Leadership Qualities That I Value

As we are talking about leadership over the past few weeks, I thought I should share what I feel are my top 10 leadership qualities that I look for in people as they move up in our organization.

  • 1.  You are always learning or teaching, every day!  One of the most important duties of every leader in the building is to always be learning or teaching.  It is a good habit if you journal to write down 1 thing that you either learned or taught someone today. 
  • 2.  Building others up.  The goal for you to move up is to build your replacement.  Whenever someone asks me how they move up in our organization, the first thing we tell them is to build their replacement.  Take the time and help someone else achieve their goals at the same time.
  • 3.  Not making excuses and blaming everyone else, be accountable.  I like to tell everyone that our company coat of arms should NOT point at each other.  One leadership trait that sets great leaders apart is that they take responsibility for failure to achieve the desired results.  The other part to this is when you point out a problem make sure you offer a solution.     
  • 4.  Working up, not down.  This is one of the things that frustrates me the most, when I see our top leaders working down during the day.  It is great to work side by side with the team but we need to make sure that we are not enabling others to work less.  Whenever I consider someone for a promotion I ask myself if I find myself and others working down in their company or if they are working up towards us in their current position.  We have to avoid letting other people set our agenda, we need to be intentional with our time.  We need to teach others how to treat us.  We have set clear expectations at every level.  If you feel like you have to be superman or superwoman every time you are at work you are not delegating well enough. 
  • 5.  Be grateful, not hateful.  Say “Get To” not “Have To”.  These are 2 statements that I have talked about in previous blogs but I feel are one of the keys to success.  Every morning when I wake up I write in my journal one thing that I am grateful for in my life.  It helps you get your mind right.  At the end of the night I write down in my journal the people that I praised or thanked throughout the day. 
  • 6.  Don’t have a self limiting mindset.  What we feed our mind is what we tend to believe.  What we start to believe leads towards the actions that we take.  Never let others tell you what is possible or not.  Have a vision and develop a path to get there. 
  • 7.  Pay attention to the details, have a 360 degree view.  Achieving results are a large part of your success in our organization.  The details and having a 360 degree view is the best way to meet our financial benchmarks.  Paying attention to the little things every day is what turns a good company into a great company. 
  • 8.  If you see it, say it.  This is along the same lines as coaching everyday but this goes one step further to include feedback as well.  It is important for us say what we see many times during the day.  This goes for the good as well as the opportunities.  If you want a behavior repeated, the best way is to mention that behavior out loud.  When coaching something that is incorrect, coach it and tell the person how it should be done, not what they did wrong. 
  • 9.  Serve others and build relationships.  Being a part of Culver’s means that you will need to be able to connect with others.  Take every chance you get to interact with either a guest or a team member and work on building that relationship and creating loyal, raving fans.  Take any extra time you may have and start a conversation with someone.  
  • 10.  OTED.  Choose “One Thing Every Day” to do you move yourself forward both personally and professionally.  The best person to compare yourself to is yourself yesterday.  If you are better today than you were yesterday, you win.  I write down one item every day that I will do no matter what to be better in both of those areas of my life. 
  • I feel that following these 10 steps of leadership will help us reach our goal that everyone who chooses Culver’s leaves happy!  I believe that the above 10 items help us walk the thin line between leader and manager to produce leadership.  One last bonus tip, if you can give 100% when it doesn’t matter, you will automatically give 100% when it does. 
  • Please share a leadership attribute that you feel is key to success. 

Do You Bleed Blue?

  • At our monthly manager roundtable this month we talked about living our core values every day in our business.  When people are really committed to Culver’s, we have the saying that we bleed blue.  To others, they sometimes sarcastically say that we are drinking the Kool-Aid.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone at work had the mindset of bleeding blue?  The real question is how do we get others to bleed blue?   
  • We need to live our Culver’s values every shift.  Every decision we make should come back to whether or not it aligns with our core values.  If we know what we stand for, all of our decisions should be easy to make.  When we make a decision at work we should run it through the filter of our values. 
  • In our stores we have what are called “Scoop Cards” and they represent our 5 core company values.  Each card represents a specific value.  When someone catches someone else demonstrating a core value they can hand the person a personalized scoop card.  It is a great way to reinforce our values and tie them directly back to a specific action.  Below I will recap our five main SERVE core values. 
  • Serve:
    • #1 Reason we are here is to serve each other.
    • Our goal is to create loyal, raving fans of Culver’s.
    • Create a “WOW” experience, exceed their expectations.
  • Empowerment:
    • Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
    • It takes two people to say “no”, but only one person to say “yes” to a guest.
    • Choose a positive attitude every day.
  • Renowned Cleanliness:
    • Our company should set the standard for all Culver’s. 
    • Eating is one of the most personal things we do.
    • It is our responsibility to keep everyone safe.
  • 360 Degree View:
    • Past – Learn from each others’ mistakes.
    • Present – Be present and engaged every day!
    • Future – How will this action affect our future?
    • Remember that everyone is a leader, someone is always watching.
  • Earn
    • Respect & Dignity.
    • Feeling of teamwork, helping each other succeed.
    • Job security and advancement in our company. 
  • As we look at all of our actions and our decisions, ask ourselves if they fit into one of these above core values.  The more we can live by these values every shift, the more team members and guests we can get to “bleed blue”.   Use your pre shift meetings to review our core values and challenge team members to live out a certain one during the shift. 

