Who are the most important people you serve – the owner, the boss, the customer, the employees? Which one is your primary focus? When I joined Popeyes in 2007, my first day was the international franchising conference in Orlando, Florida. As you would expect, on my first day I was brimming with excitement and anticipation about this challenging new leadership opportunity. This would be my first chance to meet the Popeyes franchise owners – the people who own virtually all of our restaurants – the entrepreneurs who have made Popeyes their livelihood. Certainly, they would be excited to meet me too?
It didn’t take long to understand that the franchise owners were not excited to meet me. They had met seven CEOs in the prior four years. I was just “CEO Number 8.” They were in year eight of a downturn in the sales and profits of their restaurants. They were tired of the situation – and if they had chosen a slogan, it might have been “Not Going to Take It Anymore.”
In fact, one veteran franchisee put it this way. “You see Cheryl. We are abused children. And you are just another foster parent. Don’t expect us to trust you anytime soon.”
Long pause on my end. In fact, these words still give me pause.
How many people in the workplace feel like abused children? How many of them think their leader is just another foster parent; “don’t expect us to trust you anytime soon.”
I’m afraid the number is much higher than we want to think.
As you think about your leadership, who are the people counting on you to serve them well? What would serving them well look like? How would they know that? How would they measure that?
“It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”
Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant As Leader
At Popeyes, we chose our franchisees as our #1 priority and determined we must serve them well. Here is what our franchisees tell us matters to them:
- They want to be listened to, demonstrating that we truly value their experience and point of view.
- They want us to be honest with them, especially when we make mistakes.
- They want to be part of the decision-making process, not the recipient of our decisions.
- They want us to be accountable, to actually do the things we say we are going to do.
- They want our ideas to deliver positive results to their business.
Is that too much to ask of the leader? Listening. Honesty. Inclusion. Accountability. Results.
Isn’t that what you would like from your leader?
You have an opportunity to serve the people you lead well.
Who matters most in your organization? Will you serve them well?