Dee Ann Turner works globally with organizations who want to grow talent management practices, transform and strengthen culture, and develop an “It’s My Pleasure” service model. She is the author of the best-selling book, It’s My Pleasure, The Impact of a Compelling Culture and Extraordinary Talent. Dee Ann serves as a frequent speaker to organizations and conferences where she shares her more than 30 years of experience hiring and developing talent and transforming organizational culture.
Dee Ann began her career at Chick-fil-A in 1985 and became Chick-fil-A’s first female officer in 2001. During her career, she worked closely with Chick-fil-A’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, and other key leaders as an architect of their organizational culture. During her 33-year career, she led the Corporate Talent Department and was responsible for the selection of thousands of Chick-fil-A Franchisees and Support Center Staff, Corporate Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, and Culture and Engagement. Most recently, Dee Ann led the Sustainability Department focusing on Chick-fil-A’s strategy to implement sustainable practices at the $10 billion company.
Dee Ann is a graduate of Clayton State University with a degree in Management and a concentration in Human Resources. She has completed several executive education programs including the Management Development Program at Goizueta School of Business at Emory University, the Executive Education Human Resources Program at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, the Human Resources Executive Program at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Dee Ann has been married to her husband, Ashley Turner, for more than 35 years, and they are the proud parents of three grown sons. Dee Ann enjoys serving various community organizations with an emphasis on women and children, including The Kenya Project, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and Eagle Ranch Foundation.
Full transcript:
Ray: Well hey everyone, this is Ray Hilbert, your host here at Bottom Line Faith and we recently had a chance an incredible opportunity to visit the Chick-Fil-A headquarters down in Atlanta, Georgia. And we had a chance to sit down with De Ann Turner who just recently retired, actually, but at the time of this conversation, she was the Vice President for Sustainability with the organization. You’re going to learn all about that. Now one of the things we’re committed to here at Bottom Line Faith is not only to bring you the quality of guests like Dee Ann Turner, but we are equally committed to the quality of production. We want this to be a first-class type of program. If you’re a regular listener, you know we really strive for excellence here. However, in full candor after the interview, we got back into the studios and we realized that the audio quality was not quite up to standards. But while the quality of the recording itself is not up to our normal standard, we do believe that it will be worth you listening to the conversation because the quality of the conversation is absolutely excellent. So we are asking you for a little bit of grace. We’re going to now transition to that conversation with Dee AnnTurner.
Hello everyone, this is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith and I have the incredible, incredible pleasure today to sit down with Dee Ann Turner. I am in the headquarters of Chick-Fil-A in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. And she is a 30-year veteran here at Chick-Fil-A, and her title currently, she serves as the Vice President of Sustainability. Dee Ann, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Dee Ann: Thank you so much; it’s such a pleasure to be with you today.
Ray: Well you know, it’s got to just sound incredible to your own ears to hear 30 years here at Chick-Fil-A. Why don’t you take just a moment to talk about your faith journey and your leadership and those things today. But how did you get started here at Chick-Fil-A? And just kind of walk us through your career pathway here, and then of course share what you’re doing now.