Mothers and Fathers

The other day was mother’s day and as I was doing my three minutes of gratitude in the morning I was reminded how lucky I was to have a loving childhood with both a mother and father that were a great role model to me.  As I now have children of my own, I find myself trying to live up to their great examples.  I try to be a real model everyday and live out my life how I want my children to live out their lives as they grow older and have children.   

  • As we work with so many young people in the restaurant we need to remember that all of our team members and fellow managers come from a unique background and childhood.  We talk about creating a relationship with our guests and team members and sometimes we may forget that this may be the most stable relationship that some of them may have.  We spend more waking hours with our coworkers at times than we do with our families.  This is why it is so important that we treat each other as a family and that we are there to help and listen to each other when problems arise.  Here are some simple tactics that can help us become better role models / real models as authority figures for our team members.
  • 1.  See the personal side.  We need to treat team members as people and remember that they all have a personal side.  Get to know little things about each other.  One of the best ways to learn something about someone is the ask the 2nd question.  After you ask the initial question and hear the answer, ask a second question that digs a little deeper. 
  • 2.  Listen.  It is often said the listening is one of the greatest strengths that leaders need to possess.   Asking that second question is also a great way to let others know that you are listening.  Listening is also a way we can comfort team members if they are having a tough time outside of work.  Sometimes it helps just having someone listen.
  • 3.  Constant Feedback.  Feedback both positive and constructive is important so team members know how they are doing and what you are looking for.  Try to remember the 5/1 ratio.  For every 1 time we coach someone or give constructive feedback we need to give that person positive feedback 5 times to maintain a healthy balance. 
  • 4.  Brag in front of others.  One of the best ways to build a great relationship with others is to give them positive feedback and brag on them a bit in front of others.  It not only make the team member feel good, it lets others know what excellent performance looks like. 
  • 5.  Accept each others differences.  Don’t judge others.  Just because someone may be different doesn’t give any of us the right to judge others or put them down.  At the end of the day people may forget what you do and forget what you say but they always remember how you make them feel.   
  • One last thing to remember about managing others is that it really boils down to influence more so than governing.  We can govern when it may come to policies and rules but when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of our team members it comes back to influence.   

Leaders Drive Culture

Interesting how much I tend to focus on culture and team building both in my blog posts as well as at Culver’s.  The entire debacle at United Airlines is proof positive that the leaders in any company are the ones that must drive the culture.  If the leaders of United drove a positive, guest focused culture these situations this past week would have never happened.  The two main situations were the doctor that got dragged out of the plane because an employee needed the seat and also the couple on their way to a wedding that moved into open seats that were just a little larger.  Then you have the CEO after seeing the online video have the audacity to say that the doctor was unruly so that is why they took him off the plane.  If this is the attitude of the CEO it is not surprising that the rest of the team follows his lead.  I guess no one reminded United lately that they are really in the people business, not the airline business.  This is why some may argue that Southwest has become the gold standard in customer relations.  Remember as leaders our team members will watch and listen to how we treat our guests and they will follow our lead.    As Jon Gordon points out in his new book “The Power of Positive Leadership”, once you know what you stand for decisions are easy to make. 

