YILs Engage with Industry Chiefs at FEDA Conference as They Learn to Lead the Way

For young professionals taking on their first management roles, it can be difficult to transition from working alongside their peers to leading them. There’s a sudden shift in status. One day, they’re all in this together, sharing the same victories and gripes. Then suddenly, one of them has been promoted and that person is now the boss and camaraderie melts away.

Once that happens, how does the newly appointed leader build respect among their former peers? Rich Austin, senior partner at Corporate Strategies and Solutions, says it begins by creating a leadership plan. The manager must determine what will be true about them and what their culture statement will be about. Further, that plan must sync with the larger company: “They have to understand the strategic plan of the organization,” Austin explains. “Where the organization is going and why they are doing it.”

Those are the kinds of questions Austin will ask of FEDA’s Young Industry Leaders (YIL) group during a special LEARN Session, titled Organizational Excellence: Leading the Way in the 2020s, at the FEDA Annual Conference. This year’s conference will be full of opportunities for YIL members to develop their leadership skills, learning from some of the most experienced and innovative thinkers in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry. In return, mentors will have the opportunity to perhaps learn a thing or two from YIL members about emerging trends and new thinking.

Mentor Up, Mentor Down
Mentorship programs are often thought of as a one-way flow of learning. But the truth is that many mentors get as much out of the programs as their mentees. In the book, The Mentoring Continuum – From Graduate School through Tenure, author Glenn Wright contends that mentees have an equal role in contributing to the mentor-mentee relationship. In the business world, that can be realized when mentors learn about new skills or technologies from young up-and-comers who have a different perspective on the industry and communicate in unfamiliar and sometimes exciting ways.

To help foster this reciprocal mentoring, FEDA will hold the YIL and CEOs Mentor Up Mentor Down Breakfast at 7:15 a.m., Thursday, March 26. This event will pair several of the industry’s most forward-thinking CEOs and senior managers with YILs, allowing both groups to share their knowledge and experiences, as well as their visions for the future of the foodservice equipment and supplies industry.

Leading the Way
Mentor-mentee relationships are an important guiding tool for experienced leaders to shape the next generation. But at some point, the next generation needs to take the reins. Austin’s LEARN Session for YILs will focus on many of the challenges they will face as they move up the ladder of leadership.

One of the most important skills for a new leader to develop is awareness of what works, what doesn’t, and what strengths and weaknesses they and their team possess. Austin’s presentation will touch on the question of awareness by discussing 13 “leadership blind spots” that organizations often miss and how to identify gaps in the organization.

That process begins by understanding your team, and recognizing what makes each individual person tick. People have different backgrounds and experiences, so effective leaders must understand how to mesh each individual’s motivations with the company’s motivations. In most cases, this is a communications challenge, Austin notes, so it’s important for leaders to establish expectations and talk with team members about what they want to get out of their role.

As leaders look to close those gaps, it can be helpful to take a look at strong organizations and study how they have achieved their success. To that end, Austin will discuss the common traits of overperforming organizations, such as building a culture of accountability. “We’ll define what accountability means to us and what it’s like to run an organization that’s not afraid of accountability,” he says. “If the leader isn’t willing to hold people accountable and isn’t willing to coach people the way they need to be coached, they can’t expect high performance from that person. Ultimately, the leader is the problem, not the person.”

The concept of accountability extends to a company’s hiring practices. One of the things overperforming organizations do well, says Austin, is recruit elite talent. That starts by authoring job descriptions that disqualify people, rather than ones that attempt to make the company sound so glorious that everyone applies. By eliminating prospects before they even apply, organizations are more likely to only interview, and ultimately hire, those that are the best fit for the job.

From there, many companies struggle with onboarding. Another challenge that Austin’s session will cover is the need for leaders to establish a success profile for their people. For every role, develop a list of the top 10 behaviors that someone should be exhibiting to be considered a top performer; then, develop clear performance goals around that list. By following that up with a 30-, 60-, and 90-day onboarding plan, companies can create an effective process and coaching schedule that will lead to high performance.

As they consider those topics, YIL members will be asked to discuss their thoughts in small groups and then share their findings with the entire room. Through those conversations, Austin says, attendees will learn how to gradually close their own performance gaps – as well as that of their team – and build a high-performing team over the course of a year.