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Dee Ann Turner Shares Recipe for a Remarkable Culture

When Hurricane Harvey raged through Houston in 2017, Mr. and Mrs. Spencer, an older couple, were trapped in their house as the water rose. Mr. Spencer called 911 and the local police, but no one was available to rescue them. His next call was to the place where he ate breakfast every morning, a Chick-fil-A restaurant. The restaurant was closed, but the manager was there preparing food for first responders. He recognized the name of the caller and answered so he could let the couple know that they were closed. Mr. Spencer said, “I need two breakfast burritos with extra eggs and a boat.” Restaurant staff jumped into action and rescued the couple using jet skis and a boat.

chick1-in-text.jpg“Chick-fil-A is more than just great food and service,” explained Dee Ann Turner, former vice president for corporate talent at Chick-fil-A , to students attending the Davidson Memorial Business in Society Symposium in Knott Auditorium on November 5. “It’s a culture that creates emotional connections and builds trust.”

Associate Professor of Economics John Larrivee, Ph.D., who directs the Mount’s BB&T Center for the Study of the Moral Foundations of Capitalism which sponsors the Davidson Symposium, invited Turner to campus because Chick-fil-A believes that people matter, which aligns with the Center’s mission to analyze how, why and when people matter.

“Our job as a Christian university is to be able to link those lessons that people matter to a religious worldview and be the most accurate reflection of human life,” Larrivee said. “Our job to you as students is to convert all that into education and training you can use to fulfill your God-given vocations, to be the best professionals you can be.”

Turner, who has written two books on talent management and corporate culture, attested that big challenges, accepted by talented and committed employees, help elevate an organization. "It's not hard to find good and talented people," said Turner, who shared that the hard part is retention and motivation to best contribute to organizational goals. Turner's first book, titled It's My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture. Her second book, published this fall, is Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture That Wins the Hearts of Customers.

The first ingredient of Turner’s recipe for a remarkable culture is a meaningful purpose. "Knowing your why makes a big difference," Turner said. The second part of the recipe involves communicating a challenging mission, or as Turner described it "a big hairy audacious goal, or BHAG." Accomplishment of a great mission leads to even greater missions and goals, Turner explained. The third, and final ingredient for a remarkable culture, is demonstrated core values, which are a reflection of leadership. For example, Chick-fil-A's core values reflect that the company is happy to serve, purpose driven, better together and looking at what is next, she said.

When a remarkable culture is combined with extraordinary talent, amazing customer experiences like the rescue of the Spencers occur. Chick-fil-A wins the hearts of customers by providing "second-mile service," referring to Matthew 5:41 in which Jesus instructs in the Sermon on the Mount, "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles." "Go above and beyond, and second mile becomes second nature," Turner advised. 

 "People decisions are the most important decisions organizations make," she concluded. "Be the kind of leaders who make your organizations remarkable." 

The evening ended with an amazing and tasty experience for students who attended the lecture; they each received free Chick-fil-A sandwiches.