Dee Ann: Sure, well I have a really funny story about how I arrived at Chick-Fil-A, which is now almost 33 years ago. And I started out I was really that long out of college and I was working for an advertising firm. I had a journalism background and wanted to pursue that area of advertising, and my husband was a pastor down the street from Chick-Fil-A’s headquarters. And he started encouraging me to apply here, and I did. I applied the first time it, actually at first I wasn’t all that interested. I didn’t know much about Chick-Fil-A. I thought I was happy where I was I did and didn’t see the need to do that, but he kept encouraging me, so I finally applied and two weeks later, I received a notice I was turned down and told I was not a fit for anything they had available. And I thought, “Well, that’s that. I did what he asked me to do, you know. We’ll just move on to the next thing.” But he wasn’t satisfied. He said, “You need to apply again.” And so I did apply again and two weeks later, I got another version of that first letter and I was turned down again. Well then I was intrigued, you know, to be turned down by this company twice. It’s like okay what’s the deal here? And so I kept pestering them and I kept calling and checking about opportunities and, you know, nothing really happened. And then one day he was at his church and a lady came in and she had a flat tire and she asked to use his phone and, you know, of course that was way before cellphones, so he said, “No need; I’ll change the tire for you.” And so after he changed the tire, she gave him a card for a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. And he said, “Do you work at Chick-Fil-A?” And she said, “Well I do, but my husband’s been transferred, and so I’m leaving.” And he said, “Well what department do you work in?” And of course she said advertising. And so he saw her out of the church, he gave me a call and he said, “Hey, they have a position in advertising.” So I picked up the phone, immediately called, and said, “I hear you have a position in advertising and I’d like to apply.” And so I think they were just tired of hearing from me and they brought me in for the interview. And I went through a six-month interviewing process, and by the time I got to the end of the interviewing process, they asked me if I was interested in a job in human resources? And at the time I thought, “Well sure, these people are really nice.” Well of course, those of us in nature were paid to be nice to people, so I thought, well, I’ll do this for a couple of years and then I’ll go to marketing. And again that’s been almost 33 years ago, and I haven’t been to marketing yet, but did enjoy a great career in human resources. And then about three years ago, Chick-Fil-A began to recognize the need to have a sustainability function within our organization, and I’d had some interest in particularly the social issues around sustainability. I didn’t know much about the environmental part of that, but as it turns out I’ve gotten involved in both of those things. I’m over this time and we did launch a function and a department and I’ve been leading that now for about three years.
Ray: That’s really exciting. Now with all due respect, you kind of didn’t really talk about the the significance of your role in human resources. You just said you work in human resources here. So you got to elaborate just a little bit for us, and kind of where did that kind of end up there before you moved over to your new–
Dee Ann: Sure, well I started out selecting staff members and really creating systems. We were a young company; we were mainly a regional organization in the southeast, all in malls if you remember that about Chick-Fil-A way back when. And only doing about 175 million dollars in sales. Less than a hundred people on our corporate staff. So really helping lay those systems down for our corporate hiring area. And then after I did that for awhile, I went out on the road to be an operator recruiter for individual restaurants. And I have to tell you, that was one of my favorite roles because I loved introducing people who knew nothing about Chick-Fil-A to our brand. And especially as I got out of the southeast I had the northeast region was one of my main areas. And I would go there; people would ask me about, you know they didn’t even pronounce it, much less know much about us. And so it was a lot of fun for me to sell people on our brand that I believed certainly owning and then had the opportunity to share that and attract people into our organization. You know our founder Truett Cathy always said that people decisions are the most important decisions that a leader makes. And for him there was no more important decision than who we gave the keys to the restaurant to. That was our representation of our good name in a community. That person led a number of employees and leads a number of employees and especially young people. And so that was a very, very important decision. I love being a part of that. As time went on, I began to lead in various functions within Human Resources which later became Talent. And so in 1999, I became the leader of our talent function at Chick-Fil-A and continued in that role through 2015, before I moved to sustainability. So I had an opportunity to really see us grow in that period of time. As I exited that role, we had about 2,000 restaurants and 1,500 corporate staff and about six billion dollars in sales. So things have certainly changed in that 30 years that I’d entered Human Resources.
Ray: Yeah, we’ve hear stories, you know, around like how difficult it is to become a Chick-Fil-A owner operator. What’s the real numbers? What’s the real ratios that we see, you know number of applicants versus those who get? I mean this is a very stringent process. If it was tough for Dee Ann Turner to get on corporate office 33 years ago, it’s even tougher, right? Just give us a little understanding there.
Dee Ann: Sure. And for both roles, both at the corporate office that we now call the Support Center, as well as to be a Chick-Fil-A operator, which we use interchangeably with franchisees, the numbers are close to the same. There’s about a hundred to 150 opportunities a year, and they’re about 30,000 enquiries per year for each. So there was an article out not long ago; it’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to be a Chick-Fil-A franchisee. You know, the numbers are pretty similar.
