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Lawrence Foods’ Leadership Philosophy That Inspires Top Performance
September 2018
lawrence foods - elk grove village

Lawrence Foods is a family-owned manufacturer of premium bakery ingredients for commercial food manufacturers, in-store bakeries, and food service operations. The company operates two facilities in Elk Grove Village: a 293,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and an 87,000-square-foot logistics center and is now on its 4th generation of being owned by the Lawrence family.

Today, Marc Lawrence is the CEO and General Counsel. His father, Les Lawrence, is the company's chairman, and brings years of experience and historical perspective to the company.

Lawrence Foods holds a remarkable reputation for a powerful company culture built on the principle that business success has a lot to do with setting every employee up to succeed. Les Lawrence has embedded remarkable leadership traditions that encourage employees to strive for peak performance. He notes five elements that define the concept.

Les Lawrence's 5-Part Philosophy on Employee Performance

1. The employee's 'Ownership' of the job

According to Lawrence, the primary responsibility of leadership is to create an environment that allows an employee to feel they have significant control over the way their job is performed. Under conditions created by the factors below, such control develops a sense of personal ownership of their work. Lawrence states, "Employees care about their job performance because it is in part a consequence of their own decisions. Because they control the inputs, the outcomes become a reflection of their own competence."

2. Understanding the company's mission and the employees' role in achieving it

Lawrence believes that morale and determination to achieve high performance are enhanced when an employee understands a company's purpose, and feels it is worthy of respect. "Lawrence Foods provides ingredients for products that are often the social center of gravity for family events and celebrations. What we do means something important to the people that ultimately eat our products!" Lawrence states.

3. Construct job descriptions that provide employee latitude for decision making

It's important to have conversations with employees on what the expectations and responsibilities of the job are in order for them to succeed. This collaborative, periodic interchange is critical in identifying any current or newly emerging obstacles - from the perspective of the employee - that could serve as a cause of failure, and as a consequence weaken the employee's determination to succeed. It's not just for new team members. "These conversations should be ongoing and frequent to strengthen the sense of ownership and control of the activities and results within the scope of the job responsibilities." states Lawrence.

4. Agree on the scorecard of success and the way it is calculated

Each department of the company must have performance metrics that connect to customer satisfaction. According to Lawrence, metrics should be perceived as fair, objective and accurate. The simpler, the better. This element has significant potential for creating the vigorous participation of the employee's focus on success and is most effective when they are the result of a collaboration between employee and manager.

An important consequence of a scorecard that is done properly is that it becomes a gauge that allows team members to make performance adjustments on their own. The recognition by leadership of such changes is a powerful way to strengthen both 'ownership' and performance.

"Here is a caution flag! When having conversations with employees on job expectations, be wary of responses like 'I'll do my best.' Such a reaction is often an indication that the employee does not have confidence in driving success with the tools at his disposal. It is a short step from this innocent phrase to a fully formed rationalization for failure," according to Lawrence. If there's hesitation, the Job Description (3. above) should be revisited to identify the obstacles to success from the perspective of the employee. "This exercise strips away the ability of an employee to feel comfortable with failure. It is something a good leader will be sensitive to as circumstances change." Lawrence adds.

5. Review of results

According to Lawrence, when leadership fails to provide constructive feedback, both positive and critical, it devalues an employee and vastly limits the opportunity for success. Employees need to fully understand that when they make certain decisions, consequences follow. "Team members won't succeed all the time, but you must always be setting challenges, offering support for improvements and providing recognition for progress."

Ultimately, when feedback is given, it provides both team members and leaders an opportunity to work together to become better. Lawrence concludes, "In the final analysis, it has been gratifying in our experience that a working atmosphere constructed with equity and fairness, reflecting the elements of our managing philosophy, will generally produce a more challenging environment to work within, while at the same time creating a significantly preferred opportunity for employees who value loyalty and long term employment commitments."


Lawrence Foods is known for putting people first. Les Lawrence's philosophy is the epitome of what it means to create a company that sets employees up to succeed.

To learn more about Lawrence Foods, visit