Team Member Engagement

  • I was fortunate a couple of weeks ago to be able to listen to a leadership seminar presented by Patrick Lencioni, the author of “The Ideal Team Player.”  This book is by far my favorite book of 2017.  It was amazing to hear him take a deep dive into team member engagement.  I will try to share his thoughts and try to unpack his thesis in our quick-serve setting.  One reason I think that this book hits home is that it mirrors a statement that Phil Keiser of Culver’s would always say; “Hire, Train & Retain.”  These are the exact three phases that Lencioni talks about in his book.
  • During this seminar, Lencioni broke down team member engagement and retention into a three-phase approach.  Phase one is that the team member needs to feel known.  Phase two is that the team member needs to know that their job matters.  Phase three is that the team member must be able to measure their own success.  He reminds us that there is a vast difference in having a good job versus a fulfilling job and that people get burned out when we do not have all three phases in action.
  • Being Known.  People want to feel that they belong and that they are part of something larger than themselves.  One person that embodies this is Craig Culver.  Whenever Craig goes into a restaurant he personally greats every team member and makes them feel part of the brand.  What do you do in your daily routine to know your team members better?  One thing we try to do is to take a picture of all new hires and post it on our internal Google site so all of the managers can talk to a new worker by name the first time they see them in the building.  What an easy way to set the culture of being known right from day one.  The best managers and leaders are the ones that know what is going on in the lives of their team.  They take the time to ask questions, listen and then ask follow up questions to let the other person know that they are indeed listening.  If you can ask a team member about their child or parent it goes a long way to show that you care about them on a personal level.  Come up with a semi-personal question to ask every team member once a week.
  • Their Job Matters.  In some jobs it is easy to feel that your job matters.  It is up to us in the restaurant industry to paint the picture to all of our team members why every job matters.  People visit a restaurant for many reasons, some are having a great day, some are having a bad day and some just want to escape their responsibilities for a few minutes.  Whatever the reason our primary goal and purpose is to make sure that the people leave happier than when they arrived.  Food can have a healing effect on people.  It is our responsibility to never undervalue our role in someone’s happiness for the day.  Sometimes it is those guests that seem like they are in the worst mood that I try to go out of my way to make smile.  The easiest way to help others feel happy is to smile yourself.  Be nice!  If you care about others and if you like to make others happy the service industry is for you.  Remember that both attitudes and smiles are contagious.
  • Define Success.  Our team needs to be able to know if they are doing a good job or not.  If they have no way of knowing they will lose interest and become less engaged.  One of the best ways to define is success is if there is a way that the team member can know and self assess at the end of every shift.  Does each position understand what success looks like?  Can each person say if they won their shift?  Can we help each person see how important each of their positions are to our overall organization?  Help give people a goal for the shift and ask them to self assess themselves at the end of their shift.  How did you do today?  Let them give you the answer.  If you don’t agree, ask them how they could do even better on their next shift and maybe give them one suggestion if they do not have any ideas.  If you see something happening during the shift, try to provide one coaching technique and then as the shift goes along praise the method if you see it in action.
  • Following these three above principles on a daily basis will lead to better team member engagement and an improved company culture.  Ask yourself which one of the three you need to focus on first in your organization and start to implement the process every day.

