Leading Through Crisis: Megan Buckley

Megan Buckley, COO, Hy’s of Canada. Photography by Jamie-lee Fuoco

As COO of Vancouver-based Hy’s of Canada, Megan Buckley’s personal leadership philosophy hinges largely on communication, which has served her, and the company, well through the current turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always been a believer in great communication, so increasing the frequency of my communication with my teams was the logical next step to take,” she says of how she adapted her strategy, noting that staying in regular touch has been key to keeping employees engaged and motivated through this turbulent time.

Under normal circumstances, regular onsite visits and personal communication with managers and staff play an important role in how Buckley engages with Hy’s restaurant teams. “I find the more I visit [our restaurants] the more they seem to appreciate and get from the visits,” she explains. “Sitting down to talk with the managers and/or the staff seems to elicit positive results.”

But, in our current situation, “scheduled phone and Zoom calls have had to suffice,” says Buckley. “I [also] increased the frequency of my staff newsletters from once a month to twice a week and tried to balance the content between helpful information and fun, lighthearted news.”

That said, Buckley ultimately credits Hy’s culture as the glue that’s held the team together while being physically apart. “We’re a fairly small executive team and we’re pretty hands on. Our philosophy is we treat our staff and our guests like family and we lead accordingly,” the COO explains. “We’re so fortunate to have built a culture of family with our employees, so their loyalty and dedication to our survival has been extraordinary.”

It’s undeniable that the pandemic has created an array of unique challenges for leaders within the industry. And, when tackling these, Buckley says the big picture is critical — which may be easier said than done. Even prior to the pandemic Buckley identified “staying focused on the big picture” as one of the biggest challenges facing leaders in foodservice, given the accelerated change and disruption within the industry.

As she explains, it’s necessary to be “confident in the overall vision or, on the other hand, having the experience and the confidence to pivot from the vision, if that makes better sense for the long term.” And, in order to do that, it’s imperative to understand the core of your brand, she adds. “In our industry, it’s increasingly important to just understand your brand — what is your brand’s DNA?”

Understanding this is especially important as the industry ponders strategies for success in the “new normal.”

“We can’t predict when or how this will end, but assuming we can survive the short term, we can attack the challenges for the long term and look at the opportunities we are presented with — opportunities for change, for adopting new technologies and practices and for growing the business in new directions.”

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