This week we talk with Mark Miller, VP of High-Performance Leadership for Chick-fil-A. We talk about his book, Chess Not Checkers, and the importance of growing the younger leaders in your bank.  For the last 20 years, Mark has focused much of his time on serving leaders, helping them grow themselves, their teams, and their organizations. In addition to his role at Chick-fil-A, he also has the privilege to teach and lead in not-for-profit organizations domestically and globally.

To learn more about Mark, visit

The views, information, or opinions expressed during this show are solely those of the participants involved and do not necessarily represent those of SouthState Bank and its employees. 


Intro: Helping community bankers grow themselves, their team and their profits. This is The Community Bank Podcast.

Erik Bagwell: Welcome to the community Bank podcast. I’m Eric Bagwell, Director of Sales and Marketing for the correspondent division of South State Bank. Joining me today is Caleb Stevens, Business Development Officer and Marketing guru for our division. Caleb, how are you?

Caleb Stevens: I don’t know if I like the term guru, but I appreciate the compliment. It’s good to be back on the show though.

Erik Bagwell: Tell us about our show today. We have Mark Miller, Vice President of High Performance Leadership. You and I sat down with mark, talk about the interview real quick.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah. This is one of those interviews that I feel like you could have on repeat the whole day. I mean, every two sentences you want to just hit pause and chew on what he said, because it’s so practical, it’s really dense and rich and it’s all about how to develop a leadership culture within your organization. And I think at one point we were going like eight or nine bullet points, deep into one overarching kind of topic we were talking about. So really good stuff he’s written, I think, eight or nine books internally for Chick-fil-A. And just the fact that they feel like having a vice president of high-performance leadership is important, speaks to the culture that they’ve built, and I think it’s a culture that a lot of our bankers and listeners can learn from.

Erik Bagwell: Yeah, Mark tells his story of how he got to Chick-fil-A and what he’s done at the company and it was neat as first time I met mark today and he did that whole thing without notes, did the whole interview and he covered a lot of stuff.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Erik Bagwell: It’s great information and we’re glad you guys have tuned in and we hope you enjoy the interview.

Caleb Stevens: Thanks for hopping on the podcast this afternoon. It’s great to be talking with you. How are you doing?

Mark Miller: Doing fantastic. Thanks for the opportunity.

Caleb Stevens: So, most organizations don’t have a role like yours, the title of Vice President of High Performance Leadership. Give us a little snapshot of your backstory. How’d you get to Chick-fil-A and why to Chick-fil-A feel like someone who’s in a role, like a high performance leadership role. Why did that come about and why does Chick-fil-A value something like that?

Mark Miller: Well, I’m not sure I can shed a lot of light on the title. Let me tell you a little bit about my journey and the organization was trying to figure out what to call what we do here, but your listeners may or may not know that all of our Chick-fil-A restaurants are independently operated, but they’re corporate owned, and so we’re in an interesting spot. We want to serve them, but they make their own decisions particularly management, leadership practices. They’re operating in brand standards that they’ve got to adhere to, but when it comes to people, management, leadership, talent, all of those things; we’ve got a very talented operator base. Those are the men and women that run the restaurants, but we still want to serve them and we still want to add value. And so I’ve been on Chick-fil-A staff over 40 years, I started as a team member, was awful in the restaurant and quit because it made perfect sense to me. I would rather quit than be fired, I thought it looked better on my resume and a few months after I left the restaurant, I went to the home office and applied to work in the warehouse and Truett Cathy hired me the Founder of Chick-fil-A. And you might be wondering why would the CEO be interviewing upon to work in the warehouse? Well, this was a long time ago and I learned that I was interviewing to be the 16th corporate employee.
So if you’ve only got 15 employees, it makes sense that the big guy would probably be making the decision and conducting the interviews. So Truett selected me. I’ve worked all across the business over the last 40 plus years, but about 20 years ago, we said we really need to work on our leadership bench. This was corporate, as the tip of the spear was we looked over our shoulder and said, we don’t have enough leadership depth. So I don’t know about your listeners, but my experience is when an organization has a problem to solve or an opportunity to seize, you put a leader on it. Now he, or she may not solve it, but they’re probably going to bring to bear the team, the resources and the thinking to either solve that problem or tackle that opportunity. And so about 20 years ago, we realized that the way we had developed leaders for the first 25 years of the company was not scaling well, our old methods were really more akin to immersion and osmosis and you kind of hope that you’d have enough leaders.