  • Another related point to remember is that we are always on stage.  In the day of social media and smart phones chances are good that someone is watching you.  Not only other team members, but other guests will also watch how you handle certain situations.  Not only situations with other guests but guests will even comment on how we interact with team members.  In a small confined area like a restaurant chances are good that someone can hear or see you at any given time.  People tend to make most decisions based on emotion which can help or hurt us as a company.  If we can build the relationship and have a positive emotion associated with our business they will become loyal, raving fans. 
  • The actions of United also shows us that merely having a great mission statement isn’t worth anything if your company doesn’t live and breathe its mission statement.  “Fly the Friendly Skies” is the United slogan.  What does this exactly mean?  The United Airlines skies don’t seem very friendly these days.  If United lived and breathed this slogan, the CEO would have come out and condemned the actions taken by the crew and made immediate change.  Remember our mission statement, every guest that chooses Culver’s leaves happy.  When making a decision in the heat of the moment we need to ask ourselves if what we are doing or saying will help us achieve this goal.  We also need to remember that my guest is anyone that isn’t me.    
  • In closing we need to remember that there are three basic things that every customer of any business wants.
    • 1.  The items / service to be defect free.  In our case complete and accurate.  In the case of an airline they want the plane and luggage to go where they paid for it to go.
    • 2.  They want this in timely manner.  If it will be late people want to know as soon as possible that it will be late.  In our case this is our speed of service.  In the case of an airline they want to arrive on time and not be delayed.
    • 3.  They want people to be nice.  In both cases this means that they want to have a pleasant interaction with the company.  People want to do business with companies that they know, like and trust. 
  • It is our responsibility as leaders of our company to make sure that we provide a culture that can achieve the three items listed above.  Remember that our goal is to create loyal, raving fans every single day!  We cannot simply talk about culture, we must act accordingly. 

What Level Leader Am I?

Below is a summary of the 5 levels of leadership by John Maxwell along with a leadership challenge at the end of the page.  John Maxwell has written so many great books that are all available on Amazon.  He also has some great videos posted on youtube about leadership.   

  • Level 1: Position.  People follow you because they have to. We get to shape and define who we are as a leader.  This is when the team members give you the least effort.  In a level one culture if the end time is 5:00 people are mentally clocked out at 4:30.  All you have is a title.
  • Level 2: Permission.  People follow you because they want to.  Easiest way to go from level 1 to level 2 is to be liked by connecting with your people.  Get to know each other.  It is hard to be in the people business if people don’t like you.  Relationships are the foundation to build your leadership style.  Three things level 2 leaders do well: listen, observe (where and what) and learn.  In these 3 areas they have an attitude of servant leadership.  If you are going to grow as a leader you need to grow out of position based leadership.
  • Level 3: Production or Results.  This is where you help the bottom line and produce.  These people produce by example.  Greatest motivational principle is that people do what people see.  Too many leaders are travel agents vs. tour guides.  Travel agents send people where they have never been.  Tour guides walk along side their people.  Time to act as a “real model” and lead the way.  You will also start to attract productive people at this point.  We attract who we are as a leader, not who we want to be.  This is where you can get momentum.  Momentum is a great catalyst.  If you can create momentum it can become a problem solver.  A moving train can bust through a five foot concrete wall vs. a non moving train that cannot even get over a five inch block.  Many times the problem is not really the problem.  80% of all problems are gone in Level 3 simply by having the momentum to make the little problems disappear.    
  • Level 4: People Development.  The way to grow a company is to grow your people.  1. The key to developing starts with recruiting. 80% of success is who comes in the front door.  What are we looking for?  Paint a clear picture of what the ideal team member looks like.  Hire for attitude.  2. Positioning.  After the right person is in the door you need to get them in the right position to help them find their sweet spot.  Successful leaders see where other people are best.  Team members will never reach their full potential if they are out of position.  3.  Develop and train.  Step 1, I do it.  Step 2, I do it and you are with me. Step 3, you do it and I am with you.  Step 4, you do it and you do it well.  Step 5, You do it and someone is with you.  Others need to reproduce themselves.  We should focus our leadership training on people that commit to train others.  The real key to this stage is constant communication and feedback along the way.  Try to have at least 1 five minute conversation per day with one of your leaders or potential leaders.  Remember that people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care.  Do you want others to succeed?
  • Level 5: Pinnacle, Respect.  You have done it so well and so long that people have so much respect for you that they simply follow you because it is you and your process.  Very few leaders ever get here. 
  • Time for the leadership challenge.  Take the people that you lead and write their names down and then write down what level you are on with each on of them and why.  Most of the time our leadership level changes person by person.  Once written down focus on trying to reach a new leadership level with someone on your list over the next 30 days. 

Can 1 Degree Really Make a Difference?

Our recent monthly manager training was based off the book 212 Degrees of Leadership by Mac Anderson.  The concept is as simple yet as brilliant as it sounds.  At 211 degrees water is hot but once you get the one extra degree and get to 212 degrees, water boils.  When water boils it creates steam and steam can power large machinery.  Just 1 extra degree can make the difference. 

