Tag archive for "Chick-fil-A"

by Richard, Exemplars, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived

No Comments 08 September 2014

truett-cathy A mighty tree fell in the forest of business leadership today, with the death of 93-year-old Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. Truett was a pioneer, an innovator, and a true gentleman of character and courage. He improved the lives of millions, way beyond “sellin’ chicken”, and leaves a legacy that makes him a real standout in the annals of American business.

I’ll quickly dispense with the elephant in the blogpost and acknowledge that not everyone likes Chick-fil-A, whether it be their food or their values. But I’ll allow to speak for itself the fact that their supporters overwhelmingly eclipse their detractors. Just drive by any Chick-fil-A restaurant any day of the week (except, of course, Sunday, on which they’re closed), and you’ll see what I mean.

It was my privilege to meet Truett on a couple of occasions, while we were conducting leadership training for Chick-fil-A, and he was gracious enough to let me interview him in 1997, while Bill and I were writing our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk.

 

Here are 3 things I know about Truett Cathy:

 

1 – He was authentic. Truett’s faith was his life, and he uttered no apologies for it. He went from millionaire to billionaire years ago, but continued to teach a boys’ Sunday School class at his church until his health failed. You could count on his word. Many, many people did, and have built very successful businesses and fulfilling careers.

2 – He was a giver. In addition to his personal philanthropy, Truett’s company has given more than $68 million to more than 700 educational and charitable organizations in the last three years alone. Since its inception, the company’s Team Member Scholarship Program has provided more than $30 million to help more than 30,000 employees attend more than 500 different colleges and universities. Through its WinShape Foundation, it has invested millions in programs directed toward helping young people. And the company regularly donates food to people who are hungry, and provides organized relief for victims of natural disasters.

3 – He was a forgiver. Here’s a story we relate in our 2007 book, Contented Cows MOOVE Faster: It was told to me by Truett’s son, Dan, Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operating Officer, when Dan invited me to travel across the country with him on a whirlwind grand opening tour to the Midwest and California.

Dan and his father were walking around the original Dwarf House restaurant (the forerunner of Chick-fil-A) one evening, inspecting the premises. It seems that a gaze upward revealed a fresh collection of empty beer cans on the roof of the Dwarf House. As alcohol never has been on the menu of the Dwarf House, or Chick-fil-A, it was determined that, unfortunately, the spent vessels most likely came from an employee engaging in off-label activities on the job. As much as Truett didn’t like to think of any of his beloved employees drinking at work, he suspected a middle-aged fellow named James.

When Truett confronted him, he gently extracted a genuine confession. What happened next owes to James’s greatly improved judgment in having told the truth about the incident and to Truett’s exceptional maturity. Name any employer. Drinking beer on the clock and then littering the premises with the evidence would pretty much be grounds for dismissal without intervention from even the most liberal of unfair labor treatment folks.

Instead, Truett forgave James. James didn’t get a lecture about how wrong it was to drink on the job. Truett figured James was an adult and therefore knew what he did was wrong. He didn’t get fired. He didn’t get written up. He barely got a reprimand. He got forgiven. Which is not to say his deed got overlooked. By forgiving rather than firing James, Truett took the bond of trust between the two men to a completely new level, something that was not lost on James over the balance of his long career with the company.

Many prayers, including ours, are being said today for the Cathy family, and in thanks for a life well-lived. Godspeed, Truett.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Richard, Character, Leadership

Chikin, Spice, and Authenticity

No Comments 17 December 2012

Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based quick service restaurant chain, became the unwitting object of a firestorm following President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy’s direct answer to an interviewer’s question about his views on marriage. The interview was in the context of the ongoing national debate on same-sex marriage, spurred perhaps by contributions reportedly made by the Cathy family foundation, Winshape (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinShape_Foundation) to some not especially LGBT-friendly entities.

The refreshing part of Mr. Cathy’s answer, regardless of content, or anyone’s position on the matter, is that it was direct, and without obfuscation. And, in view of Mr. Cathy’s straight-laced image, it was about as surprising as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pick for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, outrage ensued with some fresh meat, ‘er chikin (as the company’s bovine advertising mascots spell the word) thrown into the fire. While many accepted Cathy’s right to express views different from their own, others were not as tolerant. The mayors of Boston and Chicago even threatened to block the company’s development in their respective cities (apparently they had all the jobs they needed), until the ACLU, hardly a bastion of conservatism, reminded Their Honors that they really couldn’t do that. It seems that issuing government sanctions in response to protected speech kind of tramples on that First Amendment thing, and so they dialed back the rhetoric.

