The ministry of stewarding talent
Jordan Raynor sits down with Dee Ann Turner, Former VP of Talent at Chick-fil-A, to discuss Jordan’s previously untold experience going through the hiring process at Chick-fil-A, the importance of choosing a spouse who will collaborate, rather than compete professionally, and the power of the “What’s your story?” question for creating empathy and understanding.
[00:00:04] JR: Hey, everybody! Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most masterful work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week, I'm hosting a conversation with a Christian who is pursuing world class mastery of their craft. We’re talking about their path to mastery, their daily habits, and how their faith influences their work.
Guys, today’s episode is off the charts great. I’m so excited to share this conversation with Dee Ann Turner. She spent 33 years as the Vice President of Talent at Chick-fil-A, responsible for hiring thousands of people across the brand. In other words, she knows a thing or two about hiring. As I’ve said many times in this podcast, hiring is the most important thing you do as a leader or an entrepreneur. I also love that Dee Ann was Chick-fil-A's first ever female VP. She is going to be a great hero for my three girls as they grow up.
Man, there were so many things that I can highlight about this conversation but here's a few. We talked about my previously untold experience going through the hiring process at Chick-fil-A. That's right. For about 30 minutes there, I thought I might take an executive job years ago. We talked about the importance of choosing a spouse who will collaborate rather than compete with us professionally. We talked about the power of a story you hear a lot within the halls of Chick-fil-A, what’s your story, and the power of how that question can create empathy and understanding, a very timely topic.
Please enjoy this phenomenal conversation filled with loads of wisdom with Dee Ann Turner.
[00:01:58] JR: Dee Ann Turner, I told you the other day, I’m doing like 15 podcast episodes this week, which is insane. This is the one I’ve really been looking forward to, so thank you so much for being here.
[00:02:09] DAT: Jordan, it’s funny but this is one I’ve really been looking forward to, so it’s my pleasure to be with you for sure.
[00:02:15] JR: Well, good. We’re setting the bar really high here. Here’s the deal. I read Bet on Talent, your newest book. I loved the book. I thought it was terrific and I really love the story you told at the beginning about how you landed your first job at Chick-fil-A. I want our listeners to hear this. Can you share the story?
[00:02:32] DAT: Absolutely, and thanks for reading Bet on Talent. I appreciate that. I do start off telling the story of how I ended up at Chick-fil-A. I was in the advertising business. I had been a journalism major in college. I had always wanted to be a writer. At the time during a recession when I got out of school at that point too, the best place to get a job for a journalism major was in advertising. That’s what I was doing.
My husband was a pastor to the church just down the street from the Chick-fil-A support center, and we needed to move closer. I was working on the other side of town. We needed to move into the community where we were serving, so he suggested that I apply for a job at Chick-fil-A. We knew some people there, and so I went ahead and applied. Two weeks later, I received a letter that said, “Thanks but we don't have anything that fits your interesting background.”
[00:03:25] JR: How ironic.
[00:03:26] DAT: I was like, “Okay.” I told my husband, “That’s that. I applied. That didn’t work out. I think I’ll just stay where I am for a little while.” He said, “Not so fast.” He said, “Apply again,” so I did. Two weeks later, I got another version of that same letter. Then I was intrigued. I was like, “Wait a minute. This company has turned me down twice. I mean, what’s so special of it?”
[00:03:47] JR: Now, you want it. Now, you want it.
[00:03:48] DAT: Yeah. Now, I want it. I start pursuing them and calling them constantly and sending letters. Because remember, this is back in the day, so everything is snail mail and phone calls. I’m pursuing them for about six months, and a lady pulls into the church who has a flat tire where my husband is the pastor. She comes in and she asked to use the telephone. Remember, no cell phones at this time. He says, “No need. I'll change the tire for you.” He changes the tire. When he’s done, she gives him a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich. He said, “Oh. Do you work at Chick-fil-A?” She said, “Well, I do but I’ve resigned. My husband's been relocated.” So he said, “What department do you work there?” She said, “Advertising.” He ushered her out of the church. He jumped on the phone and called me. I jumped on the phone and called Chick-fil-A, the nice people in human resources. I said, “I understand you have a job in advertising. I’d like to interview for it.”
[00:04:47] JR: I love it.
[00:04:47] DAT: I think they were really tired of me pestering them. That’s why they invited me in for an interview.
[00:04:50] JR: They just wanted you to go away. They’re like, “All right, fine. We’ll hire you. Yeah.”
[00:04:54] DAT: Yeah. It’s like, “Okay, let’s just get her in for an interview.” I interviewed for about six months. It’s a long process, and I finally made it to the final part of the process, and I’m in the interview with the then vice president of human resources. He said, “So I have an idea that they're going to offer you this job in advertising, but I have a position here in human resources you might be interested in. Why don’t you think about it over the weekend?” I thought about it over the weekend and I decided that I really like those people in HR, because they're paid to be nice.
[00:05:30] JR: Exactly, right.
[00:05:32] DAT: I thought they were interesting and I'm the kind of person who always likes a new adventure, so I said, “Well, I could do this for a couple of years. Then I’ll know where the jobs are in the company and I’ll go back to marketing.” Well, 33 years later when I retired from Chick-fil-A, I never made it to marketing but I had an amazing calling along the way.