Sails On A Ship

  • As today is Thanksgiving in the United States, I thought I would tie in a ship reference.  We talked last week about the process.  The process is like a ship.  The process is what creates the main body of the ship.  When the seas get rough the integrity of the ship gets tested.  Likewise when our business climate gets rough our processes and systems are put to the test.  Sometimes in rough seas a boat may need stabilizers to help keep it afloat.  Yet in calm waters those stabilizers can actually slow the ship down.  In our business when the going gets tough we need to make sure that we get all hands on deck and maintain as much stability as possible.  We need to count on a very rigid foundation to make sure that we can hold true to our core values and weather out the storm.
  • Now comes the second part of the ship, the sails.  On a team, I feel that loving each other, serving each other and committing to each other around the primary goal of the business is what determines the height of the sails.  The bigger the sails, the further the ship can travel.  With no sails the ship would look good but never get to its destination.  With huge sails and a weak foundation, the boat would eventually sink.  As the tides and winds shift the sails must also be flexible to keep the ship on course.  The best example of this in recent memory is the Clemson Tigers.  Coach Dabo Swinney is a firm believer in everyone on the team loving one another, serving one another and committing to the goal.  Last year during the college football national championship Clemson trailed Alabama at halftime.  Dabo told his team that they all love one another too much to fail.  They came out in the second half with a new found will to win the game.  The top two things that we as leaders must do in our organization is to care for and serve our time.  We must love our guests, love our team and love serving others to reach our full potential as both individuals and as a team.  As Americans we afraid of the word commitment, yet it takes commitment to reach the next level in every endeavor.
  • One final thought on Thanksgiving.  Everyday we all have the choice to either be grateful or hateful in our lives.  It is up to each one of us to remain grateful for all of our blessings.  I am grateful and thankful for everyone in my life.  I would not be where I am today without every person that I have met in my life.  Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

No Such Thing As A Bad Location

When we look at busy restaurants, we immediately say to ourselves that they picked a great location.  There most certainly are great sites out there, but I have seen great restaurants succeed in even a poor location.  If you have a great location, your chances of success are higher but your chances to put out a mediocre experience also increases.  A good location can make a mediocre operation look good just as a poor location can make a mediocre operation look bad.  The amazing thing to see is when a great operation can take a poor location and turn it into a huge success.  Last week we discussed how productivity was one leading indicator of a restaurants success.  Today I want to look at a few more factors.

  • One thing that can help make this reality is to have a passion brand.  Restaurants that offer exceptional food and service create loyal, raving fans.  These fans will go to the ends of the earth to tell everyone they can about your business.  In poor locations this type of engagement can lead to incredible success.  At the same time, if you do not go above and beyond to create and appreciate these loyal, raving fans they will stop going out of their way to support your company.  We see this a lot when a new store opens to enormous success, and then they never reach that level of achievement in the future.  I believe that if you are running a tip top operation and building your fan base that by the third year your sales should be able to exceed your first year’s sales.  Ask each manager to fill out a paper with 20 guest names and details, see how many struggle and see how many list 30.
  • Another key ingredient in building your fan base is to be entrenched in the local community.  Spend as much time as you can building long term ROI with as many people in the area as you can.  Take the opportunity to donate whenever possible.  My current goal as an owner is to spend at least 5 hours per month marketing my company in the community.  This can be as simple as wearing your company polo and always having some coupons to hand out to people that you meet.  You would be amazed how times per day I am stopped by someone when they see my Culver’s shirt to talk to me about our store.  Talk about a passion brand!  This should even be a standard practice among your management team. Every manager should spend at least one hour per week working in the dining room.  This is the best way to start to create those long term relationships needed to succeed.
  • Present and engaged.  These are the two words describe a successful restaurant.  You have to have a present and engaged owner and management team to be successful.  The people that spend the most time at the business need to be the face of the company.  They are the ones that will set the standards, when the owner & managers are present and engaged the details matter.  The details are what separate the good from the great.  It was a quote by Jon Taffer, the host of bar rescue that summed it up in one sentence.  “There are no such things as poor locations; there are merely bad owners, operators & managers.”  One comment that I tell every new restaurant team is that we should be able to look back at the end of the year and say that we did everything we possibly could to retain every guest that visited our restaurant.

Optimal Productivity

I wanted to take a moment to touch on an operational theory about productivity.  At Culver’s we measure productivity in terms of how many guest experiences (transactions) we have compared to how many team member hours we have scheduled.  Productivity is an interesting metric that can tell an even deeper story than your actual labor cost.  The term comes the base word productive which means being able to produce.  One of the synonyms of productive is fruitful.

