When Calling Trumps Consensus

 

Truett Cathy, the late founder of Chick-fil-A, is known for building one of the most successful fast food chains in the nation, but he is also equally admired for the way he cared for people through his generous spirit.

Had it not been for one major decision, we may have never witnessed the full scope of Truett Cathy’s generosity through an organization that has changed thousands of lives—the WinShape Foundation.

I love this story.

Truett Cathy was invited to speak to classes at Berry College in north Georgia, and during his visit, he and his wife Jeanette were shown a beautiful piece of property—lush green hills, a magnificent chapel, stone dormitories, a library, a gymnasium, and a classroom building. Unfortunately, it all sat empty and unused. With a cost of $2 million a year to maintain that area of campus, Berry College desperately needed to sell it.

This piece of land was the original site of Martha Berry’s vision—a boarding school for children who had no other access to education. Jeanette Cathy said that “she felt like she was on holy ground,” and both she and Truett felt God calling them to purchase the land and use it to help others.

The next day, Truett was so excited to pitch his idea to the Chick-fil-A Executive Committee, but they had the opposite reaction he had hoped. When he could see they weren’t catching his vision, he personally took them to Rome, Georgia, to see the property. After seeing it firsthand, the committee seemed more encouraged by Berry’s decision to sell the land than the Cathy’s desire to buy it, and they discouraged him from purchasing the property.

Truett expressed his gratitude for their honest opinion and insight, but he decided to buy the property anyway.  In doing so, Truett and Jeannette created the WinShape Foundation, with a  mission to “create experiences that transform,” and that’s exactly what they have accomplished since its inception. From summer camps to marriage retreats, WinShape works to teach truth and equip people from all walks of life. The goal of Winshape is simple: to shape winners.

Had Truett Cathy followed the advice of Chick-fil-A’s Executive Committee, WinShape might not exist today. Truett understood that your calling is not left to a consensus vote.

Think about this: How many dreams have died on the altar of consensus-driven decisions?

Please understand me—I’m all for consensus, when possible. When we can align people and gain agreement, it’s always best. However, consensus decisions are often the lowest common denominator of decision-making. We water down things enough that no one is mad, but we fail to accomplish what’s most important.

If you have a vision, you can’t allow the goal of consensus to keep you from your calling. As a leader, a parent, a pastor, or a business owner, you will sometimes see things differently than others around you. You have a unique position and vantage point, so you might see things others simply do not.

Consensus-driven decision-making might increase your popularity but may decrease your potential. As you compromise to please specific people in the larger group, your vision becomes less focused and less effective. It becomes more about collective agreement than lasting impact.

Consensus is a good thing, but your vision as a leader might not make sense to everyone else in your business, church, or family. The Chick-fil-A Executive Committee was full of people whose hearts were in the right place. They loved Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family. However, God entrusted Truett with a special vision. I’m so glad he did what was best, not what was popular.

If you sacrifice your vision on the altar of consensus, the world will miss out. Answer your calling, take the next step, and trust that your God-given passion has a purpose.


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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up