I consider myself a leader. It's a label I wear proudly. I will also admit I am a sucker for a good leadership seminar and certainly hearing from a successful businessman could provide for learning opportunities. Plus, it's a free event. Sounds perfect! Except for one thing. Chick-Fil-A has developed a reputation for funding anti-gay organizations. Recent reports show that in 2010 Chick-Fil-A, through its charitable arm WinShape donated nearly $2 million to organizations that are anti-gay. Now I love Chick-Fil-A nuggets but I have chosen not to eat there for quite sometime because of the amount of money given to these organizations.
The event did not disappoint from both a leadership learning perspective and an insight into the philosophy of the company. Dan, as he like to be called, shared with us the companies philosophy,
"To glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A."This statement was met with great applause and enthusiasm. Being held at a Christian University I expected that type of support. Also, since I happen to come in and sit right behind Cathi Herrod, head of the Center for Arizona Policy (the most anti-gay group in Arizona), I had guessed the spin of the presentation. The philosophy sounds great! I'll have an order of that.What a great thing to try and teach employees that they can have a positive impact on every customer's day. Sounds like a great concept for good customer service which is important in the fast food industry. The problem is obviously their donations are not having a positive influence on my family. Their stance on marriage being between one man and one woman keeps my partner and I from protecting our family and gaining all the benefits of a heterosexual couple.
Dan reinforces this concept when he said he counsels young people thinking of going into the ministry to re-think that and become a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner. After all he says,
"The biggest mega church in town is a Chick-Fil-A."Dan feels that with each store employing 60-70 young folks working there it's bigger than most youth groups. This way operators of franchises have the opportunity to "preach" values to their employees. The company values that is.
He also shared with us this video that is used during their employee training.
The video is great. Again, what a concept for employees that are providing customer service to think about the fact that they may not know what is going on with each individual they interact with that day. Great training tool. However, it seems that Dan and his family don't extend this concept beyond the face to face interactions with their customers. They don't seem to apply this kind of thinking when looking at causes to champion.
Dan ended the day by addressing something he was very concerned about. Dan commented,
"Society and culture are getting off track. We are going to define marriage between one man and one woman."The row in front of me went nuts! Cathi Herrod and her clan were clapping and shouting their support with all their might. However, that same excitement was not held by the majority of the room. Again, at the beginning and throughout Dan got cheers and support for his Christian positions. Things like thinking of others, supporting family, being spiritual. However, it seemed that the majority of the crowd was not with him on this. Seems to me more of the Christians in the audience realized it's not their job to judge others. Also, maybe they had listened to him and watched his video and this just didn't seem to fit with his message.
One of my favorite principals is the saying, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Dan and I share a belief in this principal. We also share a belief that family should be a main thing. I just wished that he would focus on his and not try to tell me what defines mine.
I did speak with one of the local owner/operators about his thoughts on the company giving to anti-gay organizations. He was very open and said he really didn't know anything about it and apologized. He said that at his store his policy is to hire the best employees and he could care less about their orientation. He was very sincere and even gave me a number to the corporate office to follow up. I asked if he was able to have any input in which organizations the company donated to and he said he didn't think so since he didn't even know they did and he had been with the company for more than a decade. I told him I missed eating his nuggets and I hope I get to again soon.