  • Think about how many Olympic races are won or lost in less than 1 second.  That one second isn’t even always made or lost during the race.  Most of the time that 1 second is created during the training process.  Athletes train for years and years to simply improve by 1 second.  This little bit can make the difference between an athlete and an Olympian. 
  • I know we have touched on the idea of a boat or airplane that takes off and goes just 1 degree off course.  After a few hours, the boat or plane is miles off course.  Who would think that just 1 degree can make such an impact in the long term? 
  • For a long time I had a quote on my email signature that read “there is a remarkable difference between 99% and 100% commitment.”  We touched on last week about seizing the moment; we cannot seize the moment if we are not 100% committed and all in.  If we can teach ourselves to give 100% when it doesn’t matter, we will always be able to give 100% when it does. 
  • There is also the age old riddle that asks if you would like to have $1,000,000 today or a penny that doubles every day for 30 days.  Most people say the million dollars without hesitation.  If you chose the penny that doubles every day, you would have over $5,000,000. 
  • Ask yourself what you can do to give that 1% extra.  What can you do at home or at work to simply improve by 1 degree?  One statement I start my day with is, I try to be better person today than I was yesterday.  The only person I try to compare myself with is myself yesterday.  When it comes to Culver’s, that one extra degree is the essence of what sets us apart from the competition.  The neat thing about the one extra degree is that most of the time it isn’t even very noticeable at first but long term it can make a 10X difference.   
  • Next week I will post a list of action items to help add that 1 extra degree in our business.

It Starts with Heart

Last week I touched on how we need to work on building our relationships to thrive in building and sustaining a great organization.  I am so lucky and blessed to be part of such an organization in Culver’s.  It’s rare to find a billion dollar company in today’s world that still lives and believes in the values which made its very first location so successful.  This week I have been in Chicago meeting with various Culver’s owners.  The theme of the week has been, “it starts with heart.”

  • When the Culver family started their very first store in 1984, Ruth Culver treated everyone that came in as a long lost friend, as if she was welcoming that person into her own home.  She was really the driving force or the secret ingredient if you will to Culver’s reaching the heights it has reached today.  Craig Culver will repeatedly say that we are in the people business and we just happen to serve pretty darn good butter burgers and frozen custard.  When people taste our food with their heart first, it always tastes just a little bit better.  I can still remember the time during my 16 weeks of training in Wisconsin getting ready to open my very first Culver’s when it really hit me and I started to understand what makes Culver’s so special.  This is the day when I quit my job and really went to work.  Culver’s has become part of my life and living these values everyday have completely changed my life.  To really succeed in anything you do you need to have passion.  Passion is what gets you ready to plow through the wall every day.  Passion starts in the heart and passion is what makes your mind tell your body to act.
  • This week we were able to listen to a talk given by Simon T Bailey.  This was one of the most inspiring talks I have heard in quite a while.  He made a comment about hugging people with your words.  When we talk about Culver’s hospitality and the presence that we feel in the dining room with our guests, this statement sums it up perfectly.  He also talked about creating, owning and sustaining the moment.  This was a very powerful concept to learn about as he points out that the average person can have about 19,000 potential moments a day.   Think about our business and how many potential moments that we can “own” when we deal with our guests and our team members every day.  Think about how we choose to react in various situations and how those moments are altered either for good or bad based on our reaction.  Every time we interact with someone there is a potential moment. 
  • As leaders we need to lead by example and actively look for those moments every day that we can create and own.  As leaders it is up to us to not only own the moment, but then do everything we can do every day to sustain the moment.  Sustaining the moment comes back to doing all of the little things perfect every day and “chasing consistency.”  Consistency comes back to our leadership and what we do day in and day out in our locations.  We need to do the little things right ourselves if we expect others to follow suit. 
  • A few final thoughts to remember:
    • 1. Everyone that chooses Culver’s leaves happy.
    • 2. It takes two people to say no but only one person to say yes.
    • 3. Details matter and details are the difference between good and great.
    • 4. Look for ways every day to “create the wow” and own the moment.
  • Here is a link to Simon’s blog for more inspiration:

Team vs. Tribe

As Valentine’s Day was yesterday I think it may be a good time to re touch on relationships.  In the past, building relationships in the workplace were viewed as taboo.  Today, building relationships is a pathway to the top.  A recent survey was done and it found that over 70% of team members are not engaged at work, and only 4% considered themselves highly engaged.  These numbers are down right scary.  Of course the first question we need to ask is if we are highly engaged as leaders.  Chances are that if we are not highly engaged as leaders, our team members will sense that and find it hard to be highly engaged themselves.  If we take the time to build relationships with our fellow team members, I believe that we can increase engagement and overall job satisfaction.  Think about a time when you were highly engaged at work, chances are you were either new to the job or you had a great relationship with a leader in the company.   