Since neither Mr. Cathy’s views on marriage, nor ours, are especially relevant to our work, or the reason you subscribe to this newsletter, we’ll spare you the discussion. But we’d like to highlight a few lessons that we can all walk away with.

1. Authenticity Means Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Leaders who aren’t comfortable in their own skin tend to become petty tyrants. Frankly, we see too many leaders fall short of their peak because they spend precious time every day twisting in the wind, seeking polished, popular positions on the subject du jour – positions that don’t necessarily jibe with their inner beliefs, if they even have inner beliefs. The end result is messy, because none of us is a good enough actor to pull it off for very long. If nothing else, our people have become good consumers of content, and they recognize bad acting when they see it. For further reinforcement on this topic, just rewind some of the video from the recently completed U.S. election.

2. Say it Loud, Say it Clear

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a crystal clear sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks. They know that not everyone is going to like their products and services, or the way they do business. And they certainly understand that not everyone’s going to be happy, productive, or successful working there. Accordingly, they take considerable pains to recruit and retain people who are able to work comfortably within their value system.

This is not, repeat, not, a wink and a nod to employment discrimination. The leaders in these organizations know that discrimination on the basis of irrelevant factors is bad form, bad for business, and generally indefensible in legal terms, so they don’t do it.

If your company is a tough place to work, say so, and be very explicit in explaining why and how. The same advice applies to you as a leader. That said, if you can’t consistently find, retain, and engage enough truly great people to work for you, you might want to make some changes.

What Chick-fil-A does seems to work, and work well. The company is growing like a weed and has always enjoyed a stellar workplace reputation, and, not coincidentally, is perennially rated among the very best in customer service for Quick Service Restaurant chains. (Witness recent articles in Fast Company and The Los Angeles Times.) Their annual employee turnover rate has consistently been a fraction of the industry’s triple-digit figure. There’s no indication that this year’s controversy has made the slightest dent in that outstanding record.

As we point out in Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk (and in all of our books), a company’s decisions about how it treats its customers, and its employees matters, and matters a lot. Not so much for social or moral reasons, but because it drives business outcomes. The market is a wonderful thing. Our latest group of “Contented Cow” companies have 70 billion reasons (as in dollars) each year to remain committed to their people-oriented employment cultures.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Character, Leadership

A Little Less Hollywood and a Little More Mayberry

No Comments 10 July 2012

We note with sadness the passing this week of Andy Griffith, who though he earned his living in Hollywood, never seemed to forget where he was from.

A visit to a Hollywood film lot (we highly recommend the Warner Brothers tour) comes with the admonition from tour guides, with evidence aplenty, that nothing there is at it seems. In many respects, that has become the norm throughout much of society, such that in so many respects, form, image, illusion, branding, the avatar, the lipstick on the pig takes precedence over reality.

Earlier this week I engaged in a brief (140 character) online joust with a recruiter buddy who was bemoaning what he considered undue focus on authenticity, and not enough on hard accomplishments. I replied to the effect that, whereas I, too have a healthy respect for results, I’d also like to see fewer people (and organizations) trying to appear authentic, and more actually being that way.

It called to mind a very fine presentation by Chick-fil-A’s Andy Lorenzen (Director, Talent Strategy & Systems) at the recent SHRM global conference in Atlanta. Mr. Lorenzen was refreshingly candid in the Q&A portion of his presentation, especially when responding to three different audience members who, each in their own way, asked if the devout Christian beliefs of the company’s founder and owners didn’t in some way (legal, ethical, or operational) cause workplace problems.

Each time, he patiently but persistently noted that Chick-fil-A is a privately held company whose owners do hold certain beliefs dear, and have a prescribed set of values for their business, but that they do not foist their religious beliefs on others. That said, he added, with equal emphasis, that people who are uncomfortable working in an environment where those beliefs shape the operating culture and norms would likely find that Chick-fil-A is not for them. Then, with a smile on his face but dead certainty in his voice, he added that one thing they do foist on people is that if you work for Chick-fil-A, you better be down with “sellin chicken” or chikin, as their billboards playfully put it.

