Constantly Challenge Your Vision

How can you ensure your vision stays clear and purposeful?


According to Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, vision is not something you set in stone and then move on. It must be periodically re-evaluated and updated to reflect the ever-changing needs of the organization. In this video, Cheryl talks about the (sometimes painful) process of evaluating, updating and re-casting vision.

“We work really hard all the time and we're on it,” Cheryl said. “And so you even miss the complacency starting to show up in your decisions and you start forgetting to ask the really tough questions, forget to see your company and yourselves objectively.”

Watch as Cheryl shares insights and solutions about vision-casting and the challenges she and many leaders face in defining, re-defining and executing well.

Interviewer: Cheryl, every leader talks about vision and it's very, very important and I'd like to talk about the vision that you had when he first came into the organization and now seven years in has the vision changed? Does need to be updated? How does all of that work in this tenure that you've been serving here?

Cheryl: Well, when first they came together to straight this turnaround we crafted this think that we called the road map to results with our four core business strategies and we were tenacious about sticking with it and doing them every year and telling the story over and over again. And I'll never remember walking into a board meeting, there was approximately year four, and a board member said, "I'm not sure I understand your vision." And I said, "Where have you been?" You know it's right here we got this one piece of paper. Everybody knows by. I thought you knew it by heart you know. My brain is trying to move as quickly as I can, "What is he talking about, we have no vision."

And he said, "Well, maybe you're missing things like maybe we should do this and maybe we should do that." I'm like, "No, we have a plan and our conviction is strong and it's a long-term vision." And he said, "Well, I'm just afraid you might be missing something." And so the board asked me that night to look at three alternative strategies that weren't on my plan.

And to be honest, as the leader, I was annoyed. I was like they don't get it. But I listened carefully and stewed about it took it back to my team and we decided to back up look at the landscape again as it would never seen it before. And it was really painful because frankly we were getting a little proud of what we've done and a little bravado coming into the conversation, "Well, we are remodeling our restaurants, and we got exciting new products and we got it, man. We don't need any new visions."

And so kind of, we brought in an outside party and to kind of throw eggs at us a bit say, "You don't have it altogether. I got some questions for you." And we all went through that process of kind of getting mad and then getting smart, which was saying, you know what, we have missed some parts of the landscape and one of them was the service proposition. We were getting faster in service but we weren't getting any friendlier. And we weren't doing the people work required to create a strong people culture in our restaurants and we had a stare that in the face.

The three ideas the board gave us with the wrong ideas but they were the provocateur of a bold new vision for where we go next at Popeyes and create the people organization, the people culture but would eventually provide service as great as our food. So the leader has a responsibility to come up above the trees periodically and refresh the vision and make sure that they've looked at the landscape as if they've never seen before.

Interviewer: Because the success can lull you to sleep and you can say, "Hey, were good. Thank you very much."

Cheryl: Yes, you get complacent. You don't even know it happening because you're so . . . This is an intense business. We work really hard all the time and we're on it. And so you even miss the complacency starting to show up in your decisions and you start forgetting to ask the really tough questions, forget to see your company and yourselves objectively. So we just launch this new people initiated strategy to our system and said, "You know what, what we did was great, but it will not get us to where we need to go five years from now. We're going to a new day direction that's going to cause us to stretch and grow and perform at a new level. And one of my franchisees came up to me after the convention and he said, "Well, you're back, Cheryl. You scared us again."

Interviewer: And that's a good thing.

Cheryl: It's a good thing. It's an important thing to do in leadership is to make sure you're ahead of your people and your team and asking them to stretch one more time.

Interviewer: Now I want to go back to the board member story because you and the organization value humility but it's really easy to be humble in a board.

Cheryl: Yeah.

Interviewer: And check that off. But when that board member challenged you, you had an opportunity to power up, pushback or choose humility. Even though you admitted that you were annoyed but where was that thought process that you had to go through to go I'm going to choose humility and lean into this?

Cheryl: Well, one of the principles we have in addition to humility is listen carefully and learn continuously. And I think it's a great guardrail for the struggle to be humble. Humility is a challenge every hour not just once a week or something. It's a constant struggle in our minds to relinquish our selfish views. And so I think the only guardrail I had in that conversation is I respect my board. I value their input. They take the time to come here and study and understand our business. I better listen and I better believe that there something I can learn from that question. And I think that's what gave me the staying power to stay in the conversation, demonstrate respect to them, and give myself time to learn what they were really poking at and discover something from the question they asked me.

Interviewer: And through that you got kind of a renewed vision for where you want it to go.

Cheryl: Yes, I did and by the way that humbling to right? It's to have someone else show you something you didn't see and say I'm okay with that. You know that's part of leadership too, is that many times the new directions and the new visions come from someone other than the leader. And to be humble enough to say that's okay I didn't think it up but it's still a really good idea.

Cheryl Bachelder

Cheryl A. Bachelder is the former CEO Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. and author of Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. She is known for her crisp strategic thinking, franchisee-focused approach, superior ...

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