Ray: I want to talk about your book because that pathway of your leadership and everything that you’ve learned and led here ultimately led to you writing in a really amazing book. We’re going to talk about that in just a moment, but would you just for a moment talk about what sets someone apart as to what you’re looking for versus why they wouldn’t make the cut? I mean those are huge numbers, and huge odds are against you. Listen, put it that way; what sets the person apart?
Dee Ann: Well, as you asked that question, particularly for a Chick-Fil-A franchisee, I think there are a couple things that set these folks apart. First of all, they really want to be in business for themselves. Chick-Fil-A offers an opportunity to be in business for yourself, but not by yourself, because there’s such a support system behind that. But these are people with entrepreneurial spirits. When Truett designed this opportunity, he did it in such a way that he wasn’t looking for people just to sell rights to a territory, but he really wanted somebody who would go into a restaurant and represent him. Who would represent his good name in that community, and who would lead that restaurant well. Who would be hands on in the operation of it. That doesn’t mean that they’re cooking chicken, you know, all day, every day, but they’re also not absent team leaders. They’re active in the leadership of that organization, and so that’s one of the very first things that we look for, for anybody associated. Which at play is their interest to serve others. In fact, that’s one of our core values. We’re here to serve, and we’re not in the restaurant business; we’re in the people business. Chicken happens to be a means to an end of impacting lives. So the first way we’re going to do that is to serve. So whether it’s a Chick-Fil-A operator and their team members that are serving guests, or it’s a support center member here serving those operators that are actually selling the chicken, we’re all in the service business. So that’s number one. We obviously look for people with a strong leadership track record. They need to create followership in a restaurant environment for a franchisee. We’re looking for somebody who their team members will follow and also that can build relationships to grow a brand within a community. So those are some of the key things we’re looking for. What we’re not looking for is somebody who’s interested in coming in and buying a territory and opening a bunch of restaurants and being absentee to the business. That’s just not our model. That’s not saying that’s not what they model somewhere else, but it’s just not what Truett intended when he began this model for Chick-Fil-A.
Ray: So this career, this pathway, led to you writing a book called “It’s My Pleasure,” right? Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about that. What led to the book, and what do you cover in it, and what do you hope when the reader would take away? Because we’re going to give our folks a chance to learn how they can secure that? 

Dee Ann: Sure, well the story behind it is really quite remarkable. I have always been a writer. Sometimes when I was little, I would work out my grief, my problems, my issues by writing about them. And so in 2013, my doctor, my dad died. And at the same time, Truett became ill and left the business day-to-day. And those have been really the two biggest business mentors in my life, and so feeling that sadness, I began to write blog posts about different aspects of what I had learned from each of them. As Truett passed away in 2014, I came to realize that I had more than just a few blog posts. I looked down one day, and I had 16,000 words, and I was well on my way to writing a book. And so it became a passion of mine. It really had nothing to do with the public in general, although it’s become something that people are interested in. But for me personally, it was the opportunity to be sure that those of us who knew Truett Cathy, and what he told us, and what he taught us about people decisions, and the importance of selecting great talent, and creating a compelling culture, that we would never forget that. Because he believed it was foundational for Chick-Fil-A, and if we were to be a multi-generational business, we would need to remember that. And then secondly, the other thing that I wanted to be sure is all those people who would come after Truett, and when I think that it’s been, you know, several years now since he passed away, and all the people have joined our organizations since that never had an opportunity to meet him, that they too would know what he thought was most important process. So that became really my passion about the book, is it was really focused on an internal audience, and then a lot of other people became interested.
Ray: Well unfortunately, it’s not available right now, right?
Dee Ann: Just not in hardcopy
Ray: Not in hardcopy. So how could someone– they can still get an audio or help us understand.
