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Hope … A Leader’s Special Sauce

By Randy Hall

Last updated: October 11, 2021

Being a leader is tough right now.  Let’s face it, it’s relatively easy to be positive and uplifting when things are going well.  Lately though, leaders have had to manage challenges in the midst of uncertainty.  However, even during these difficult times, leaders must find a way to focus on a message of hope and resilience.

That’s not to say that leaders should mislead their teams or lose touch with the realities of the current global crisis.  But one of the biggest jobs a leader has is helping her team see a way out, no matter how dark the horizon looks.

Let’s take an example from an iconic American company … McDonald’s.  In 2003, McDonald’s posted a loss of $343 million and had suffered from consistent sales declines for over two years. The stock price had tumbled from the 30’s to below 13 in about ten months. Stock analyst Jim Kramer had this to say about the company

“There can be no fixing of McDonald’s because there is no McDonald’s. The company itself can’t control its franchises. The franchises used to be the source of so much growth and so much profit, but now the franchises can’t be reined in and they can’t be fixed. McDonald’s has become a rogue operation…What can McDonald’s do to save itself? Nothing at this point, nothing.”

When the board asked former CEO Jim Cantalupo to come out of retirement, he brought back the original special sauce that had been changed in an effort to cut costs.  And with it, he also brought back hope.

Cantalupo, together with Chief Operating Officer Charlie Bell, created a plan to re-energize the company.  Larry Light, the Chief Marketing Officer, had this to say about the change in attitude and mindset that Cantalupo and Bell brought back to the organization.

“The doom-and-gloom scenario was transformed by Jim and Charlie’s enthusiasm and unquenchable belief in the McDonald’s brand.  Together, they turned the sense of brand urgency into a galvanizing brand rallying cry of “being bigger by being better.”

By late 2004, the stock had climbed back into the 30’s and the company was enjoying operating profits higher than it had seen in over a decade.  None of this would have been possible, though, had hope not been restored to the company first and maintained throughout the turnaround.  You could certainly argue that hope was the special sauce that saved McDonald’s.

Your veterinary practice is quite different from a McDonald’s restaurant.  However, you can learn lessons in how these leaders inspired their teams to push through uncertainty, remain engaged even in the midst of chaos, and commit to working together towards the success of the business.  Right now, your job as a leader is to inspire your team to believe that they can achieve anything no matter how difficult the circumstances.  

Today, when there are so many challenges facing our veterinary practices, communities, and even families, leaders need to focus even more on the messages they deliver and the way those messages are received.  If leaders lose their own sense of hope, they also lose the ability to foster it in others.  When that’s gone, so is the ability to lead.

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