[00:05:53] JR: That's amazing. I don’t think you went into that much detail in the book. That's really good. That’s a really story. What’s the main lesson that you take? I’m sure there’s a bunch, but if you could pinpoint one lesson that you took away from that initial experience of getting that initial job maybe that you share with the young people. What is it?
[00:06:10] DAT: Yeah. I think that what was great about that opportunity is Chick-fil-A was – I mean, they weren’t a startup but they were young and very entrepreneurial and which is what a lot of young people are in that – I have a son that’s in a very similar situation right now where the – A young company. What’s exciting about it is there's lots of opportunity to take responsibility, and the boundaries sometimes are not as clear as to what your job and what is not your job. If you see something that needs to be done, jump in and get it done. That's what happened to me. 18 months after I took that job, my boss resigned, which was really sort of unexpected. He went and started his own company. During that time, he had taught me a lot about HR.
Another thing I don't really talk about in the book is that it took Chick-fil-A a long time to figure out what to do with me. They really contemplated, “Okay. Well, the guy she worked for is gone, so what do we have her do now?” They had all kinds of ideas of what I could do and what they finally said is, “Well, what she's doing seems pretty important, so let's just let her keep doing it.” That's what I had done is just taking on the responsibility actually for something that wasn't going very well. I found a problem to solve, and that’s my other piece of advice for young people or anybody, but especially the younger people who are starting off in their careers. If you want to be valuable, find a problem to solve and solve it.
[00:07:34] JR: That’s it. Carly Fiorina actually talked about that when she was on the podcast a few months ago. She’s like, “Find a problem that you’re closest to and just solve it.” By the way, your advice is lining up very well with some the best career advice I've ever heard. I think it was from Sheryl Sandberg. As you could tell, I’m a big fan of powerful women. It was basically like if you're being asked to get on a rocket ship, don’t ask which seat you're going to sit in, right? If you’re finding an organization that's poised for massive growth, just take any role you can because there’s going to be untold opportunities within that organization. That’s how she thought about Facebook. It sounds like that’s how you thought about Chick-fil-A. it’s really, really smart.
You mentioned in the book though that you thought you’re going to work for a few years and then have kids and then stay at home and be a good pastor's wife. What changed your mind?
[00:08:28] DAT: Well, I really thought that my calling was to be in some form of full-time ministry before I married my husband. Then when I married him, I thought, “Well, that’s it. I’m going to be the pastor's wife,” which in some ways I wasn't very good at that because I wasn't your traditional pastor's wife at the time who could sing and play the piano and all those things. That’s another story for another day, Jordan. But what happened in the meantime, even when I first went to Chick-fil-A and I was working, I felt like I had abandoned the call that God had placed on my heart. Then one day, after I really got into what I was doing, I realized that my calling was to help other people find their calling.
That made all the difference for me from then on, because I had such purpose and to see people come in and especially the Chick-fil-A franchisees. For me, that was my favorite job of all time. For over 20 years, that was one of my major responsibilities was selecting franchisees. To see people come in with a dream and put that dream in action and to see them over decades become so successful and to see the impact that they have on their communities because of the way they serve their employees and the people in the community, that was so fulfilling to my calling.
[00:09:46] JR: Did you get to a place where you recognized, “You know what? My work is my ministry. My work is service, right?” Maybe not in the traditional sense of “full-time ministry” but this is ministry. Did you ever get to that place mentally?
[00:10:00] DAT: Yeah, absolutely. That was exactly where I found myself is understanding that what I was doing and really going beyond that as I became a leader. The stewardship responsibility of talent and understanding that that is a ministry in and of himself is stewarding talent and helping people reach their full potential and be who God made them to be and do the work that God made them to do definitely became my ministry.
[00:10:28] JR: I love that idea of the ministry of stewarding talent. That's really good. One of me and wife's best friends, her name is Bethany, you are a celebrity to Bethany. No joke. You may not think of yourself as a celebrity but Bethany’s in HR. She’s read all your books. I was talking to her the other day. I was like, “Oh, yeah. I’m talking to Dee Ann Turner. What do you want me to ask?” She said that she’s read something of yours, it may have been on your blog, about the importance of having a supportive spouse as you pursue mastery of something vocationally. I know that's been true for me personally. I’m curious what advice you give young people, especially young women on this topic.
[00:11:07] DAT: Sure. Well, first of all, hi, Bethany. Secondly, thanks for reading my books. Bethany is real up to speed because that blog post was just posted last week.
[00:11:17] JR: I’m telling you, she’s a super fan.
[00:11:18] DAT: So she is on it. Here’s the thing that I give advice. You can look back and see a lot of choices that you made that at the time you didn’t realize the importance of them. When you’re choosing to get married, you know that’s a pretty big decision. I call it the second most important decision I ever made behind – Giving my life to Christ would be the first, and the second is this choice I made in spouse.
But we are really young at the time, and I really didn't understand the gravity of that situation because, one, I didn't see what my future was. I thought my future was all about his career, not about mine. But I picked somebody, chose somebody that is a servant. He’s a servant leader and he serves his family. He didn’t just serve his church but he served everybody around him. He was a man who really loved his wife as Christ loved the church, and so he's been incredibly supportive of me.
