Panera Bread founder has some tough rules for managing a team of people

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The founder of bakery company Panera Bread, Ron Shaich, has revealed his belief that in the workplace, “it is not a leader’s responsibility to ensure that a person succeeds,” and that servant leadership isn’t about being “nice at all costs,” according to his book “Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations.”

“It is not a leader’s responsibility to ensure that a person succeeds. A leader’s responsibility is to set the expectations and provide the opportunity for individuals to step up and perform, should they choose to do so,” said Shaich in his book.

Shaich, who stepped down as CEO of Panera Bread in 2009, also revealed that he regrets not firing people fast enough from the company.

“In fact, one of my greatest regrets or failings as a leader is that I should have fired more people faster,” he said in the book.

What apparently stopped him from firing people faster was caring too much about his team’s well-being and believing that “servant leadership” meant treating his team as a family.

“Servant leadership isn’t about being nice at all costs. It’s about being helpful at all costs. And radical honesty is a much greater service to people than simply being kind,” he said.

Servant leadership is a theory that was introduced in the 1970s that makes the growth and well-being of employees a priority.

In his book, he also highlighted his rules for managing a team of people in the workplace, titled “Ron’s Rules for People Management,” where he tells readers to “play favorites,” and to “take care of the people who help you get done what matters.”

He also states that the company’s interests should come before an individual’s.

“If it comes down to a choice, put the interests of the organization and its stakeholders before individual interests,” he said.

He also advises readers in his rules that it is not okay for team members to disagree on a company’s “vision, mission, or values,” and that people should “stay in their lanes and get their jobs done.”

“A culture of blaming other individuals or functions accomplishes nothing,” he said.

In 2023, the relationship between managers and employees has been distant and lacking trust, according to recent survey data from workplace analytics company Gallup, who polled U.S. employees on their attitudes on leadership and management in the workplace.

The survey found that in 2023, only 23% of employees have trust in their organization’s leadership. Also, only 29% of employees strongly agree that their supervisor keeps them informed about what is happening in their company.

Gallup also concluded in the report that performance management approaches in the workplace today are “falling short,” with only 22% of employees finding that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do “outstanding work.”