Wallenda does daring tight rope acts – over canyons and cities – while we stand and watch with awe. He is so bold and daring, we watch with terrified anticipation. There is a chance he will fall and die, and there is a chance he will safely make the crossing. The thrill of the daring makes our pulse pound. But few of us want to try crossing the chasm on that tight rope. We’ll leave the crazy dares to Wallenda.
But what about the daring acts in the workplace? Could we be more courageous for the sake of the people? Could we take them to a place beyond what they believe is possible?
People often ask me – did you know how successful Popeyes would be when you began the turnaround plan in 2008? The answer? No. Not in my wildest dreams.
But I did believe the goals were possible – and in fact, necessary, for the company to survive and eventually thrive.
We had to grow restaurant sales by at least 20%. We had to improve restaurant profits by at least 40% or franchise owners would not build more Popeyes restaurants. We had to innovate with new menu items, to give guests a reason to come. We had to improve the guest experience – or they would eat at another restaurant.
And while these were bold, aspirational goals for Popeyes, they were also plausible and possible. Other chains had achieved these milestones – and that meant we could too.
So after setting the bold goals, what is the most important role of the leader?
To create the conditions for people to do their best work.
Looking back on the success of Popeyes, the leadership team had a critical role in creating the conditions for people to do their best work:
- The bold goals were clear and plausible based on our competitor’s results.
- We collaborated with our franchise owners to decide on the actions we needed to take.
- The actions were narrowed to the vital few:
- Create innovative new products.
- Launch national advertising.
- Improve speed of service at the drive-thru.
- Reduce costs in the supply chain to bring margin improvement to the restaurants.
- Build a pipeline of qualified franchise owners with access to capital to build new restaurants.
- We assigned top talent to steward each work stream. Cross-functional teams were assembled to bring each initiative to life, and to monitor execution until the goals were reached.
- We made sure we had the skills to execute our bold plans and, if needed, hired new team members.
- Other projects were stopped, so as to not distract us from the most important work.
- Milestone success was measured, reported, and celebrated at our company meetings.
This is not rocket science – just the things required for the people to perform their best work.
Once you’ve set the bold, aspirational goals for your team – have you gone to the next step and set them up for success? This too is the role of the leader who serves.