Caleb Stevens: You pick it up as you go.

Mark Miller: The group was small. Yeah. And young leaders like myself, we just paid attention because we sat around the table with a lot of great leaders. But as we grew, there were so many people that hadn’t had the opportunity to sit around the table, literally with great leaders and, and we needed more leaders. So I was asked to try and solve that problem. Interesting, we also noticed about the same time that our restaurants were on the verge of needing more leadership as well , as the business grew in volume, it grew in complexity , operators were stretched thinner and thinner; they needed more leadership capacity. So we actually said, let’s see if we can create a point of view for the organization, that was about just over 20 years ago. I tell folks it’s the modern era of leadership development at Chick-fil-A and that’s what I focused on ever since.

Caleb Stevens: And stop me if I’m wrong here, but I believe I’ve heard when you talk about the operator model, you say, this is for people who want to be in business for themselves, but not by themselves, and so you sort of take a servant approach of, hey, us at the home office, the support center, the corporate office, whatever you guys call it now. We’re not here to be this ivory tower from above telling you exactly how to run your operations. We’re here to support you, serve you add value. Of course, there’s some standards and things that we all need to sort of be rowing in the same direction on.
But I love that approach that the leaders we’re developing here at the home office, the support center are actually designed to ultimately serve you the operator. I think that’s a really unique perspective because a lot of times we think, oh, the home office, that’s the ivory tower that’s making all the rules and sort of dictating how business is done. So I love that approach.

Mark Miller: Yeah, you described it very well. And so we can be a little bit more prescriptive and I don’t even want to overplay that, but we can tell our staff, this is our leadership point of view. We do not take that stance with the operators. We say, hey, we’ve been thinking about this, we’ve been researching this, we’ve been studying this, we’ve been trying this; here’s a point of view for your consideration. Again, management and leadership practices are the sole discretion of an independent operator.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Mark Miller: And I say that whether legal is listening or not, but that is the truth.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Mark Miller: We’ve selected them because they’re great leaders, but we still want to help them, we still want to serve them., and so we look for those felt needs again. I’ve been focused on this really for about the last 20 years and then how can we add value to those people at their discretion

Caleb Stevens: And talk real quick too, about your role in terms of writing books and developing curriculum for these development programs. So a lot of what we’re going to talk about today kind of centered around your book, your book, Chess not Checkers, but you’ve written more than just one book. Tell us about that and maybe some of the stuff you’ve done with Ken Blanchard.

