Texas Roadhouse: Building A Company Where People Want To Come To Work

Texas Roadhouse was founded by Kent Taylor. Source: Forbes

Before his recent death, Kent Taylor, the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain founder, penned his hysterical, deliciously self-deprecating, and humbling autobiography in Made from Scratch. Page after page, he tells his story and summarizes each chapter with the lessons he learned from that portion of his life. Lessons he learned from critical reflection.

As adults, our lives are filled with experiences that impact our lives one way or another. But how do we make sense of all of these experiences? How and when do we bother to learn from them? If you ask any adult educator, they will confirm that to truly learn, you must critically reflect on your experiences. That means you need to carefully examine the underlying assumptions and beliefs that affect how we make sense of our experiences.

As Dr. Victoria Marsick, Professor of Adult Learning & Leadership, Department of Organization & Leadership, Columbia University Teachers College shares:

“Reflection can be as simple as rewinding the tape after the latest play to see what went right or wrong and how to improve performance. It helps us step back—what an M.D. and academic colleague called a “purposeful pause”—to stop and think amidst rushing to the next demand or think twice about how to communicate feedback. Reflection provides a “stitch in time to save nine.” It serves to (re)gain focus, stop an amygdala hijack, open ourselves to different points of view, let the brain “see” creative solutions, or simply breathe deeply, get centered, and stay in the present.”

The late Dr. Jack Mezirow, who launched the field of transformative learning, that aha moment that causes you to take action and change your behavior, outlines three types of reflection:

Content reflection

Thinking about the actual experience itself.

Process reflection

Thinking about ways to deal with the experience and come up with problem-solving strategies

Premise reflection

Examining long-held assumptions, values, and beliefs about the problem or experience. It is this last type of reflection that can lead to transformative learning.

Reflection on action vs. Reflection in action

But not everyone can reflect on command, which is why management thinkers Chris Argyris and Donald Schon identified the theory of action. This idea differentiates between reflection on action, reflection after an event occurred, and reflection in action, tapping into real or tacit knowledge to learn from the experience in real-time.

What you can learn from reflection

Kent Taylor outlines what he learned about leadership, operations, management of people and teams, real estate, quality, perfection, training, recognition, hierarchy, giving back, brand building, high achievers, knowing your community, and so much more. But, to understand the value of those experiences, he first had to live them.

Perhaps the greatest lesson he learned was that if you treat people right, care about them, give them the freedom and authority to develop, innovate, and make changes, the possibilities are endless. Many of his leadership team have worked at Texas Roadhouse for decades. Kent Taylor created a culture that would make most organizations envious. He listened more than he talked, and he spoke to everyone from his CEO to the dishwasher, all of whom are referred to as ‘Roadies.’ Everyone could come as their authentic self to work. Taylor created a family where every person had a stake in the success of the company. 

Taylor was authentic to his core. When the company decided to go public, and Taylor met with the banks, he ditched his new suit, which he was told to purchase, and showed up in his jeans.

Giving back was always a part of the Texas Roadhouse culture. The Director of Care and Culture, Dee Shaughnessy, created a hallmark program called ‘Andy’s Outreach.’ Long before the latest Covid-19 pandemic, Roadies donated part of their paycheck to help frontline employees during a time of need, such as funerals, floods, fires, and most recently, the pandemic. All proceeds from the sale of Made from Scratch go to benefit Andy’s Outreach.

Reflection is a crucial component of your success. Take the time to pause and consider what you learned from your experiences.


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