McDonald’s Jobs Taught Bezos, Leno And Others 7 Big Lessons
It’s not just that they all worked at McDonald’s many years ago, earning spending money during their high-school or college days. An estimated 20 million people have flipped burgers, poured shakes or served fries for McDonald’s at some point in their lives. For many, it’s a paycheck and not much more. But for Leno, Bezos and company, those teen apprenticeships brought lessons that have lasted a lifetime.
In a new book, Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That Began at McDonald’s, company executive Cody Teets invites 46 high achievers to reminisce about their stints at the hamburger company. Each person gets a few pages to share a chatty oral history, infused with whatever tips they choose. It’s light reading, enhanced with seven key lessons.
1. Get really good at your routines; the world rewards order and discipline. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos remembers learning, at age 16, how to crack eggs neatly with one hand. “My favorite shift was Saturday morning,” he recalls. “I would get a big bowl and crack 300 eggs in it.” That fastidiousness — and desire to operate on a huge scale — has marked Bezos’s career ever since.
2. Find joy in your colleagues, no matter who they are. Andie McDowell, the actress, remembers her McDonald’s restaurant in South Carolina as “a great environment to work in, with lots of cameraderie and teamwork.” Seeking out that rapport has served her well on movie sets, she says.
3. Learn how to deal with the public. A seat in Congress seems totally different from working the cash register at McDonald’s. But Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Congresswoman, draws a parallel. In both jobs, you need to size up people’s concerns, guide them through the process, apologize if something went wrong — and hold your ground if someone’s stopped being reasonable.
4. Solve problems quickly, without creating other problems. Lots of little things can go wrong at a restaurant. That’s true in business leadership or arenas of public performance, too. Mike Grice, a Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan, says his teenage experiences working through the lunch-hour rush at McDonald’s helped him become “an effective decision-maker under stress.”
5. As a manager, scold less … redirect more. Andrew Card, chief of staff for President George W. Bush, was a McDonald’s manager as a college student in the late 1960s. He soon realized that people who didn’t like their tasks wouldn’t succeed. Ramping up pressure on them wouldn’t help. So he spent more time trying to steer the brusque clerk toward the grill, or the slow burger-maker to the potato fryer. “My job was determining how I could help each kid succeed,” he recalls.
6. The best employees don’t need much managing. For all its regimentation, McDonald’s also is a place that rewards strong performers with more autonomy. Something as simple as when to make the next batch of fries can become a personal decision. It’s eerie — but inspiring — to hear high achievers recall how getting the freedom to start running the restaurant a bit helped build their early confidence in themselves.
7. Grow your own talent: keep promoting capable, hard-working people. McDonalds is famous for filling its executive ranks with people who started out “washing floors and cutting potatoes,” learning the business from the ground up, Leno observes. That’s great, he asserts. As host of The Tonight Show, he has repeatedly promoted from within, even helping a one-time intern become executive producer.
Like most oral histories, Golden Opportunity includes lots of minor oddities that will either entertain or distract, depending on your mood. Bezos recalls cleaning up a giant ketchup spill. Leno owns up to the time he let his buddies buy 15 hamburgers and 10 orders of fries for just $1. (The boss was not amused.) The book also allows many, many of McDonalds’ own executives and major franchisers to tell their stories. Their procession is most likely to appeal to insiders, rather than general readers.
Add it all up, and Golden Opportunity is more than a collection of rocking-chair stories from long ago. It’s an ingenious way of making McDonalds’ distinctive culture come alive — in ways that can benefit anyone trying to plan a career, get a big company back on track, or parent a teenager.
Read more at forbes.com – Article by George Anders