12 Takeaways from Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013

May 13, 2013

My favorite annual leadership event takes place each May. It’s Chick-fil-A Leadercast. The seminar features some of the biggest names in all of leadership. This year’s theme was: “Simply Lead.” I hope you got to attend, but if not, I’ve included 12 of my greatest takeaways. Here they are:

CFA Leadercast 2013

Complexity is the enemy of clarity.

Andy Stanley opened by sharing that complexity is a natural part of growth, but it can also be the greatest barrier if we’re not prepared for it. To keep things simple, always revisit these three questions: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? and Where do I fit in? As leaders, simplicity in the midst of complexity is our responsibility, and it’s hard work!

People don’t need more time, they need room to think.

Getting Things Done author David Allen reminded us that we can only feel good about what we’re not doing if we know what it is. How much time does it take to have a good idea? Only moments, but we don’t have creative space when our minds are cluttered. We are most productive when we have room to make a mess, but if we start with a mess, we’ll always feel out of control and lack focus.

We can’t have new beginnings without new endings.

Author Henry Cloud used ideas from his books Necessary Endings and Boundaries for Leaders to show the benefits of pruning. Organizations, just like plants, have only so many available resources. Make sure the best opportunities have enough resources by putting an end to the merely “good” opportunities.

Leaders should be good at math.

Leadership guru John Maxwell says that leadership is simply influence. His four math tips for leadership are: 1) Add value every day, 2) Subtract leadership landmines, 3) Multiply your strengths by developing them, and 4) Divide your strengths by delegating them.

Trust is a team commitment.

Duke University and Team USA head basketball coach “Coach K” Mike Krzyzewski explained that trust is the essential element to any great team because “when you have trust, two is better than one because two does it as one.” When you have trust, you tell the truth and expect the truth in return. There is no need to look sideways, only forward.

Leaders simply must be optimists.

In an interview with John Maxwell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed out that no one wants to follow a pessimist!

The one who fields the best team wins.

Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, pointed out that “widgets” only last a short time. Good teams know where they’re going (vision), why they’re going there (mission) and how they’re going to get there (behaviors).

Values are always more important than performance.

When it comes to personnel moves, employees with high performance and high values should be put on the leadership track and low performers with low values should be cut loose. This is pretty much a no-brainer for everyone. What you do with the other two groups of people is crucial. According to Jack Welch, under-performers who model the organization’s values should be given second and third chances to get it right while high performers without the values should also be cut loose. Otherwise, they’ll ruin your culture.

If you don’t like people, leadership stinks!

Jack Welch said 70% of his role at GE was people development. There are teaching moments each day both for the positive and the negative. You have to be interested enough in people to use them! In Welch’s words, “you have no right calling yourself a manager if people don’t know where they stand with you!”

Invite your employees to be prepared to leave.

Of the many thoughts Jack Welch shared, this one was perhaps the most radical. Don’t invite your employees to leave if they can’t hack it – invite them to leave if YOU can’t hack it. Up the ante on yourself. If you aren’t giving your people the environment they need to succeed, tell them they owe it to themselves to have the self-confidence to find a better organization. Then work to make the job so good the people won’t want to leave.

Leadership is contagious.

Navy SEAL LCDR Roark Denver encouraged the audience to fight for every inch of improvement in an elite environment. Calm is contagious. In fact, everything is contagious, whether it’s calm, patience, even stupidity. If you do something well, your followers will do it better. Unfortunately if you do something poorly, your followers will do it worse.

Our country is worth it.

LCDR Roark Denver closed the event explaining what he called the unique covenant between our nation’s warriors and civilians. Our nation’s civilians give the military something worth fighting for, he said. Because of that, there ought to be as much interaction as possible for us to collaborate and learn from each other.

Of course there were many more teachable moments, but these were the biggest ones for me. To catch up on the social conversation, view #CFALeadercast on Twitter. (It was trending all day!). Next year’s event will take place on May 9, 2014. For more information, visit www.chick-fil-aleadercast.com.

For those who attended Leadercast (past or present), what were your biggest takeaways?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.