Training Still Matters

3 contributing factors that generate sustained success at Chick-fil-A

By Mark Miller, VP, Organizational Effectiveness, Chick-fil-A

I am so fortunate to work for Chick-fil-A; it’s been an amazing ride for more than 30 years. One of the things that is the most fun and rewarding are the responses I usually get when people find out I work for the Chicken. Often, their first question is, “Which one?” (That’s a great reminder that our business is in the restaurants—not at the home office.) When I tell them I work at the headquarters, you often see a moment of disappointment in their eyes, but they quickly move to share a recent experience from a visit to one of our locations. Thankfully, it is almost always a positive story!

Why is that the case? That’s a question I get from other business leaders on a regular basis: “How do you guys execute so consistently?” There are probably scores of reasons—as Jim Collins would say, we’ve been pushing on the flywheel for more than 40 years. We would agree with Jim; there are few heroic acts that generate sustained success. However, as I’ve reflected on our success, I think there are at least three contributing factors that would be of interest to training professionals.

For us, virtually everything rises and falls on the point leader in each restaurant—the Operator. They are an amazing group of business leaders, operating as independent franchisees. Our experience may be no different than yours—when you get the right leader, great things happen; when you don’t, even great training won’t solve the problem.

The second factor that helps us execute at a relatively high level is the individual team member. These are not corporate employees—they work for the Operator. They are the people who make our system run so well. We’re fortunate to have great team members in our restaurants. This is due almost exclusively to the caliber of the Operator. Great people generally attract and select other great people.

So, I guess you can quickly see that two of the three things I’ve shared are about WHO, not WHAT. But finally, the third thing I’d have to say—you can see where this is headed…

Training! Great people are no excuse to have lousy training. Great people, untrained, are no better than lousy people. People have to understand what to do AND how to do it. Thankfully, our organization, specifically our Operators, get this. If your leadership, both in the headquarters and in the field, can embrace the idea that training really does matter, you’ll be much more likely to make the needed investments. And when you invest in training, you’ll leverage the talents of your people and allow your organization to flourish.

The next time you visit a Chick-fil-A restaurant and a 16-year-old kid says, “My pleasure,” after serving you, I hope it will remind you again that Training Still Matters.

Good luck and enjoy the journey! Mark Miller is VP of Organizational Effectivenessfor Chick-fil-A and author of the recently released “The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do.” His blogsite is http://www.greatleadersserve.org.  All of the proceeds of the book sales go to charity. Miller is also co-author with Ken Blanchard of management book “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do,” as well as “Great Leaders GROW: Becoming a Leader for Life.”

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