Truett Cathy standing in front of a Chick-fil-a

What You Can Learn from Truett Cathy’s Leadership

Today would have been Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy’s, 98th birthday. Mr. Cathy passed away several years ago, but his legacy lives on, and we are so grateful to be a part of what he began building so many years ago. In honor of this special day, we thought we would share some thoughts about one of our favorite clients — and one of our favorite experiences each year.

Remembering Truett Cathy’s Leadership

More than 40 years ago, Mr. Cathy started bringing Chick-fil-A’s leadership together once every year to set goals, review roles, and spend time learning from one another. It was just another way he set out to establish one of the greatest corporate cultures on the planet.

That tradition continues today with Chick-fil-A NEXT, but now thousands gather for multiple days of inspiration, information, and a “state of the union” of sorts. Chick-fil-A also uses this time to celebrate, acknowledge and pay tribute to individual and team accomplishments throughout the entire organization. It really is a remarkable experience.

Wildsparq has been invited to attend NEXT over the past several years — to tell our story and determine ways we can better serve the Chick-fil-A family through leadership development. Several weeks ago, four members of the Wildsparq and FireSeeds teams attended NEXT in Anaheim, California, and we were reminded very quickly that NEXT is much more than a company get-together. It was as if we had been invited to a great big family reunion.

The Chick-fil-A family reunion is a chance to gather in one place and talk about “family matters.” It’s about doing life together and taking a few special days to remind participants of the company’s corporate purpose: to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

Understanding Truett Cathy’s Leadership

When asked about why his company makes such an investment in their people each year, Truett’s son, CEO Dan Cathy, said, 

“NEXT is not just about goal-setting. It’s also about role-setting. It’s about creating an environment of learning and fellowship that results in clarity of vision for our leaders. Culture, history, values, and vision are all crucial to making sure we’re all on the same page and can keep our legacy moving forward.” 

What a culture! What a gift. And the chicken’s not too bad, either!

Take a look at a few takeaways our team shared upon their return to Birmingham:

“The opportunity to connect, spend time, and engage with our current partners was incredibly special. Building relationships with Operators has been a real blessing over the last three years and many of them have become close friends.”  — Josh Etress, VP of Client Experience, Wildsparq

“One of the special parts of NEXT is the fact that Chick-fil-A invites different leaders and influencers into the event to share. One of my favorite moments was when Bob Goff spoke about the power of availability. He said, ‘People don’t follow the vision, they follow availability.’ We have to take a genuine interest in people and make ourselves available to others…

“Most of the sessions were centered around winning your own heart. It moved me to do a lot of self-reflection on taking care of myself. Being intentional about rest and balance. Judah Smith asked the question ‘How’s your soul?’ and it really made me think. I’m going to ask myself and others this question more frequently.” — Josh Swing, Account Executive, Wildsparq

“One of the best moments of NEXT is when 10 Team members were called to the stage. They thought they were participating in a Chick-fil-A panel, but Dan Cathy announced ‘The real reason you are here is that you have been selected to receive a $25,000 CFA scholarship!’ It was overwhelming. Tears, hugs, and shouts of joy ensued! I loved this moment because it illustrates the heart of Chick-fil-A. Care, service, love, empathy, and generosity! It made me that much prouder to be a part of this team and our service of this remarkable company.” — Whitney Ezell, Recruiter, FireSeeds

There are so many other thoughts and Nuggets of wisdom and inspiration we could share because of our time at NEXT, but… Mmmm, Nuggets! Is it lunchtime yet? 

Happy birthday, Mr. Cathy! Thanks for everything…