Mark Miller: Well, yeah, just a quick fly by, because we did start just over 20 years ago. That first book was called The Secret and it was done with Ken Blanchard. What happened? We did the work that I just described a moment ago, we tried to figure out how do we accelerate leadership development. And the starting point for us was the realization that we didn’t even have a common point of view or a common definition. And so we said, okay, we want a behaviorally based definition of leadership had a team of really smart people. We did that work and we had what I call a crisis of confidence. I remember the day and we’re sitting and looking at it on the flip chart and we’re kind of going, what if that’s not right? I mean, we sell chicken for a living, and we were out of our depth this whole, how do you accelerate leadership development? And either a coincidence or divine appointment, I was going to be with Ken Blanchard the next day, I had a personal relationship with him and I asked the team, would you like me to share this with Ken? And for those in your audience that don’t know Ken he’s most famous for his book, The One Minute Manager, which has probably sold 15 or 20 million copies around the world, it’s a classic, but he knew a lot more about leadership than we did. And the team said, yeah, talk to Ken. So the next day I shared with Ken, the work we had done and the single sheet five bullet points, hey, Ken, we’re trying to accelerate leadership development, take a look at this. Do you think it’s valid? Do you think it’ll stand the test of time? Did we miss anything? And he looked at it and he said, this has got to be a book. That was the first thing out of his mouth. And I kind of blew him off and I said, Ken, everything looks like a book to you, which is why you saw probably 50 million books in his life, and he said, no, you don’t understand. He said, you were trying to articulate what great leaders do at Chick-fil-A. He said, what you guys have done is you’ve articulated what great leaders have done throughout history and it’s got to be a book. And so I tell folks I’m the accidental author. Chick-fil-A I think in a moment of generosity, sad, yeah, why don’t you do the book? I said, I’ll give all the money away if it makes any money. And they said, yeah, Why don’t you do it? It was clearly an abundance mentality, they said maybe it would serve the world. Now, none of us knew that was 20 years ago, that books in 25 languages. And it’s our point of view on leadership, it’s called The Secret. And that’s kind of what started me down this writing path and I’ve had the privilege to do one other book with Ken, and then I’ve done six or seven or eight on my own. And we’ve decided that it’s a really good way to codify what we’re learning and share it with the world. And so I’m thankful that Chick-fil-A allows me to do that.

Erik Bagwell: Mark, tell us about you were gracious enough to send Caleb and I Chess Not Checkers. And I actually were talking about it before we got on with you actually read it in about two days while I was recovering from COVID and it’s a great,

Mark Miller: Oh! I’m glad you recovered!

Erik Bagwell: Yes, I did recover. It was a great read. And we want those listening to go out and grab it, talk about it, give us an overview of that book.

Mark Miller: Sure. So , let me give you just a little context, I don’t want to belabor it, but I think it matters. We were in a strategic mate, a long range planning meeting in 2010, and we had just begun encouraging the operators to consider building a leadership team. So stay with me, there’s a, logic to this. What we realized as the businesses were growing in volume and complexity, it was taxing that individual point later sometimes to the extreme that sales profits and customer satisfaction were plateauing. And it wasn’t because they were a bad leader, necessarily. What we discovered is they were running into something called human capacity limits, no matter how strong, how fast a leader is, at some point you hope to be leading something that’s too big for you to do by yourself. Well, a lot of our restaurants where we’re hitting that ceiling. And so we had just begun encouraging them to consider if they wanted to build a leadership team and put five or six leaders around the table with you and that’ll grow your leadership capacity. So in 2010, we were a couple of years into that journey and somebody said what’s after leadership teams? Well, I don’t want to say it was totally spontaneous, but it was just kind of what was on my heart at the moment. And I said, well here’s the truth as great as a leadership team is, it really is about tapping into the talent, the passion, the energy and creativity of five or six people. And that’s been tremendous for our business I said, but I think there is so much untapped potential in all of the people that don’t sit around that leadership table back then, that would have been about 50 team members per restaurant. And I don’t know what your experience is, but I like to think that our operators have done an outstanding job in recruiting really sharp talent, much of it young people. But the reality is that in many cases, those young people are just serving as hired hands, they’re just doing what they’re told when they’re told. So I said that day in 2010, I think what’s next is we move beyond just capturing the talent, the passion, the energy and creativity of five or six people and we try to do that for the entire workforce in a restaurant.

