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Chick-fil-A's Secret to Success

We're not just in the chicken business, we're in the people business. –– Truett Cathy, Founder 

By John Millen

Quick quiz: Which of these three fast food restaurants has the highest per-store sales in the United States? McDonald’s, Starbucks or Subway?
 
By my headline, you might have sensed this was a trick question. The answer is Chick-fil-A. In fact, this fried chicken franchise has higher per-store sales than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway combined!
 
The statistics for annual sales in 2017 are incredible:

  • McDonald’s –– 14,036 units with $2.7 million in sales per store.

  • Starbucks –– 13,930 units with $945,000 in sales per store.

  • Subway –– 25,908 units with $417,000 in sales per store.

  • Chick-fil-A ––2,225 units with $4.1 million in sales per store!

Most astounding is that Chick-fil-A achieves these sales in six days of the week, since its stores are closed on Sundays.
 
It’s fair to ask, what’s the secret to Chick-fil-A’s success?
 
Its chicken is very good but that can’t be the only draw. While any business has many factors contributing to success, this privately held company has built a culture of employees who are emotionally committed to its mission: To have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.
 
Much of the fast-food industry, and retail in general, delivers in a robotic way:
 
Customer receiving food: thank you.
 
Fast food employee: no problem.
 
Chick-fil-A has a different approach:
 
Customer receiving food: thank you.
 
Employee: my pleasure!
 
That’s right. In a world filled with hate-spewing politics, vile internet trolls and coarse language entertainment, Chick-fil-A is winning with kindness.
 

Credit: Chick-fil-A

Politeness as brand differentiator
 
The company’s focus on showing acknowledgement, respect and even love to customers has become a category-killing brand differentiator.
 
The industry tests and reports on every aspect of fast food interaction and Chick-fil-A is the reigning champion of “politeness” in the drive thru. This 2016 study rated the company’s drive-thru number one based on courtesy to customers.
 
Chick-fil-A continues to win with employees who are trained specifically on the factors tracked in the study: having a pleasant demeanor, smiling and making eye contact, and saying “please” and “thank you.” In the drive-thru, employees go outside to speed the line and make face-to-face contact while taking orders on electronic pads.
 
Words matter
 
This treatment extends to the interior of the store where there are flowers on the table and a well-honed welcoming attitude. Employees learn to use specific language and behavior, such as avoiding terms like “combo” or “super-size,” and opting for “entrée.”
 
“An entrée is different than a combo or a six-piece. It's a different language. ... That language is part of my experience in helping change the expectation,” according to Quincy L.A. Springs IV, who runs a Chick-fil-A location in the Vine City neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, in an interview with Business Insider.
 
Employees also circulate frequently to visit with guests. Instead of asking, “Can I get your trash?” they ask, “May I clear your tray?” A tweak of phrase that makes a difference.
 
Happy employees, happy customers
 
One of the reasons employees treat customers well is their positive work environment. Glassdoor listed the company as one of the 100 best places to work in 2017. 
 
The decision to be closed on Sunday was made by Truett Cathy when he started the company in 1946. He believed that employees should have “one day to rest and worship if they choose.”
 
It’s estimated that the family-owned business loses up to $1.2 billion per year by being closed on Sundays. But that hasn’t hurt sales. In fact, Chick-fil-A also leads the industry with 51 years of consecutive revenue growth, even through several recessions. 

Chick-fil-A has managed to create a positive culture of employees on a mission to give its customers a positive experience with fast food. It’s made kindness a differentiator.
 
There’s a lesson here for leaders: It always comes back to people. How can you and your team highlight your most valuable resource, your people, and your relationships?
 
To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just hit visit my contact page.

Photo Credit: Chick-fil-A

Moon Shot Leadership

You’ve no doubt heard that Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of human beings landing on the moon. 
 
It’s hard to fathom today, but the whole world was one for a short time. After the astronauts returned from the moon and were quarantined for twenty-one days, they were whisked away on a worldwide tour.
 
