When I was traveling in Japan with my wife and my two-year-old daughter, two things became really clear.

First, Japan is a wonderful, unbelievably clean city with amazing experiences that aren't available anywhere else.

The second is, my daughter loves McDonald's and Toys R' Us more than anything else in Japan. Even though we were thousands of miles from home, she found comfort in these two places. They were a home away from home.

Unfortunately, for several obvious reasons, my daughter won't be stepping into a Toys R' Us anytime soon.

McDonald's, on the other hand, has been able to adapt to the changes of innovation and create a clear path to success.

That got me thinking about how entrepreneurs growing their companies aren't really that different than how some of the best brands grow their companies in today's age of digital innovation.

Companies can't just react to what's happening to the world around them. The best brands embrace failure and react quickly to them. They, in a sense, have to act like an entrepreneur would.

So I reached out to Farhan Siddiqi, Chief Digital Officer at McDonald's, to see if he could share some leadership tips for entrepreneurs who are looking to make a bigger impact on the world around them.

Here is what I learned from Siddiqi.

1. You have to be ready to be wrong.

Admitting you're wrong is probably one of the hardest things to do.

"As a leader, you have to set the cultural expectations that in order to get a few things right, you're going to have to get a few things wrong first. The best teams are prepared to be wrong, and are able to quickly create a new iteration of their product or service until it's right," says Siddiqi.

Siddiqi recommends focusing on a few things and getting proof that your customers want what you're offering, and then you can start orchestrating the execution on a bigger scale. Use this proof to show to your team members that what you built is already making an impact, and it makes sense to expand on it.

Siddiqi notes, "Using the mentality of prototyping and testing, we were able to implement mobile ordering to a number of stores in a very short time-frame. once we knew we had done it right, we could begin to replicate it globally."

I use the same prototyping mentality for writing a lot of my content. I'll write a few short-form posts and see what the reaction is. If the engagement is great for the post, then I'll expand it into something bigger.

2. Focus on customers first, "disruption" second.

Disruption is one of those words that, as entrepreneurs, we've been indoctrinated with, as if it's something we must do. We must be the Uber of X or AirBnB of Y.

Yes, these companies are disruptive, but both of them focused on the needs of their customers first.

"It's important to have two speeds when it comes to driving innovation," says Siddiqi. At McDonald's, we are willing to disrupt ourselves so that we are well positioned as a leader in the medium to long-term. However, in parallel focus given the ever-changing expectations of our customers, we aim to create new value propositions for our customers and our business while not getting distracted by every new shiny tech."

I apply the same lessons to my writing as well. If I don't write what my readers like, it doesn't matter how it was delivered or if it can be read on any device. What matters is that I please my readers first and foremost, while looking at my long-term strategy of building a loyal audience.

3. Empathy is the quickest path to success.

Farhan considers, "When I first joined McDonald's headquarters, I had the pleasure of working in a McDonald's restaurant alongside my colleagues to experience their day-to-day activities. I knew that in order to make a real impact, I couldn't lead from an ivory tower. That experience empowers me to make better decisions every day. Empathy wins every time."

Empathy is harder said than done, but when it's done properly, it's magical. I remember when I was a consultant at a global consulting firm and I was so afraid to talk to the partners in the firm out of fear of saying something wrong. But, the partners at this firm all started as an analyst and were empathetic to my needs which made me more motivated to succeed.

Thank you, Farhan for the interview. Here is a final quote from him that I thought was an appropriate ending.

"I can't stress how much of an exciting time this age of digital is. There are so many opportunities, and in many respects, we just got started."

Published on: Jun 16, 2018
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