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Who Matters Most?

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:

  1. They want to be listened to, demonstrating that we truly value their experience and point of view.
  2. They want us to be honest with them, especially when we make mistakes.
  3. They want to be part of the decision-making process, not the recipient of our decisions.
  4. They want us to be accountable, to actually do the things we say we are going to do.
  5. 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?

4 Responses

  1. i believe that most important people in a organization is he customers and the employees on the front line. As leaders Se are there to serve them. But serving means helping them grow professionally and personally. Makin a daily commitment to serve others is hard but the reward is priceless.

    I was first introduced to servant leadership at the age o 23 seven years ago when I first was promoted to be retail sales manager. Fast forward 7 years I have made a decision to teach and spread the servant leadership philosophy to the millennial.

    Following Servant leadership will not only transform the lives of those around you but t will also transform you from within deep.

  2. it is so gratifying to read on servant leadership for I believe is the most effective type of leaderships. However, as a servant leader I have had fears and massive learning to do. One is afraid of being run over by its own people. Servant leader does not mean one is weak. Thank you for sharing and showing us how to best practice our leadership.

  3. Serving the majority of our benefactors to the best of my ability and asking them “how is it that I can serve you” is a vulnerable responsibility that sets an example for others to follow. As I take pleasure in applying my skills with gratitude and in appreciation, others can feel the genuine care and reciprocate. Part of this is modeling to a team (paid or volunteers) that what I expect is what I give first. What you sow you will also reap. The initial question is to understand what that person or group needs or wants by listening. Be in relationship. It’s not so much as what product we have to offer as it is what is it that you need; and let’s go from there together.

  4. Thank you Cheryl for your insight. In my organisation, the most important is the employee- The human capital element is very important for the success of our business. We need to ensure that our employees have positive energy, and that they are always motivated. I believe doing so, will result into the employees feeling valued and respected and will serve our company and customers well.

    Secondly, the next important stakeholder in our organisation is the customer, we strive at all times to serve the customer well-By serving the customer well, we are assured of a satisfied customer upon which our product and services exceed their expectation and therefore entice them more to partner with us. In the long run, this will ensure business success, increased market share and profitability.

    The next important stakeholder is the shareholder, who has provided the needed capital to enable us run the business. The shareholder need to believe that management practice is geared towards serving their interest and protecting their capital. This will create a trusted relationship which can be long lasting.

    In the end, we are only the servants of the key stakeholders mentioned above, and our behaviour and practice should meet and exceed their expectation.

    Chiza Jere
    Finance Director
    Alliance One Tobacco Tanzania Limited
    PO Box 1595

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