Dee Ann: Sure. The e-book and audible are still available on Amazon. And hopefully it’ll be available again in the future; maybe next year. So look for it. We’re out of print right now, and sold a lot. Went through three printings, and we’ll see what the future of it is, but it’s still available by ebook.
Ray: And now I want to talk just a little bit about your speaking.
Dee Ann: All right. I’ve really been on the road the last three years averaging about 50 speaking engagements a year, representing both Chick-Fil-A and talking about “It’s My Pleasure.” I really enjoy the faith-based leadership sector of that and had an opportunity of course to be with you all a couple years ago, and several other similar organizations, but I’ve also spent some time specifically within either industries or a specific business and helping them work with their talent selection and also creating a compelling culture and really telling stories. That’s what I seem to do most; to tell stories about how those things have happened both within our organization in my own personal experiences through that.
Ray: Well, that’s really a great segue. Let’s talk a little bit more about your journey. Let’s talk a little bit more about your faith. How did you come to Christ? And then we want to shift into leadership, and principles, and examples, and those sorts of things. But tell us a little about your faith journey.
Dee Ann: Well, I don’t have one of those, you know, stop you in your tracks type of testimonies. I was very fortunate to grow up in a Christian home and actually came to Christ when I was 7 years old. The funniest part of that story is that I tried to come at age six, and my children’s minister at our church pulled me inside and she said, well, tell me about a sin you’ve committed. And I was so ashamed; I knew what sin was and I have committed it, but I couldn’t say anything. And so she went to my parents and she said, she’s not ready because she can’t talk about her sin. And it’s really funny; it’s something I had to work out later in my life, this whole thing about shame. I really even at a very early age, I struggled with it. And I was just convinced if I could get baptized and get down in that water, that all that was going to go away. And that’s part of what, you know, we learned about, you know, the gospel. And I really understood it, but so anyway, that next year when I went to talk to her again about it, I made sure I had a really good sin to talk about so that I wouldn’t miss my opportunity or my baptism. So I came to Christ very early and, you know, I think the most significant things about my faith journey is that grew up again in the church. Really though at the age of 15 had kind of a epiphany if you will. Struggle a little bit in my early high school years of my identity and who I was going to be in Christ, but it really came to the conclusion that I wanted to go into full-time Christian service which took me off to Cincinnati Christian University where I met my husband who became a pastor. And we were married, and so those are all significant steps in that journey for me.
Ray: You know as I think about this, it’s really a good thing that you found your husband there; Cincinnati Christian University. He became a pastor so that you could eventually get your position here at Chick-Fil-A.
Dee Ann: Absolutely. He changed my life when he changed a flat tire. You never know what God’s going to do. We just faithfully serve just one person, right?
Ray: That’s right. So this is a great segue then because as you share, you’ve had, you know, you can walk with the Lord pretty much your whole life. So on a macro level began, how has your faith shaped your leadership in your career?
Dee Ann: I might say that, you know, one of my favorite sayings are Truett Cathy and he quoted some they used to say this line. He said, you’ll be the same person five years from now except for the people that you meet and the books that you read. And so I think the people that I’ve associated myself with particular in my career, have had tremendous impact on my faith and have really helped shape me. So I can’t say the principles I’m going to share with you necessarily, we’ve said I started out and this is the way it’s going to be, but I look back and what I learned, and what I embraced. And so I have three things that I would say were pretty significant. The first is lead with integrity. And of course, Proverbs 22:1 tells us that a good name is rather to be had than great riches, and a good name is really hard to find. And you know first and if you find it and you have one, you need to do everything you can to protect it. So integrity and leading with integrity. I think it’s a very, very important part of anybody’s leadership journey. Secondly, and I learned this along the way. I can’t say I started out here, but I learned this. When able, extend grace. Hebrews 12:15 says see to it that no one misses the grace of God. And you know, even as leaders, we really have an opportunity. We have to be wise and discerning. We can’t be pushovers. We have responsibilities to leadership, but there are opportunities to extend grace to really seek first to understand where somebody is, and then to be understood. And again you know part of what plays into that for me is recognizing that the people I lead everybody that I am associated with it. That are on my team for example, they are somebody’s son or daughter; they might be somebody’s mom or dad her husband or wife or brother or sister. And I try to reflect on how do I want those people in my life that I love to be treated? And I want to treat those people the same way. And so that requires me to extend grace when I’m able. And then the third thing is in this very much part of our Chick-Fil-A journey, is to demonstrate servant leadership. My very first class in college I will never take a non-credit class called principles of Christian service. And the very first verse of Scripture we were required to notice Mark 10:45. For even the Son of an did not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. And at the heart of it and everything that I’ve learned over this journey at Chick-Fil-A is we serve. And in our organization what’s really interesting is the more responsibility you have, the more you’re expected to serve. It’s not the other way around. And so we constantly have opportunities to demonstrate that. So this idea of integrity, extending grace, and demonstrating servant leadership, I say to me have been the three differentiators in my career.
