IMG_7323This summer I received visits from two former team members, Trey Grindley, a Cadet at the United States Military Academy and Daniel LeMay, a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.  I am proud to have been a part of the leadership journey of both of these young men.  While I certainly can’t take all the credit, I’m humbled that I did have a part in their development and I’m often asked how I’m able to produce so many leaders.
I personally believe, it starts with a “catch and release” philosophy and embracing the thought that “my fruit may grow up on other people’s trees.”
Over the years, it has become very apparent to me that I am more like a “farm team” or high school/college coach than anything else with my strategy for growing the business.  A farm team is a minor league baseball team that provides players to an affiliated major league team.  Our closest farm team is the Rome Braves, a feeder team for the Atlanta Braves.  The entire purpose of a farm team is to grow or develop players.  The success of the coach is measured not only by how many games he wins, but the number of players he produces for the major leagues.  Similar to a high school or college coach.  He would be disillusioned to think that he could keep a player forever.  It is inevitable that every single year he will lose some of his best players and gain some new players.  In high school and college programs, the seniors will graduate and new freshmen will join the team.
I’ve personally never been a sports coach, but after becoming an Operator coach a few years ago and spending time with new Chick-fil-A Operators, I discovered the similarities while trying to explain my “catch and release” philosophy.
This can be a painful philosophy at times because it can leave a leadership gap in your organization.  However, its easier to give up controlling peoples lives and “release” them if you have a strategy.
The five essential components of my strategy for growing a business are:
  1. A continuous recruiting program that brings in new talent.
  2. A leadership development program that develops new leaders continuously.
  3. Systems and processes, the glue that holds the organization together because of the natural turn over.
  4. A positive culture that keeps the organization moving in the right direction.
  5. A great coaching staff that understands 1-4 above and helps develop talent.
When you embrace this philosophy, people don’t feel enslaved to the company they work for and they realize that you have their best interest at heart.  They in turn will produce great results for the company and leave a trail of high performance for others to follow long after they leave.  I believe my success as a business owner will not only be measured by the games we win or the business results we produce, but also by the number of lives I’ve impacted and leaders I produced, whether they stay with Chick-fil-A, move to other organizations or become leaders in our nations military.
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