I said, so I think we need to move from creating a high-performance leadership team to creating a high-performance organization. And I’m looking around the table and everybody’s going, yeah, that’s like a pretty good idea, and I’m feeling good, if I had a mic, I would have probably dropped it because it kind of made sense to us all and Tim to stop-loss who’s now the President of Chick-fil-A. He was not at the time, but this was his leadership team that I was part of. He’s now president of the company, he looked at me and said, do you know how to create a high-performance organization? And I said, no, I really don’t but I still think it’s a great idea. And he said, well, you need to figure it out because he said, that’s what we’re going to help the operators think about next. And so I went and put a team together much like I had done a decade before, when we’re working on our point of view of leadership, I put a really strong team together, some very gifted people and said, we get to try and figure out how to create a high-performance organization so that we can share that with operators and the world. And that’s the backstory. It became the book, Chess Not Checkers, which was released in 2015.

Erik Bagwell: That’s awesome. Mark talk real quick, a lot of the folks listening here have probably been at a bank. We’ve had a lot of customers over the years and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. They’ll actually sell the bank because there was no bench strength. It’s like, hey, you get to a point and we don’t know what we’re going to do, and it seems like it’s just easier to sell than then the keep something going. And there’s other reasons, obviously you sell a bank. Is that the most critical thing for a leader of an organization? Is it always just developing that next generation? What’s your comment on that?

Mark Miller: Well, I’ve turned a few heads. I remember speaking at a leadership conference several years ago and I stood up and I said, there is something, every organization needs more than leadership and you think I’d slap somebody’s mama. It’s like, wait a minute, this is a leadership conference, senior leadership guy; this is a leadership talk. And I said, yes, there is something, every organization needs more than leadership. They need a leadership culture. And the way I define that, it’s a place where leaders are routinely and systematically developed and you have a surplus. Now, some people might say surplus, that sounds like wasteful. It’s like, well, hold on, that’s how, the systems and processes are working so that when you need somebody from the bench that you actually have somebody that is ready and so yeah, the many organizations struggle. I talked to a leader one day that lost a member of his senior leadership team and I hated it. I knew some of this history and the circumstance and I said, well, who’s next? He said, well, I don’t have anybody and I said, well, congratulations, he said for what? I said, well, you got to assume that responsibility, he said, what are you talking about? I said, how do you run the organization without that? He said, well, it’d be hard, I said, so you tag you’re it. So it happens all the time for any number of reasons that a leader is just not ready, they’re just not prepared, they’ve not graded. That leadership culture is a huge problem.

Caleb Stevens: So let’s dive into that a little bit and get a little more practical here, and Chess Not Checkers sort of layout, what are some of the themes and some of the practical ways that you guys at Chick-fil-A try to implement this culture of leadership and try to develop the bench strength?

Mark Miller: All right. So I’m going to take off SWAT at that and then we’ll go deeper if you’d like.

Caleb Stevens: Okay.