I know women who’ve chosen spouses, and both of them are pretty high-powered, and it becomes a competition. I'm so grateful that my husband chose to collaborate and to complement me rather than to compete with me. I really felt like if I had any regrets, I would say that he was probably more supportive of me than I was of him and I didn't realize it at the time. I had some things to learn about that too. I could never accomplish anything without him, and it was really his servant's heart who was willing to share all of the task of raising the children and caring for the home. We really partnered together, and it doesn't always start off that way by the way. It really started, like I said, with a focus on his career. Then as mine grew, he returned that focus. Then as we grew even more, it became about how we mutually support each other. It’s a growth thing that happens over the course of a marriage. We've been married 37 years. Just a few weeks ago had our anniversary.
[00:13:18] JR: Congratulations.
[00:13:19] DAT: It grows over time and there are different seasons that his career needed to be the focus, different seasons that mine did. We learned that rhythm of supporting each other, and I just can't imagine – I mean, I couldn’t do the things I do today if it were not for him.
[00:13:36] JR: I think it’s helpful to think about it as a choice between competition and collaboration. I think you put that really eloquently. It is a conscious choice I think all of us have to make in marriage, especially when both spouses are really ambitious for what they're doing in the world. Dee Ann, you spent 33 years at Chick-fil-A. I'm curious if you know this off the top of your head. How many people were hired across the brand during your tenure at Chick-fil-A?
[00:14:00] DAT: It’s funny that you say that. I guess I should have figured that out before I left. But I did know it's in the thousands. I don’t –
[00:14:06] JR: Yeah, sure. I mean, clearly the point is clearly more than 10,000 hours of practice hiring. I want to spend a lot of time talking about this because I wholeheartedly believe what you say in the book that “people decisions are the most important decisions a leader makes.” I preach this all the time. Can you talk about why from your perspective?
[00:14:31] DAT: Well, I think everything that's foundational to everything. I mean, you can have – That’s really what the title of the book Bet on Talent. I mean, you can have a great strategy. You can have great marketing and advertising. You can have great real estate practices, but it's talent that has to execute all of those things. Without great talent, nothing else really works very well, and so it’s foundational. I actually believe the culture is foundational, and then you stack extraordinary talent on top of that. Then it's your executional principles and practices on top of that that create the formula to win the hearts of customers.
[00:15:10] JR: In my experience, people decisions are also the ones with exponential compound interest, right? If you hire A players early on, they recruit other A players, right?
[00:15:22] DAT: Right, sure.
[00:15:22] JR: The impact just continues to spiral over and over again. Has that been your experience?
[00:15:27] DAT: Yeah. It’s like Liz Wiseman talks about. It’s the multiplier effect. You get – That’s what Truett did at Chick-fil-A from the very beginning. He surrounded himself with great talent, and that attracted more talent. It created success which that attracts more talent so that it just has an exponential effect over time.
[00:15:45] JR: I’ve always perceived the debate about hiring that I’d love your perspective on, right? There’s one school of thought that says, “Hire as many of the smartest people you can, get them on the bus, and then figure out where they should sit.” There’s another school of thought that’s like, “No. Identify what open seats you have on the bus. Go out and find the best people to fill those specific seats.” Where do you land on this?
[00:16:10] DAT: I think it's the power of the and in the situation. The way I look at it is I want to find talent and select talent for specific roles that I have because that creates clarity in an organization. That’s really important that there's clarity. But at the same time, when I'm selecting that talent, I want to be sure that they have the competency not only for the very role that I'm selecting them for for that time, but I'm looking ahead maybe the jobs that haven’t even been created yet. Does this person have the kind of firepower and competency that they can move to all kinds of roles in the organization?
That’s kind of tricky. I’ll give you the example of a Chick-fil-A franchisee in the way I would look at this. At one time, as we expanded into – You might not know or remember this, Jordan, but Chick-fil-A was all in shopping malls.
[00:17:05] JR: I do remember. When I was a kid, yeah, they were all in malls.
[00:17:08] DAT: Then in 1986, Chick-fil-A opened the first free-standing location, and they had the vision to see beyond that the small thing was going to go away, and we got to get out of that. They started making this transition. Well, it had a lot of impact on talent selection, because the more tenured franchisees were getting the new free-standing opportunities, and they were coming out of malls that were declining. My job at the time was to find somebody who could make an opportunity out of this declining mall, possibly low-income situation.
But at the same time, I had to realize because the way the organization was going and the strategy was to move these franchisees into the new locations. Not so much outside talent at the time but we’re going to move them into a free-standing location. Well, a free-standing location is far more complicated, requires more leadership and competency than a mall location. Just the footprint size, the drive-through, and all that dining room, and all that complexity, and you need a different level of leadership competency.
We had to project. As we were selecting talent, we had to project and go, “Okay, we’re going to find this person who will do this for now but we have to see in them the ability to later run a $5 million business or perhaps two or three Chick-fil-A free-standing restaurants. I think it's both. I think you're looking for talent to build your specific role, but you’re looking for people who have competencies that can grow with your organization.
[00:18:37] JR: That's really good. I've been dying to ask you this very nitty-gritty question. How much do you care about GPA when you’re hiring somebody?
[00:18:46] DAT: That is an interesting question. When I first started out, people put a lot of emphasis on GPA. In fact, this will come out in my next book that releases next year, Crush Your Career. It’s really to your audience, Jordan. It’s 20 to 35-year-olds that are in that stage of their career. I talked about this issue coming out of college. For me, the most important thing about – Most companies don't have GPA on the application anymore for all kinds of legal reasons, but we did for a long time. My biggest concern on there was that it was correct. For two dollars, you can get a transcript from colleges. Or at that time, that’s what it was. To me, it was an honesty check. I mean, I know sometimes you make a mistake. You might put 3.4 and it was a 3.3 or a 3.2. But I’m talking about –
[00:19:36] JR: If it’s way off.
