Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lesson's Learned from Dan Cathy; President and COO of Chick-fil-A

Dan Cathy (@DanCathy) recently spoke to the Dallas Regional Chamber's (@DRChamber) Leadership Lunch group about the company his father, S. Truett Cathy, founded decades ago.  Having worked for Raising Cane's for nearly a decade, the opportunity to see Dan speak and hear about the purpose, leadership and values of Chick-fil-A from the source was a great experience.  I'm thankful to have joined the DRC Young Professional group just in time.  Here are some of the highlights which you too might appreciate.

The Purpose:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

 “The corporate purpose is our True North. It's why we are in business.” - Dan Cathy


Dan spoke about how each person has a story and each business has a story. Chick-fil-A is always thinking about how individuals stories interact with their business’s story. Dan shared this video with the audience which he says has been shared with their restaurant staff for the last year:

Every Person Is a Story

The story becomes more powerful when you realize that as a business leader you have the opportunity to influence and "minister" to every person you interact with from the person who delivers mail, to your staff and your customers.

Leadership Tools:

Dan brought with him a very cool leather bag which he said was his leadership tool kit.  I imagine this is the type of speech Dan gives often. He took out about 10 items and ask folks in the room which ones they were curious about.  Each time someone would pick a new item, Dan would talk about the significance of that item and it's meaning to he and CFA.  Since we only had an hour, Dan only spoke about a few. An asterisk indicates items he shared with our audience -- the others I researched a bit online to find. 

*Jiffy Smooth Peanut Butter: Dan said he loves Jiffy peanut butter. He likes the small jars because you get to open the freshest seal more often and enjoy that smell which makes you feel like you’re in the factory where they made the product. His point is that everyone and every brand has to Stay fresh. Stay fresh in their thinking. Constantly keep learning. When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  If you look at CFA you realized they've done just that... from the Dwarf House restaurants, to selling through major stadiums, to malls, to free standing locations.  Using Cow's for advertising (thanks the DFW's The Richards Group) and the big move from shoe string fries to waffle fries.

Relay Baton: Succession has to be on the front of our agenda. Our dreams will be short-lived. Who are we going to hand this baton off to?

  • Dan to the Olympic coach: “Tell me about the exchange.”

    •  It’s all about the exchange not necessarily the fastest runner

    • It’s the team that gets the baton around the track first

    • The exchange when it is done right, it is a non-event

  • We have to think of succession as a non-event 

  • It’s all about continuity 

  • Cultural expectancy of change

  • It helps a lot that the person taking the baton actually takes the baton.

  • The sound of death is the dropping of the baton!

Thumb drive:  Dan showed a thumb drive but did not talk about it (due to time constraints) and I could not find information posted on other blogs/sites.  So, if you know the importance, send me an email. 

Railroad spike with 'Stay on Track' engraved on it: It's one thing to be bold and always fresh; it's an entirely different thing to stay grounded and focused on what you do best.

*Sanitation Hand Wipe: Dan spoke about the practical importance of keeping our hands clean in restaurants. But, he moved to a higher meaning by asking “How many people do we read in business paper that couldn't keep their hands clean.” The real meaning of the sanitation wipe is that we have to do business in the cleanest way possible and avoid taking risks through tainted transactions which ruins lives every day.

*Shoe brush: The shoe brush speaks to the attitude you and I have should have as a leader. We are servant leaders. Jim Collins is right about leaders biggest challenge - it ego.  Dan spoke about the day he called Johnston and Murphy in Tennessee to buy 1400 brushes for CFA's then current Operators.  More powerful, he gave the gentleman who introduced him one of the brushes... and got down on the floor in front of our audience and "showed him how to use it" because you shouldn't give someone a tool without them understanding how to use it. it was ackward and chilling at the same time... one of many moments with a similar feeling during Dan's speech.

*Conductor’s Baton:  Dan said.. "What happens in the business is a reflection of leadership."  He recalled reading Philip Crosby's now celebrated Quality is Free book written over 25 years ago. he talked about when CFA started asking the question "Would you return to CFA" as part of their standard Mystery Shopper form.  1 in 5 Mystery Shop guests said "No".  So, Dan did what most leaders do, he started thinking about what everyone else wasn't doing -- cashiers weren't smiling, Operators weren't touching tables, the back of the house was serving cold fries.  Quality is Free helped Dan realize the critical importance of leaders -- much like the conductor at the symphony.  He urged everyone to develop systems and processes. Practiced and refine those Systems and Processes. Rehearse them in test markets. Set the stage for a perfect performance and wait for the applause.

Quality is Free on Amazon

Side Towel: with the following monogramming: Great Leaders SERVE. The WHITE towel can be a sign of service when draped correctly over the left arm versus tucked in your back pocket with a Spray Bottle dangling from it.
  • Great leaders have an attitude of service
  • Be humble, gracious, generous and genuine
The Secret of Servant leadership is to: S-E-R-V-E:
  • See the Future: Leaders have a visionary role, needing to understand the team's purpose, be able to see down the road, and know what values are needed to drive their team's behavior.
  • Engage and Develop People: Once the vision and direction is set you need to turn the pyramid upside down and focus on engaging and developing your people so that they can live according to the vision and position people for success.
  • Reinvent Continuously: Leaders are continuously learning, reinventing themselves. But they are also looking at how to get everyone else working more productively, and are open to reinventing their organizational structure where necessary.
  • Value Results and Relationships: Leaders realize results and good relationships go hand-in-hand for long-term survival.
  • Embody the Values: You develop and earn trust by living the values you espouse. 

  • Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.
  • Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. ~Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (introduction), 1982
  • When the rate of external change is exceeding the rate of internal change, that spells disaster. (not cited)
  • (not from the lunch speak but noteworthy) On closing on Sunday’s: “Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business. If it took seven days to make a living with a restaurant, then we needed to be in some other line of work. Through the years, I have never wavered from that position.” S. Truett Cathy

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