Chick-fil-A employees are nationally known forthe kindness with which they treat their restaurant guests. Kevin Williams, a rare triple-franchisee of Chick-Fil-A, wrote Irrational Kindness: The Crazy Pursuit ofan Extraordinary Life (January 2021) as both an operating manual for life and an employee handbook for his Chick-fil-A staff, encouraging us all to explore kindnessin a unique way both towards yourself and others.
Williams strips irrationality of its negative context by suggesting that living irrationally is the mostpositive, inspiring and empowering way to be. Irrational Kindness serves as a reminder that everyone hasthe power to live an extraordinary life, regardless of their fears, the messiness of their lives or their pastmistakes. Williams implores his readers to value understanding others and to prioritize kindness-towards yourself and others-over everything.
Q: Kevin, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start yourself, tell us a little about yourself.
A: In 1993 I began a journey in fast food with Chick-fil-A that has grown to owning 3 locations in Canton, GA. I was first inspired as a teenager hearing the founder, Truett Cathy, share his entrepreneurial journey in business and one that expressed a heart of generosity along with the competition of business. He was playing a different game in the business world than you see most days and I was hooked. He saw the game of business in a more eternal game than a sprint race and that is just not fair to the competition. As a dad of 4 children and husband to Gwen for 26 years, I get to see first hand the power God has given each of us to seek to lift others up in encouragement and hope.
Q: Why did you decide to write on the topic of kindness?
A: I believe it is the best way to lead a business and your life. Often we hear about random acts of kindness, which I love, but this book is more about strategic acts of kindness both to yourselves and others. One where we get to see ourselves and the world in a different light. I host a Coffee with Kevin for all new team members. It is a time for us to talk about their hopes and dreams in life and ways we can encourage them on their journey. While every business and life has policies, challenges and guardrails to operate that can make you feel boxed in, I wrote this book to share how you can irrationally get out of that box and use the creative talents God gave you on this journey in life. I want them to know they are not a commodity for us but rather a work of art that is being created and they now have a lifetime of cheerleaders behind them waiving pom pom's. I learn to interact with customers, my family, my friends, and my enemies in new ways when I strum this chord of kindness.
Q: What does it mean to live with irrational kindness?
A: Being closed on Sundays in the fast food business is irrational. Dipping fries in both Chick-fil-A Sauce and Buffalo sauce can be irrational. Dipping fries in milkshakes is even better. It is permission to simply make a quarter turn in perspective to see things in a new light. To seek to assume the best about a team member who is late so you can learn more about them as a human. To help a 16 year old team member discover the joy in working by how they serve guests with their heart. To encourage the college student to discover the beauty in failure as they take courageous steps. Failure becomes an opportunity. Frustration becomes persistence. Uncertainty becomes a chance to dream.
Q: In light of the current culture, why is this topic timely?
A: The realities of life such as loss, perfectionism, uncertainty, burnout, pandemics and isolation are all around us and they definitely are in the fast food world. Yet these don't define us when we choose to live a life with a different purpose. Irrational kindness gives you the permission to not get drawn into a world of division and separation. My hope is it gives you encouragement, permission and clarity to think outside of the box to see the joy is in the journey. In no way does this mean we put our heads in the sand, but we understand our role in things we don't agree with and always lead with kindness. Now that is kindness to yourself that shines like a beacon in the dark for all to see.
Q: How do you apply this form of kindness to Chick-Fil-A and other organizations?
A: The beautiful thing is if you're in a hard industry, job or situation. You get the opportunity to lean into it even more to shine brighter. Flash lights always shine best in the darkness. It starts with me seeking to develop relationships in a business that is very transactional and fast. Often this powerful shift in your mindset begins to cheer people on and invites them into a bigger experience than just earning a paycheck.
I like to examine how I am preparing our organization now for the 7th grader so that when he joins our team in a few years he has the best job he will have in his entire life. Kindness is playing a different game often that is not complicated but takes persistence to another level. It is business leader celebrating the employees own talents, originalities, and gifts so you care about their dreams as much as your own.
Q: Who modeled kindness in your life?
A: My dad and mom understood hard work and persistence. They also dumped buckets of love on me that gave me a platform to swing for the fences and even if I failed it was a chance to learn. They showed me the beauty found by giving your best in hard work, faith, family, fun and rest.
Today I have hundreds of team members at Chick-fil-A I work with that daily teach me how awesome this next generation is. They are something incredible as they understand the power of service and how to lift up others. Don't let the one or 2 folks that go wonky in your life determine who you are cheering on. We just have to get in the conversation that seeks to understand others and leads with grace over being right. This next generation is full of awesomeness you don't want to miss out on.
Q: How will this book help us to become more kind?
A: I want to provide a spotlight on hope. It is irrational kindness that gives me and you a breath for our next step. It simply offers encouragement and permission to think in ways that often is in contrast to social media, politics, or the news. You don't have to know everything to write a beautiful life song but rather a fresh opportunity to renew our minds daily to see ourselves and the world in a different light. Flex those kindness muscles daily. Take a nap, give your phone a Sunday's off day, celebrate failures, get creative with your ambitions, assume the best, love an enemy, favor understanding over being understood, and get to know someone totally different than you. Just a few things that allow kindness to grow irrationally in your life. And know you have friends here cheering you on!
To purchase Irrational Kindness: The Crazy Pursuit ofan Extraordinary Life, click HERE.
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