Training Top 125 Best Practice: CarMax’s Leadership Development Program

The program begins with a Leader Simulation Assessment and a Developmental Debrief to evaluate leadership competencies and inform next steps.

Used car retailer CarMax’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) is designed to identify and develop executive leadership competencies in senior managers across the company.

Program Details

The program consists of the following:

  • Competency Assessment: The program begins with a Leader Simulation Assessment and a Developmental Debrief to evaluate leadership competencies and inform next steps. Associates complete a suite of assessments that evaluate leadership competencies. CarMax partnered with an external vendor to complete the simulation and provide feedback on the associate’s performance. During the LDP simulation, associates assume the role of a corporate leader in a fictitious company. The simulation presents associates with situations they are required to address as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The Leader Simulation measures how well an associate can demonstrate the skill or behavior “in the moment,” which provides a strong measure of readiness for a more challenging role.
  • Individualized Development: Participants and their managers collaborate to design individual development plans (IDPs) that target leadership competency opportunities.
  • LDP Cohort: The optional, cohort-based development program is facilitated by executive faculty to introduce advanced leadership competencies. Participants attend several days of facilitated sessions, where executives share their best practices and personal experiences on topics such as Leadership Journey (understand your leadership style and how it impacts others; identify vital behaviors that enable you to be at your best), Team Success Formula (build teams of go-to people and leverage strengths to maximize associate potential; lead others to focus on the highest-value priorities to achieve both short- and long-term goals) and Leadership Impact (expand network and cross-functional knowledge to drive broader organizational impact; enlist persuasive techniques targeted to the needs and interests of decision-makers).
  • Leader Interview: The program capstone is the Leader Interview where participants share their experiences with senior leaders to highlight their development journey and leadership experiences.

The associate’s manager, and Human Resources and Talent Management staff have regularly scheduled meetings to review the associate’s IDP progress. After the LDP Cohort Experience, CarMax continues to evaluate the associate’s IDP progress through targeted feedback surveys sent to at least five vice presidents and above who have frequent interactions with the associate. The survey asks for observations on the associate’s performance in five leadership competency areas:

  • Developing Talent
  • Planning and Execution
  • Working Through Others
  • Directions of Influence
  • Leadership Style

Any opportunities that are identified through the surveys are incorporated into the associate’s ongoing IDP, and program learnings and tools are reinforced.

In 2019, CarMax started leveraging the GroupMe app, which enhanced the accessibility of the accountability partners through chat and text. Out of 14 participants in the 2019 spring cohort, 12 participants leveraged the GroupMe app (87 percent utilization).

The program is sponsored by CarMax’s SVP of Sales Operations. Some 57 percent of the hours spent in the classroom are facilitated by various senior leaders, including the CHRO, SVP of Store Strategy, VP of Sales, VP of Regional Service Operations, and AVP of Strategy.

Executive leaders such as the CIO, COO, CFO, and CHRO also approve program nominations and confirm participant readiness for the Capstone Leader Interview. In addition, senior leaders such as the SVP of Store Strategy, VP of IT Operations, and VP of Marketing Strategy serve as panelists for each Capstone Leader Interview.


As of May 2019, 82.3 percent of the associates who completed the program Capstone Leader Interview were promoted to a next-level role. Of those associates, CarMax has seen a 100 percent promotion success rate, meaning their managers indicated they would hire them again for that role. In addition, 90 percent of surveyed managers said they would make a significant/above average effort to retain the newly promoted leader if he or she were at risk for leaving CarMax.


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