He recalled the mantra his father repeated to him before high school basketball games:
“Keep your cool. Do your best. Honor God.”
Dan Dye still exuded the tenacity of a point guard and the humility of a hard worker as he echoed those same words of advice to me and a group of 5280 Fellows.
We gathered at the Denver headquarters of Ardent Mills, a conglomerate of American grain mills that emerged as a joint venture between ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS in 2013. Dan is CEO.
Our meeting with Dan was one of many conversations with city leaders woven into the nine-month 5280 Fellowship program. We meet with Christ followers leading their workplaces with innovation, integrity and cultural impact. We hear how the Christian faith informs and motivates people across industries.
And, in turn, we are challenged to see the ways our own work impacts our city, greater culture, and the Kingdom of God.
From Dan, we learned about the value of emotional intelligence (“Keep your cool”), excellent work (“do your best), and a Christ-centered perspective (“honor God”). These tenants, once shared father-to-son court side, now inform the work Dan conducts each day as he manages teams, casts vision, and meets with clients.
During our time together, Dan guided us through the open, collaborative work spaces of Ardent Mills – Dan’s mission field Monday through Friday. The offices are designed using materials and graphics evocative of the grain mills the company operates, bringing Ardent Mills products to more than 100 million people every day. Values are posted prominently. Respect, appreciation and camaraderie are encouraged.
Our trip through the office made it easy to see how service, community and hard work are celebrated. These are Biblical principles that, as Dan sees it, are great business principals as well.
A highlight of the office tour was our trip to the Ardent Mills Innovation Center. “It’s essentially a mini mill,” Dan explained, as he showed us small-scale machines processing a variety of flours. In the nearby test kitchen and chemistry lab, employees ensure the company’s flours bake well in breads and cookies, that grains process smoothly and without excess waste, and that the quality promised is delivered in the final product.
Finally, a trip down the hall revealed a spacious kitchen and dining room, where a staff chef prepared snacks for us using Ardent Mills products. Our group tasted risotto, mini Brioche buns, dips, croutons, and even a quinoa-based desert. The quality of each grain shines in the final product that consumers enjoy, and we got a front-row seat to the intentional process behind it all.
At the tour’s conclusion, I was struck by both the similarities and differences between Dan’s career path and my own. While Dan’s work had lead him to agricultural management and distribution, my own job deals with the management of words and creative content into impactful stories and marketing campaigns.
However, the most essential and foundational aspects of our work are alike. We strive to live out our values in our day-to-day tasks. We strive to serve customers, companies, and our greater culture. We aim to operate out of the belief that, as Dan puts it, “everything is an extension of who we are in Christ.”
For me, and for all of us as emerging leaders, Dan’s story resonated because it is one we ourselves are trying to live out. Excellent work and value-centered leadership translate easily from the flour mill to the boardroom, from the newsroom to the classroom, and beyond.
“Keep your cool. Do your best. Honor God.”
In seeing Dan’s example, we walked away encouraged to go and do likewise.
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This post was published March 28, 2017
Laura Bernero is our blog curator, overseeing both internal content and contributions from our amazing network of writers. She loves all things creative communications, acting on the belief that we all resonate with great narrative and connect to one another through story. In addition to her role at DIFW, she manages media storytelling campaigns at SE2, a Denver-based communications agency. She was 5280 Fellow in the inaugural 2016-17 class and can’t wait to see the program continue to empower leaders throughout Denver in their unique gifts and callings.