[00:19:37] DAT: Yeah, a big grade – A whole grade level disparity. It was just a quick honesty test.
[00:19:43] JR: I don’t think that I’ve ever talked about this publicly but like I care a lot, and actually I'm carrying more and more the more I hire, right? I’ve probably been directly responsible for far less hires than you, but let's call it a hundred people, right? The more I hire – For me, one, it’s the honesty check. That is really important but it’s way better than like test scores. It just shows, to me, great inhibition from an early age that’s really tough to teach, because GPA doesn't just show smart. It shows like work ethic, right? Listen, there’s no perfect indicator for predicting the success of somebody in a role, but I don’t know. I like it. I kind of stole that from Google. They prioritize GPA like pretty heavily.
[00:20:26] DAT: I think it’s a great indication of work ethic, but what I'm concerned about when we’re selecting and we use this a lot, I mean, especially in highly technical jobs, we were looking for the best and the brightest. But I also want to be sure I understand what's behind it, because if I have a student and especially when it comes to the difference between – I’m not talking about A students and C students as much the difference between A and B. Because if I have a person who is a college athlete, I know what their work ethic was. If I have some – They had a B average instead of an A average and they have that. Or somebody who worked their way through college, paying for everything and they had a B average instead of an A average. Some of those things tell me a lot about that person in terms of work ethic too.
[00:21:08] JR: I completely agree.
[00:21:10] DAT: I always like to – For me, whatever the data says, I want to know the story behind it. It can be a GPA. It can be somebody's job track record. It can be all kinds of issues, but I want to understand the story before I make a conclusion. I will tell you when I first started out it was all about the data. I’d look at something and go, “Oh.” They had three jobs in 10 years. Now, that's common now, but it wasn't then. It’s like why they moved around so much. I had all these criteria that would just scream somebody out. As I grew in my experience, I realized everybody has a story, and the best candidates are going to be when I really understand the story and put all the pieces of puzzle together. Sometimes, the story didn't support the data, and sometimes it actually did support the data and you’re like, “Okay. No, that doesn't work.” But I think that's really important to have a really holistic look at evaluating talent.
[00:22:07] JR: Yeah, I completely agree. In Bet on Talent, you offer some amazing tips on interviewing. In my opinion, that section alone is more than worth the price of admission for the book, and my favorite tip is that you guys at Chick-fil-A would talk people out of the job. At the very end the interview process, you would try to talk people out of the job. Can you explain why you did that?
[00:22:31] DAT: Sure. Well, we were looking for people who wanted a long-term relationship. Now, early on, to Truett Cathy, the Founder of Chick-fil-A , he used to have this thing where you’d go into your final interview with him and he would look at you and you would look at the hiring manager and he would say, “Okay, I hope you two like each other because you’re stuck with each other till one of you dies or retires.” Well, that practice in all the HR people just shuddered when they heard that, and I do too, so we moved away from that ideal, if you will, and that language, but there was a spirit there of having a long-term relationship. Especially today, knowing that people aren’t necessarily going to spend a whole career but we also aren’t looking for people who want to come in for a couple years and move on.
That was the reason why because we were only 50% of the decision. The other 50% was the candidate. If they can be talked out of the job before they ever started, then it wasn't the right thing for them. It would be better for all of us. I think about candidates relocating to Atlanta from somewhere else, and they’ve quit a great job to come there. They packed up the family, everybody's been turned upside down, and they make the move. Then six months later say, “Oh, I didn't really want to do this.”
Well, we’ve spent a lot of money on training, a ton of money on onboarding because Chick-fil-A invests heavily in that. We spent all that money and time on that, and then they'd given up a part of their life whatever it was, weather it was personal or professional that wasn't a good fit. It rarely ever happened. Maybe one or two times in the course of my whole career, but it really made everybody stop and think and go, “Okay, are we really in this? Is this what we really want to do?”
[00:24:22] JR: I don't think I’ve ever shared this story on the podcast before, but this happened to me. My listeners know I spent my career as a serial entrepreneur. But years ago, in between startups, for about 30 minutes I thought about going to working as an executive at a big company. Very, very short list of companies, right? It’s basically like Google and Chick-fil-A, right? There was a role at Chick-fil-A that I was being recruited for. I spent a whole day at HQ interviewing for the role. All was going really well, very clear that we are on a track to getting married here.
The last interview, this guy who would've been my hiring manager explained in detail why I would hate the job. He was basically, “Jordan, you’re like way too entrepreneurial. We took seven years to launch salads. Can you operate in that department?” He was right and I was so grateful that he talked me out of it. Then it ended up putting me one step closer to the path that God really had intended for me all along. But I've done that. Ever since then, anytime we can hire, I try to talk somebody out of it. I think it’s really, really brilliant.
Dee Ann, in your role as VP of talent, you also oversaw Chick-fil-A's diversity and inclusion initiatives. We’re recording this in the middle of the righteous national outcry over the murder of George Floyd and other people of color, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders are really struggling with asking and answering the practical questions that come out of this. Here's one for you. Not an easy question but what can those of us who spend a lot of our time hiring be doing to identify some of these hidden biases and eliminate them as we build our teams?