Mark Miller: I want to set a little context. When we did this work, we spent several years trying to answer the question I raised a moment ago. How do you actually build a high-performance organization? And thankfully for us, as I said, we’re in the chicken business, so this could not be complicated or we’d be in trouble. So this is what we learned. That high-performance organizations, they have four things in common, and the first is that they all bet on leadership. We cannot find a high-performance organization in the world is not well led. If there is one we’d like to know about it, we’d like to study them and learn from them. But we did, I would honestly say exhaustive research benchmarking, and we think all high-performance organizations are well led. One of the things they do to bet on leadership is to build the bench so that they don’t get caught in this gap because what happens when you get caught in the gap and you’ve been in the business world long enough to know if you don’t have any better on the bench, you give it to an existing leader. And you can do that for awhile, but at some point you’ll kill your existing leaders; you’ll burn them out, so that’s not a long-term play.
And so I don’t know how much you want to change that, but let me give you a couple of things. I wrote a book on that called Leaders Made Here because a lot of people said, well, how do I build the bench? How do I create a leadership culture? And I’m going to make this sound real easy and cute because that’s what you got to do when you write a book, it’s much harder than what I’m about to tell you but first you’ve got to define it. We didn’t have a common definition. Most organizations don’t when you say leadership in most businesses, a for-profit or not-for-profit everybody nods and they all think they know exactly what you’re talking about. If you have them write down their definition on a three by five card and you take them all up, two things will be true. One, everybody had a definition and two they’re all going to be different. You can’t build a leadership culture if everybody has a different working premise and a different operating definition. So that’s what The Secret; the book with Ken, that was our first step that was defining leadership in our context, in our culture. Second thing, and I’ll move quickly is you’ve got to actually teach it. People have to be able to understand what it means and how to actually employ the truth and deploy the concept. If you’re saying that leaders see the future, you actually have to teach people about how to create vision, how to communicate vision, there’s that teaching component. So you’ve got to define it, you’ve got to teach it, you need to let people practice it because the research indicates most of what people know about leading, they learn from leading. Now it helps to understand the three keys to delegation, but you really don’t understand delegation until you actually go work on it. It helps to know what vision casting means and why it’s important and how to do it, and when do you learn it really it’s actually when you do it. And so we have worked hard to be sure that we give emerging leaders an opportunity to practice preferably in lower stakes circumstances and situations where if they stumble, and if I are not successful, then it’s not the end of the world. Number four, you measure it and the organizations that creates a leadership culture have a leadership scorecard.
Again, I can talk for a long time on this, but let me say this. It’s probably not a single metric. A lot of organizations have spent a lot of time looking for a single metric. The most successful that I’m aware of in that pursuit is FedEx, where they create an index, but it’s seven factors, but it’s just too complicated to say, we’re going to think one thing is our measure of success. The second thing I’ll say about that, it’s not dynamic. Like if you’re just starting, your scorecard might have something as simple as how many of our leaders have been instructed on what our point of view is and you want that number to go to a hundred percent. Well, once at a hundred percent and you’ve added it to new team member or new leader training ,that doesn’t need to stay on your scorecard. So not a single metric and it needs to be dynamic.

Caleb Stevens: So those are, four points under build your bench, which is under bed on leadership. Am I following the train here?

Mark Miller: Yeah. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to give you some real tactical stuff.

Caleb Stevens: Oh not this is great.

Mark Miller: One more. So you got to define it, you got to teach it, you got to practice it, you got to measure it ,and finally you have to model it.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Mark Miller: Let’s just pretend for a second. Some of your leaders are advocating servant leadership, if your existing leaders aren’t trying to be a servant leader, you might as well quit talking about servant leadership. So those are some real tactical things that you can do to build the bench, which is one of the strategies, if you commit to bet on leadership.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Mark Miller: I know its a mouthful.

Caleb Stevens: No that’s great. So, bet on leadership, that the second thing I think you talk about in Chess Not Checkers is the value of alignment. I think you call it act as one.

Mark Miller: Act as one.

Caleb Stevens: And one quote from that chapter that really stood out to me was to allow someone to stay in the wrong job, isn’t epic leadership failure. Talk about the value of alignment and why you can get off the rails if you don’t have alignment.

Mark Miller: Well, yeah. So you want alignment around what matters most, and then you want to put people against the roles and in the responsibilities that will help you actually achieve what matters most. And so, we don’t want to get to the end of our career, and have people that hate our guts because we kept them in a job where they couldn’t be successful and they couldn’t thrive. We would say, if you do that, you have stolen someone’s life. I just think it’s one of the worst things a leader can do, and they do it for any number of reasons. I would even say most of the time, it’s from a good place, they have a benevolent heart, but I just think it’s fundamentally wrong. I think people can be successful and we can try to help them be successful in our organization or in the roles that we have. But if they can’t be successful in our organization, we’re setting them up for a life characterized by lack of fulfillment, lack of prosperity, lack of, enjoyment, probably lack of purpose. It’s like, yeah, we don’t want any part of that. The last thought on that, Truett told me, Truett Cathy, our founder, hand I were discussing years ago about someone we might need to terminate. And he said, I just want you to know, I’ve never known a great leader that built their career on terminating people. He said, the great leaders build their career on helping people be successful, which I still think that ought to be your default, but I define success broadly, helping them be successful may not mean that they’re successful in our organization.

