CNLP 182: Cheryl Bachelder on How To Turn Your Failure Into Success, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s Meteoric Turnaround Decade, and How Servant Leadership Really Works

How do you turn failure into success? How do you turn something badly stagnated into an organization with exceptional momentum?

In 2007, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was suffering badly in the quick service food industry. It had gone through four CEOs in seven years. Trust and morale were at all time lows. Sales were flat to declining, and many people thought the end was near.

By 2017, Popeyes had become one of the top performing franchises in the world with CEO, Cheryl Bachelder, leading the turnaround. Even more remarkable? She had been fired just a few years earlier as CEO of KFC.

Cheryl tells her incredible story and shares the principles that turned a has-been into one of the hottest companies in the US.

They will be (literally) writing up this story for years to come in elite business schools—the turnaround is that incredible.

In this detailed and amazingly candid interview, Cheryl shares exactly what she did to turn things around, how she motivated unmotivated team members and how she led one of the greatest turnarounds of this century.

Welcome to Episode 182 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

Cheryl on | Dare to Serve

Links Mentioned

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Rethink Leadership in Atlanta Georgia, April 25-27th 2018

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Gallup Q12 Index

3 Insights from This Episode

1. Rebuilding trust in your church requires facts and a clear strategy for positive change

Coming into a situation where you’re charged with fixing the mistakes of another leader is filled with challenges. The environment is emotional and often those emotions are what’s driving a team in its decision making process.

Passion is important, but decisions should be based on facts, not feelings. Facts set you free. They eliminate personality, personal interest and unproductive work behaviours.

Creating a simple, one-page strategy based on facts, in a format that can be universally understood is a great way to implement a plan for positive change. Keep a slow pace early on – walk before you run – until you start seeing the results you want.

2. Cheryl’s 3 keys to turnaround and maintaining success

1. Be Daring: Most organizations aren’t honest enough with themselves about the degree of change actually required. They set small change goals that don’t get them to a big transformation. You have to have the courage to call out the truth to make great changes. Walk straight to the problems and conquer them head on.

2. Serve Your Team Well: Take care of the growth and development of your staff. Talent development and coaching is one of the most underdeveloped capabilities of any organization. Job descriptions, expectations, performance reviews, feedback sessions – are crucial to the sustainability of any organization.  If you want people to get excited about your bold business plan, you need to be excited about who they are and let them know what you’re going to do to advance them and their potential. It takes humility and recognizing that others are more important than your self interests.

3. Performing at Your Best: Great things happen to people in a positive and thriving environment. People cannot be served well when an organization is failing to perform at it’s best. It’s biblical that running the race God’s laid out for you should be done by honouring Him with your very best work.

3. Staffing and Process should be top priorities when experiencing rapid growth

Leading in a season of rapid growth can be chaotic. Leaders need to stay out front, in clear view and be an example of confidence and control for their teams. Cheryl discusses what not to do when it comes to handling fast paced change.

1. Don’t wait too long to increase staff and resources to support growth – Stretching a team too thin won’t accomplish as much as having the right team in place upfront. 

2. Don’t forget the importance of process – Creating a sound process around your big idea is actually more important than the big idea itself.

Quotes from This Episode

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Next Episode: Todd Wilson  

At age 20, Todd Wilson (now President of Exponential), joined the Nuclear Navy. What he learned there were some of the top leadership lessons anyone could glean. Todd shares his top five learnings with us, and shares how his experience in the nuclear navy shaped his thinking about leadership development and multiplication with Exponential and beyond.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 183.


  1. Thursday Tidbits - on March 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

    […] amazing individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in person is Popeye’s CEO, Cheryl Bachelder. Her story and relentless spirit to remain faithful despite an atmosphere of discontent and doubt […]

  2. Roger Carr on March 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    This podcast episode was great! My small group is in the middle (tonight will be week 5 of 8) of the Dare to Serve study. Three weeks into the study members were already reporting significant change by working through the exercises and applying the principles Cheryl Bachelder laid out. Thanks!

  3. John Vonhof on March 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    This was a podcast episode that I’ll listen to many times. Cheryl’s thoughts and ideas on leadership are refreshing and straightforward. You asked her the right questions and I could sense the ease in the conversation. I especially liked how she connected her ideas into the life of the church. Thanks.

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