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a very strong sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks.

With help from John Wiley & Sons Publishing, we released last week the latest in our Contented Cows series of leadership books. Written largely at the request of those who wanted an update of our 1st work, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk offers fresh examples, a new and even more compelling business case, and some largely unheralded exemplars that we can all take lessons from. Indeed, one of those lessons is that our authenticity, at both personal and organizational levels represents the greatest key to bridging the trust gap which is perhaps the biggest problem that every business leader faces today.

We hope that you will purchase a copy from your favorite bookseller (it’s available in all popular formats), read it, and then be among the first to review it online at BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.com.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Management

Mad Cows in the Workplace

No Comments 28 April 2009

Over the past dozen years we’ve worked diligently to build a brand centered on the premise that treating people (workers) right yields better business outcomes. The evidence is irrefutable. Whether in good times or bad, companies like Marriott International, Wegman’s Foods, Chick-fil-A, Pebble Beach Company, and a host of others skillfully (and profitably) use their relationship with employees as a competitive weapon.

One thing we’ve not focused on much, and perhaps its time we did, in view of the havoc being created by a still tough economy, is the fact that treating workers well also helps preclude the organizational equivalent of Mad Cow Disease. In other words, it helps keep bad things from happening.

Let’s face it, when people get bored, frustrated, or feel they’ve been mistreated or taken for granted, they frequently strike back. Whether it’s appropriate or not, the target of their ire is often the workplace, specifically the institution and its management. Witness the recent YouTube incident involving two Dominos Pizza employees making “special” orders, or incidents of malicious damage done by fired IT workers at the Wand Corporation and Fanny Mae, as reported at INC.com. These types of incidents do more than just damage brands. They cost real money, and in some cases, threaten the very existence of the enterprise.

Though having an engaged workforce doesn’t innoculate an organization against Mad Cow employees, it certainly helps. For one thing, acts of spite, vengeance, or larceny don’t often occur without the tacit knowledge or support of others. Et tu Bernie Madoff? Engaged co-workers are far more inclined to report such incidents, or take direct measures to stop them before they play out. Those who are less committed are more likely to turn a blind eye. Even if they’re being fired, people who believe they are being treated humanely and fairly in the process don’t often resort to bad behavior. Indeed, some go on to speak quite well of the organization.

For the record, once again, treating people right doesn’t mean lowering standards or giving workers things they haven’t earned, the market doesn’t require, and you can’t afford. To the contrary, it does mean:

• Giving people real work, meaningful work to do, along with the freedom to pursue it. People want to be in the game, not on the bench.

• Maintaining high standards. Deep down, we all realize that high standards are a necessary precursor to winning, and nobody wants to spend the majority of their day losing, or hanging out with losers.

• Making sure people see a crystal clear connection between their work and real, paying customers; and that they understand fully where the organization is going and why.

• Having leaders who are skillful, authentic, and especially important these days, optimistic.

• Showing genuine appreciation for a job well done.

BTW, If you want to see a real mad cow, ‘er bull indoors, check this out:

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

by Bill, Character, Extra Milers, Give Back, Leadership, Think About It...

Going the Extra Mile for an Employee

No Comments 14 October 2008

Charley's Grilled SubsToday’s post is another in our ongoing effort to provide some good news and inspiration in an otherwise difficult period.

In her piece for the October 6 edition of Nation’s Restaurant News Dina Berta recounted an incredible story about Marcus Gilbert, the owner of a Charley’s Grilled Subs franchise in Orem, Utah helping out one of his employees who needed a kidney transplant. It seems that the employee, Juan Delgado is part time, and Gilbert is only able to provide health insurance for full timers, so he found another way to help, by, get this… donating one of his own kidneys.

Mr. Gilbert’s selfless act reminds us of an expression used by Chick-fil-A’s C.O.O., Dan Cathy in conducting training for managers at new store openings: “When a team member is enduring a personal hardship, we want you to go above and beyond for that person. When you do, you will have their full attention when you talk about going above and beyond for our customers.”

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com


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