[00:26:07] DAT: Well, it’s a big question. One of the things that has been interesting in this time in American history for me is to stop and think and go, “I'm not in that environment anymore.” Sometimes, people will ask me what would you do, and I have to answer very truthfully. I’m really not sure. But here’s what –
[00:26:25] JR: You can’t be when you’re no longer in the chair.
[00:26:27] DAT: Yeah. You just can’t be because it’s an ever evolving situation and it's very difficult. But here’s just something I learned along the way, and I probably can share it in a story with you that I actually wrote about this too. But, first of all, start by this principle of treating everybody with honor, dignity, and respect. The people that work for you, the people you work for, the customers, whoever it is, it’s just this basic thing of –
[00:26:55] JR: Basic principle.
[00:26:56] DAT: That’s basic human consideration is to treat everybody with honor, dignity, and respect. Now, the other part of that is what can we do as leaders. I go back to understanding people’s stories. I had this employee that we were very different in a lot of ways, and we are really friends too. She wasn't just my employee. She was my friend, and we were away on a business trip, and it was a number of years ago before an important election. We were sitting at dinner. I can remember where we were. We were in Chicago and I said, “Hey, help me understand your perspective. Why are you supporting this particular candidate?” She began to tell me her story, and it went back into her childhood. It went back to experiences that she had had.
When we were done, it didn't change my boat. But, boy, did I understand why she had her perspective and respected so much what her perspective was. It wasn't about the person. It was about a platform that had helped her become who she was, and it was a totally different experience than I had. When I listen to her story, then she listened to mine. She understood why I supported the platform I did. To this day, we’re great friends. But here was the important thing that came out of that because we listened to each other stories and decided that even though we couldn't agree, we understood. Together, she and I influenced the diversity at our organization, and it changed a lot of things because we were able to collaborate together. I applaud her most because she was calm and patient and led me to an understanding. She influenced me tremendously and she probably had the single most influence at the company on shifts in diversity and inclusion.
[00:28:51] JR: Yet stories create empathy, right? When you can understand the story behind a particular belief or a particular opinion, it just creates understanding. It might not change your mind but it creates empathy and seeing people for what they are as the product of stories, as human beings. That what’s your story question is so powerful. I, in a separate visit to Chick-fil-A HQ, the company that I sold my first company to was a digital agency. We had a pitch. We were pitching software to Chick-fil-A’s digital team. We sat down. We had the PowerPoint ready to go.
The first question of Michael [inaudible 00:29:27]. I’ll never forget. Michael’s like, “Hey! Before we start, like what’s your story?” We were like both – Me and my partner were like so taken aback like, “What a bizarre question to start out a pitch.” But I so appreciated it, because he was trying to understand our perspective that led up to the meeting. But I think he was just trying to like get to know us as people and see us as people. I think as leaders, especially in the wake of these events, just asking that simple what’s your story question can be really, really powerful.
[00:30:01] DAT: Jordan, let me add something to that too as we –
[00:30:02] JR: Yeah, please.
[00:30:03] DAT: I’ve been thinking a lot about this as like, “How do you cultivate that in a virtual environment?” Because I’ve been thinking a lot about organizations that I work with that have really strong cultures and how can I help them do this. I think you still have to do that. Sometimes, in the virtual world, we’re getting on our screens. You got 12 faces up on the grid and you're having a meeting, and you’re getting to the point but you have to still take the time to start by asking stories. One of the ways I advise one of my clients is to do that. I said, “Hey, don't forget. Don’t just jump right into, ‘Okay, here's the update status on COVID this week and how it's impacting our business.’” But stop and go, “Okay, guys. Tell me about your personal success this week. Tell me the – Do the high-low thing. Do something that connects everybody to say, “Hey, there is something going on besides behind this computer screen in everybody's life right now.”
[00:30:58] JR: Have you read Trillion Dollar Coach?
[00:31:01] DAT: I have not.
[00:31:02] JR: Do you know the story of Bill Campbell in Silicon Valley?
[00:31:05] DAT: I don't think so.
[00:31:06] JR: Oh, my gosh! You got to read this book. Bill Campbell is a legend. He is probably easily the most influential executive coach of all time. He coached Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg. Any blue chip CEO in the valley in the last 40 years, Bill Campbell coached them. This book written by Eric Schmidt, current chairman of Alphabet and Google, shares all of his wisdom, and one of the things they talk about is how Bill would always start staff meetings intentionally talking about personal stuff. He would talk about like trip reports like, “Oh, where were you guys last weekend? You guys went on vacation, like whatever. Talk about it.” That’s really important, even now and especially now in this virtual increasingly remote world that we’re living in.
Dee Ann, what is – You’re a highly productive person. You’re not in Chick-fil-A anymore but you’re still very, very busy. I’m curious what your day looks like these days. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, what does a typical day in the life of Dee Ann Turner look like?
[00:32:05] DAT: Some of the habits I’ve really carried over and some are very different because of the flexibility that I now have in my own business. But the first thing I do every morning usually before I get out of the bed and certainly once I grab my cup of coffee is I have my prayer and quiet time. That was a habit that I have often encouraged people to do. It was life-changing and career-changing for me when I started dedicating my first hour of the day.
[00:32:31] JR: I want to dive deeper there. Why was it career-changing for you?
[00:32:35] DAT: Well, when I was a young mother of three young children in the height of my career, my life as you can imagine was upside down crazy.