Caleb Stevens: Yeah. That’s good.

Erik Bagwell: Mark, talk about how leaders should deal with disagreement. Maybe in the C suite, you’ve got a management team and maybe they disagree on maybe a direction of strategy. How do you, how does a leader deal with that and not create like long-term division with the group?

Mark Miller: Okay. So this is a, another of several questions that I wish we had several hours to talk about, so here’s the deal. I want to be real careful that your listeners don’t misinterpret the brevity of my response with the significance of that question because it’s a big deal. It’s a real deal, but here’s my 2 cents worth on that. Anytime a leader has a decision to make he, or she has several options at their disposal. One, they can make a command decision and if, if you decide to make a command decision, then Caleb’s responsibility is to take good notes and ask clarifying questions, because I think he reports to you and the same would be for your boss that is at our discretion as leaders to make command decisions. The second option that a leader always has at his or her disposal is to make a consultative decision where you retain those rights and you’re getting input, so that is legitimate and I think absolutely appropriate. There’s a third type of decision, which is where a lot of people stumble, particularly if they’re an attain concept and that’s a consensus decision and that means we’re going to reach a conclusion that we can all fully support. Those decisions are really hard to make and I would argue that form of decision-making should be used less often than consultative and probably less often than command decisions, but the teams that try to make everything a consensus, it’s virtually impossible. And then the fourth and final is , a leader can delegate a decision. You can get to make this decision and you can tell him to report back or not.
So I tell leaders, there’s something more important than being right and it’s called submission to authority. And if you can’t live and work under authority, you need to go work somewhere else. And so if you make a decision command or consultative and I can’t live with it, then I got other issues, I’ve got to work through. So depending I guess my answer to your question is a leader needs to be clear on which type of decision we’re making because it frames the whole conversation. And I think Caleb would probably be appreciative to know, oh, we’re making a consultative decision, I’m going to give Eric my best thinking and then Eric’s going to make a decision and we’re going to go do it right now. If it’s consensus and you’ve said, it’s consensus, then it’s give and take back and forth. Now you can change it if you can’t reach a decision in a timely fashion, you can say, okay, I’m going to now make this consultative, but just name the game. And I think it’s much easier for people to play along and to feel like they’ve been heard.

Caleb Stevens: So we’ve, talked about a bit on leadership. We’ve talked about alignment act as one. Your third kind of key chapter or theme in Chess Not Checkers is the idea of win the heart, can you unpack that for us?

Mark Miller: Sure.

Caleb Stevens: I think a lot of times, I Mark, we’re bankers, we’re quantitative, we love balance sheets and income statements and we like looking at the numbers win the heart, what are you talking about?

Mark Miller: Yeah. When the heart is really code for engagement and I’m thinking even the bankers in the audience probably are aware at some level what it cost when people are disengaged at work. Now what we’ve tried to do to demystify this is we say engagement and if you read Google engagement and there’s a lot out there and some of my friends have written on it. And I mean, there’s a lot out there, I think we tend to make engagement too hard. We’ve said engagement is how much someone cares about their work, their coworkers and their organization. And if somebody doesn’t care, then what do you expect their performance to be like? Some of your listeners will be familiar with the annual survey that Gallup does. They’ve been doing it now for over 20 years. They started doing it as I understand it in America, they’re now getting countries all over the world, and 70% of the American workers are disengaged at work. That means 70% of the people don’t care. So let’s flip this into a sports analogy for just a moment. It’s not a perfect analogy, but there are 11 people on a football field on offense and 11 on defense at any given moment. Think about how hard it would be to run a successful play if seven or eight of those 11 people didn’t run their route or do their block, or it’s like, you say , well, that’s absurd, but that’s what organizations are trying to do, they’re trying to run a play with 70% of their folks that don’t care. So what we learned is that high-performance organizations spend a lot of time and energy trying to create the conditions in which their people will be fully engaged. They want to create a place that people care about their work, their coworkers, and the organization, and the dividends are huge, I think they’re incalculable. I know you want to count weigh and measure, but I can just get your head around if seven out of ten people don’t care at work. Wow! If you can flip that,

Caleb Stevens: Yeah.