  • One of the most dangerous threats to a company is low productivity.  Low productivity hurts team morale, guest service, and overall profitability.  People often say that a slow restaurant is harder to manage because they have limited resources.  From my personal experience I can say that the real secret to this statement is optimal productivity.  I have seen slow restaurants that are not productive that become a nightmare.  I have seen slow restaurants that are highly productive become a success.  I have also seen busy restaurants with low productivity have more operational issues than slower units.  I think that the busy restaurant may have a greater chance to fall victim to this than a slower unit because it can fly under the radar.  A busier restaurant can over schedule and it doesn’t stand out at quickly as a slower unit.  Below are a few main causes of low productivity.
  • To Many Team Members In The Building.  If you have too many team members and managers in the building people have a tendency to not feel responsible for getting the job done.  Most people believe that it is not their responsibility to get something done. someone else will take care of it.  Having too many team members in the building makes everyone feel that they are not required to work to their fullest potential.  Then when the time comes and they need to work a little harder they either cannot handle it or feel resentful.
  • Poor Training.  This follows the line of having too many team members in the building.  If there are too many workers the training is often sub par.  If you normally have only 3 or 4 people for 4 stations everyone knows that they need to train the new person really well.  If you have 5 or 6 people for 4 stations the tendency is to put less effort and emphasis on training.  The level of urgency is lacking during the entire training process.  When the level of urgency is missing during training, this can spill over to how the team member views the job.
  • Not Holding High Standards.  If there is inadequate training, this often leads to not being able to achieve high standards.  Once our standards are lowered we again lose the sense of urgency need to perform when it gets busy.  Short cuts are the crutch used by improperly trained team members when they cannot keep up.  When there are too many team members it is also for a lot of finger pointing when the standards are not met.  The most common answer is that they were not trained correctly.
  • Poor Communication.  Poor communication by both team members and managers leads to reduced productivity.  You need to be intentional and over communicate so everyone is on the same page.  As mentioned before if there is a void of communication it will be filled with gossip.  Gossip is an absolute productivity killer.  Spending a couple of hours communicating the right things to the right people can multiply 10X when it comes to those people being more productive.
  • Working Down.  As an owner of multiple restaurants the number one things that frustrates me the most is when I see our managers / leaders working down.  There are times during the day when you need to pitch in and help out but so many times our managers end up working down way more than necessary.  Working down is a direct result of low productivity.  You end up doing tasks for others that they should be able to handle.  The result of working down is usually working more hours.  The answer to improve productivity is never to simply work more hours.  The answer is to be intentional and get more of your team to work up.
  • Busy Is Bad.  All of the above causes of poor productivity can lead to the mindset of busy is bad.  Once your team develops this mindset the shift is lost before it even begins.  Your team will start to manage the store down to a lower level of sales thinking that they will not have to work as hard.  The reality is that as the sales fall you need to work even harder than before.  Do whatever you need to do to foster the right mindset that it is great to be busy.  I hope we are super busy tonight.  Are you ready for a busy day? 
  • How To Improve Productivity:
  • 1. Have the right mindset and get everyone excited to be busy.  As you think so shall you be.
  • 2. Schedule the minimum amount of people needed for the shift.  The way to know if you have the right amount is if you feel a slight pinch point at your peak times but feel steady during the slow times.  If you have been overstaffed for a while this transition may be rough at first.
  • 3. Get the most out of your training hours.  It is important to let people fail a little bit during their training.  They need to realize how much work is required out of them when on a station.  Make sure that the trainer acts like a coach, not a fellow player.
  • 4. Communication.  Use your shift goals, jump starts, one on ones, training tools, certification sheets, check lists and any other means needed to communicate the plan to everyone.  Make sure that the plan and expectations are clear.
  • 5.  If you see it say.  As we have talked about in other posts, praise and coach at all times.
  • All of these tips will lead to your team working up more than they are working down.  Working up is the ultimate form of optimal productivity.  The closer the level of productivity in the store is to optimal the more fruitful and less stressed we will be. 

