Leadership insights from Cheryl Bachelder
On March 2 I got to meet Cheryl Bachelder, the outgoing CEO of Popeyes restaurants and author of the 2015 book “Dare to Serve.”
She had made a presentation on leadership that was both practical and inspirational at the Summit luncheon at Cross Church in Rogers, and was signing copies of her book afterwards.
Because I wanted to learn more from her, I bought a copy.
Bachelder was taking time not only to sign each book but to get to know each person that approached her.
When I stepped up I introduced myself and she said, “And what do you do?”
“I’m temporarily retired,” I said.
“Me too!” she replied, and held up her hand to give me a high five.
I laughed and casually smacked her upheld palm.
“What did you retire from?” she asked.
“I was a school administrator,” I replied, “but I’m still wanting to work in education or in a related field. It’s kind of an interesting journey to see where I’ll end up.”
She said, “Oh it will happen, probably when you least expect it.”
I thanked her for the insights she had shared as she started writing in my book. When she finished, I said, “Thank you for coming our way today.”
It was just a short exchange of words, but it was long enough for me to see that Bachelder has a winsome personality.
She also demonstrated an ability and a willingness to connect with people — a characteristic of good leadership.
During her presentation she told of how her convictions in life had solidified; she also told of what they had done at Popeyes to make it more successful.
Bachelder mentioned two ways in which her convictions formed: from her parents’ influence and from life’s hardships.
“Most of my convictions about leadership have come from my upbringing,” she said, and then described her parents. “Our dinner tables were a classroom about values and core beliefs.”
She also told of two very difficult times in her life and how they helped her to focus on those things that truly matter. In her 40s she had to fight breast cancer. In 2003, when she was the president of KFC, she was fired. She said it was a situation that was public and humiliating.
In both instances, she said she struggled because things were out of her control. The difficulties, in her words, “brought me to the end of myself.”
Bachelder explained that convictions come from “the messy parts of our lives,” and that hardships are very humbling. They also remind us of what is really important.
She talked of her faith and the convictions that
she has developed.
The leadership team at Popeyes developed a servant-type of leadership, and Bachelder elaborated on that in her presentation and in her book, explaining that the humble and unselfish approach is the best way to go as a leader. An unselfish approach on the part of the leader will create job satisfaction and meaningful results for others.
In addition, Bachelder explained in her book that
at work it is the leader’s responsibility to provide purpose and meaning in all that is done.
“Purpose and meaning,” she wrote, “are essential to creating a high-performance organization. When people believe their work matters, they contribute differently. They arrive early and stay late. They find creative solutions to problems. They build their skills so they can add more value. They work collaboratively to ensure the success of the team. They stay on the job longer. Purpose and meaning at work raise the energy level, commitment,
and performance of the team.”
To put it another way, people need to be appreciated at work and should be encouraged to use their expertise to make meaningful contributions.
As I got into my vehicle to leave the Summit on March 2, I wondered what Bachelder had specifically written in my book, so I opened it: “Dear David, May you be encouraged in your journey to find your next adventure! Cheryl Bachelder.” How fitting. In conversing with me for just a few seconds she knew enough to write
something that was completely applicable. She probably connects with people every day in the same way. May her influence continue.
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