Huge crowds around the globe gave the heroes incredible adulation. Seemingly every nation wanted to see the humans who had walked on the moon.
 
With what we now know about space travel, it’s easy to look in hindsight and assume that this moon landing was inevitable. But it wasn’t. It was a revolutionary effort that made one of human kind’s greatest achievements possible.
 
Today many organizations face challenges that might feel like “moon shots” as they seek to reshape their companies to adapt to unprecedented change: industry disruption, artificial intelligence, machine learning, globalization, work force retraining, changing consumer behavior, and expectations.
 
America’s journey to the moon provides countless lessons for leaders who need to accomplish large or small goals in a fast-changing environment. Here are two connected lessons:
 
Focus on the Vision
 
Too many leaders focus on the details, the analysis, the infrastructure. 
 
President John Kennedy, in office only 125 days when he gave his soaring speech, set a clear, strong challenge for the people of the United States: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the Earth.”
 
With this bold quest, Kennedy provided a vision that captured the imagination and energy of the entire country. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon…it will be an entire nation,” Kennedy said.
 
Having been assassinated in 1963, President Kennedy would not see the miraculous accomplishment of his goal. It’s important to recognize that Kennedy didn’t outline how we would reach the moon, but gave a clarion call to action.
 
In a similar way, in that era the inspiring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have a plan, he had a dream. Remember to focus on the vision.
 
Listen to all voices
 
As NPR reported this week, the unique approach used to land on the moon came from John Houbolt, who believed he had developed the best answer for a safe landing, and defied NASA protocol to have his idea reviewed. 
 
As in most organizations, there were leading engineers whose opinions carried sway. They were divided over two approaches, one of which was landing an entire rocket on the moon, then blasting off for return to earth.
 
Houbolt, who was not even in the landing group, devised the plan that was ultimately used, called lunar orbit rendezvous, in which a command module would circle the moon while a light-weight lunar module would land on the moon and return to the mother ship. 
 
"Houbolt was not part of the program, and that is really where a core issue comes into play," a colleague said. "He went to his boss and his boss sort of shouted him down and said, 'What are you doing?' because he wasn't working in this area at all."

Frustrated that his ideas weren’t being given a fair hearing, Houbolt jumped the NASA hierarchy and wrote strong letters to the leader of NASA, a breach of the organization’s protocol. You can read his letters from the NASA archives here.
 
I had to share these paragraphs from Houbolt’s typewriter-written 1961 letter not only for their tone and energy but because they reflect what hundreds of thousands of people in business and other organizations going through change feel as their insights are quashed by the hierarchy and bureaucracy:
 
Since we have had only occasional and limited contact, and because you therefore probably do not know me very well, it is conceivable that after reading this you may feel that you are dealing with a crank. Do not be afraid of this. 
 
The thoughts expressed here may not be stated in as diplomatic a fashion as they might be, or as I would normally try to do, but this is by choice and at the moment, is not important. The important point is that you hear the ideas directly, not after they have filtered through a score or more of other people, with the attendant risk that they may not even reach you. 
 
Elsewhere in the correspondence, Houbolt rhetorically challenges the administrator with the question, "Do we want to go to the moon or not?"
 
The answer was “yes” and Houbolt’s approach was ultimately adopted and, well, you know the rest.

There’s a through-line here for every leader: set a clear, compelling goal to focus energy and resources, then kill the hierarchy and let all voices be heard on how to accomplish your vision.

That’s how you achieve a moon shot.
 
To share your thoughts or ask me any questions, just visit my contact page.

Photo Credit: NASA

How to Apply the Principles of Marie Kondo in Your Work and Life

Think of clutter.
 
Have you ever felt bogged down by your possessions? Your endless to-do lists? Your job or relationships?
 
We all have. That’s because clutter is everywhere in our lives: in our minds, in our digital distractions, in our businesses, and, of course, in our homes.
 
