Today’s show features Chris Allen, Chief Talent Officer at Movement Mortgage.
 
“Authenticity has become such a significant part of my life. What authenticity means to me is that I have to be the same person in any environment. My goal is not to cram Jesus and the Bible down anyone’s throat. My job isn’t to beat them with knowledge. My job is to live out my faith and to love people the way Christ loved people–love in action.”
 
Full transcript:
 
Ray: Well, folks, this is Ray Hilbert, your host here at the Bottom Line Faith podcast, we’d like to welcome you back for another edition of the program. The metaphor we like to use here at Bottom Line Faith is where we lift the hood and we tinker around in the engine of Christian leadership. And folks, we are here at Movement Mortgage, and I am speaking with Chris Allen, who is the Chief Talent Officer. And we are going to actually have Part Two; we’ve never done this before, Chris. But as I said, when we completed the finishing the first part of our interview, I said, man, I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. And so you’ve been kind enough to allow us to come back and kind of continue the dialogue. And so thanks again for showing up here at Bottom Line Faith.
 
Chris: Hey, you’re welcome.
 
Ray: Well, you ready to grow?
 
Chris: Let’s do it. Let’s do it.
 
Ray: Well, there’s just so many things that I still wanted to ask you. And I just asked, can I come back and let’s talk some more, and you’ve been very gracious. So, folks, we are back here at Movement Mortgage. their website for those of you who may be just checking in for the first time is movement.com. And you can learn all about this company that is absolutely disrupting an industry, the mortgage industry that’s been around for decades and decades, but they’re doing things differently here at Movement. And so if you didn’t get a chance to check out Part One of my conversation with Chris Allen, I want to encourage you to go back to the Bottom Line Faith website at bottomlinefaith.org and download and listen to part one of this interview. Of course, you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher and the Google Play Store as well. So our program and podcast is there at all those platforms. Well, Chris, last time, we really got a great chance to dive into some of the uniqueness here at the company, how you’re disrupting the industry, how you’ve found talent, how you’ve developed talent, and so forth. A couple of things that I wanted to get into for this conversation is more of your own lessons, more of your own journey and some of the things that you’ve learned along the way. So I got a couple more questions for you.
 
Chris: Well, you might as well hit it. I do believe that what’s so important is a level of authenticity. And so I hold back nothing. So go ahead and fire away.
 
Ray: Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Well, let’s talk a little bit about maybe the hardest decision. You’ve had a very stellar career in industry, but also church leadership, and now back here in a corporate setting at Movement Mortgage, but what’s the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make and your leadership in business and in the marketplace, and what did you learn from it? And how did your faith play a role in it?
 
Chris: I don’t know if I can pinpoint one specific. But without a doubt, the hardest decisions that as a leader I’ve ever had to make is to part ways with an employee. You know, call it what you want, it’s to terminate, to fire an employee because it’s just not working. And after going through everything possible to figure out their gifts and their strengths and find a place on the team, sometimes you’re left with no decision, or sometimes you just realize that it’s not a fit; this is just not working. Now, the issue there is that as leaders, we sometimes think this is going to come as a shock to the employee. The reality is, most employees know it’s not working either.
 
But then the decision becomes how do I do this in a way that really loves and values the employee? And my goal is to leave those really difficult decisions, empowering the individual to feel great about themselves and about their future, just knowing that this isn’t the right fit. And so where my faith comes into that just in recent couple years here at Movement, there have been a couple occasions where I’ve really wrestled with whether to have to terminate somebody or not. And I’ve taken to the Lord, prayed through it, but not just prayed through it; I’ve actually asked for wisdom. And so even in the last couple years, reading through the book of Daniel, reading about Solomon, and wisdom, and then reading through Proverbs, just seeking with everything that I’ve got for wisdom, I just believe that God actually cares even about these little decisions that we make on a daily basis.
 
And because he loves people, he cares about the decisions that affect people. And so in one instance, I can specifically recall going to bed with this decision on my mind, agonizing over it, and just asking, Lord, would you please give me wisdom? Give me wisdom so that when I wake up, I have the discernment to know how to handle the situation. And at 4am, I woke up almost with the clarity that I needed, pulled a notebook, wrote it down, and the clarity of that decision in that moment saved us from any risk legally, helped the individual feel better about themselves, helped the company move on from a team perspective, it solved everything, and I can’t take credit for it. And so the combination of my faith in this wisdom from God, I believe he wants to impact even the small decisions that we make around employees, that has to be the most difficult decision, and then how my faith played into it.
 
