089: Kat Cole, President & COO of FOCUS Brands, on Growing Cinnabon and Leading in Crisis

Today we are joined by Kat Cole, President & COO of FOCUS Brands. FOCUS is a $5B+ organization, and home to the likes of Cinnabon, Jamba Juice and Moe’s Southwest Grill. Kat joined the FOCUS team in 2010 as President of Cinnabon and successfully drove the multi-channel brand to record sales and growth. Previously, Kat was the Vice President of Hooters, the $800MM restaurant franchise, having joined Hooters as a server at age 19.

In today’s conversation we explore Kat’s compelling and unconventional journey through life and business.

Kat reflects how, “The word ‘leader’ doesn’t mean you’re always leading and you’re never listening and you’re never following… Later in life my ability to actually listen to my teams really showed up, helping me lead by being a receiver; taking in multiple people’s perspectives and then making it a more well-rounded decision that reflected the intelligence or the needs of the group.”

On leading in times of crisis, Kat was adamant, “At times of crisis, the reason it’s a crisis is that it’s unexpected, unknown, uncertain, un-everything and clarity is what allows people to pause and say ‘It’s ok. I’m gonna take a breath. I can do this.’ Otherwise you’re trying to take in thirty things and it just needs to get boiled down to one foot in front of the other… that’s why clarity is so important.”

“For years I’ve practiced the Hotshot Rule: I think about someone I admire and what they might do in my role. I realize always very quick what an immediate action is, I take the immediate action, and then I tell my team. And every time I tell my team they literally say ‘What took you so long?’ because the people closest to the action know what the right thing to do is.”

For more on Kat’s story, leadership, and action-centered processes, listen in!

* Photo Credit: Patrick Heagney

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