The clutter in our homes is where Marie Kondo makes her impact. If you’re not familiar with Kondo, she’s a Japanese organizer and author of the worldwide bestseller,The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizingwhich has nearly 14,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon.
 
Kondo also has a new Netflix series which together with her book has prompted a decluttering of homes in the United States. Perhaps even your home. 
 
She has been credited with a huge increase in donations of discarded goods to Goodwill, Volunteers of America, and other sites, dubbed "The Marie Kondo Effect." The deluge has also caused some organizations in U.S. cities, including San Francisco, to limit when and how many goods they will accept. 
 
The popularity of Kondo stems from her unique approach, which I believe can be applied to any aspect of our lives and businesses. These are a few of her key concepts:
 
Clearing clutter changes everything in your life. As Kondo writes, “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order… It allows you to confront the issues that are really important.”
 
This is true in business as well. When we clear away the clutter, we have the opportunity to focus on the few priorities that matter. 
 
Focus on a specific area all at once. Don’t go room-by-room. In other words, take all of your clothing from anywhere in the house into one location. 
 
Make it a sprint. Don’t make “tidying” a life-long project. Get it done quickly and then maintain.
 
And here is Kondo’s differentiating concept:
 
Shift your mindset. Don’t focus on what to get rid of. Instead, think about what gives you positive feelings.
 
Specifically, Kondo says to hold an object and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is “no,” let it go.
 
If you’re a natural skeptic, as I can be, “sparking joy” might put you off. So, let me share that I asked for and received Kondo’s book as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I used her method to clean out the clothes in my closet. It worked very well!
 
All of the clothes went onto the bed and, instead of thinking, “I might wear this someday,” I asked, “Do I love this?” That Hawaiian shirt? Gone. Old suits? Gone. Ill-fitting pants? Gone. And on down the line. I was left with clothes that I love and wear all the time. 
 
It’s a great mind shift, and a concept that can apply to anything. I view it as an easy, practical way to apply the Prieto Principle, commonly called the 80/20 rule. Focus on the 20 percent that has the most impact.
 
I’ve gone on to apply Kondo’s principles in my business. This is my sixteenth year as a consultant, and I had accumulated a lot of paper files, electronic files, equipment, and other items that were bogging me down. The question is not, “will I use this someday?” but, “do I really value this? Will I use it regularly?”
 
I’ve also done this with my business relationships. I’ve stopped a couple of partnerships that I didn’t love and “fired” two toxic clients.

Do they bring you joy? 
Regardless of whether you buy Marie Kondo’s book or watch her Netflix series, I urge you to consider her principles in your life and business.
 
Ask yourself about your possessions and relationships, “Do these bring me joy?”
 
Hopefully they do, but the larger question is what can we do when relationships don’t bring us joy? 
 
The reality is that difficult relationships in business and in life can’t all be avoided.  Whether pleasant and straightforward, or complex and uncomfortable, we typically can’t or won’t easily discard them.  
 
This is where the Kondo “shift your mindset” principle can be applied.  Can you minimize your interactions with difficult people, keeping them cordial and focused?
 
In the same way, why not spend more time with those who are positive and energize you? This will improve your outlook and offset those who drain you. Or maybe clearing the air between you and someone else will move your relationship to the positive end of the spectrum.
 
I hope you’ll consider the applying Kondo’s principles to clarifying your possessions and your relationships.

After all, life’s too short to be lost in clutter.
 
John


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Photo Credit: Netflix

How to Be Proactive in Your Relationships

Habit No. 1: Be Proactive "If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective-expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own."

–– Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 


Researchers have found that as human beings we are only capable of maintaining up to 150 meaningful relationships, including five primary, close relationships.
 
This holds true even with the illusion of thousands of “friends” on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you think carefully about your real interactions with people, you’ll find the five close/150 extended relationships rule holds true.
 
Perhaps not coincidentally, Tony Robbins, the personal development expert, and others argue that your attitudes, behavior, and success in life are the sum total of your five closest relationships. So, toxic relationships, toxic life.
 