Mark Miller: You’ve really created something special.

Erik Bagwell: Does that explain the last 50 years of the Atlanta Falcons existence as a Falcons fan? I can say that. .

Caleb Stevens: Yeah , you’re allowed To say that.

Mark Miller: Yeah. There’s a lot you can attribute to lack of care or in some organizations are tremendous about a care because that’s the third of the fourth of the four moves and you cannot excel in execution, which is the fourth move If people don’t care. It’s hard to excel and execution to hit that block, if you’re an offensive lineman or to treat those customers with the honor, dignity and respect that they deserve every time, it’s the hallmark of all high-performance organizations, they excel at execution. Now I need to tell you a quick story, one of the very first times that I shared these four moves with a bunch of business leaders. I had a leader say, now you’re talking excel at execution he said, I don’t care about any of that other crap, he said, we’re just going to execute. And I said, well, good luck with that because organizations that have a maniacal focus exclusively on execution, rarely do it well consistently over time. I said, think about the gymnast, we just came through the Olympics, think about the gymnast that says, I just want to do the dismount, or where do you get the height, the energy and momentum to stick the landing it’s in the routine that precedes the dismount. So in an organization that consistently excels at execution, it’s because of leadership, alignment and engagement. That’s what enables them to get it right time and time again.

Erik Bagwell: I read a great book it’s probably my favorite business book. One of my favorites called Execution is Larry Bossidy. It’s probably.

Mark Miller: Yes! Larry Bossidy’s book .

Caleb Stevens: A great book.

Mark Miller: Yes!

Erik Bagwell: And if you haven’t read it, I encourage folks to. What do people need to be measuring in terms of execution, Mark and I don’t know that Mr. Bossidy hits hard on winning the heart. It really is more about here’s what you got to do, and you got to measure he’s big on accountability, which I think is huge. Talk a little bit about what needs to be measured. What’s the most important thing that needs to be measured?

Mark Miller: Well let me give you a two-part answer to that question. If you go and look, I think he wrote that book when he was at allied signal,

Erik Bagwell: Yes.

Mark Miller: He went to allied signal when he left allied signal. If you check, they don’t execute as well as they did when he was there, I would argue it’s because they didn’t do some of the other stuff. I mean, with all due respect to Larry and his work, I think there’s a great book, but he didn’t talk about some of the sustaining mechanisms. See, that’s what leadership, alignment and engagement are, sustaining mechanisms; they’re enablers for execution. Now, to your point about what to measure. We could create an infinite list of what to measure, but I think it really goes back to two thoughts. You need to measure what matters, and I would encourage you to get everybody measuring what matters. So you may have many different scorecards. What matters to a teller is probably different than what matters to your chief loan officer because, back to the football example, you want everybody measuring. We did some work on that. I wrote a book called Win Everyday, which is about execution. And one of the best practice visit I spent time over at Clemson, talking to some of their frontline coaches. Now, I don’t know what you think about Clemson, but they’re actually pretty good at an execution. And just one little anecdote back to individual scorecards is the point I’m trying to drive home here. I was talking to the defensive backs coach, and this was at the end of spring practice a few years ago. And he was about to have one of the players come in and he said, I’m going to review his scorecard from the spring practice.
And I said, well, tell me about that, and he pulled it out and there was a number right in the center. He said, well, that’s his grade for spring practice? And I said, what’s all that other stuff he said, we have actually graded every play every snap with notes on why he got the grade he got for those snaps in order to calculate this overall score. Now, again, we can chase that for a while, my point being that’s different than the scorecard for the running backs and that’s different than the scorecard for the quarterback. And so I think a lot of times we want a scorecard and senior leaders will have a score card and it needs to be linked to what matters most and I would argue for both leading and lagging indicators and I would also advocate for a relatively short list on page one, a lot of supporting data, but a short list.
I think you’ve got to figure out what matters to you, but I think it’s the organizations that create a culture of execution. It’s not just the leaders keeping score they cascade that throughout their organization.