Ray: So on that note, if you don’t mind want to maybe park on number two just for a moment. As one who, you know, you really came up through and leading the entire human resources and talent development and so forth. So if there’s someone listening to this conversation right now and they’ve got a tough personnel decision, help us understand that balance. Because where is that line of extending grace and yet the accountability factor, right? Because sometimes there’s just really hard personnel decisions to be made. What comments or insight would you have around that?
Dee Ann: Well one decisions, I know that I need to be sure I’m not being nice, I’m being kind. You know nice is when we’re polite, and we say what people want to hear. Kindness is what we tell them, what they need to hear.
Ray: That is good.
Dee Ann: Whether it’s to improve their performance, or even I’ve been in situations not many times, but sometimes, whether it was somebody who wanted a job here and I had to say, you know, this just isn’t right for you. They’re going to be better opportunities for you; it’s a great organization to work for, but sometimes people will have a better opportunity somewhere else. And so I had a former leader at Chick-Fil-A, our former president. And he taught me something very, very early in my career. And I love this quote. It’s kindness to refuse immediately what you eventually intend to deny.
Ray: Would you say that again?
Dee Ann: It’s kindness to refuse immediately what you eventually intend to deny. Now that’s very effective, from you think about leadership; it’s if I’ve got to tell somebody, they’re not going to get a job or a promotion or something they’re expecting, the faster I tell them that, the kinder it is. Because the longer I wait, the longer they get strung along. They start creating expectations and believing that something’s going to go a certain way. And so it’s more hurtful, the longer they have the opportunity to create that expectation. I found it true in parenting. You know, when we tell our children, well in my case, you know well, we’ll ask your dad. And then it will let me think about it and then you know I gave example when you know my son wants to go off with friends on Saturday night, and he asked me on Monday and I go through all these things and then I don’t get around to telling him til Friday that he can’t do that. That wasn’t a very kind thing to do because the reality is, I knew on Monday I didn’t think that was a very good idea. But I, you know, put that off and put that off and all week long, he’s thinking he’s going to get to go do that. So obviously it’s not very kind to him and creates a lot of challenges when I wait till the last minute to let him know that that’s not going to work out.
Ray: I got to tell you, Dee Ann, I have been right at about a hundred of these interviews for Bottom Line Faith program; that is a profound quote.
Dee Ann: Thank you.
Ray: That I’m going to take that myself, and that’s the strong stuff.
Dee Ann: I learned it from a great leader and it has served me well. And you know I don’t do it perfectly, but I sure do try, based on the outcomes that I’ve experienced by using that principle.
Ray: And what I hear in that, that’s really love.
Dee Ann: Absolutely.
Ray: That’s servant leadership.
Dee Ann: Yeah, absolutely.
