A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the importance of knowing why you work and how you can put into words your purpose of leadership. While we’ve tried to make the process simple, knowing where to begin can often be difficult.
Over the next eight weeks, I’d like to share with you interviews with Popeyes leaders as well as leaders at other companies that are inspired by personal purpose. Leaders who have defined their purpose for leadership – a purpose that is individually unique, but has the potential to impact others in a powerful, positive way. Hopefully, in reading these stories, you will be encouraged in your journey to defining your purpose for leadership.
This week, we continue with Andrew Skehan, chief operating officer – international for Popeyes.
Cheryl – What kind of leader do you describe yourself as?
Andy – Prior to my time here at Popeyes, I would have considered myself a teacher or coach type of leader. Building high potential teams and creating a supportive and inspiring environment that encourages prudent risk taking and enables over-achievement is what I try to do. I firmly believe that the potential of the team is exponentially greater than that of the individual. After joining Popeyes, and learning about Servant Leadership, I’d have to say that I aspire to become both a practitioner and disciple of that philosophy.
Cheryl – Why do you work?
Andy – I work for several reasons. Most importantly I get satisfaction by helping to develop others and enabling them to achieve their career goals and realize their life’s aspirations. I enjoy competing in a team environment and derive substantial satisfaction from both competition and, in particular, winning. I enjoy the challenges of analyzing complex scenarios and creating and implementing strategies to overcome substantial obstacles.
“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”~ John Wooden
Cheryl – What experiences have shaped you?
Andy – I believe that you never stop learning and consider myself a very curious person. To define a few events that have shaped me is quite a challenge. Early in life, sustaining a serious knee injury that disrupted my college athletic scholarship aspirations helped me to focus on education as a more reliable means to achieving my life’s aspirations. It also taught me to be flexible and was quite humbling at the time.
Attending the Naval Academy forced me to organize my time and efforts to an extent that I never believed possible. It also helped me to realize that there is always someone smarter than you. As a junior officer in the Navy I was given tremendous responsibility at a very young age and asked to lead many men with much more functional knowledge and experience than my own. This helped me to understand that leadership wasn’t necessarily about knowing more than anyone else, it was about helping others to fulfill their potential and perform to high levels. Getting married and raising my daughter showed me the many parallels between successful leadership and good parenting.
While my private sector career has been extremely diverse, I would have to say that two experiences that stand out are going to Eastern Europe to launch KFC shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union and taking on the challenge of reinventing Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby as the Company’s first CMO. Again, both situations required me to build teams, analyze and solve complex business problems and effectively launch or re-launch brands. Throughout my career I have found that staying true to my values has helped focus my efforts and build both trust and credibility wherever I have gone.
Cheryl – What are your core values and principles?
Andy – There are a few values in particular that I try to live up to as I navigate life and business: I believe that integrity, respect and accountability along with competence in certain scenarios form the foundation of trusting relationships. I believe that it is important to keep an open mind and recognize that you never stop learning. I appreciate humility and conversely avoid egocentric personalities and I have a personal idiosyncrasy regarding initiative. I applaud and admire people of action.
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”~ William Arthur Ward
Cheryl – What is your purpose?
Andy – Consistent with the type of leader I believe myself to be, my purpose is to: Create secure, productive work environments that inspire and enable team members to achieve their true potential.
Cheryl – What feedback have you received throughout your career regarding your leadership style?
Andy – At the risk of not sounding appropriately humble I would say that most people I work with find my style to be very supportive, motivating and conducive to facilitating their best performance. I have been told that I am honest and straightforward, yet respectful and considerate with my coaching and counsel. With that said, there are types of people that sometimes struggle with my style. I do not like to micro-manage and therefore am not the best fit with people that require constant direction. I work well with self-starters and not so well with the opposite. I have heard that I am appropriately decisive yet open-minded and willing to consider alternatives and recognize mistakes when they occur.
Cheryl – How did that shape your purpose?
Andy – Again, with as much humility as possible and to dramatically over-simplify, people like to play on my teams. They push themselves because they know I have their back and to the extent possible I will do whatever I can to make them more effective and ultimately successful.
Cheryl – How do you focus your daily efforts to support that purpose?
Andy – At this point in my life, my career and my purpose are primarily focused on helping the people I lead to achieve both their individual and team or Company goals. Coaching, advising, encouraging, strategizing, prioritizing, allocating, measuring and implementing are all part of my typical day. Like any coach or battlefield commander you must balance and guide your tactical endeavors with thorough and informed plans and strategy.
Cheryl – How do you test yourself to ensure you consistently work to fulfill your purpose?
Andy – I encourage open and honest communication and try to create an environment where associates feel comfortable providing this type of feedback. I rely on my family, perhaps my toughest and most brutally honest constituents, to recognize when I am in danger of straying from a personal values perspective. I also look at measures such as performance, morale, development and retention to assess my effectiveness.
Cheryl – How do you share your purpose with others so they are aware of your intent in leading them?
Andy – I would like to think that the primary means of sharing my purpose is through my daily actions. I hope that I am living the purpose and principles to which I aspire. I have made a point of meeting with my team and specifically describing what my purpose is and why it is important to them. I have also asked them to share their purpose so that I may better understand how to work with them and know how to support them. It is my intent to complete this exercise with every International associate and ultimately franchise partners as well.