Category Archives: Talent

Guest Post by Mark Miller – The Big Picture: Leaders Ensure Alignment


Today’s post is courtesy of Mark Miller. Mark began writing about a decade ago. He teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do (2007). More recently, he released Chess Not Checkers (2015), and Leaders Made Here (2017). His latest is Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People (February 2018). Today, over 1 million copies of Mark’s books are in print in more than two dozen languages.


What’s the hardest thing a leader has to do? Honestly, I’m not sure.

For me, it varies with the circumstances of the day. However, if I pull up and stop fighting fires and escape the entanglements of growing bureaucracy, I think I might vote for Ensuring Alignment.

Having seen our organization grow from less than two dozen staff to almost 2,000, I can say the task of keeping everyone aligned is mind-boggling. However, regardless of the difficulty factor, I believe Ensuring Alignment is one of the leader’s highest priorities – and one with incalculable returns.

For these reasons, I was not surprised when we began sorting through all we learned from our Top Talent research project about their expectations for their leaders, and landed on this idea of Ensuring Alignment as a leadership best practice. No organization drifts toward a big vision – you drift out to sea or over a waterfall, but you don’t drift to greatness.

Here’s an excerpt from the Talent Magnet Field Guide on this topic…

“When organizations work together, they set themselves apart. Clearly, alignment accelerates impact. Leaders who want to position their organizations to accomplish a Bigger Vision must Ensure Alignment; only then can they harness the collective energy of those they lead. Without alignment, energy, productivity, and impact will suffer.

Picture a tug of war. If leaders can get everyone in the organization on the same side of the rope pulling together toward the vision, their competition is in trouble.  When everyone is in sync, not only is the existing workforce energized, but potential talent will be drawn to the team.

Alignment permeates every aspect of a high-performance culture. Leaders know they must model the way and continually work to train team members to embrace the vision, mission, values, systems, and strategy if they hope to execute at a high level. If they succeed, everyone wins. Additionally, they position themselves to be an employer of choice for Top Talent.”

As a leader, you must choose where to invest your time. You can thrash away neck deep in the weeds of busyness or you can make a strategic decision to build an aligned culture. Choose to Ensure Alignment and you will be a step closer to becoming a place so attractive, Top Talent will be standing in line to work for your organization.


About Mark Miller

Mark Miller began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, he joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, Mark has steadily increased his value at Chick-fil-A and has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, and Quality and Customer Satisfaction.

Today, he serves as the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership. During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $9 billion. The company now has more than 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

When not working to sell more chicken, Mark is actively encouraging and equipping leaders around the world. He has taught at numerous international organizations over the years on topics including leadership, creativity, team building, and more.


Hire People Who Challenge You


Have you ever noticed that quite often leaders don’t promote many of their staff?

That’s because the default method of many average leaders is to hire people who are on a “lower level” than themselves.

I have worked with individual leaders who have hired non-degreed professional help, those with “basic intelligence”, “good followers” and people who are of lower self-esteem on purpose. Those justifications are below:

  • The leader wants to be in complete charge
  • They never want to be questioned
  • Or held accountable
  • She or he want to be the smartest person in the room
  • They like having a paternal/maternal reputation
  • He or she believe they can bully, fool or manipulate their subordinates

However the fact is, that surrounding yourself with people in any capacity that don’t challenge you only makes you grow weaker. When you associate with people who don’t sharpen your skills, the tendency is to not be sharpened yourself. In any realm, that means you grow dull and regress.

The most astute leaders know that hiring people who can be smarter, more energetic, more tech-savvy, or with better charisma doesn’t just compensate for what they don;t fully possess as a skill, and will not only complement what the hiring leader has, but will actually help them learn and play up to the heightened skill set that gets brought on board.

Hiring better people than yourself should not be feared, but fully embraced. I have yet to witness a sharp leader who has hired sharper people and then found themselves out of a position. In fact, the reason they hired individuals who challenged them actually cemented the role that they had in the first place, because the key to being a great leader was displayed – seek and hire great talent.

