekly. “Instead of trying to figure out how to do something better, how about if we figure out how not to do it at all?” He was forever challenging mindsets and paradigms.
Pause: What are you and your team frustrated by that is not working as well as you’d like? Should some of your reports, meetings or processes be revised or eliminated?
This lesson learned from an early mentor began nearly 40 years ago and I continue to put them to use almost every day.
Pause: What are our team members learning from us that may have similar shelf life?
I’d love to hear your experiences leaning in and focusing on what’s important to you and your organization. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Cushing leads the Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, KKP, Speedy Printing and Zippy Prints brands as president of Alliance Franchise Brands' Marketing and Print Division.
Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign and Graphics Operations LLC, is a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in North America and the United Kingdom. The Marketing and Print Division is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Franchise owners in this division offer one-stop marketing and print communications services. Its Sign and Graphics Division, headquartered in Middle River, Maryland, includes Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign, graphics and visual communications providers.
Cushing has owned and operated award-winning franchise locations, was inducted into Epicomm's Soderstrom Society, and was named Print CEO of the Year in 2011 when he served as CEO of AlphaGraphics Inc.