Ray: Because it’s treating the others the way we would want to be treated as well. So we’ve talked a little bit about these guiding principles and so forth. How have you not, you’re in Chick-Fil-A, right. And it’s known as a Christ-centered organization and so forth. Where have been in these struggle points that you’ve had in your journey along the way, and integrating your faith and work? Or maybe even tell us a challenge you’ve had, or a tough situation that really did challenge your faith. Kind of a broad question there, but maybe what did you say around that?
Dee Ann: Well, I think you know one of the biggest challenges we we had any of us can have it too plain because our business is based on biblical principles and we share that fact and we have a corporate purpose that says we’re in business to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that’s entrusted to us and to be a positive influence. And all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A, that’s our corporate purpose. And it’s there to remind us every day that that’s why we’re in business. But when you publicize that and you put that out there, you create expectations and people are looking for you to behave in a way in which you’ve stated is your purpose. And so that can be challenging because we’re still humans and we’re not perfect and we blow it sometimes, and I’ve blown it sometimes. And you know, but yet you do have to be very, very conscious of that. So one of the greatest challenges is just living up to this image that people have of what our organization is. And obviously that’s been a challenge when I think back, you know. Just me personally, I think there have been a couple of times. One was that move from what I knew in people to venture off into a whole new path and sustainability. And that’s part of being in an organization so long, you know. You do have to reinvent yourself several times over again. That happened actually within the HR function, but then there came that time to make that move, and you know, you have those moments. Can I really do that again? Can I create a new strategy, and a new structure, and lead a new team? And it was very rewarding in the end that I did it, but I have to say, you know, I did so with a little bit of trepidation.
Ray: Maybe some of your listeners have been through that process themselves. Does anything come to mind as you look back over your career, about I wish I had this chance to do that over again? Or maybe a major mistake that you had to go back and address and correct? Or maybe even through maturity, you could look back now and say I didn’t handle that one well. There’s any learning things that you could pass along?
Dee Ann: Yeah, you know, as a young leader and the whole thing’s right, you know. I think back to just enter individual interactions and I was I have really high expectations of myself, and I projected those on other people. And you know what really changed my life was becoming a mom. That really changed my leadership for the better. Because once that happened and I had this other little human being I was responsible for, and I recognized in him the expectations that I created, and that was, you know, going back to the whole thing about seeing the no one misses the grace of God, I really had through my becoming a mom was when I really became I began to understand grace for myself, you know. And started accepting that I was within God’s grace that he was willing to give me so much grace and I needed to give it away to others. And that whole process really changed me as a leader. And I came back from that first maternity leave with a much different perspective about the people who work for me, realizing that I put people under stress. I had really required so much of them, and that it goes back to what I said earlier. You know, recognizing, hey there’s someone’s son or daughter too. And now I have this little person in my life. And how do I want him to grow up and be treated? So that was one of the things I look back and go, now if I could do something over again, I really wish I’d learned that earlier. But I will tell you this, you know. I knew you were going to ask this question about, you know, what would you do? And again by no means, we can talk all day about my mistakes as a leader because we all have them, but I don’t know that I’d change a whole lot because I had this strong belief that my path is my path and that God is sovereign in all things and he works all things together for good. And whatever path I’ve been on now it hasn’t been straight, but even the twists and turns, he knew how to use those things. And so I try not to look back too much in any aspect of my life and wish it had been different because whatever it was, it was God’s ordained path for me. At this point of my life, that’s how I accept. Didn’t look at it.
Ray: That sounds like real, internal peace. That’s beautiful. Okay, can we go back because as I was listening to something you were saying a moment ago about, you know, when I became a mom and those sorts of things, how did you balance all that? How did you maintain your walk with the Lord, your emerging career, your developing career, being a mom, being a wife, community? How did you manage all that?