Caleb Stevens: Wow. That’s awesome. Well, Mark, I feel like we could keep going here for another hour, let’s bring it all home to this question, because you mentioned at the very beginning, your serve book, the first one you ever wrote with Ken Blanchard, when you really defined what is, leadership’s a sort of , to wrap it all up. If you could just kind of summarize to you and to Chick-fil-A, what are the essential qualities of a great leader? What does that look like?

Mark Miller: Well, again, that’s another huge question, you guys asked great questions. So let me, take it up just a little bit, and I hope this would serve your audience. We have a picture of leadership and it’s simple, it’s an iceberg now. I don’t know if you remember fifth grade, I have flashbacks, but they tell me in fifth grade that I studied icebergs. Again. I don’t know if this readily comes to mind for you, but typically about 10% of an iceberg is above the waterline and about 90% is below the waterline, we think that’s a perfect picture of leadership. About 10% above the waterline are the skills of a leader; easy to see who can do the job, and about 90% is below, which is leadership character, most leaders who failed don’t do so because they can’t lead a meeting or do brainstorming. If you can Google it, it’s probably a skill and you should be able to learn it. But it’s the leadership character that most often will trip up a leader, and so we think the best leaders are a combination of skills and character. Peter Drucker, the great management and leadership thinker said that the quality of character does not make the leader, but the absence flaws the entire process. So you don’t want a banker that just has skills, you want a banker with skills and character, you want a lawyer with skills and character, you want a doctor with skills and character, you want an accountant and leadership is no different. You really have to have both, if you’re going to reach your full potential.

Caleb Stevens: And, if I remember correctly, is there an acronym that you guys have? Is it S.E.R.V.E , or there’s something that you kind of have that break out .

Mark Miller: The skills.

Caleb Stevens: The skills.

Mark Miller: There are five, we call them the fundamentals, save the future, engage and develop others, reinvent, continuously value, results, and relationships, and embody the values and those are the skills that we wrote about in The Secret. We’ve also got something similar below the water line is hunger for wisdom, expect the best accept responsibility, respond with courage and think others first; and that spells H.E.A.R.T. Again, I don’t know if you’ve got any Bible readers out there, but there’s a fun verse that we discovered in the book of Psalms 78:72, talking about King David, and it said he shepherded his people with integrity of heart and with skillful hands, he led them. It’s like, yeah, if we can have men and women of integrity of heart and skillful hands, we think that goes a long way.

Caleb Stevens: Well, Mark, this has been such a calorie dense interview. I felt like every sentence is something we could chew on here for a long time, so thank you for your time. I know our listeners are going to get a lot out of this and thank you for sharing.

Mark Miller: Yeah. Let me do this. Let me give my cell number to your listeners. If they have questions they can call me or text me 6786128441. And I’ve recently launched a site, Mark Miller Leadership for more stuff. There is a store there, but I do want to reiterate any money that ever comes my way. I give it to charity. So I feel comfortable like telling people, but there’s other stuff I do weekly videos, there’s some blogs on there and some other stuff. So if that resource would serve people just want to make them aware.

Caleb Stevens: Awesome yeah, I was going to ask you, where can we engage with you further and learn more? So thank you for providing that.

Mark Miller: That’s good.

Caleb Stevens: Well thank you again Mark. This has been fantastic!

Mark Miller: Awesome. Thanks for the opportunity. Take care guys.

Caleb Stevens: Thanks Mark.


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