[highlight_box title=”Bioghraphy” text=”Chris Harper is Chief Operating Officer at Meridian Restaurants Unlimited, L.C.
Chris Harper joined Meridian Restaurants in September 2010, moving through the ranks from District Manager, to Director of Operations, to Vice President of Operations, to his current position of Chief Operating Officer. Chris has also worked as a district manager at Starbucks and Best Buy.” img=”https://business-digest.eu:443/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Chris-Picture-1-copie-1.jpg”]
Catapulting from last place out of 25 franchisors in America in 2015 to top place in 2018 required dramatic change at Meridian Restaurants. To achieve the turnaround, Chief Operating Office Chris Harper says they focused on building a more open culture of learning from failure: “Our operational excellence was being compromised by poor engagement and retention. We decided the solution was to create a more open environment for our teams, rooted in accountability and transparency. Personally, I am passionate about creating this culture, because as a leader I want to give people the opportunity to be the best they can be. I want to root them when they are successful and also when they fail,” he says. “Investing in building this kind of culture is not the easiest or quickest route. It can be hard to make it a priority to engage in daily acts like long conversations with teams and training, because the business impacts can initially seem far removed. But our experience over the past 3 years shows the powerful ROI of such investments.”
3 key leadership behaviors encourage learning from failure
What exactly does Chris mean by “a culture of learning from failure”? At Meridian, he says it starts with a shared leadership approach to accountability: “It’s natural when problems arise to point the finger. It’s the old, top-down management approach. But when we punish teams instead of support them, they are unlikely to take initiative and learn from failure.” To do away once and for all with such a culture of fear, Harper and other key decision-makers created a formal step-by-step guideline to 3 new leadership behaviors:
• Point the finger at yourself first: “The best way to create a culture of accountability is by holding ourselves accountable first,” says Chris. “So we teach our leaders to develop a new instinct: to point the finger at ourselves first instead of others. We start by asking: what is my role? What could I have done or communicated better to prevent this? It’s uncomfortable to slow down and think about why problems are our fault, but the payoff is better leadership. When teams see us holding ourselves accountable, it’s amazing how they want to be held accountable too. They really want our feedback. They don’t want our blame.”
• Be above the line: “This is our internal language for Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset,” Chris explains. “We talk about being above and below the line. When you’re below the line, you’re full of excuses and you blame other people: your effort is going in negative directions. When you’re above the line, your effort is positively geared towards being accountable for solving the problem.”
• Have lift conversations: “We emphasize the importance of daily one-on-one conversations with teams. In these conversations, we recognize positive behaviors like taking initiative, spotlighting problems and so on. We also seek to identify and provide whatever support is needed. The overall goal of these talks is to get people excited about falling down and moving forward together.”