Training Still Matters

How Chick-Fil-A Understands This

I feel extremely fortunate to work for Chick-fil-A; it’s been an amazing ride for over 30 years. One of the things that is the most rewarding are the responses I 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 can 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 restaurants. Thankfully, it’s almost always a positive story!

Does training still matter? Chick-Fil-A says yes!

Image by Jeff Blum

Leaders often ask me, “How do you guys execute so consistently?” First, let me say that we’ve got a long way to go – Execution is one of three strategic priorities in our 2020 Plan for Operations. However, there are many reasons we’re able to deliver as consistently as we do. One is that we’ve been focused on execution for a long time. As Jim Collins would say, we’ve been “pushing on the flywheel for over 40 years.”

Besides focused effort over time, I think there are at least three other contributing factors that may be of interest to other leaders.

For us, virtually everything rises and falls on the point leader in each restaurant – we call them 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, it’s never a good situation. If execution is a concern in your organization, you may need to ask, “Have we got the right point leader?”

The next factor that helps us execute at a relatively high level is the caliber of the individual team members. These are not corporate employees – they work for the Operator. They are the people that make our system run so well. This, too, is a testimony to the Operator. Great leaders generally attract and select other great people.

So, I guess you can quickly see that both of these factors are about WHO, not WHAT. But finally, the third thing I’d have to say that contributes to remarkable guest experiences is… training!

Even if you have amazing people on your team, they still need to be trained. Great people, untrained, are no better than lousy people. People must understand what to do AND how to do it. Thankfully, our organization understands this.

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.

This was a guest post by Mark Miller. Mark is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and an executive at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

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