A bakery operations executive requires a communications style that engages everyone and respects their opinions, experience and knowledge. For Theresa  Watkinson, chief operating officer at Aladdin Bakers, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Baking & Snack’s 2020 Operations Executive of the Year, it also means proving a point, without a doubt.

“If you really believe you’re right and I can poke holes in your argument, then I want you to convince me that I’m wrong and you’re right,” she said.

Every conversation, she noted, requires what attorneys call primacy recency where the key message is stated clearly in the beginning and reinforced at the end, with every supporting fact sandwiched in between. It’s how she gathers information and ensures accountability on the job, and she lets everyone know that the latter is a two-way street.

“I want to learn about everything,” Ms. Watkinson said. “That’s a characteristic of mine. At the same time, I let employees know that they can correct me. If I walk into the bakery and I don’t have a hairnet on, you need to say something to me.”

Her management style is to “lead from the front,” which means actions speak louder than words.

 “I expect every employee to be part of what makes the company successful, and I let them know that I’m not just here to lead them,” she said. “I’m an active member of the team.”

Many leaders have general rules that are not to be broken. For Ms. Watkinson, the main rule is that no one is allowed to say, “It’s not my job.”

“I personally have cleaned floors with the sanitation department and crawled under equipment with the maintenance department,” she said. “It really means something for employees to know I’m working beside them and supporting them as much as they support me.”

That’s why creating a culture of respect at Aladdin Bakers is important to her.

“Aladdin is like a family,” Ms. Watkinson explained. “People are connected to each other. Everyone’s success and job depend on the success of the person next to them, so they support each other. That’s the best quality on the production floor.”

This article is an excerpt from the December 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature, click here.