Dee Ann: I really don’t know. When I look back at how did I do that? I had a lot of supportive people in my life and, you know, who you choose your mate, I’ll start there, can be a really, really important decision of what you’re able to accomplish in life. And God blessed me with an amazing husband who’s been tremendously supportive. A very active dad who shared the home and parenting responsibilities with me. And so number one, that has a huge amount to do. What I was able to accomplish and do for me personally. And I didn’t start out here, so this is another place I had to learn I didn’t do this well, but I’d eventually got to the point that I realized I needed to be present. Wherever I was, I didn’t try to mix all of those roles. I became very clear about what my roles were and when I was in each of them, my goal was to be there. So if I was at home, I really tried to be at home. Man, now my kids are listening to this; they’re probably thinking about times where I didn’t always do that. Of course I kept practicing that. When I came up with that idea to begin with, I wasn’t very good at it, but I kept on and kept on. I mean, well you know, I realized one day I’m sitting at the baseball field, you know, on at the time it was a Blackberry, but the whole time they’re out there I’ve got my head stuck down in the Blackberry, and I’m responding to emails. Because that’s a nice time you just sit still and do that, right? But I wasn’t being very present. And the same thing with everything else. When I was at work, I was at work, and I was focused on what I needed to do there. When I went to a board meeting, I was at the board meeting. And that’s just a discipline that we have to work at. It’s not a natural thing to do that, but that helped me a whole lot, was the ability to just say, hey wherever I am present in that moment, and then just leveraging a lot of other things. You know, outsource what I was able to outsource in our home. I’ve often told people, you know, my kids just didn’t really care who did the laundry. Or who went to the grocery store. That wasn’t important, but they did care who was at their ballgame, or who tuck them in at night, and so I tried to figure out what it was and I sometimes I would just ask them. What’s most important for me to do for you this week? As my sons grew up and got into high school, one things I did, they all played high school football. And so Friday nights were sacred. Just nothing came between that and Friday night. And I protected those the whole time all three or four, 12 years. The whole time because they were all in high school different years so they didn’t overlap. So it was 12 years of protecting Friday nights from any other possible commitments. And you know, we can’t be at everything and sometimes I had to tell them, hey you know what I can’t do this today because I have this responsibility, but I’ll tell you what I will do. I’m going to be able to take some time off to do this with you. That’s really important to you. And we just we talked very openly about it. And one of the things that I think benefited my kids; they saw mom and dad who got up and went to work everyday and they developed an amazing work ethic themselves because of that. And so mine ones that you know we’re calling out sick out of school all the time because mom and dad didn’t do that. We got up and we went to work and we worked at this whole thing as a family. Now with all that said, I want you to know something. I support moms who choose to stay at home. I think it’s the highest calling there is. Everybody has a different situation about why they choose to do what they do and there is individual as all that in those choices or as individual as all the individuals you know. It’s good. But there’s this saying the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. And so when I have a female employee who comes in to me and says, hey I’m going to stay home with my baby, I celebrate them because I think that is a very, very high calling and a very important one. So we’re all called to do different things and God has a different path for all of us, but that’s how I’ve tried to do the very best I can to balance.
Ray: Well, Dee Ann, we’ve talked about your background, we’ve talked about your faith journey and balance and so forth of us, but I want to just shift towards this little section around advice and mentorship, okay. And so what’s the best advice anyone ever gave you and how does it continue to impact you?
Dee Ann: Well, you know it’s funny. I actually gave that to you earlier, but one other thing to that, and this was not advice anybody said to me, but I watched demonstrated. And it’s this: actions do speak louder than words. And so especially when it comes to our faith, if we want to be a testimony, we don’t talk about it, we walk it. And we just do it. And in my career in my marketplace, I’ve had that demonstrated over and over again. And so well no one ever said that to me; I watched it happen. And I do believe that especially what we do when nobody’s looking is the biggest testimony of our faith in the marketplace.
Ray: So those that’s some of the best advice you were given. Now what I’d like you to do is I’d like you to imagine you’re sitting across from your 20 year old self, and you’re going to pass along advice. What would you say to a 20 year old Dee Ann Turner?
Dee Ann: To myself specifically, I would say don’t be so hard on yourself.
Ray: Oh, that’s good.
