Thursday, January 25, 2018

Leadership lessons from Morris Jackson and Chick-Fil-A

I love the opportunity to get to hear keynote speakers or read good motivational or leadership books. This week, I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Morris Jackson, a Chick-fil-A franchise operator for over 40 years in the Birmingham area.

Mr. Jackson worked alongside Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, for over 40 years, and has extensive knowledge about leadership, customer service, and team building. It was my pleasure to get to hear him speak about the lessons he has learned along the way. 

He told the story about a woman in an airport. She had a few hours until her flight, so she stopped by the bookstore and purchased a book and a bag of cookies and found a place to sit and read while waiting on her flight. 

While she was reading, she noticed that there was a man sitting next to her, and he reached inside her bag of cookies and took out a cookie or two. She tried to ignore him so that she didn't cause a great scene in the airport. 

Every time she took out a cookie, he took one, too. This went on until there was only one cookie left. He took it out of the bag, broke it in half, popped half in his mouth and gave her the other half. She snatched it from him as he got up to go catch his flight, leaving her fuming about his boldness to take her cookies.

Finally, her flight number was called and she boarded the plane, still angry about the "nerve of that guy" who took her cookies. As she was seated, she opened her bag to get her book out, and she saw HER bag of cookies that she had purchased earlier at the bookstore! SHE was the Cookie Thief!

This week, Mr. Jackson was using the story to make a point about assumptions. The lady assumed that the bag was hers. She assumed that the man was taking her cookies. She assumed that he was a thief. As a leader, it's important that we question our assumptions before making a judgment or come to a conclusion too quickly.

Leader check-in: How many times do assume things that cause conflict in our lives? Are there things that we assume that we should question?

Begin challenging your own assumptions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.
~ Alan Alda
The second lesson Mr. Jackson shared had to do with clarity of your message. He shared how he had learned this from Truett Cathy. Mr. Cathy had a speech impediment, so he learned to have a simple and clear message. Over the years, Mr. Jackson had come to realize the power in using simple language. In The Speed of Teacher Trust, I share the 13 behaviors that Stephen Covey says are necessary for leadership success. Covey says we need to talk straight, create transparency, and clarify expectations. 

Hearing this message from Mr. Jackson reinforced everything I had seen modeled by my dad growing up. My dad is from the deep south of Alabama, raised on a farm and started working for the railroad at age 18. My dad is also extremely smart, and retired as an executive on the railroad after 38 years. I tell you this only to say that he started with very humble beginnings, and he taught me exactly what Mr. Jackson shared. A clear message in simple terms is usually better. The clearest message in simple terms that I heard was, "treat everyone the same but different." (If I heard that phrase one, I heard it a thousand times growing up!)
If we present in sophisticated language, the sophisticated understands us. If we speak in simple language, everyone understands us.                              ~Morris Jackson

Mr. Jackson also talked about how we are perceived as leaders when others need help from us. Mr. Jackson said that he listened to Truett Cathy because he knew that Mr. Cathy cared

According to Mr. Jackson, there are 3 questions people ask themselves when they go to a person for help:

     1 - Can you help?

     2 - Do you care?

     3 - Can I trust you?

Mr. Jackson knew that the answers to these questions were YES when he thought about Truett Cathy.

Leader check-in: Question your assumptions. How would others answer these questions if they were directed at you?

To wrap up his keynote, Mr. Jackson gave us a challenge. 

1) He wanted us to send a hand written note to someone that needs our encouragement,
2) He asked us to do something extraordinary for someone where we go out of our way to serve them.

Leader check-in: WHAT IF you did these two simple things each and every week?

Have you learned these same lessons in your leadership journey?
Is simple language okay, or should it be more formal with sophisticated language? I can't wait to get your responses to this one! 

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