A Culture of Learning

I am always amazed how annoying it is to sit in a wobbly chair.  The cause of a wobbly chair is often that one leg is slightly shorter than the rest.  Following up on last week’s post, we have a few options with how we want to deal with the chair.  The easiest choice is to do nothing, let the chair be wobbly.  When others sit in the chair, you can make an excuse for why the chair is wobbly.  You can say that it is a good chair or you can say that you have had the chair for a long time.  The next easiest choice is to cut the other three legs off to make all of the legs even.  This choice is typically what happens in our education system in America; we teach down so that the one student doesn’t feel left out.  In doing so, we end up bringing everyone else down in the process.  The people that make the tough choice and make things happen realize that they need to do everything they can to build the short leg up so that it reaches its full potential and the chair becomes stable.

  • As leaders and managers, it is our job to make sure that we create a culture of learning and accountability.  This is how you can help reduce the number of wobbly team members you have on your team.  Sometimes people are merely in the wrong chair, and by placing them in a different position, they no longer wobble.  There is the occasional time when you simply have the wrong chair on the team, and you need to get rid of it as fast as you can so that other good chairs don’t start to wobble in the process.  Keeping the wrong team member around isn’t fair to anyone.  The great team members will start to underperform and may even start to look for a new team.  The wobbly team member that you do not coach along the way will go to their next team and have no clue why they do not fit in.  By creating a culture of learning, it lets everyone know that it is ok to make mistakes and ask questions.  Creating a culture of learning leads to constant feedback.  Regular feedback creates accountability.  Accountability leads to consistency.  Consistency is what transforms good teams into great teams.
  • Five steps to help foster a culture of learning:
  • 1. The first phase of the process as mentioned many times on my blog is to build relationships.  Once you have a stable relationship and people know and feel that you care about them they will buy into the process.  If you want this method to work even when you are not in the building, you have to have the level of trust that is built through relationships.
  • 2.  Set daily shift goals.  Make sure that everyone on the team knows what they should be doing.  Clear, constant communication is paramount.  Gossip is what usually fills the void when there is a lack of communication.
  • 3.  Provide regular feedback.  Both positive and constructive.  Try to give the positive feedback in public and the helpful comments in private.  If you see it, say it!  If you see something, either good or bad, make sure to speak up.  What you quietly allow becomes what becomes the rule of your command.  Remember the 5 to 1 rule when it comes to feedback.  For every one time, you need to coach someone you should try to give them five compliments before coaching them again.
  • 4.  Learn and teach one thing every day.  This goes to having the right mindset as a leader.  As a leader, you should always have a goal to learn one new thing and teach at least one person one new thing every day.  This helps you develop the mindset of learning vs. a simply a mindset of accountability.  The simple phrase “let me show you how ____” goes a long way to help build the relationship and thus create the culture of learning that we are trying to achieve.
  • 5.  Never lose sight of the big picture.  Always remind everyone on the team of the “why” and the ultimate goal or vision of the team.  People don’t get burnt out from doing something; they get burnt out when they forget why they are doing it in the first place.
  • The most important part of these five steps is that every leader on the team must do their part in following all five steps.  It takes the entire management team working as one to create this type of culture. 


Lagniappe is a French Creole term that I learned quite a few years back while living in the Southeast.  It means a small gift given with a purchase.  The original use that I can think of when I was young was when a bank would give away a free toaster for anyone that opened up a new account.  Today, of course, we see all kinds of gifts offered with a purchase in a variety of businesses.  This term also goes hand in hand with the Law of Value that was discussed a couple of weeks back in the Go-Giver blog post.  The restaurant industry is changing, and every restaurant out there has to fight and claw for every sale possible.  The question becomes what can we do as a company to give the “lagniappe” or little something extra to earn that business from our guest?

