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Leadership Lessons from Chick-fil-A

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This summer we’ve been looking at a variety of leadership lessons that can be learned in many places each and every day. Thus far, we’ve looked at leadership lessons from the Bible and also from a mother of newborn triplets. Today we’re going to look at leadership lessons that we can learn from Chick-fil-A.

There’s no organizational culture I appreciate more than that of Chick-fil-A. Their corporate purpose, and their “why”, is: “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 into contact with Chick-fil-A.”

Here are 9 leadership lessons that we can learn from Chick-fil-A:

Quality. If you are going to be successful you will need to consistently deliver a quality product no matter what line of business you are in. Steve Robinson writes in his book Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows, and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand, that great brands become great when they are consistent on every key level of execution. Chick-fil-A consistently delivers a high-quality product. This began with their founder Truett Cathy. He came up with a secret recipe for his now famous chicken sandwich and initially sold the sandwich to other restaurants. However, he became concerned about the quality of the sandwiches as they were prepared, and thus stopped selling to other restaurants, instead opening up his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in a shopping mall in 1967. He wrote in his book Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People: Doing Business the Chick-fil-A Way, that customers don’t want surprises. As a result, Chick-fil-A gives their customers what they expect when they come in – consistent quality.

Results. Leaders are expected to drive consistently positive results for their organizations. If they don’t, they will be replaced. Just ask the coach or manager who doesn’t lead his team to the post-season playoffs. Chick-fil-A demonstrates outstanding results that perhaps not many people are aware of. For example, in 2017, the average Chick-fil-A freestanding restaurant had sales 70 percent higher than the average McDonald’s location and four times that of an average KFC location.

Presentation. How an organization and its employees present themselves – its image – is important, and that’s a responsibility of leadership. Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant that needs painting, unsanitary restrooms and has employees who don’t represent the organization well in their grooming and attire. All Chick-fil-A restaurants are always clean and in good repair. Their employees are well groomed and wear attractive uniforms.

Employee Hiring. Steve Robinson writes that operator selection is the most important decision made at Chick-fil-A. Truett Cathy wrote that the most important job an operator (Chick-fil-A store owner) has is selecting their people. Dee Ann Turner served as Vice President, Talent and Human Resources for Chick-fil-A, Inc.  In her book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture she writes that an important aspect of the Chick-fil-A culture is their hiring process. They are diligent about making sure that they select the right people for their organization. They select based on character, competency and chemistry. Dee Ann states that in selecting leaders, a good question to ask is “Would you want your children to work for this person?” Truett Cathy’s policy was always to select trustworthy people, and then trust them.

Employee Retention.  Being able to retain good employees is a challenge for all leaders. At our local Chick-fil-A, I recognize many employees that have been working at the restaurant for years, which is very unusual for a quick service restaurant. Dee Ann Turner tells us that Chick-fil-A’s stringent selection processes help result in their low employee and leadership turnover rates.

Customer Service. Good or bad customer service can differentiate one business from another. Dee Ann Turner tells us that Chick-fil-A is not in the chicken business, but the people business. Customer service is one of the things Chick-fil-A is most known for because of how they excel at it. For example, where the employees of many restaurants will respond to customers with “No problem” or “No worries”, Chick-fil-A employees will always respond with “My pleasure”.

Customer Experience. The experience you have with an organization is closely related to the service you receive. Steve Robinson writes that Chick-fil-A’s mission is to “Be REMARKable.” Chick-fil-A wants every customer’s brand encounter to be remarkable, to leave an above-average, positive impression. To that end, they have attempted to create experiences that people would want to talk to their friends about. A few of the ways that Chick-fil-A looks to create a positive customer experiences are by delivering food to the customer’s table, providing drink refills and offering to remove their trash from their table.

Speed. We mentioned that quality is a key attribute for an organization. But quality without speed may result in your customers going elsewhere. Customers who go to a quick service restaurant are looking to get their food quickly and accurately. Nobody wants to stand in a long line waiting for their food. Our local Chick-fil-A restaurant, and many others that I have eaten at, have two drive-through lanes, with employees outside to take your order. This serves to increase the speed of the transaction.

Values. Many people do business with organizations that have the same values as they do, and as a result are very loyal to those organizations. An organization’s values can tell you a lot about that organization. Think about some of the decisions Nike has made recently, for example. Chick-fil-A has four core values – they are excellence, generosity, integrity and loyalty. Those are values that are reinforced by leaders at each Chick-fil-A restaurant every day. Another thing that differentiates Chick-fil-A is that all of their restaurants are closed on Sundays. That was a decision that Truett Cathy made early on, and it has continued to this day. Sunday is a day set aside for all who are a part of Chick-fil-A to rest, be with family, and worship, if they so choose.

I’ve listed 9 leadership lessons we can learn from Chick-fil-A, an organization I greatly respect. What organizations do you respect and why?

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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  1. Pingback: Making Your Church a “Leadership Factory”: A Short Course on Leadership | Coram Deo ~

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