Since leaving Chipotle 5 years ago, the time I’ve spent working in other organizations has helped me greatly in many ways that I couldn’t have predicted, including building people development systems from scratch. When you work at a company for 10 years you adopt the viewpoints of management, embrace the culture, and generally move in the same direction as everyone else is, with a few detours as new ideas are introduced. And you certainly benefit from all those that have gone before you to help chart the course of leadership development within the organization.
The idea of a strong people culture, creating opportunities for the people who already work inside the organization, and empowering those who have high standards, became so engrained into my DNA as a leader that I couldn’t imagine everyone not doing it this way. It was an honor and a great opportunity to help foster a high performing culture across 200+ restaurants, and getting to where we were going by developing my team and providing them with opportunities to grow. When I left Chipotle in 2012 I wrote about it extensively on my blog and continued, and still continue, to be a champion for those beliefs.
Over the last 5 years since leaving Chipotle, I have learned how to dance with the concepts around building a strong people culture that served me so well as a leader, as well as how to also add new elements into the mix of leadership development to match a changing economy, a changing workforce, and a changing industry. Growing up in a system and culture of people development is very different than being a catalyst for change in organizations building those systems. But all of that hard work makes it even more gratifying, and it has made me a better leader for having to chart that course, along with the other great leaders I have been privileged to work alongside.
What I learned over the last 5 years of an evolving, but still people-first leadership style, is that as times change, you have to be flexible and open yourself up to new ways of doing things, particularly in cultures that do not have a strong people development foundation to build on. What is second nature to you may be completely foreign to someone else who has never been exposed to what you have been exposed to. But it is just as important as it ever was, even if the person on the other end of the conversation doesn’t know it yet.
While times change and new techniques and styles of leadership development are applied, the incredible importance around people development remains a constant. Over and over again, I have seen the eyes of amazing people just light up as they embrace amazing opportunities that change their lives, forever. Keeping those conversations new, keeping them fresh, and imbuing all of the genuine passion you can muster as a leader to cast the vision of where you want to take your company, and them along with it, is the silver bullet of leadership development.
When developing the leaders around us stays new and fresh for us, it also keeps us from becoming complacent and jaded “experts”. It also keeps us hungry and humble as we continue our own journey of leadership development so that when we as leaders invest in the next generation of leaders, we light a fire that will never be extinguished.
If we do our jobs right, we will provide these new leaders with the reproducible skills to start a fire inside of new leaders that lives far beyond us, and that is the best legacy any of us can hope for.
All things new.