Driven by Vision – Lessons from Chick-fil-A Employee Training

Over the last several months, I’ve often worked remotely. I’ve spent some of those days in local coffee shops, but I could only justify so much time there. I’m a tea drinker.

Thankfully, there’s a Chick-fil-a right around the corner with free wifi. As a parent, I’ve appreciated how family friendly the place is. As a Christian, I’ve appreciated how many locations have worship music playing (though that might just be a Bible Belt thing). But mostly? I just really like their food. And their tea.

It’s always struck me how nice the employees are. I’ve read how saying “my pleasure” in response to “thank you” (as opposed to “you’re welcome”) is more about culture than training, but I assumed that training still had a lot to do with the way employees act. But I never really gave it that much thought.

Then, a few months ago, I had the privilege of witnessing a new employee training while I mooched on their wifi and nursed their tea (half sweet, half unsweet, usually; I’m from the south, but I’m not an animal). I found the process fascinating.

To say that they are deliberate with their employees is an understatement of the greatest order. I’m sure different locations are different, and different managers are different. But by the time they finished, I was taking notes. This is how I’d want to run my business. My family, for that matter.

Clarity of Vision

Let’s start with the basics. Chick-fil-a doesn’t have an official mission statement, but they reiterated their purpose over and over through the training:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all
that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence
on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

This wasn’t a secular training. There were practical segments, of course. Here’s how we take out the trash. Here’s where we keep the straws. Here’s how we serve customers. But they framed all this within the broader concept of the vision of the company, in three parts:

1) Glorify God.
2) Be a faithful steward.
3) Be a positive influence.

Shouldn’t we all strive for the same?

Glorifying God

“Some days are tough,” the manager said. “Sometimes it’s too busy to get a break. Sometimes it’s too slow to stay in the black. Sometimes there’s a big mess to clean up. Sometimes we’re shorthanded.” He smiled warmly and continued, “it’s on those days we have to remember why we’re here: to glorify God.”

The maturity of such a statement coming from a late twentysomething’s mouth… I was impressed. It echoes James 1:2 (ESV) which reads:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds

That’s never easy in the flesh. Life hits hard sometimes. But our purpose in life is ultimately to glorify God. And that can (and should) happen in all circumstances.

Stewarding Faithfully

“We strive to avoid waste,” he said, firmness in his voice. “We take stewardship very seriously. We don’t overcook or undercook. If we do, we’re failing in our duty. Get a reusable cup so you’re not wasting straws and cups all the time. Be proactive, thinking ahead about how you can be a more faithful steward of everything you’ve been entrusted with.”

This sounded more familiar. I might not have heard the “glorify God” lines when I worked in fast food in my younger years, but I definitely heard “waste not” more than once. Admittedly, it didn’t have the tenor of this, and the word stewardship never came into it. But keeping costs low is part of any good business.

And it’s a familiar refrain at home, too. I’m a dad, so I frequently have to explain to my children that we’re not air conditioning the neighborhood or refrigerating the whole house. That’s my job, right? To provide the childhood memories of dad clichés.

What was not familiar was the continuation of this portion of the Chick-fil-a training. This wasn’t merely a stewardship as an accountant would see it. Stewardship also involved moments, customers, and love.

Positive Influence

“If you’re working a lunch shift from 11 to 3, you should surprise and delight at least one customer,” he says. He’s explained how to emphasize customer service, but he hits this particularly hard.

Coming right on the tail end of the “waste not” emphasis, the manager says that occasionally the employee should see an opportunity to give away a free meal to someone who could use a hand, or to carry a large order out to their car for them while they enjoy a cup of complimentary coffee. “If you’d like to do that, don’t worry about it. Giving away food and stuff, we love that. You’re not going to get in trouble about it.”

What?! Letting a chicken filet fall on the ground is egregious, but there’s a mandate to give them away?

He explained that your purpose here is to enrich other people’s lives every day. Enrich. What a word!

This was the most aggressive part of the training that I saw. Not how to properly handle food or enter your time, though I’m sure those things were covered when I wasn’t watching. But for a good half hour, the manager related stories like a time when he was able to give breakfast to a homeless man who only ordered coffee. I felt inspired, listening to this. Heck, I wanted to work for Chick-fil-a. The idea of being not only free, and not only encouraged, but equipped to bless other people… Wow.

How can I apply this at home? How can I bless my customers? How can I surprise and delight? How can I enrich?

Is this not washing feet?
Is this not feeding the poor?
Is this not praying for the sick?
Is this not visiting the imprisoned?

All the Same

These weren’t different steps of a vision statement. They were all the first. How do we glorify God?

We steward what He’s given us. We serve those He loves (the whole world, that is).

Before I left Chick-fil-a that day, I sent Clara an email, saying:

In the 3-ish hours I’ve been watching this play out
I’d say half of that time has been about how to serve
people with — effectively — love.

Love. It’s all about love. Unassuming, unrelenting, unabashed, even aggressive love.

We should all be so.

Originally posted 2017-06-05 08:00:00.

About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.