Dee Ann: You’re not expected to be perfect by anyone, especially God. And give your own self some grace. So you can give away grace to others; it seems like it’s easier to give away grace to others and not as well to ourselves. Well, you know it’s a funny thing; I really went through I would say that was my crisis in life that I had to overcome was coming to terms of this concept here. I’d grown up in a Christian home. I told you that I became a Christian when I was seven. I mean you know I knew Christ from the time I was seven years old, and I knew this concept of grace, but I thought it was for everyone else. Everyone else on the planet was deserving somehow except for me. And real quickly, what happened was I landed in the middle of Kenya in a little village that was two hours from nowhere. And that was the moment in which I realized among these kids who were so joyful, who had absolutely nothing except the love of Christ in their life, and that was the moment that I came to understand how much God loved me. And that grace was available to me as well as all the other people on the planet.
Ray: Oh that’s fantastic. It’s so good. Okay, so let me ask you this. And this whole area kind of an advice and encouragement. Right now there’s somebody listening to this conversation, and they’re discouraged. They’re going through a tough time, they’re having a hard time. Maybe seeing God’s plan for them and their career or their business, or maybe they’re just in a really dark season right now and it doesn’t seem like anything is going right, okay. They may have their headphones on right now listening to this as they’re on their treadmill, or on a walk. They may be playing this over their Bluetooth on their car, who knows how they’re listening to this. At the end would you take a moment and just offer your best words of encouragement? How could you lift up the spirits of that Christ follower who’s discouraged in their marketplace journey right now?
Dee Ann: I go back to the words of Proverbs 3. Trust in the Lord all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding and he will make your paths straight. I think that’s so hard for us, you know. There are certain things we value higher than anything else. Obviously our faith, our family, but our role in the marketplace. Sometimes I mean that’s a very important priority in our life, and when we’re going through a tough time and we have to remember that he’s orchestrating all these things for our good and that he’s looking for us to trust him. And sometimes it’s more about that learning to trust than it is whatever the outcome is going to be. But that’s where the peace comes from to walk through those tough times. And I’ve had them; I’ve had them here in the marketplace. And that’s when I go back to is that.
Ray: I love it. That is really good. Well at the end, for those who listen to the program they know that the last question I ask in every conversation is what I call my 4:23 question. It’s based that you were just talking about Proverbs 3, so we’re just going to go just a little bit further north to Proverbs chapter 4 verse 23 that says above all else, guard your heart for it determines the course of your life. So if you had the opportunity to gather your family and friends and loved ones around and you say it’s towards the tail end of your time this side of eternity, and you have a chance to pass along that one piece of advice or encouragement, what would be your above all else advice? Finish the sentence for me. Above all else…
Dee Ann: Love and love people. And I actually think it’s that simple. And that’s what we’re here to do.
Ray: Well, I tell you what, the end from the first time I made the notes from the first part of our conversation, these principles is leading with integrity, extending grace, and servant leadership. I just want to say while we’re on the air here, you have done nothing but model those things in our relationship over the past two or three years. I remember the first time I picked up the phone and say, hey Dee Ann, we’d love to see if you could come talk to us in our conference. And you just modeled grace, you modeled integrity, and I just want to thank you personally. Just thank you for modeling Christ the way you have in our friendship over the last two, three years.
Dee Ann: Well, thank you so much, Ray. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you and all of the folks of Truth At Work. And thanks for spending time with me today.
Ray: Well folks, I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith, Ray Hilbert. I am sure of this; I am sure that today, like me, you have been encouraged, you have been inspired, and you have learned from one of America’s best leaders who loves Jesus and the marketplace, Dee Ann Turner, here at Chick-Fil-A. It has been an honor to have this conversation. Check out her website If you’ve got a corporate event or a leadership conference or something where you need a really godly leader to communicate biblical principles of leadership, you’re going to find no one better in the country than Dee Ann Turner. So that’s my encouragement to you. Until next time, I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith, Ray Hilbert, saying so long and serve the Lord faithfully in the marketplace.