DEI Distinction: Candace Barnes’s Success in Leadership at Papa Johns

The 05 Most Influential Leaders In D&I To Follow, 2024

Candace BarnesPapa Johns

Drawing on her extensive background in Supply Chain, Project Management, and Diversity & Inclusion & Talent, Candace Barnes brings a wealth of unique experience to her position as Vice President, Global Head of Diversity, Talent & Culture at Papa Johns.  In her current role, Candace catalyzes change and is a demonstrated leader in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), learning and development, succession, leadership, executive and high potential development, performance management, engagement and culture.

Devoted to building upon the existing foundation, she steers Papa Johns towards transforming into a values-driven, diverse, and inclusive employer. She proactively leads the implementation of meaningful programs and projects via collaboration with her team, the Board of Directors, Executive Leadership, cross-functional teams, and Inclusion Resource Groups (IRGs). These initiatives align with the company’s emphasis on developing a leadership culture based on inclusiveness, diversity, and success. Together, they foster an ecosystem of connectedness and belonging. Such ethos ultimately serves the best interests of employees, customers, shareholders, and franchisees.

When queried how she would like to describe herself in a single resonant word, Candace encapsulates her essence: AUTHENTIC.  This carefully chosen term reflects her profound journey of self-discovery throughout her career. As the years unfolded, Candace found empowerment in embracing her authentic self, a practice that has become the cornerstone of her daily existence. This authenticity empowers her to present her best self each day confidently.

This doyen believes in keep things simple. In her own words, Candace’s definition of success reads: “I’m blessed to wake up each day in a career I enjoy, being valued by, and adding value to an organization while being in a position to be a voice for those who may feel voiceless.” According to her, if she can achieve this while being loved and supported by her husband, children and extended family, then there is nothing more she can ask for.

In this cover story, we’ll explore Candace Barnes’s lasting impact on the DEI industry. Her profound insights, shaped by years of experience, are a treasure trove for women seeking to lead and carve their own channels to success. Join us to discover the extensive expertise and visionary viewpoint of a trailblazer who has revolutionized the DEI environment, constantly bringing about change and innovation.

The Motivation Behind to Take the Plunge in D&I Leadership

When Candace decided to shift her career towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), it came after a thorough reflection on various aspects of her professional journey. Firstly, she recognized a consistent pattern of “volunteering” her time at work in areas related to DEI initiatives. Subsequently, she and others acknowledged her heightened engagement in these volunteer activities compared to her current path in the supply chain.

Recalling that period, she articulates, “Since I was enjoying and performing in my current role,it gave me time and space to explore opportunities to pivot within my current company into my passion area.  I saw a need within DEI recruiting that the company had that wasn’t being filled and felt I was ideal to be able to lead that effort.” By leveraging her internal relationships, Candace successfully transitioned into this new and fulfilling role.

Valuable Lessons in Professional Growth through Navigating Roadblocks

Candace’s professional journey has been molded by valuable lessons grasped from encountering significant roadblocks, with two particularly notable instances. The first obstruction arose early in her career when she faced a setback with a manager who, in hindsight, seemed intimidated by emerging talented women. This experience compelled Candace to recognize the importance of advocating for herself, a skill she had not exercised as promptly as needed in that role. Reflecting on that incident, she notes: “My biggest learning was advocating for myself and that no one could do that better than me.”

This early challenge impacted her approach to the second hurdle she experienced when she entered DEI. Candace discovered that intentional self-advocacy was essential in her profession because she lacked a clear career path. As she progressed through numerous DEI responsibilities, each of which led to progressive leadership responsibilities, she was forced to proactively develop or establish these roles, stressing the importance of constant excellence to substantiate her self-advocacy efforts. Due to these deterrents, Candace learnt the value of asserting herself and championing her professional trajectory.

Overview of Papa Johns 

In 1984, Papa Johns first opened its doors with a singular objective: to provide “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” The company’s Vice President, Global Head of Diversity, Talent & Culture emphasizes that from the beginning, they were committed to crafting high-quality pizzas using superior ingredients. This commitment to excellence, encapsulated in the promise of “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza,” remains unwavering to this day.

The company’s mission is straightforward: they have a genuine passion for pizza, considering it a unifying force that brings people together. With the conviction that the world deserves superior pizza, Papa Johns is dedicated to delivering just that. Their core philosophy revolves around consistently doing things the right way, without shortcuts. This commitment extends to the quality of their ingredients, the way they treat their employees, and their ongoing efforts to minimize their environmental impact.

This dedication is evident in their primary strategic priority, which is to foster a culture of leadership that values diversity, inclusivity and winning. Papa Johns’ corporate values, including “People First; Everyone Belongs, Innovate to Win, Do the Right Thing, and Have Fun,” underscore their commitment to upholding high standards in every aspect of their business.

Redefining the Industry Through Innovative D&I Practices at Papa Johns

Candace, is making significant strides in redefining the landscape of Papa Johns with her fresh perspective and innovative approach to DEI. Embracing the organization’s commitment to “Innovate to Win,” Candace, hailing from the industrial automation and manufacturing sector, is seamlessly integrating best practices from her diverse background into the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry.

