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Traits of a Servant Leader: Compassionate Collaboration

In American culture, we admire and celebrate individual contributors. We hold up CEOs, celebrities, entrepreneurs, community leaders who have accomplished great things, and we attach those great things to a person, more often than a team. Even in our sporting events, we tend to celebrate the big name player, over the team. Without realizing it, we often arrive at work with this mindset of individual contributor and we forget the power of collaboration.

None of us is perfect by ourselves.
Robert Greenleaf

At Popeyes, we have been working on building a culture of collaborative teams. Today I share with you a few observations from this experience.  For context, five years ago we decided to assign every critical strategic initiative to a cross functional team to define, solve and implement the solution. Why? We were working on 129 projects that were NOT resulting in growth of sales or profits of the company. Out of crisis, we had to work on fewer things and work in a different way.

Not all of our teams were successful, but the successful, collaborative teams had these characteristics:

  1. The team set specific measureable goals; the goals were ambitious, but not crazy.
  2. The team spent time mapping out what skill sets they needed to solve the problem and then added team members where skill gaps existed.
  3. The team established camaraderie early on. They took the time upfront to get to know one another so that the work process would go more smoothly (and be more fun).
  4. The team leader invited each person to bring their all to the team; communicating that each person is uniquely valuable to the team.
  5. The team developed a detailed work plan, assigned each deliverable to an owner, and made sure the work could be accomplished in the time allotted.
  6. The team figured out how to resolve conflicts constructively, without damaging relationships.
  7. Team members met regularly to offer ideas and assistance to keep the work on schedule.
  8. The team won as a team and the leader gave full credit to the team at every public opportunity.

So if you read the title of this blog, you may be wondering about the word compassionate collaboration. The word compassionate, according to Merriam-Webster, means to be aware of another person’s suffering and aim to alleviate it. I believe that when you lead a team, this is your job: to think ahead to what the team needs to be successful, establish those conditions, and alleviate stress points for them. In a nutshell, that is the work of a leader who compassionately collaborates.

Lead. Serve. Succeed.


The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the individuals writing them, including Cheryl Bachelder, and specifically not those of AFC Enterprises, Inc., Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, or their respective parent, affiliate, or subsidiary companies.
Seven pillars of servant leadership: practicing the wisdom of leading by serving James W.Sipe – Don M.Frick – Paulist Press – 2009
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