This week I had the fun experience to spend another day on a Vision and Values tour with Dan Cathy. About 5 or 6 times a year, Dan takes new Chick-fil-A employees and other vendors and contractors on a tour to re-live the Chick-fil-A story from the beginning and to walk through some of the important values of Chick-fil-A that build our vision of the future.
The day is filled with great stories of Dan, Bubba, and Trudy growing up at the original Dwarf Grill, Truett working tirelessly 6 days a week, the growth of the company, the value of partnerships, and some of the philanthropic values of our company.
One of my favorite stops on the tour is a rare tour to the 26th floor of the Coca-Cola corporate office in Atlanta, GA. If you have never been to this area and you ever get the chance, I would strongly recommend going – it’s absolutely amazing. When you get off the elevator on the 26th floor, you step out on to white plush carpet. As you walk out of the elevator bay, you realize the 3 executive floors are a closed off area of the building connected by a floating, suspended staircase. It is quiet; the area is filled with oil paintings of past board members, CEOs, and the current Coca-Cola Board of Directors. As you turn the corner you step into an impressive boardroom – one that looks like it came straight off the set of The Apprentice. Everything about the experience is amazing. Think of the people who have walked through the boardroom of the number one brand in the world!
One story they tell us while sitting at the board table teaches a great lesson and is a lot of fun. Right after they finished construction of the 26-story building the Coca-Cola Company was having a board meeting. The boardroom was filled with very important people, schedules were arranged to have them all there, and the costs for the meeting were probably astronomical.
As the meeting got underway, there was a storm brewing outside. As the meeting progressed, the storm got worse and worse. The CEO at the time looked up to see the impressive and large chandeliers swinging from side to side. Back and forth they went from one side of the room to the other. The CEO started to doubt the integrity of the building, stopped the meeting, and evacuated the boardroom immediately.
What the CEO did not realize is when you are 26-stories in the air; the building is architecturally designed to sway back and forth. There is a certain amount of give and take that the building has to have to keep it from actually tipping over.
The CEO did not like the feeling, so even after learning the appropriate information he had facilities fix the problem. Now in the boardroom, when you look up you will see small cables that attach the chandeliers to a pulley system that can help compensate the building’s sway and keep the lighting fairly stable.
What is fascinating to me is the parallels of this story we can learn in leadership. As we get higher and higher in our leadership, decisions and thoughts will become more complex. In fact, the more complex leadership becomes, the more you will have to sway to make the best decision and to lead most effectively.
What is more of a lesson is to understand that what is most important is the foundation. If the foundation of the Coca-Cola building were not secure, the building would not be able to withstand the storms and swaying that life brings. Just like you and I – the most important piece to our building of leadership is the foundation that we are pouring.
Remember, you and I are young and guess what? These are the foundation years. We have to do everything we can to build a solid foundation of integrity, core leadership, trust, mutual respect and so on. You and I need to have a solid foundation so that when we have hard situations in life and in leadership, we are able to sway and not topple down.
What are the things you are doing to build your solid foundation? What are the characteristics of your solid foundation?