Beverly Carmichael is responsible for leading more than 72,000 employees every time her shadow darkens the door of her office located on the lush 98-acre campus headquarters of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. in Lebanon, Tenn. As Chief People Officer and Senior Vice President of the organization since 2014, her story is comprised of 20 successful years serving as a leader in human resources and employee relations for various industries.
During our hour-long discussion, it became transparently clear that, while Carmichael’s credentials may be extensive and scholastically impressive, she has mastered the art of something quite simple, yet oftentimes elusive and unpredictable: Effectively connecting with people.
As she spoke with fondness for her experiences, she organically brought forth tokens of wisdom from the vault of her career. I identified three fundamental principles – each crafted from the well of her most compelling trials and victories – and now thread through the fabric of her every undertaking.
#1 Be Authentic.
If she is preaching the importance of it, she is well-acquainted with the value of it. In fact, she is already adhering to it.
“The most essential trait in leadership is being authentic,” said Carmichael. “You must lead by example if you wish to be effective. Giving instruction for things you would never actually do is fooling no one but yourself.”
#2 You Are Never Too Busy to Make Time For People.
Carmichael has spent the vast majority of her life rooted in an intimate understanding of this concept. When she was seven years old, her mother died of a sudden illness – leaving behind a grieving husband and three small children. In the aftermath of such tragedy, she became schooled on the importance of people “showing up” for other people. “Our family was only able to get through it because of the outpouring of support we were shown.”
Having tucked such experience securely inside, Carmichael now draws upon it each time a member of her team is in need of her. “We absolutely must make time for others. By either doing so or not doing so, we communicate their value.”
#3 Empower People by Expanding Their View of Themselves.
Prior to joining Cracker Barrel, she spent ten years employed by Southwest Airlines – the first six serving as a member of their legal team. It was not until a colleague mentioned the possibility of Carmichael transitioning to the human resources department that she began feeding and watering such idea. A seed was planted during that conversation and, when the ideal opportunity presented itself, she boldly stepped into a new role – a role she flourished in.
She is now paying it forward – committed to expanding the vision of every individual who looks to her for guidance.
“I never would have considered a role in human resources had the idea not been presented to me. This is why I am passionate about helping others consider opportunities they would never consider on their own – by showing them strengths they are unable to identify in themselves. In doing so, everybody wins.”