[00:32:45] JR: Yeah. I’m right there right now, yeah.
[00:32:47] DAT: Yeah, exactly. I mean, nanny to nothing. I was like a marine. We do more before 6:00 AM than most people do all day.
[00:32:55] JR: Exactly, yeah.
[00:32:57] DAT: My morning would be jump out of the bed, get myself ready, get those kids ready, get them to bed. At one point, they were going three different directions because of their age differences. Do all that and get to the office by 8:30. I was pretty harried and stressed out by the time I got to work, and my boss is now the president of Chick-fil-A. He pulled me aside and gave me the best advice of my entire career that changed me personally and professionally. He said, “Dee Ann,” and he did it in the most – He just had this way of giving you negative feedback without it sounding so negative. He said, “Hey, I don’t know what you need to do every day to kind of arrive with the highest level of positivity.” Basically, he was telling me I was being a negative person. He said, “But you might want to get that some thought.” That was the way he put it. Then I had to go, “Now, what is he really telling me?” It was like, “He’s really telling you you’re showing up negative.”
I did a couple – He told me what he did. He told me about this morning routine of prayer time, of reading, of exercise. I incorporated that and I made a commitment to get up an hour before anybody else in my household. At one time, that was extremely early in the morning. Thankfully, it's a little bit less now, a little bit lighter now. But, I mean, it wouldn’t be uncommon 4:30 or 5 o'clock in the morning to make this work. I would get up and have that quiet time, and it changed me. It changed me so much that by the end of my career, sometimes I was actually criticized about being too positive. But i did. It changed. I spent that hour with God every morning and with myself and doing the things I need to do to get myself ready before everybody else. When I got to the office, I was a totally different person.
[00:34:42] JR: I have the exact same habit. One hour before anyone else wakes up, solitude, time with the Lord.
[00:34:48] DAT: I love it.
[00:34:49] JR: I love it.
[00:34:49] DAT: It just puts – Now, Jordan, what happened to me, as you know, I used to sort of resent that I had to come out of that quiet time and get to the office. Now, some days, I just get to – Depending on what I have going on, I get to extend that time, which is great. But after prayer time is exercise because I want to get all those endorphins going that is going to lead me to the third most important thing I do now, which is the third thing I do is create. So pray, exercise, then create. My creative time is in the morning, and I want to give my best creative time to my writing work, to my preparation for talks I’m going to do, for anything like that.
Then next is engage. That’s my podcast or with my clients that I’m going to have a Zoom meeting with that day. I’m going to take all that solitude I’ve just had, plus the endorphins going and the create time. I’m going to turn that into my time doing these other things. Then in my part of the day that’s not my high-energy day, which is late in the day, I’m going to respond. That means that’s emails and return phone calls and do those things that don't take quite as much of my creative and mental energy. Then I’m going to relate. I’m going to engage with my family at that time and friends and have that dinner time and that after dinner time for the relating part of my life.
Then lastly, I’m going to retreat and I’m going to spend a few minutes alone again before I retire for the night. I’m going to get the end of the day prayer time and the other things I need to calm my mind so that I get a good night sleep because, as we know, sleep now is so important to our health. My day is pray, exercise, write or create, engage, respond, relate, and then retreat.
[00:36:35] JR: Wink, wink. That sounds like a great outline for a book, Dee Ann.
[00:36:39] DAT: I haven’t thought much about it. But as I’ve said it to you, I might have to use that.
[00:36:43] JR: That is the exact rhythm of my days, yeah. But I love how eloquently you put it and putting those labels on. I think that helps people wrap their heads around those concepts. That’s really good. All right, let's talk about how your faith as a Christ follower influence the work you did at Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A is not an overt “evangelical ministry.” You guys are selling chicken. You mentioned in the book something I love that Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s founder, did not believe a company could be labeled “Christian.” I’ve talked a lot about this. I love this. I’d love to hear you share his and or your thinking as to why this is.
[00:37:22] DAT: Well, in this case, I have to tell you what his thoughts were about and why that is.
[00:37:26] JR: Yeah, please.
[00:37:29] DAT: I mean – Well, actually, when I heard the former President of Chick-fil-A, Jimmy Collins, he explained it this way. I think he was actually telling my husband this who said something about Chick-fil-A being a Christian company. He goes, “Oh, no. We’re not a Christian company. We’re a company that happens to have – Whose founder based the business on biblical principles.” For that reason, there happened to be like Christians who work here. But companies can't be Christians because Christ died for people, not for a company.
[00:37:55] JR: Christ died for people who’ve died for the world, but businesses don’t have souls, right? They’re made up of Christ’s followers, which I love that distinction. I think that distinction is really important because a lot of times you’re a Christian business and you – Well, one, unfortunately, a lot of times I associate that with mediocrity. Number two, it's cheap Christianity. It’s putting – It’s making all the Ts in our logo crosses and slapping fishes on stuff as a marketing differentiator, rather than holistically integrating the gospel into every crevice of the organization. I wrote about this in Called to Create, right? I think one of the ways that chick-fil-a specifically does this is by just crazy commitment to excellence, right? Isn’t that an expression of Christian values, Dee Ann?
