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People, Process, & Potential

I get tired of hearing people refer to people practices as “the soft stuff.”

Accessing the full potential of your team? That is the hardest thing you will do as a leader.

I love to watch sailboat races. It is thrilling to see the boat tilt to the wind, lean on its side, and gain speed. It is mesmerizing to watch one boat overtake another. This collection of people on the deck, each one doing something entirely different, making it look easy. But wait… They each know their role.  They have trained for this day. They are responding to direction from the captain. They are adjusting as they gain new information. They are assisting one another. And at the end, when they cross the finish line together, they will celebrate together.

What is soft about that? What is easy about that?

Nothing at all.

The signature trait of a great leader is the way they unlock the potential of the team.

At Popeyes, we use a framework to remind us what we must do to bring out the best in our people. We call it “The Pact” – it is the promise we want to fulfill to our people.

Welcome: We want each person to be welcomed each day, not just the first day that they come to work. We want to acknowledge the skills they bring and encourage them to put these talents to best use. From a simple and genuine “good morning,” to a thoughtful one-on-one meeting to set clear expectations, we want you to know that we are glad that you are here.

Inspire: We want each person to understand Popeyes’ purpose and find the perfect spot to contribute to that end. We help each team member explore their personal purpose for working at Popeyes. We share our organization goals – and where we stand against them. We set individual goals – and establish milestone dates for checking in. We want you to know why you are here and what great performance looks like.

Popeyes’ Purpose: To inspire servant leaders to achieve superior results.

Grow: Once a year, we sit down and thoughtfully discuss your development plan. We look at your strengths. We look at the business needs. And we determine where you can grow and add more value to the team and the enterprise. We believe 70% of your growth will happen on the job, so we look for specific projects that will stretch you. We see 20% of your growth coming from relationships – people who mentor and advise you – adding the benefit of their experience to your experience. And the final 10% may come from a formal class or seminar.

Celebrate: At each company-wide meeting, we look for opportunities to celebrate our people. There is a servant leadership award for a major contribution, done the right way. There is a “grasshopper” award for those jobs done with excellence and without fanfare. There is a “can-do” award for the optimistic, enthusiastic problem solver. There is a “passport” award for those who help our small international team do big things. But even more importantly, there are these two important words: “thank you.” No leader can say them too often.

These practices remind us of our work as leaders – to bring out the very best in our people. But equally important is being serious and disciplined about people processes throughout the year.

  1. Setting goals and project milestones for each person’s contributions. Establish what great performance looks like upfront.
  2. Weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one coaching sessions for guidance, ideas, and encouragement
  3. Mid-year reviews of the objectives, adjusting for new information, and making sure performance is on track.
  4. Development plans prepared between the leader and the team member once a year with concrete definition of what must be done and demonstrated to grow. Quarterly conversations to track progress and give encouraging words.
  5. Talent reviews where the leaders spend time discussing the performance of every person on the team – noting successes, identifying growth opportunities, looking to see where the person might contribute best in the future.
  6. Succession planning to identify the best “next leader” for every key leader in the organization. Once identified, ensuring their development plan is getting them ready for that next promotion.

The process is what ensures that the leaders stay focused on the practices that bring out potential.

 If you don’t get the people process right, you will never fulfill the potential of your business. – Larry Bossidy

The top tier performance of your organization lies in the people – and the practices and processes you use to bring out their best.

Nothing soft about it.

Serve well.

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