Lessons From a Chicken Sandwich
WHAT CHICK-FIL-A CAN TEACH YOU ABOUT SAFETY CULTURE
Since opening in 1946, Chick-fil-A has grown to over 2,000 locations and $7 billion in annual sales. Its remarkable success story is predicated on a culture that focuses on hiring, developing, and retaining the right people.
If you have dined at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, you likely heard the phrase “it’s my pleasure.” This simple phrase is reflective of its culture and the investment the company makes in its employees. Dee Ann Turner, vice president of enterprise social responsibility, chronicles the development of that culture in It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture.
Although Turner’s book has no direct link to safety, it is a great benchmarking tool. The book is about a successful corporate culture that encompasses all levels of an organization – there are safety implications every step of the way, if we choose to look. I did and learned five lessons from Chick-fil-A.
- It Starts With a Vision
Creating a compelling safety culture starts with a vision that explains why we do what we do. “Knowing why we truly exist helps us succeed at everything we do,” says Turner. Why do we do what we do if not for the benefit, health, and well-being of our employees and, as an extension, their families?
Great leaders don’t lead with fear but with vision, and they share their vision at every opportunity. Unfortunately, fear and safety seem to be joined at the hip (i.e. fear of a poor audit score or being caught violating procedures).
According to Capt. Michael Abrashoff in It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, the secret of “managing a company is to articulate a common goal that inspires a diverse group of people to work hard together,” and in our case, work hard to ensure everyone goes home safe.
It’s okay if you don’t have a well-defined and honed vision – most don’t. But if you love what you do, show it. People with vision, passion, and a plan are called leaders, and we like to follow them.
- Practice Servant Leadership
According to Tim Tassopoulos, Chick-fil-A executive vice president-operations, “employers of choice add value to team members rather than extracting value. Team members are a gift to be stewarded, not an asset to be managed.”
Servant leadership means not asking a team member to do something we are unwilling to do ourselves. Have you ever conducted an audit or a job hazard analysis of a task you have never performed? Consider spending a shift working or at least shadowing a worker at that job before conducting an audit or analysis.
- Nurture an Abundance Mentality
Leaders with an abundance mentality believe there are plenty of opportunities to go around and actively seek them. This is contrasted with a scarcity mentality, which is prevalent in unhealthy cultures that view individual opportunities as limited leading to the resentment of others’ successes.
Every organization has people who want to contribute and be part of a winning team. Those are the rock stars of a company. Do we identify them and offer them opportunities to shine? Opportunities like leading a safety committee exist in most companies.
- Cultivate a Spirit of Commitment
Chick-fil-A’s leaders are committed to developing their employees, because they understand that a culture of commitment versus command to compliance reaps continuous rewards.
It’s all too easy in the safety world to work just for compliance with federal or state regulations, company policies, etc. A command to compliance works, if we are satisfied with a minimum standard and a culture with employees who will not give their discretionary effort. Most reasonable people prefer to work in a culture with a commitment to a vision and each other.
Cultivating a spirit of commitment requires leaders to take a personal interest in employees, taking time to understand their goals and aspirations, and looking for opportunities for growth. When we coach for commitment, employees will actively look for and report hazards; they will look out for each other. Compliance is important, but cultivating a spirit of commitment wins hearts and minds.
- Engage Guests in a Compelling Culture
Chick-fil-A’s culture encompasses more than its employees. Every single customer can expect to be treated with “honor, dignity, and respect.”
Do we take the same approach with contractors, when they come through the door? Are they treated like team members who deserve a safe work environment, or are they viewed simply as a means to transfer risk? “As long as it doesn’t fall on my OSHA log” is a phrase I have heard more than once. I’ve been on both ends and can say I prefer being treated as a partner rather than an outsider.
November/December 2016 | Oil Mill Gazetteer