[00:38:45] DAT: I think that’s an expression of the kinds of biblical values that Truett founded the business on, and he was known for saying that he didn't find any conflict between biblical principles and good business practice. Excellence was one of the core values that he had and expected. I do think that's a reflection of Christ in our life when we do our work with excellence and we get – I mean, it’s scriptural when we do our work as unto the Lord and —
[00:39:11] JR: Do all things for the glory of God.
[00:39:13] DAT: Exactly. I think – When we’re doing it at that level, I hope that we’re pursuing excellence as part of that.
[00:39:18] JR: Amen.
[00:39:19] DAT: Absolutely.
[00:39:20] JR: Well said. There are some obvious things Chick-fil-A does differently because of the faith of its founders. But I’m curious, what would have been different about your role specifically and the talent and culture operations had you and the founders not been devoted followers of Christ?
[00:39:38] DAT: Well, I think that what would've been different for me, a couple things on a personal level and then on a more global look at things. First of all, for me, what I loved about fulfilling that role specifically at Chick-fil-A is that there were such a belief in the stewardship of talent and this belief that people decisions are the most important decisions. That’s not true everywhere. Some organizations say that, but then their behavior doesn't back it up whatsoever. I think that, first of all, for me, personally, it would have been such a purpose. I can say this. It would not have purpose and it would've been meaningless. I think that that is the biggest thing is that my job would have been very administrative and transactional.
But working for an organization whose purpose was to be a positive influence and a faithful steward of all the resources, that gave my job meaning. That meant for me personally, it’s like, “Okay, first of all, I have to be a faithful steward of the resource of the talent entrusted to me, also of the time and treasure. But specifically for my role, it was the talent. Both the talent we selected and the candidates themselves, which meant sometimes saying no because I knew it wasn't – I wouldn’t be stewarding the resources of the organization well to do that and I wouldn’t be stewarding that person's life well to put them in that role.
[00:41:02] JR: I was just going to ask you that. Were there moments where you were like, “Man, this woman is the right person for Chick-fil-A but Chick-fil-A is not right for her.” Did that ever come across your mind? Did you ever talk somebody out of a role because of that?
[00:41:16] DAT: Many times now. I said it only happened a few times but – I was thinking really those final moments. We would get all the day through the process. But earlier in the process, there were lots of times I did that because I was looking for a match. I wasn’t looking – I wasn’t hiring people. I was selecting talent. There’s a huge difference. Hiring people –
[00:41:35] JR: What’s a difference in your mind? What’s a difference in your mind?
[00:41:37] DAT: Hiring people is all about quantity. I got to get this role filled. I got to reduce my number of days to hire which is a metric that a lot of organizations use. I just got to get somebody in this vacant seat and get this off my plate. But selecting talent, that’s competitive advantage. That’s totally different. It’s about getting the right person with the character that matches the organization and the competency that matches the role and the chemistry that matches the team. Getting that person into the right specific role, that was my number one goal. That was my mission. There are many times that I would see that this person had all the checkmarks for what I just said about character competency and chemistry, but it wasn't the right role. They were not going to be fulfilled. They’re going to be disappointed. I knew they were better suited for something.
So, yes, many times I told people that early in the process. In some cases, they came back later for a different role, and it was the right fit and it worked out. Sometimes, they went on to something else and sent me a letter or an email later and said, “You are right, and this is why, and this really worked out great for me.”
[00:42:42] JR: Yeah. You retired from Chick-fil-A in 2018 but you are far from retired. You are speaking 50 times a year. You’re writing books. You’re consulting. I’m curious how your faith specifically informs review of what we traditionally think of retirement. What’s your view on this topic?
[00:43:01] DAT: For me, and I actually wrote about this on Bet on Talent before I knew I was retiring, which is kind of funny because I think the way I state it is one day I will retire from my corporate career but I will never retire from my calling. It’s part of what actually led me to retire from Chick-fil-A. I had a wonderful career there and an amazing organization and lots of leaders there that I love and the tremendous staff. All of those great things, but the opportunity came about for a voluntary early retirement option for a number of people, a hundred people in July of 2018. It was not something I had really considered at all, but what I found myself, I was in a meeting one day. By this time, I was leading sustainability for Chick-fil-A. That was the current role I was in. I left town after 30 years to launch this new function for Chick-fil-A.
I was sitting in a meeting, and we were talking about sustainable practices which are all very, very important. But all of a sudden, I’m having one of those out-of-body experiences where I’m looking at myself in the meeting and I realized that at that moment, I was not doing the work God made me to do. I was doing the work He gave me to do, and that's really what I wrote about in Bet on Talent. I’m always want to do the work He made to do. That’s when I made that decision that I’d always wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. I had a two-book contract from Baker Publishing sitting on my desk, waiting for me to sign. Here God was providing me my exit ramp to go do the very work He made me to do. My biblical view of retirement is that we may have different jobs along the way but we never retire from our calling, because that’s the very most important thing He laid on our heart that He picked us specifically to do during our time on this earth.
[00:44:57] JR: Yeah. It just reminds me of Jesus Himself on the eve of His crucifixion, praying I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. We glorify the Father when we finish the work that He created and made us to do. I love that and I love your testimony there. All right, Dee Ann, we always end these conversations with three questions. Number one, which books do you recommend or gift most frequently to others?