Purpose to seek and hire talent better than yourself. It not only build the team, but makes things easier for everyone in the organization. You can only benefit from it.

(image: pixaby)


What The Kid Did With His Opportunity


A leader’s best moments are undoubtedly when their people take the mantle of leadership themselves and successfully apply it.

Like parents and their children, the sense of pride that exudes from seeing someone develop and flourish is probably what attracts most of us to consider leading and influencing others.

One of the most satisfying moments for me was many years ago when a 19-year old boy stepped up and made a tremendous impact. I oversaw the operations for an entertainment/theme park, and one of my foodservice supervisors had to take medical leave for the bulk of the peak summer season.

She oversaw three small but high volume units in the park, and the timing of this news was crucial. She had a very young staff that worked for her, with a few shift leaders, and her absence meant an increased workload for myself.

Normally this would have been a difficult challenge and cause for worry, but hidden in her staff was a gem of a leader that I found out we could call on to hold the fort. If only I could foresee how much of a leader he would turn out to be.

Bonfilio was his name, a quiet kid who was reliable and steady. He always seemed to understand how to make his staff, which was mostly his peer group, motivated to work and overcome obstacles. He was a shift leader who ran a good operation, so we set the stage for him to take the reins. We promoted him to a supervisor role on a temporary basis which allowed him the scope of authority he needed to assume the role left open for a few months.

Bonfilio immediately started to have the operations run smoother and more expedient within a couple of weeks. He made sure that the other shift leaders knew how to train new hires, use their daily task lists, and take care of the customer. Within a month, sales and profits for those locations exceeded prior years.

As he became more efficient, I started to give him duties for scheduling, ordering, and cleaning. He effectively worked those into his routine and delegated some of the tasks to others who he thought could learn and help him out.

Impressed, I started to give him more responsibility. I would give him weekly goals on cleanliness, service times, training, and other operational challenges. We would check weekly, and I would ask him “So how are you coming on A, B, and C?” He would respond, “A, B and C are done, here are the results. And, oh, I also did an D, E, and F for you as well, here’s what became of those.” I was floored by Bonfilio’s initiative, and his ability to take on more while ensuring the operations ran efficiently.

Bonfilio, like many others, needed 2 things in order to exercise his leadership influence:

1) A chance to step up, and 2) The motivation to step up when the chance is presented.

His story gives us solid lessons in how to foster chances and groom people to be ready for those opportunities:

  • Scan The Horizon That Is Your People – Leaders need to take the time to know their players and where they can fill in during various situations. Coaches know how their players react in a given situation, parents know their children’s strengths and weaknesses. Get to know your people, and their talents, intimately.
  • Identify Traits, Not Personalities – Many people have been discounted from leadership roles for reasons based solely on their personality. What may be hardness might be high standards, likewise shyness could be keen observation skills. Be discerning in your assessment of your people.
  • Build Skills & Develop Their Character – Without skills, the job doesn’t get done. Without character, it doesn’t get done right or consistent over the long haul. Their future leadership trajectory will in part be determined by the path you set them on on these two fronts.
  • Give Them A Chance To Lead For Real – Start with a can’t fail situation, then grow from there. Stretch them, push them, but get them out there so they can show their talents. Waiting for the “right moment” may never come, so create it for them.

It was Bonfilio’s vision, talents, and initiative that made an incredible impact that summer. We just merely set the stage; but he had to show up and perform each time the curtain rose up.

That summer the shops that Bonfilio operated set records on sales and margins, as well as customer satisfaction and employee engagement. When his supervisor returned from her leave in the fall, Bonfilio was ready for the next challenge.

He knew of an opening as a supervisor in our largest restaurant, and wanted to take on the challenge of learning a new concept, new skills, and work for the person who later became our executive chef for the park. While a step down from what he just accomplished, he saw even more opportunity to learn and grow as a leader.

Do you know who the Bonfilios of your organization are? Have you given them an opportunity to showcase their talents? They are out there, waiting to make your business better and become dynamic leaders in their own right.

(first posted on Lead Change Group 3/15)

(image: pixaby)

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