At Papa Johns, where DEI is deeply embedded in the organizational culture and values, Candace is on a mission to employ her experience to reimagine and enhance the company’s growth graph. Her enthusiasm for instilling a continuous improvement mindset aligns seamlessly with the company’s DNA, creating a winning culture that sets the brand apart within the industry.

As a leader at Papa Johns, Candace shares that the whole team has been instrumental in fostering a culture of integrity within the company. Recognizing that accountability is key, she has strategically implemented measures to embed integrity into the organizational fabric. It is evident through the company’s annual training, where employees are equipped with the knowledge and values necessary to uphold a solid ethical foundation. The corporate value “Do the Right Thing” serves as a guiding principle, influencing decision-making at all levels of the organization. The management’s approach to addressing misconduct reflects their pledge to maintaining a culture of integrity. Candace emphasizes that while it’s essential to reduce instances of misconduct proactively, how such issues are handled when they arise is equally crucial.  In her words: “People are people, so in the end, how you handle misconduct when it happens is just as important as decreasing the amount of misconduct overall.”

Life Before Papa Johns

Before joining Papa Johns, Candace began her robust career in the supply chain domain, dedicating over 16 years to Rockwell Automation in the Industrial Automation and Manufacturing industry. What sets her trajectory apart is the unconventional yet invaluable choice to commence her career outside of the Human Resources (HR) sector. This unconventional professional beginning equipped her with unique experiences and perspectives that proved instrumental in her later people-led roles. She emphasizes the importance of a process and change management mindset within HR. A perspective often underrated in the field. A pivotal moment in her journey at Rockwell Automation was her successful transition into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work. Recognizing the ease of navigating such a shift within a familiar organizational context, she leveraged her established relationships and reputation within the company. Moreover, her time at Rockwell Automation provided her with opportunities to work alongside and be guided by exceptional leaders, contributing significantly to developing her own leadership style.

Best Recognition Received As a Leader

Candace has earned countless accolades and honors in her illustrious career for her unparalleled contributions to her field. She is also among “The 05 Most Influential Leaders In D&I To Follow, 2024.” As John C. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” Candace embodies this proverb by leading and inspiring others to reach greater heights. Like a skilled gardener cultivating a flourishing garden, she takes pride in fostering the growth of those around her. When we ask what she considers the best recognition she received as a leader, she replies: “Developing others and being seen as a role model.”

This business maven has nurtured and inspired people who collaborate with her and report to her throughout her career. Witnessing their growth, success, and personal development is the ultimate form of recognition and fulfillment for her. She adds: “In any advancement I achieve, if I am the only one or few who look like me there, my goal is to figure out how to ensure space is created for more.”

Challenges and Aspirations

Undertaking her journey in a relatively new industry, Candace has discovered a welcoming environment despite the inherent challenges. Recognizing that worthwhile endeavors need effort, she acknowledges the industry’s demands. However, her positive experience is attributed to the supportive leadership team at Papa Johns and collaborative peers and industry partners eager to engage in the transformative work ahead.

Harmonizing Life and Work: The Art of Integration

Navigating the delicate balance between personal and professional life, Candace shares her perspective on achieving harmony. Rather than striving for a strict work-life balance, she embraces the concept of work-life integration. In today’s dynamic reality, the boundaries between work and life are often blurred, and Candace believes that this integration allows individuals to be more authentic and whole in both spheres.

For her, work-life integration involves identifying and prioritizing aspects that hold significance in her personal life and seamlessly incorporating them into her professional world. The key lies in making conscious decisions and staying true to what matters most. She recognizes that maintaining the integrity of her personal life is crucial for sustaining focus and dedication in her professional endeavors.

As she eloquently puts it, “At the end of the day, my personal life being whole and intact is what keeps me able to focus on my work life.” Candace adopts an open and transparent approach with those around her, communicating important elements in her personal life. Together, they collaboratively find innovative ways to make this integration a reality.

Regarding motivation, Candace’s philosophy is rooted in the interconnectedness of personal fulfillment and professional success. By fostering a holistic approach to life, she not only keeps herself motivated but also inspires her team to deliver their best services. As the proverb goes, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful,” and Candace’s commitment to work-life integration embodies the essence of this wisdom, creating a positive ripple in both her personal and professional realms.

Candace’s Compass: Guiding Aspiring DEI Leaders

In the dynamic domain of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Candace’s message to aspiring leaders serves as a poignant roadmap for success. Her words echo a call to action, urging individuals to “Lean in – Find the hard thing and figure out a way to improve it.” Emphasizing the significance of servant leadership, Candace underscores the importance of not just managing but actively contributing to the betterment of those around us. “Be a voice for the voiceless,” she encourages, advocating for amplifying marginalized perspectives. Candace appropriately reminds everyone to prioritize self-care amid the unrelenting quest for societal equity, recognizing that sustained change commences with a resilient and well-supported leader. She gives especially compelling advice on bringing one’s uniqueness to the table, exhibiting the paradigm-shifting potential of diverse perspectives.

Candace’s wisdom, in essence, is a global guidance for anybody striving to have a meaningful effect on the world, in addition to DEI leaders.