[00:45:27] DAT: The book that I most frequently recommend and give to others is a book called Integrity by Henry Cloud. Over my years in my corporate career, I had the opportunity to get to know Henry a little bit more personally, and I love most all of his books. But that one I've read probably more times than any book would I own. I’m one of those – I don’t read a lot of books as a matter of fact, but this one is a manual for life. Really, in our life, if we don’t have integrity, if we don’t do what we say we’re going to do when we say we’re going to do it, how we say we’re going to do it, if we don’t do the right thing even when it’s hard, all the rest doesn’t matter. That’s just a great one that I like to share.
My new favorite book is actually this book called Called to Create by Jordan Raynor. I had the opportunity to read it. A fantastic book, Jordan, and I enjoy that so much.
[00:46:21] JR: You’re sweet. I’ll send you a box of books, so you can start ahead about it to people. I’m really curious who you would most like to hear on this podcast talking about how their faith influences their work.
[00:46:33] DAT: I have tried to stay out of the political arena but I have to tell you, there's somebody I'm so curious about and I know from reading your books that you had some political [inaudible 00:46:43] in the past.
[00:46:43] JR: I came from that world, yeah.
[00:46:45] DAT: I’m really curious about Mike Pence. I’ve read so much about his faith than I’ve heard him proclaim that, and he's been sitting in such a precarious position for three years. I can imagine all the things that he’s seeing and experienced and the ways his faith has been challenged. I publicly haven't seen a chink in the armor yet, so I'm just really – I’m curious about him. I’m curious about what the call God must've put on his life for him to be in the situation he's in and experience all that he's experiencing. That’s just somebody who professes a strong faith that I’m really curious about these days.
[00:47:26] JR: I think that would be an even more interesting conversation when he's at office. I think that would be riveting work. We’ll put Pence on the list. I get – We had some strong connections to Pence. We might be able to make that happen.
[00:47:41] DAT: I love that.
[00:47:40] JR: All right, Dee Ann. You’ve given a ton of great advice already, but leave us with one more piece of advice this audience of people who like you is just trying to do their best work, leaning into the call that God has placed on their lives, do exceptional work for His glory and the good of others.
What advice do you want to leave them with?
[00:47:59] DAT: I want to take you back to what I said just a few minutes ago. This idea of sometimes we have to do the work God gave us to do before we can do the work He made us to do. There are seasons that I think God opens that path to do exactly what He is calling us to do, and sometimes I think He says, “Here, I have a greater plan that you can't see but I need you to go over and do this right now. I know it's not the number one thing on your heart but I am preparing something else for you, and this is part of the preparation.”
For me, that opportunity I had to go and lead that other function, I called the greatest leadership development opportunity in my entire career, and it was 30 years into my career, and this is why it was so great. I had to go and lead a team of people that did not choose me and I did not choose them and I had very little competency in the subject matter. When I was leading talent, I had done almost every single job over the course of my career than anybody on my team did. I had selected dozens upon dozens of people who work for me. I can’t remember the size of the staff but I think it was nearly. It’s around 75 or 80 when I left.
[00:49:13] JR: Just on the talent order.
[00:49:14] DAT: In the talent area. I had chosen every one of those people, and they had chosen to work for me. I went to sustainability and I was given a team and they were given a boss. I had to use totally different leadership skills on the relational side, number one, to grow those relationships, so I could lead that team. Then I had to – The only thing I could do on the competency side because as I like to say I was not even a great recycler when I went to sustainability, but I had expertise on my team. I had to trust them. I had to trust them that they would do the right thing and they did.
That’s why God gave me that work. He knew what I would be doing in the future and that I needed to have that experience to complement everything else I had done and learned so that now my greatest passion is helping other organizations strengthen and build their culture and select extraordinary talent. Win the hearts of their customers. He knew I needed to have that experience to do that well. Sometimes, we have to do the work God gave us to do before we can do the work God made us to do.
[00:50:23] JR: That’s a really, really good perspective. I tell a lot of young people, “Hey, if you’re in a job you don't love right now, just do it with excellence. You’re still commanded to do it with excellence. Work heartily as unto the Lord.” One of two things is going to happen. Either – I wrote about this in my latest book, Master of One. Passion will grow with mastery, right? So passion and competency tend to go hand in hand. Or you can open up other opportunities to pivot to something closer to what God made you to do, right? Either way, it's a win for those you’re serving and a win for yourself when you serve them well.
Hey, Dee Ann, I just want to commend you for the exceptional, eternally significant work you've done for your career for 33 years at Chick-fil-A, the work you're doing today. Thank you for loving customers and team members well by setting the bar really high and prioritizing the ministry of excellence. Thank you for leaning into your calling to help others lean into their God-given callings.
Hey, guys. If you want to learn more from Dee Ann, I would strongly recommend picking up her books, Bet on Talent and It’s My Pleasure. I’ve read both of them. You can find wherever books are sold and you could find all of her other consulting services and everything else at deeannturner.com, which obviously we’ll put a link right here in the show notes. Dee Ann, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:51:40] DAT: Jordan, it’s been completely my pleasure. I enjoyed our conversation and thank you for the work you're doing to implement so many people to live out their calling for Christ.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:51:50] JR: I know you guys make fun of me for saying every episode of the podcast is my favorite, but this goes on the list for sure of one of my favorite episodes of all time in the Call to Mastery. I hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did. Hey, if you’re loving the podcast, make sure you subscribe to the Call to Mastery, so you’d never miss an episode in the future. If you're already subscribed, do me a huge favor. Take 30 seconds and go leave a review of the show. Thank you guys so much for listening. I’ll see you next week.