  • I was listening to a fantastic interview with Jon Taffer the host of Bar Rescue on the Entreleadership podcast a few weeks ago and almost went off the road taking so many notes.  He had discussed the idea of the third visit.  He talked about how the percentage of likely to return by a guest would increase from visit one to visit two and ultimately to visit three.  His key belief is that if you can get the guest to visit number three, you can become part of their routine.  Once you become part of their routine, you have a regular guest.  At each of the first three visits, his company would give a little lagniappe to get that guest to return.  On the first visit, their company would give the guest a red napkin.  This napkin would signal everyone that they all had an opportunity to make a great first impression.  The manager would also personally stop by and greet the guest during the visit.  At the end of the visit, they would offer the guest a bounce back coupon for a specific offer only given for a second visit.  Then when the guest would return with that specific offer they would welcome the guest back and again everyone would know that they could again make a great second impression.  Then at the end of the second visit, the manager would ask how they are enjoying the business and offer the guest another unique bounce back for the third visit.  To me, this idea seemed so simple yet so brilliant that I am planning to work this concept into my upcoming full team meetings.  How can we take all of our first-time guests and turn them into regulars?  What can we offer on each visit as a little lagniappe to keep them choosing us over the competition?
  • I think that this concept ties in nicely with the idea of building relationships with our guests.  Learning their name and remembering their face goes a long way.  One thing that always helps keep Culver’s on top is our hospitality.  Our hospitality is a natural point of lagniappe that we need to use to our advantage even more so than we currently do.  The strength of Culver’s lies in its dedicated owner-operators and great management teams.  I think that we have the ability to connect with our guests, unlike many other brands.  My challenge to all of our teams is that every manager should be spending at least 1 hour per week of scheduled time working either in the dining room or greeting and talking to guests cueing up in the drive thru line.  What a way to make sure that we are connecting with our guests and building that long term relationship.  As an owner/operator that should always be one of my main focuses.  As an owner, I have an opportunity to not only connect in the dining room but in the community as well.  If people in the community can put a local face to a business, it helps build that personal connection.  This idea ties directly into the idea that was mentioned last week about trying to have at least 1,000 loyal, raving fans turned into walking billboards for your business.  Imagine the power of momentum that this can create, especially in the digital age.
  • The last piece of lagniappe I would like to touch on is how we can apply this to our team members.  As the labor market continues to tighten are we doing everything that we can to be the employer of choice?  Does our team feel valued?  Does our team believe that we go above and beyond what is expected to create relationships?  As leaders we often want others to sign the dotted line to follow us, but we forget that we must earn that signature in our blood, sweat, and sacrifice.  As mentioned above, it is our team that sets us apart, and it is our team that has the power to make every visit memorable.  We need to remember to spend as much time and effort in building our relationships with our team as much as our guests.
  • Ask yourself what you are going to do on your next shift to offer that “lagniappe” and make everyone you come into contact with feel valued.

The Go-Giver

I recently had an opportunity to attend an incredible mastermind that focused on the book called “The Go-Giver” written by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  It is a great book that goes over five straightforward yet effective laws of success.  These rules of success can be applied to a business or even at a personal level in your daily life.  The real key, once you learn about the laws, is to practice and live each core value every day.

