Skip navigation
corporate employees.jpg Getty Images

Ask Jill! Develop Your Company Culture: How important is a restaurant’s management?

On the difference between managing and leading

“How important is my management?” is the question for this month’s Ask Jill! Develop Your Company Culture. I will add to that and ask, “Are they attracting or repelling your employees?” This is a valid question which could also be applied to your employees —  Are they attracting or repelling your end customers? But for the purpose of this month’s article about the best way to develop your company culture, let’s focus on your management.

My follow-through question is, are your managers “managing” or “leading”? I believe strongly that the answer to this question is the same answer to whether they are attracting or repelling your employees. While management and leadership are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct concepts with profound implications for organizational success. Understanding the difference between leading and managing is essential to cultivating a culture where employees are motivated to stay and give their all.

In today’s dynamic and lightning-speed changing landscape of the restaurant industry, organizations are constantly striving to build strong company cultures that foster employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty. At the heart of any vibrant company culture, you’ll find effective and emotionally intelligent leadership. As much as they want the staff to know about the company values and protocols, they take the time to know their people and truly make that human-to-human connection, with their staff and their opinions.

Let’s start with the basic definitions of each of these words by the Oxford Dictionary. Man-ag-ing = “having executive or supervisory control or authority.”
Man-age-ment = “of dealing with or controlling things or people.”

Lead-ing = “guidance.”
Lead-er-ship = “action of leading a group or people of an organization.”

While the goal is the same, the approach is different. Leaders will focus on those goals to motivate, influence, and inspire their people to achieve them through communicating a common, compelling, and collective vision. This is what separates leaders from managers, not title, power, or control.

A common complaint against managers in all sectors is that they are too “controlling.” This is symptomatic of an underlying negative connotation for the word “manage.” Think of our everyday language; when we need to “control” a problem, we say, “I'll manage it.” Herein lies the problem. No one wants to feel micromanaged. No one wants to feel like they are being controlled. This is the pivotal difference. Statistically, we push ourselves when challenged to achieve something even greater than we’ve accomplished in the past when we are supported, encouraged, trusted, and guided by good role models. According to HR company Helpside, 70% of employees say that micromanagement has decreased their morale and will cause them to look for another job where they feel valued, and not second-guessed. Similarly, 55% say micromanagement hurts their productivity. How do we avoid these pitfalls that sap resources and morale?


Some may think I'm crazy. How can we not train our staff?! But, hear me out. I believe training is like managing and educating is like leading. This is where my E3 + 1 Recipe for a strong positive company culture comes in. Educate. Engage. Entrust. + Empathy is the recipe for attraction and retention to be the employer of choice. (If you are interested in knowing about all these elements more deeply, write and ASK me so I can write more about these ingredients in separate articles.) It’s a simple recipe, yet complex with layers, just like cooking. Each ingredient must be fully developed and work in tandem with, building on the previous ones.

Managing v. Leading is parallel to Training v. Educating. Restaurants must educate their employees, not just train them. Education in the workplace presents itself as instilling values, cultivating positive thinking, and creating a collaborative experience so that each employee can conceive and act upon productive ideas. By educating employees, it enables them to analyze issues as they arise, to make solid decisions aligned with the company’s core values, i.e. their culture.

Managing (and “training”) primarily focuses on tasks, processes, and systems. It involves planning, organizing, and controlling (there’s that word again) resources to achieve specific goals. Managers possess a set of technical skills that enable them to execute operational responsibilities efficiently. They ensure that projects are completed, budgets are adhered to, and deadlines are met. While management is undeniably important for keeping the wheels turning smoothly, it is leadership that propels an organization forward.

Leadership (and education of your company values, vision, and culture) transcends the functional task-oriented activities. It involves inspiring and guiding individuals towards a shared vision. Leaders possess a unique blend of qualities that empower them to connect with and influence others. They inspire trust, foster innovation, and nurture a sense of purpose within their teams. Unlike managers, who primarily enforce compliance, leaders inspire commitment. They understand that true success lies in tapping into the intrinsic motivations of individuals and aligning them with the overarching goals of the organization.

Strong leadership leads by example. It is crucial for building a robust company culture that attracts and retains talented employees. Strong leaders paint a vivid picture of the future, articulating a clear direction for the organization. By doing so, they ignite the passions and aspirations of their employees. A well-defined vision creates a sense of purpose, giving employees a reason to be engaged and invested in their work. When employees feel inspired and motivated by their leaders and acutely understand how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture, they develop a sense of fulfillment, and thus loyalty and commitment towards the organization. They are more likely to stay with the company, invest their time and energy, and go above and beyond their prescribed roles. Strong leadership creates an environment where employees feel valued, heard, and empowered. It encourages them to take ownership of their work, develop their skills, and contribute meaningfully to the organization's growth.

In addition to vision, strong leaders foster a culture of trust (the 3rd “E” in the E3 + 1 Recipe) and transparency. They build genuine relationships with their employees, demonstrating empathy, active listening, and respect. By establishing open lines of communication, leaders encourage dialogue and collaboration. They create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and suggestions. Such an inclusive culture fosters innovation, as diverse perspectives are welcomed, valued, and encouraged. Additionally, I suggest creating a system whereby employees are asked to evaluate their managers. Your employee turnover problem may really be a management problem. This will cost you dearly in many ways including absenteeism, high turnover, low productivity by quiet quitting, and more. Accountability is critical on all levels. When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to stay, contribute their best, and develop a deep sense of belonging within the organization.

Your leadership will be the number one most important element in attracting and retaining high-quality talent to live out your company values, vision, and mission, which are the basis of your company culture felt by your fellow staff, and your customers.

In conclusion, while management focuses on tasks and processes, leadership is about inspiring and guiding individuals towards a shared vision. Effective leaders communicate a compelling vision, foster trust and transparency, and lead by example. Strong leadership is crucial for cultivating a company culture where employees are motivated to stay and give 100%. By creating an environment that values and empowers individuals, leaders inspire loyalty, commitment, and a deep sense of purpose within the organization. We believe in creating a culture of leaders at every level. More on that another time…

To get your “culture questions” answered, please write to me directly at [email protected] with the Subject Line of “Ask Jill!”

Jill-Main_Headshot_color_241.jpegAUTHOR BIO

Jill Raff is the globally recognized EX2CX Advisor, working with executive leaders who recognize the paradigm shift: the non-negotiable creation of a more humanized culture prioritizing their people. She helps organizations that recognize their people are their greatest asset but need help creating new systems and procedures to develop the culture resulting in higher retention and greater productivity. Companies experience employee and customer lifetime value using her methodology connecting the employee experience (EX) to the customer experience (CX) — EX2CX.

Jill grew up working with her parents, owner/operators of McDonald's franchises, starting with store No. 150. Her customer service philosophy of Transforming Transactions Into Interactions starting with the employee originated from observing her parent's work and their interactions with legendary founder Ray Kroc. EX and CX is in Jill’s DNA. Based on her diverse background working in multiple industries — and living in 7 countries — Jill developed her Inside-Out Framework based on her “3+1 Recipe” to build a culture creating attraction and retention, often described as “where McDonald’s & Michelin meet.” Contact her at [email protected].

TAGS: Operations
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.