Leaders Speak: Kat Cole On Conflict & Fear

Leaders Speak: Kat Cole On Conflict & Fear

Stout words from today’s thought leaders

Fear Not, Go Far

Kat Cole, COO and President, North America of FOCUS Brands, breaks down her Stout approach to facing conflict and the upside of choosing courage over fear.


Kat Cole, COO & President, North America at FOCUS Brands

Kat Cole’s rise from Hooters Girl to COO and President, North America of FOCUS Brands (the franchisor of Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s) in under two decades is nothing short of phenomenal. Stout asked this self-described “conscious community builder, humanitarian, coffee-loving chronic learner and new mommy” to give her insights on handling conflict and fear on the road to success.

How do you deal with conflict, in general, and what process do you go through when you initiate a topic that could be received in a negative way?

I deal with it directly and immediately – head into the fire. Conflict doesn’t get better with time or lack of oxygen…ever. I remember this phrase – sometimes the only way out is through. To initiate a sensitive topic, I make it about either the good/potential that could come of it, or what I perceive as my responsibility to address something. I say, “I would be failing …. You, the company, us, etc…. if I didn’t address this.” Or, “If I were you, I would hope someone would share this with me.”

Who/What (tools) has helped you develop your leadership skills in this area most?

The humans I interact with each day. Everyone is so different, yet similar in many ways. And every situation has its nuances, so it’s simply the frequency that I lean into situations of conflict that allow me to build a muscle and perspective. I also pay attention to leaders who work through complex situations with grace.

Pick your poison: be safe and go nowhere – or be courageous and go far.

What do you wish others knew about fear and/or conflict?

That operating from a place of fear will (maybe) minimize downsides, but it will always eliminate upsides – so pick your poison – be safe and go nowhere – or be courageous and go far…yes with a few bumps, but in service of growth.

Want more?

Check out our StoutSHOUT to Kat Cole at her being named President at FOCUS Brands and see more Stout Leaders Speak for great insights into success from global thought leaders.

Photos courtesy of Steph Grant Photography and Kat Cole.