I’ve enjoyed the recent news coverage about Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Jeff Bezos has proposed that one day soon our packages will be delivered to our doors by Prime Air drones. This vision has been called audacious. Many critics have implied this idea is laughable. Yet at Amazon, there is a whole team of people working to make this vision real.
As I think about leaders that stand out from the rest, whether in history or in business, every one of them led the people towards a highly aspirational, bold destination. Something audacious – even laughable at the time.
- Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence and inspired non-violent civil rights movements around the world.
- George Washington led the formation of a government and the writing of the U.S. Constitution, which has framed this country for over 200 years.
- Margaret Thatcher led a transformation of the economy of England, with the bold idea of privatization of industries owned by the government.
- Tom Monaghan led Domino’s franchisees to build 200 stores on college campuses – and eventually thousands of stores around the world.
Bold thinkers all. Not afraid of being called “audacious” or outright “crazy.”
Let’s talk about how these bold, aspirational visons grow the capability of the people who work for the leader.
If the leader suggests something difficult, what do the people have to do?
They have to learn, grow, and stretch.
I picture the Amazon Prime Air team today – doing a lot of research on drones – testing a variety of drones – traveling to countries using drones – perhaps using technology to simulate a drone delivery world. These activities are challenging to the people. They can’t stand still; they must grow to support the vision. And while it can be scary to stretch and grow, most people understand that the alternative is stagnation, boredom, and perhaps even failure.
This has certainly been the case at Popeyes. When we set out to grow restaurant sales 40% and restaurant profitability 60+% – when we set out to become a fast growing quick service chain – it was audacious, even laughable to our peers.
But the Popeyes team that has accomplished these goals has stretched and grown to be one of the best teams in the industry. To do this, they had to invent new products. They had to search for new ways to save money. They had to create ways to improve our restaurant operations. They had to develop new processes that led to reliable performance.
Popeyes leaders would tell you that the results have exceeded their own expectations. They would tell you what they have learned and how they have grown. Then they would likely say that this exciting performance has been one of the best experiences of their careers.
A daring destination is essential to creating an organization that grows in capability – an organization challenged to perform at a level the individual could have never imagined before. This is the path to creating an environment where teams perform their best – and outperform the competition.