EM 162 | Leslie Neslage


On this week's Executive Minds podcast, Shane Benson sits down with Chick-Fil-A's Leslie Neslage to discuss what her role as a leader looks like in all levels of business. Leslie Neslage is the Director of Menu & Packaging for Corporate Chick-fil-A, but she will tell you she is first a daughter of God, wife to Stephen, and mother to two children and one dog. Leslie is a passionate speaker with plenty of practical examples of ways to flourish at work and at home.

Links + Resources

FYI - For Your Improvement

Three Major Takeaways:

  1. There are 5Stages of the Interviewing/Candidate Selection Process
  2. Pre-work - It’s important to do the groundwork before the selection process begins. Spend time with well-respected leaders who excel in this area and ask how they found great talent (what questions did they ask, what was the motivation behind each question, etc.) It can also be helpful to review old interview guides to see how the process had been done previously.
  3. Crystal clear role clarity - You need to be crystal clear on a few key specifics of what you need this person to do in the role. Consider breaking their skills into two buckets - Non-negotiable skills and Developmental skills. Ask yourself what are the things that MUST be true to even consider these candidates, and then also ask how can they grow into the role. Both sets of answers are vitally important.
  4. Prayer
  5. Asking the right questions - See below
  6. Guiding principles - If it is not a HECK YES, it is a HECK NO! It’s better to have an authentic, respectful, hard conversation with an internal candidate you don’t plan to hire than manage a potentially difficult career.
  7. The 5 Skills for a Category Leader
  8. Excel at Project Management & Execution - table stakes to get in the door, non-negotiable. Speak the same language. Run the project playbook. Meeting facilitation with clear objectives, deadlines, outcomes. Drive towards recommendations.
  9. Excel at Communication (written and verbal) - The ability to communicate effectively with anyone - from a 16-year-old team member to EC member.
  10. Cross-Functional Leadership - clearly demonstrate ability, but can grow into it.
  11. Influence
  12. Ability to prioritize/rank/determine the level of effort for each project by a deadline.
  13. Interview Questions/ Themes to Consider
  14. Why do you want to work here? Why do you want this job?

If it is all “I love CompanyXYZ” and generic, then they are likely more enchanted by the brand vs. what we actually do – serve. Make sure he/she wants to do the actual role and can perform the role well vs. "be at CompanyXYZ"

  1. Magic Wand Questions:

If you could wave your magic wand - what is your dream job? If you could wave your magic wand and NEVER have to do a job again what would it be? How do you physically, emotionally feel at the end of each week - dream week and "nightmare week"?

Magic Wand Questions – these get to the heart of what a person loves to do, and what they hate to do; You’d be surprised by how many times I’ve had someone say “I want to be a category leader”, but then they describe their “worst week” and is eerily similar to a category leader job.

I also want to know what leaves a person feeling tired vs. drained – if you are tired, then that is different than drained. We can work with tired, but drained can’t be fixed.

  1. What are your greatest strengths/areas of opportunity?

Look for candid and honest answers; the "I take on too much work" might be true, but it’s a little bit of a cop-out; dig deeper and see where real areas of opportunity lie. This question is more about the authenticity of the answer vs. the actual answer.

  1. Tell me about a time you've had to explain a complex issue to someone who was not familiar with the topic? Paint the scenario for me and explain the topic?

Communication is key at CFA. If a candidate can’t explain something quickly and concisely then this might be a red flag.

  1. Tell me about a time you had to address a difficult audience in order to convince them of something? What did you do/say? How was the conversation handled? How did the audience react?
  2. Tell me about a time you had multiple high priority tasks, and it was not physically possible to accomplish everything - how did you decide what to work on?
  3. Ambitions for the future? What is your development plan?

This is a passion of mine. I want to hire someone who is growing and who has a passion for growth. If they aren't pushing themselves to grow/ learn before they come to CFA then will they do that when they get here?

Can they lead themselves and well? It’s important to know if they can’t.

  1. What is your leadership style? How would your direct reports describe your leadership style?

This is a very telling question in my opinion about humility, true leadership, and authenticity.

  1. Why did you leave your last job/company?
  2. What is the most courageous decision you've ever made?

This speaks to the depth of someone's character and authenticity; if they are willing to share authentically and be vulnerable in an interview that is a good sign.

  1. Tell me about a time you’ve gone above and beyond for someone.

This is my personal favorite; you can tell a lot about a person by their answer. At the core, trying to see if they have a servant spirit.

  1. What book are you reading right now? Share some specific lessons/ themes you’ve learned.

This speaks to the ownership of self-development and honesty; anyone can rattle off a book, but when you ask the themes and what you’ve learned it tells a lot about what they value.

  1. Start at birth (or your earliest memory) and work your way through the years until today, what are the experiences you have had that has made you the person you are today?

This is a version of a DSG question. The quality often gives insight into the depth of the candidate. David told me to dig for candidates who have overcome hard challenges in their life.