  • 1. The Law of value.  The law of value states that real worth comes from what you give in value versus what you receive in payment.  Is the service or item that you have to offer people worth more than what they pay?  Do your customers leave feeling like they got a great deal or do they feel ripped off?  In your job, do you provide more value than what you are paid?  What makes people about buying your product or using your service?  If you consistently give more value than what you charge you will have an endless supply of customers that will happily pay you for product or service.  Value comes first, the money that follows is a bi-product.  In your job, the value comes first, the promotion and raise that follows is a bi-product.  One question I like to challenge our team with is if we had to double our prices tomorrow what would we do differently to make it worth the price.  Then the challenge is how do we start doing those things without raising our prices.
  • 2. Law of Compensation.  The law of compensation states that your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.  This idea is very true in a setting like a restaurant or a service provider.  In our restaurant, we can serve up to 1000 people per day.  Each guest that comes into our restaurant can have up to 20 interactions with our team.  We have the opportunity to create 20,000 moments per day.  The key is to create positive moments and work on building the relationship with each guest.  People want to do business with those that they know, like and trust.  The more we can remove the friction or pain points from the guest experience, the more they will want to return.  We also need to remember that we also must serve our team members as well.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a line of people just waiting for a chance to work at our company due to our reputation!
  • 3. Law of Influence.  The law of influence states that we can only gain influence by placing the need or interests of others first.  How well do we serve others?  We need to figure out what others want and help them solve their problems.  Take a drive thru transaction for example.  People want the correct order, and they want it to come out fast.  If we can execute on these two priorities, our influence grows as a choice for their business when they are in a hurry.  We need to go out of our way to put their needs above ours.  One of my favorite parts in the book talks about a 50 / 50 result is a loss every time.  So many times in life and business we try to win or if we compromise we try to get a to a 50 / 50 result.  When we end up here, we have already lost.  We want the other person to leave feeling as though they won.  If they feel as though they have won, they will be back!
  • 4. Law of Authenticity.  The law of authenticity states that we need to be genuine and be true to who we are.  This goes as both an individual as well as a company.  As a business owner, I always try to be true to who I am both inside and outside of my business.  I want people that come into contact with me to be treated the same way no matter what.  We all have a unique gift to share with others, and we can achieve this by being ourselves.  I challenge myself every week in my journal by looking at myself as a personal brand.  Did I live up to my brand standards during the week?  Does my personal brand match my business?  I also write down one thing I want to do to work on improving my brand for the following week.
  • 5. Law of Receptivity.  The law of receptivity states that we need to be open to receiving the things in life that we want.  There are two sides of the coin on this law.  The first side is that of what we think about comes true.  We need to remember that as humans we tend to live up to (or down to) our expectations.  I once heard that the best way to predict the future is to create it.  I love that idea.  The other side of the coin almost can be classified as karma.  The laws of the universe always seem to come back to us.  We reap what we sow.  The more give, the more you can receive.  The more you receive, the more you can give.  The most common mistake we make is that we reverse that two statements.  We say that we will give more once we receive more but then we never end up receiving more so we never end up giving more.
  • If you ever have the chance to attend a Go-Giver mastermind, I would highly recommend it.  At a minimum, this book should be on every leader’s “must read” list.

You Will Respect My Authority!

I thought it would be interesting to start a blog post off with a quote from South Park.  I can still picture Eric Cartman yelling at people and hitting them with a club.  It is worth a quick youtube hit if you are unfamiliar.  He would expect people to simply do what he would say because he was in charge.  He would continually say “you will respect my authority” if people would question him.

