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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Karen Brandenburg Viera

Senior Vice President, Global Chief People Officer

Church’s Texas Chicken

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Founded: 1952

Industry: Quick Service Restaurant

For Chief People Officer Karen Brandenberg Viera, leading during transformational change requires a unique combination of resilience and grace. She experienced this firsthand when the company where she works, Church’s Texas Chicken, navigated a change in ownership and executive leadership.

By providing guidance and partnership to new ownership and ongoing and transparent communications to every employee, Brandenburg Viera maintained a consistent sense of direction for the organization during a crucial time of transition. “Managers, executives, and employees everywhere are struggling with fatigue, stress and burnout,” says Brandenburg Viera. “Regular communication made our employees feel a sense of belonging and understand where the business is going and what changes to expect.” Under this kind of resilient leadership, challenges look like a culture of continuous improvement and are viewed as less threatening. The smooth transition was critically important to the knowledge transfer and continued operations of Church’s during the year.

Since 1952, Church’s Texas Chicken has served Texas-inspired comfort foods in more than 1,700 locations in 26 countries. In a time of unstable market conditions and disruption caused by the Great Resignation, Brandenburg Viera is shining a spotlight on the stories of tenured employees. The “Church’s a Career” campaign has, so far, recognized 66 employees with 15 to 24 years of service and 33 employees with 25 to 44 years of service.

Leading in an era of unprecedented change and ongoing disruption to home and work lives requires leaders to continually connect with employees at all levels across an organization. This extends to the period of new normal (or not so normal, in some cases) and the impact of the ever-evolving business landscape. As Brandenburg Viera explains, “Even when a leader is unsure of the impact, it is critical that they reflect that confidence in the organization to the employees. All eyes are on this role during times of change.”

Leading with empathy, therefore, is critical, especially when it comes to the health and well-being of employees.

Brandenburg Viera extends this empathy into the community through volunteerism. Beyond her own service to the Workforce Board of Georgia, the Adult and Dislocated Workers Committee, and Human Resource Leadership Forum for Atlanta, Brandenburg Viera encourages Church’s employees to seek out organizations they are called to serve. “Allowing and supporting employees to work on new assignments can be wonderful learning opportunities,” she says, “as well as support the collaboration of groups within an organization and drive synergies naturally.”

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