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September 18th, 2013, we lost one of the most beloved and respected leaders in our industry.  Fritzi Pikes Woods died unexpectedly at the age of 53, leaving behind a remarkable family, legions of friends, and multiple churches and communities that she served so faithfully throughout her life.  Her impact on the foodservice industry, primarily through her leadership as CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, was extraordinary.  In a remarkably short few years, she inspired and motivated literally thousands of men and women, transforming the organization into a premier leadership development engine.   She called on all of us to “Aspire Higher”, and to own our uniqueness and our potential.

Mike Rawlings, former CEO of Pizza Hut, and current mayor of Dallas, talked about Fritzi’s contributions to the city and her uncanny knack for knowing where the path should lead.  He recounted that there were many times when she would gently remind him, “We can do better”.  Maybe it was that relentless belief that we can all do more, be more, give more, and love more that made her such a magnetic leader.  She made everyone feel more capable and appreciated.

In August at the Executive Summit, I shared a study group with Fritzi.  Cheryl Bachelder was our speaker, the topic was servant leadership, and the exercise was remembering the best advice you ever received from a boss.  Fritzi told me the story of an interview she had early in her career, for a position that she felt well qualified to fill.  Ten minutes into the interview, the man conducting it cut it short, and sent her on her way.  He admonished her to go home, and to get really clear – about why she wanted the job, what she believed she could contribute, and what she would need from him to succeed.  She went home, got clear, went back, got the job, and her storied career is history.

I vowed that day, to myself and to her, that I would do the hard work of getting really clear about some very important things.  Now I believe that the only way for me personally to honor her legacy and her work is to constantly seek clarity, in my life and in my own work.  Yesterday morning I sat in a room full of industry leaders who are working on the gargantuan but achievable task of ending childhood hunger in the US.  Fritzi supported that mission; she was a tireless advocate for those who have less, and of course believed that we can do better.  It occurred to me that it is becoming really clear that our industry should own ending childhood hunger.

Clarity is a gift to us and to others.  It creates a filter that starts to make setting direction, establishing priorities and making decisions easier.  Of course if we are not clear, we may someday realize that our time is up, and that we have not really fulfilled our unique potential.  It’s not easy.  But I am really clear, that I can do better.  Thank you Fritzi.  It will be a long time before the pain subsides, but in the interim you will be remembered as someone who inspired the best in all of us.

All of us at People Report and Black Box Intelligence send our prayers and condolences to the remarkable Gouldsby, Pikes and Woods families.

If you would like to contribute to a scholarship in Fritzi’s honor, please click here.