  • I remember as a child playing king of the hill.  To be the king of the hill you needed to push others off that were already at the top of the hill.  It is sad, but some people view this as their leadership journey.  They think that they need to knock others down to reach the top.  Great leaders are those that get to the top and stay on top by helping bring others along the journey with them, like a Sherpa on Mt. Everest who has reached the summit hundreds of times.
  • I wanted to expand on the thought of authority vs. influence.  So many times people feel that they cannot lead others until they are in charge.  This is the same excuse given thousands of times per day in companies all around the world.  People say that they would act different or make better decisions if they were the one in charge.  Most people sit around and wait for authority to be handed to them.  The reality is that we are all in charge of something.  Even if your job is to answer a phone, you are in charge of answering that phone.  You can make that entire experience great or mediocre based on how you act.  By embracing that role and becoming the best at what you do have control over, you can then gain influence.  One way you can gain influence is by getting more responsibility because someone above you in the company sees how responsible you are for answering the phone.  When people look to promote others or give others more responsibilities, they often look for those that are doing the best job for which they are currently responsible.  The other side of influence is that others that work with you will start to count on you, look up to you, ask you for help and ultimately see you as a leader in that area.
  • Authority begins with you.  We all are in charge of our own lives and the decisions we make every day.  How do you lead yourself?  This is the best starting point to learn and grow as a leader.  The founder of IBM, Tom Watson, once said: “nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.”  The problem is that it is also easiest to deceive ourselves.  We believe the lies and excuses we give ourselves every day for not making better choices.  What one thing are you going to do today to be better than you were yesterday?
  • The number one way to start building your influence with others is to bring a positive attitude and a high level of energy to every interaction that you have on a daily basis.  The more you can be positive and have a higher energy level, the more natural it becomes.  Take every opportunity you can to be the thermostat in the room and set the temperature instead of being the thermometer and simply reacting to the temperature set by others.  Attitude and energy are very contagious, make sure that yours is worth catching.  I will close with one question that we should all be asking ourselves every day.
  • How SHOULD I lead with the authority that I do have?

The Right Stuff? (part 1)

I wanted to take the outline from last week and go a little deeper.  I am planning a three part series to take a closer look at each of the attributes outlined last week that make up an ideal team player: humble, hungry and smart.  As outlined last week we should be on the look out for people that have all three of these qualities when it comes to new hires as well as those we are considering for promotions.  My goal is to look at these qualities in the lens of our stores and our daily activities. 

  • The first virtue or quality I want to look at is humble.  What does humble look like at Culver’s?
  • Our number one core value at the scoops group is to Serve.  The two key points to this are to create loyal, raving fans and to put others first.  As I have mentioned in the past, a loyal, raving fan should include our team members as well.  Humble people serve others.  Humble people put the results of others and the common good before themselves.  One of our scoops beliefs is that our guest is anyone who is not me.  How do you treat the people that are below you in the company?  The people that are humble treat everyone the same.  The people you need to watch out for in an organization are those the “kiss up” to those above them and then “kick down” to those beneath them in the company.  The saying “It’s not my job,” should never be spoken at Culver’s.  If we have a team member that says that, we need to call them out immediately.  As managers and leaders we also need to remember that there are times where we will need to work “shoulder to shoulder” with our team and perform any task that is required.  One thing that sets the great companies apart from the good ones are the details.  Humble people consistently do the little things needed to make that difference.     
  • Humble people are givers, not takers.  Humble people are grateful, not hateful.  Humble people share the credit for a job well done and praise others.  Humble people are also accountable and most of the time even take more than their fair share of the blame.  Humble people act this way because they are confident.  Don’t mistake humble for weak.  Humble is anything but weak.  True strength in humbleness is knowing a strength that you have and not flexing it.  People that are weak will often times pretend to be strong and try to flex a strength that they don’t really possess.   Along these lines is the thought that humble people are kind.  The real power of kindness is hard to measure and in certain situations unstoppable.  Humble people may not always feel kindness in their heart but they act kind anyways.  How times during any given day can we choose to be kind instead of an alternative reaction. 
  • How to identify humble?
  • 1. Compliment or praise others on the team. 
  • 2. They readily can admit their mistakes and be accountable.
  • 3. They share the credit for a job well done.
  • 4. They can acknowledge their weaknesses. 
  • 5. They help others and take on lower jobs at times.
  • 6. They “know” others on the team, they know about the person and treat everyone the same. 
  • 7. They use “we” more than “I” when they talk.
  • 8. They are interested in the success of others on the team.  They are a cheerleader.
  • 9. They are positive and kind even when they may not feel it. 
  • 10. They put others before themselves. 
  • Challenge for the week.  Rate those people on you team based on the above 10 items as to how humble each on is.  Next week we will explore “hungry” in greater detail. 