With this in mind, it’s essential to continue to develop relationships that are positive and beneficial. But in today’s distracted world, these relationships won’t just happen.
 
We need to be proactive about developing our relationships.
 
My current favorite book on personal development is Tim Ferriss’s excellent, though long, 700+ page book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers. 
 
At one point, Ferriss quotes retired women’s volleyball great Gabby Reece:
 
I always say that I’ll go first…. That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say “hello” first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. [I wish] people would experiment with that in their life a little bit: be first, because – not all times, but most times – it comes in your favor... The response is pretty amazing…. I was at the park the other day with the kids. 
 
Oh, my God. Hurricane Harbor [water park]. It’s like hell. There were these two women a little bit older than me. We couldn’t be more different, right? And I walked by them, and I just looked at them and smiled. The smile came to their face so instantly. They’re ready, but you have to go first because now we’re being trained in this world [to opt out] – nobody’s going first anymore.

Be proactive: start the conversation
I agree. I was excited to read this principle because I adopted this by default years ago, and it’s given me the opportunity to hear the most amazing stories and develop the greatest relationships you can imagine.
 
On airplanes, in the grocery store, at lunch, I’ve started conversations that led to trading heartfelt stories, becoming friends, or doing business together. A relationship has to start someplace, and that can be any place in any moment. 

Be proactive: lose your fear of being rejected 
I also love this idea because it will help overcome one of the main issues I hear from my training and coaching clients – the fear of making an initial connection with someone they don’t know.
 
This fear runs deep for many people and may be hardwired in humans. We are always observing strangers to determine if we can trust them – whether they have positive or dangerous intent.
 
In addition, we fear rejection. Our usual negative self-talk says something like, If I start the conversation, if I make eye contact, if I smile, what if it’s not returned?
 
What if I’m rejected, embarrassed, or ignored by no response? I’ll feel like an idiot, a needy loser.
 
Our conclusion is: It’s better not to try, not to risk anything. But the truth is, the people we are thinking this about are probably thinking the same thing. If one of us breaks the ice, the relationship can begin immediately.
 
Be proactive: start with a positive tone and attitude
In my communication workshops, I say that each verbal encounter has three elements: words, tone, and attitude. Sometimes the tone and the attitude mean much more than the words themselves.
 
This means that in an initial contact, it almost doesn’t matter what exactly you say, but more the way you say it. A smile, a sense of openness, and attitude of friendliness count much more.

Dale Carnegie said this plays a critical role in how to make friends and influence people.
 
In the water park example, Gabby Reese didn’t talk with the other moms, but easily could have started a bonding conversation with, “Tell me again, why do we put ourselves through this?” Everyone would laugh, any walls of resistance would fall, and the talk about the pool and the kids would take off.
 
From there, they might have found common interests and values and scheduled Mom’s Wine Night Out. But someone had to go first.
 
This is true of almost every new relationship we have. Someone had to be proactive…to make eye contact…to pick up the phone for a call…to schedule lunch…to be the first to apologize.
 
Be proactive: pay attention in the moment
As Reece noted, today, we choose to opt out. If we have a free moment, we look down at our phones instead of looking at the people around us. We never know who is nearby and what relationship might have passed us by because we didn’t look or we didn’t take the initiative to go first.
 
I had this same thought two years ago when I spoke at a student leadership conference at a major university. After my talk, I walked outside the building where some thirty students were standing or walking, just looking at their phones. Seriously, not one person was looking up. (Later, I wished I’d grabbed my phone to take a photo, but maybe that would have been ironic.)  
 
My thought at the time, since so many relationships start with “love at first sight” or at least direct eye contact, was “what if your soul mate just walked by and you missed it because you were looking down at your phone?”
 
But students aren’t the only ones. We are all distracted by the noise of life in a digital world, where we swim in a sea of images, videos, and data that drags us like a riptide away from people and relationships.
 
It’s time to make a proactive commitment to engaging other people where we find them. Opting in instead of opting out.
 
