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How To Get Your Employees To Think Like Owners

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In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, former President and COO of Waffle House Bert Thornton serves up a generous portion of wisdom about having constructive conversations with your team and leading from the front.

Bert Thornton has a saying for just about everything, and that includes leadership at Waffle House, where he went to work flipping eggs and retired as the president and COO. “We always liked to say, ‘Lead from the front,’” said the former Georgia Tech football lineman in a recent episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast. “I always tell people, ‘Busy hands talk best!’”

Translation: If you want to be a leader at Waffle House, don’t expect to sit behind your desk with your clipboard in hand and tell people what’s going well and what isn’t. Instead, expect to go out onto the floor and talk with them while you help set up the commissary, pick up trash from the parking lot, make sure the bathrooms are spanking clean or take care of the folks sitting at the counter.

Thornton’s ‘busy hands’ approach to leading from the front skyrocketed him through the ranks of Waffle House, leaving behind a record of tremendous growth—Waffle House is now 2,000 “markets” strong—and even a popular dish named after him. That’s right, each of the 11 million bowls of Bert’s Chili served annually is named for Thornton, who came up with the recipe when Waffle House moved into Texas in the 1980s.

You will learn:

• How to turn a group into a team

• How to get your employees to think like owners

• Why talented employees hesitate to seek out mentors … and what mentors should do about it

• What Thornton’s means by “sitting next to somebody rather than across from them”

• The motivational word that appears on Waffle House employee name tags.

“The thing every great leader enjoys is buy-in from the team,” noted Thornton. “Everybody wants to be part of a winning team. A good leader shows them what they have to do to achieve that success.”

We hope you’ll buy-in to this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast and listen!

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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