Ray: Was there a framework in this conversation that you’ve learned how to, even though we’re Christians, we have to terminate, and it doesn’t have anything to do with our faith, sometimes it’s about stewardship. And so have you found any framework or how that conversation could be modeled so that someone listening to the program today could learn something for the next time they need to? They may be listening right now, may have an employee that they’re wrestling through, how do I do this in a way that’s loving and Christ-honoring, but it’s gotta happen. Any framework that you could share with us?
 
Chris: I can’t say that I have like this framework that I process through every time I have these decisions. But I do know what I think about. And what I think about is the reality that every single one of us is insecure and has fears, and we come to work every day. I think it’s John Maxwell who says we come to work every day with a sign around our necks saying, will somebody please tell me I’m valuable today? And so with that being the basis of every conversation, I have to make this person feel valuable, regardless of whether the position at Movement or wherever is working, I have to make this person feel valuable. So my framework is to always approach it in reinforcing and helping the person to understand their strengths and their gifts because everyone has them. The issue is, they’re not fitting right now in the role that we have, and you will be happier, and we will be happier as an organization if you are in the right spot with your gifts and your strengths.
 
Right now, we don’t have the right spot, but I have no doubt that your strengths and your gifts can be utilized in another place. But right now, this team doesn’t work. And so the framework I think it through is like, Okay, I’ve got to value that person. I gotta love the person. I’ve got to reinforce the fact that they’re still valuable in God’s eyes. Can I help them understand the gifts and the strength and the abilities that God’s given them? And like a coach, I come from the soccer world, how do I help them understand that the spot on the field right now isn’t working, and I’ve got to make a change while still valuing them? So I want them to walk out of my office knowing that hey, I’m still valuable; I’ve got a place in this world, but the seat isn’t working right now. At Movement that’s the framework I use.
 
Ray: That’s incredibly powerful, and it’s God-honoring. And if you haven’t heard the first part of the interview with Chris, his greatest takeaway advice, or advice he had for us, that it’s always about people. And that really is honoring someone to take that kind of approach. And it is about people. And the other thing that I’m thinking about as I’m listening to this, it’s kind of like, as we’re raising children, there’s a big difference between saying that behavior is unacceptable versus you’re a bad kid. And so what I hear in this conversation is you’re separating the fit for their skill sets, or their approach in the position you have. It has nothing to do with the person that they are, of course, unless they’re just a jerk, and that’s usually not the case. Is that how you see it as well?
 
Chris: That’s exactly it. And I think even maybe a word picture helps, and that is in any conflict, removing the conflict from the person, and almost visually putting it out in the middle of the table as this is the issue that we’re dealing with right now. The fit isn’t working. It’s not about you; you’re a great person; you have strengths and abilities, and God has wired you a certain way. You won’t be fulfilled if you’re in the wrong spot; you won’t be happy. You won’t even want come to work and feel purpose or potential if you’re not in the right seat. So let’s remove the issue from you as a person. Let’s look at the issue together. And I will do anything for you to help you get in the right spot. Because I care about people. It’s all about people.
 
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And along with that, part of the first of your comments in this issue was they already have a sense that it’s not going well. This conversation should never be a surprise, right? And the termination conversation should never be the first conversation that we’re having around this. So how do you go about making sure that that’s the case; that this is not the first time they’re hearing this isn’t going well?
 
Chris: Yeah, in full transparency and authenticity, I’ll say, we don’t always get it right. But as an organization, we’ve attempted to build an HR process and help our managers understand that doing performance development plans is really important. More importantly than that, having regular conversations with your employees is really important. And so I know that Gallop has done a ton of research of this next generation of the workforce. This next generation doesn’t want annual reviews. They want ongoing conversations. They don’t want bosses; they want coaches. They don’t want a paycheck; they want purpose.
 
And with those facts in play, coaches have regular conversations with their players, tweaking different things. You used the word alignment earlier. And that’s really what it comes down to. And so these ongoing conversations should be about these little tweaks, these little alignments. And over time, those conversations should have been going on for a long time to help develop the person figure out what’s maybe hindering the performance and then only as a last resort should we be getting to a written procedure or at the end, a termination. But by that point in time, both parties should know this is just not working. And we’ll both be happier if we go in different directions.
 