Be proactive! Why not go first?

 
Writing this weekly blog is my way of going first with you.
 
Happy holidays,
 
John
 

P.S. –– To talk with me, please use my contact page.

How to Make Friends and Influence People

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. 

–– Dale Carnegie



When I’m working with a group of leaders and someone asks for book recommendations, one of my first choices will be the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Most people recognize this book and author.
 
However, when I ask when Carnegie wrote this landmark book, guesses vary widely, mostly settling in the 1960s. People are shocked to learn that the first edition actually was published in 1936!
 
Carnegie, who became a famous writer, trainer, and lecturer, was far ahead of his time in unearthing the principles of influence. What Carnegie wrote instinctively more than eight decades ago has since been scientifically verified by researchers, including Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion.
 
Let me share the core ideas of Carnegie's great book, with the hope that you’ll pick it up and learn more. In his well-organized volume, Carnegie uses many stories from real people in history to illustrate his points, which makes it an interesting read. 
 
Carnegie’s central idea is that we can influence others with the simple act of showing respect and appreciation. 
 
Carnegie quotes John Dewey, who said that “the deepest desire in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” The book talks a lot about how people want to be appreciated – and how we can meet that need. It’s a universal longing for humans. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, encouraged, heard, and understood.
 
Here’s a bit more detail on three of his core principles:
 
1. Show appreciation
Carnegie credits appreciation as “one of the most neglected virtues of our daily existence.” Since we tend to focus on ourselves, we often forget to encourage and compliment our coworkers, children, spouses, or others we might meet on our daily journeys. 
 
He tells the story of a boy named Stevie Morris who lived in Detroit. One day, a teacher asked him to help her find a mouse that had been lost in the classroom. The teacher appreciated Stevie’s strong sense of hearing because the boy was blind.
 
It was the first time in this young man’s life that someone had shown appreciation for a talent he had. He now says “this act of appreciation was the beginning of a new life.” The boy had kept developing his keen sense of hearing and went on to become one of the world’s most famous singers – Stevie Wonder.
 
Carnegie urges us not to use false flattery, but to observe the talents and attributes of others and bring them to the light with an honest compliment. As a constant traveler, I can’t tell you how many upgrades in flights, hotels, and other services I’ve had by simply observing and giving honest compliments to people who suffer negative feedback all day long. 
 
2. Show interest in other people
It’s human nature for us to want to talk about ourselves. Some people think that the secret to winning friends is to make themselves interesting to others. But that’s not Carnegie’s path to making friends. 
 
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you,” Carnegie writes. You gain trust and respect from people when you show interest in them! 
 
President Theodore Roosevelt was known for his popularity among the people, especially those who served him. His valet wrote an entire book about how Roosevelt would always remember little things about the people around him. Roosevelt knew the names of the entire White House staff, including the kitchen staff.
 
3. Begin in a friendly way
If you want to win someone over to your way of thinking, it’s important to start things off in a friendly manner. If you jump straight to business or start criticizing or accusing, it puts the other person on the defensive. If you’re perceptive, you can feel a wall go up between you.  
 
Carnegie tells a story about a man who wanted to reduce his rent. Mr. Straub wanted to stay in his apartment, but couldn’t afford it. He’d heard that the landlord was mean and unwilling to budge on price. 
 
The landlord came to meet with him after Mr. Straub sent him a letter, telling him he couldn’t afford another year of rent. Straub started off by telling the landlord how much he loved the apartment and how well everything was run. The landlord was shocked because he’d never had such high praise from a tenant before! Without Mr. Straub saying anything, the landlord offered to reduce the price of rent. 
 
As Abraham Lincoln said, “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” 
 
Conclusion
Overall, Carnegie’s real message is to treat others with interest, kindness, and respect. 
 
This simple credo will take you a long way. It’s not a gimmick or a fast fix, but rather a way of life.

Best wishes for the holidays,
  

John
 

P.S. –– To talk with me, please use my contact page.