The Perfect Team Member

I thought I would start out today’s post with a flawed title right from the start.  Everyone always wants to hire, train and retain the perfect team member.  Over the past month I have started to shift my focus from perfection to optimal.  I think that always expecting perfection is one of my down falls as a leader.  It is good to have high standards and look for all of our systems and procedures to be followed but expecting it to be perfect all of the time only leads to frustration.  Given the situation I have been refocusing to look at what is the optimal outcome.  Given the team member and the situation what could the best result be?  Keeping in mind that, we also need to teach and coach team members how to reach the next stage of “optimal” along the way.  The same situation will have different outcomes based on which team member is involved.  We should know what ideal is and then see how close optimal can get us. 

  • The first step in having great team members is to hire better.  The one simple hiring tip that has helped me tremendously over the past year has been learning about confirmation bias.  If we go into an interview hoping to hire someone or hoping they will be a good fit, our mind will pick out any little comment and tell us that would make them a good fit for our team.  You have to go into each interview with the mindset that you do not want to hire someone.  This will train your mind to pick up on subtle clues that will put up a red flag and give you a reason why not to hire someone.  As always, if it isn’t a hell yes, then it should be a no. 
  • Be it the interview process or even current team members looking to move forward in our company, there are 3 keys qualities that are outlined in the book “The Ideal Team Player” written by Patrick Lencioni that I think are key to creating a great team culture.
  • #1: Hungry.  Hungry is a quality that cannot be taught.  People either have it or they don’t.  When you talk to someone, you should be able to see the fire in their eyes and their desire to achieve something.  How many times have we said that someone could be a great team member if they could only have the drive to achieve at a high level every day.  We keep waiting for them to “grow up” or “take it seriously” but they never do.  I know that I have spent a lot time and effort over the years hoping that something would click in certain people but over and over again, it just doesn’t.  Hungry people can act without being asked. 
  • #2: Humble.  Humble is more about putting others first.  When they work are they helping others out and always looking for a way to jump in and help.  Humble people are not above doing the little things needed to get the job done.  Humble people never say, “it isn’t my job.”  Humble does not mean weak; humble people are still confident and direct.  Humble people can coach others without causing a feeling of resentment or an “I told you so” attitude.  A humble people is willing to be accountable and ask others for feedback to get better.   
  • #3: Smart.  Smart does not refer to book smart, it refers to people smart.  In business this is also known as someone’s EQ or emotional intelligence.  Smart refers to how well they get along with others.  Does this person have conflict with others or can they work in any situation?  You don’t have to get along with everyone that you work with, but you must be able to unite for the common goal / mission to get the job done.  Smart people are able to get the best out of other team members. 
  • The author talks about how the Ideal Team Player should have all 3 of these qualities.  His belief is that the only one that we can teach or develop is humble.  If you find someone with the other two qualities, you can usually help them become more humble with one on one coaching in certain situations.  For myself this has been an area of focus over the past year.  One of my big weaknesses is that I have a tendency to cut others off and not let them finish their thoughts.  I have tried to become more conscious of this and taking even 1 step further I have been trying to make a point of asking a follow up question to help validate the other person’s statement as well. 
  • As I was listening to an interview with Dave Ramsey the other day, he said that you shouldn’t have anyone working on your team that you wouldn’t hire again.  He said that the first time he heard this quote he went and let someone go the very next day.  He didn’t even have an exact reason but he knew that he wouldn’t rehire that team member.  Not saying that we should all go and let our team members go tomorrow but we should be on the look out for people that we know are not a good fit.  We need to spend some extra time coaching these team members and making our expectations clear.  If we can repeatedly make our expectations clear eventually someone will either get better or leave as they get tired of being told the same thing over and over again. 
  • This is another good opportunity for a life raft exercise.  List every team member and manager and rate them in the above three areas: hungry, humble and smart.  Where do they land?  Have you identified someone that we need to coach up or have we found a diamond in the rough that has a ton of potential?  This is a very interesting lens through which we can view both our team and ourselves.