Ray: Yeah, even Jesus, you know, especially Jesus, he was never wanted to beat around the bush. When he was unhappy with someone, he was very clear, and he addressed it up front in a very direct way, and he wasn’t apologetic about it, and he did it in a spirit of love. And that’s what we’re talking about is forthrightness in the spirit of love. Well, Chris, that is really, really helpful and very incredible insights and best practices really, on honoring people in the midst of difficult situations at work. And so let me just transition a little bit. As a follower of Christ, husband, and family and those sorts of things, how do you balance it all? I mean, you’ve got a fast-growing company that you’re helping to lead and grow here, you’ve got a lot of other things that you’re involved with. I know community is important to you. How do you balance all this? How do you make it all work?
 
Chris: Well, I don’t know if I do. I’m not convinced that balance is the goal.
 
Ray: Amen.
 
Chris: And I know that even this generation of the workforce, they don’t just see it as like job over here, and then my life; it’s all integrated. And when I think about my role here, I am Chris Allen; I’m not the Chief Talent Officer at Movement Mortgage. And Chris Allen happens to have four kids, and I go to soccer practice and a soccer game at least nine days a week. Is that is that possible? But my marriage is the most important thing to me; my kids know that I love my wife more than I even love them. And I know you’re shocked at hearing that, but we make it a point that they understand that my relationship with Jamie is so important. And yet my mind doesn’t just leave Movement Mortgage and all the things that I’m dealing with when I just get home. I don’t drive home, and I can’t honestly separate it all. So I’ve got to figure out ways of integrating and ways of being present with my wife, when I’m on a date with my kids, when I’m trying to coach soccer practice, or anything else. But I would say that my goal is to be present with whoever I’m with, rather than balance, because I’m not convinced that balance is even achievable.
 
I’m not sure that’s even healthy. I don’t know if I can speak to whether it’s biblical or not. But if six days of work, one day of rest, like, that’s not balanced by definition. So I don’t really know what balance is. But I think the integration of our faith and my personal life with what I do here at work, it’s still all about people, and my people just shift from one to another. But I take Movement home with me because I deal with people. And so I have to figure out then how to be present with Jamie when I’m on a date, be present with my kids, all while dealing with the anxieties and fears and worries of a workplace as well. I’m not sure if I figured out how to do it. But I know that balance isn’t my goal. And so I would rather be trying to figure out how to integrate it in all of who I am. So that when people think of Chris, they think of gosh, he’s a great husband, he’s a great father, he loves the sport of soccer, he loves to read, he’s at Movement Mortgage, and the perception of Movement and him aligned, he’s a big part of that. And so it’s all integrated together. It’s who I am. I don’t know if that’s the answer you were looking for. But that’s what I’ve got.
 
Ray: Well, I leaned to the microphone very early in your answer and said amen because that is so spot on. And I see the frustration. Life is not static. The word balance indicates static, and you’re talking about dynamic, and movement, right? What a great name for a company, did you ever think of that? But that’s what you’re talking about is taking this core purpose, this core philosophy, it’s about people, and you just shift the environment of that core purpose. It’s not a matter of dynamic balance; it’s holistic integration. One of the few people I’ve ever had on the program, or even leaders that I’ve talked to who have understood and communicated that concept. So it was the answer I was looking for, but it may rock somebody else’s world. And that’s a good thing. So thanks for that. That is really, really strong. And so how have you leveraged this holistic approach? How do you bring your faith into these different environments?
 
Ray: I love it. It’s all about people, right? Why do you keep coming back to that? It’s almost like you really believe this. Well, maybe a couple more questions here. Thank you for coming back for a second part of our conversation. And so how old are you, Chris?
 
Chris: I’m 39.
 
Ray: So you’re 39. So in your four decades, you’ve obviously had a chance to reflect on life, even though you’re still midstream, so to speak. But if you had to do anything over again, at this point in your life, what would you do differently?
 
Chris: I honestly, and I know this isn’t the answer that you’re looking for. But I would not do anything differently. Because I feel like I have listened to the voice of God in every step long the way. I may have been late at times. I don’t feel like I’ve been disobedient. I know when I look back over my career, people ask questions like how in the world? And I look at it, and I go, everything I’m doing today has been influenced and pieces I’ve learned along the way, all the way back to being a pastor’s kid, all my soccer days, my time at Wheaton College, and changing of majors, and adding business and Christian education, my time in the non-profit world, the pharmaceutical world, the investment world, ultimately, the church world, and now at Movement. I have learned something at every stop along the way that has made me who I am today and made me more effective in the role that God’s given me.
 
