Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Emphasizing the Company's Strengths

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Emphasizing the Company's Strengths

Article excerpt

Clive Schlee is chief executive of Pret A Manger, a British chain of casual restaurants.

Clive Schlee is chief executive of Pret A Manger, a British chain of casual restaurants.

Q. What happened when you became a manager for the first time?

A.I was made C.E.O. of Pizza Hut in Australia and I was very inexperienced for such a big job. When I first went in there, I straightaway called a team meeting and said things ought to change. That's exactly the wrong way to approach things. I didn't take time to work out the situation. I didn't take time to bring them along and slowly say this is the situation we are in and then persuade them to come with me.

Q. How did you do it differently at your current company?

A.When I joined Pret, we had to make a few changes. This time I simply said, "This is the reality of the situation, and you guys come and tell me what you think we should do." And the senior team came up with the answers.

Q. What else did you learn from your earlier mistakes?

I learned from working in Pret that to really succeed in the food business, the quality of the food really has to be much better. When I joined Pret, the company had a very strong culture, but it had overexpanded, and it simply needed to be realigned and not do too many things at once, but do what it did well better.

I think most of leadership is about identifying what you do really well and you make that stronger. You should spend 80 percent of your time doing that -- really getting these strengths so strong that no one can match you -- and then the remaining 20 percent you should spend on research and development.

Q. How did you manage to get the people behind you?

A.A typical Pret team member does 10,000 to 100,000 jobs a day, and he or she either can do them well or can do them badly. They could be, how you cut the lemon? Do you squeeze out the crayfish so that there isn't too much brine so that the sandwich isn't too soggy? Do you take the crumbs off the fridge when you walk past?

Every second of the day, 5,000 Pret employees are making decisions about whether they care or don't care. The job of a leader is to make sure the results are positive because after that your power decreases phenomenally. It's creating that positive environment that matters.

And people care. They care first of all about their relationship with their colleagues. I think that's the No. 1 driver. And then secondly, it has to do with the pride in the company and their work. Thirdly, it's your pay and rations. So you focus on getting those first two right above all else.

Q. How do you do that?

A.Employees start to judge their employer based on fairness, trust, and is there a social purpose to what the employer is doing. In the case of Pret, I think people are proud of the quality of the ingredients. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.