And I just believe that in God’s great plan, he gives everybody the skills and the tools and you throw them in your backpack as you go. And the next opportunity you find out, Oh, my gosh, now, I know why I did that and that and that. And so when I look back, I don’t know if I do anything differently. I’m really glad that I went to Wheaton College, instead of pursuing a soccer school, D-1. By the way, we haven’t talked about it, but I almost went to Indiana University. But like really glad that those decisions were made and ultimately influenced. So I’m on the adventure. This is an adventure, and I don’t know where we’re going. But it’s been fun. And I really wouldn’t change anything.
 
Ray: That’s fantastic. And I appreciate the transparency in that it sounds like you’re in the middle of living a life with no regrets and trying to just pursue the Lord on a daily basis. And we all listen for his voice. And I loved what you said is, sometimes I’m late to the response, but I really try to respond.
 
Chris: I mean, honestly, I think God will get our attention one way or the other. He probably tries to get it at times, and I, you know, ignore it or don’t see it or don’t recognize it, but he’ll get it.
 
Ray: Absolutely. Maybe time for just one more question, Chris. We’ve had a chance to talk before we even started recording these conversations that you get an opportunity to interact with business owners and leaders all across the country, many of whom are Christ followers, and you get a chance to learn from them, they learn from you, and so forth. So what advice would you have or what encouragement would you give to someone who’s listening to the program today, they’re a Christ-follower and they’re wanting to glorify God and their company and how they’re running their business and building their company? That maybe they’re discouraged, or maybe they’re just uncertain about next steps are they had hoped they were further along in there. Who knows what’s going through the hearts and minds of our listeners right now but just wanted to close this part of our conversation with what words of encouragement would you have for them as a Christ-follower?
 
Chris: Yeah, as you were asking the question, I was trying to think of sort of end of life, when I look back over everything, what are the things that I’m going to remember and be proud of? In momentary struggles, discouragement, down times, we get focused almost myopically on the issue at hand. And I think if I look into the future, those aren’t the things that I’ll be thinking about then. And so my word of encouragement would be at the end when the relationships that you’ve had an impact on will surround, maybe it’s at your funeral, and they’ll say, this person had a tremendous impact on my life. That’s what matters. This is going to come as a shock to you, but it’s all about people.
 
And so for those of you who are discouraged or down right now, you know, it may be some business situation, it may be some sale that needs to go through, it may be something profitability-wise or income-wise, but if you’ll just get back to focus on the people that relationships that you get to impact on daily basis, the people that you interact with in your company in a daily basis, maybe it’s your suppliers, or maybe it’s your customers. Think about that people in the relationships that you get to impact and that will almost bring you out of anything. And ultimately, if you focus on the people, everything else will be taken care of. I just believe that and yet, most of the time, when most of us get down, we start to focus on the task or the strategy and we lose sight of the very thing that could bring us out of it, and that’s the people. And so my advice to you would be focused on the people because that’s what matters. That’s what’s going to matter in the future. That’s also what God has called us to. And those are the people you can have the greatest impact on right now.
 
Ray: Incredible insights. Thank you so much. And thank you, Chris, for the investment of your time with me personally today and for our guests here. But just thank you for how you’re modeling, living out your faith. I know you’re not perfect, and you’ve shared that but you’ve been authentic and transparent and all that. And so just thank you for how you’re impacting the marketplace for Christ.
 
Chris: You’re welcome.
 
Ray: Well, folks, this is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. We have been visiting with Chris Allen, the Chief Talent Officer at Movement Mortgage. If you would like to learn more about the companymovement.com is their website and where can we find out about you?
 
Chris: You can find me on LinkedIn I think under Chris Allen on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisTaitAllen, and you’ll see pictures of my family and my real life. You get to see everything.
 
Ray: Well folks, thanks for joining us. We say it all the time here. It’s thefastest 30 minutes on the airwaves. And Chris this was Part Two of an incredible interview. Thank you so much. We hope to see you again soon. Folks, if you are a business owner and you’ve been inspired and encouraged by the conversation with Chris Allen today and you’re saying wow what would that be like to have community of other Christ followers who are running a business or leading an organization check out the website truthatwork.org. We are the host ministry here at Bottom Line Faith, truthatwork.org. Learn about one of our roundtable groups. We have chapters in cities all across the country with hundreds of likeminded Christian business leaders who meet together on a regular basis. Learn more about Bottom Line Faith at bottomlinefaith.org. You can check us out on the iTunes Store, the Google Play market, download the podcast there and of course on Stitcher as well. Until next time, I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith Ray Hilbert. God Bless, and we’ll see you soon.