  • People want purpose in their life.  Building relationships is a way to turn your team into a tribe.  A team exists as people come together for a common goal, while a tribe lives and breathes those beliefs to a whole new level.  Creating a tribe is a great way to give people purpose.  In a tribe everyone knows why they are here, they are passionate about each other, passionate about the brand and passionate about the guests.  It can define the entire culture of the organization and build a level of trust that far surpasses a team.  Imagine what the engagement level of a tribe would be.  It seems like the 4% would be the disengaged in such a culture.  The other great thing about a tribe is how they help each other in a time of need.  This is where the relationship piece shows itself.  Ask yourself if you are part of a team or if you are part of a tribe. 
  • “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”  This is a famous quote by John Maxwell that keeps running around in my head every time I see a manager trying to manage via title and wondering why they are not getting results.  Results are a lot easier to come by if you take time to build a relationship along the way.
  • Try to do one thing every day to build or positively impact at least one relationship.  Write down the names of a few people you would like to have a better relationship with and work on building those relationships.  Ask yourself if you are fully engaged in the task at hand before looking to blame others.  If you can learn to give 100% when it doesn’t matter it will be easy to give 100% when it does!    


Water or Gasoline?

I was listening to an interview with Rob Lowe the host of “The Giving Back Podcast” the other day and he threw a quote out there that almost made me drive off the road.  I don’t know why I found it so profound but it really inspired me to share it with others.   

  • “There is a space between stimulus and response and in that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankle
  • This quote should remind all of us the we all have the power and choice to choose how we respond in any situation.  We all need to take ownership of our choice and hopefully with practice and self reflection we can start to choose better responses.  I am always amazed when I hear stories about people like Oprah who have overcome so much hardship and turmoil to end up becoming such an amazing person.  It really shows how some people can use that response time to really grow and find their freedom.  It seems like the people that simply complain all the time about the situation they are in, will remain in that situation simply by their own choice of response.  If someone continues to blame others and make excuses, they will not grow and eventually find their freedom.  The power of response is the way that anyone can grow beyond the limitations of their own background.  The largest amount of growth usually happens when we step outside of our comfort zone. 
  • We all have the power and ability to do great things if we give ourselves the chance to respond to situations in a certain way.  This goes back to being grateful vs. hateful.  If you are grateful, you can look at almost any situation as an opportunity to improve.  When you are hateful, you start to assign blame and make excuses.  If you focus on helping others vs. helping only yourself in that response you can also find more meaningful results. 
  • At the end of the day you are the person that is ultimately responsible for yourself and your actions.  Your actions come from the space between the stimulus and the response.  In difficult situations I always remind people that we all carry around 2 buckets.  One bucket has water and one bucket contains gasoline.  We have the power in our response to choose which bucket we put on the fire. 
  • As leaders it is our responsibility to choose the right response to various situations throughout the day.  In our response, we allow others the opportunity to then be able to choose their own response to the situation that we have created.  People have an opportunity to choose a much better response if we are thoughtful and intentional about setting the right stage from the start.  If we choose a poor response it is much more difficult for others to make a choice that can overcome your initial poor response.   

The “IT” Factor

Have you ever been around someone that just has the “it” factor?  It seems like others flock towards these types of leaders.  The real question is what is the “it” factor and how can we all get better at developing our own unique “it” factor?

  • I feel that people can have the “it” factor in many different forms but at the end of the day, I believe that the “it” factor is simply making others feel great about themselves and helping others succeed.  Usually the people full of personality make others feel better about themselves when they are in their company because they are usually up beat and happy.  We have talked before about how important it is to build relationships with the people you are trying to lead.  Management turns into true leadership when a relationship is formed.  This is when people want to follow you instead of when people feel they have to follow you.  It is the soft skills of leadership that will either take you down or raise you up to the next level of leadership.
  • Here are a few adjectives that I feel describe people that have the “it” factor: leader, trust, self confident, firm, clear, safe, understanding, inspirational, encouraging, self esteem, loyal and one that inspires action.  Here a few words that I think kill the “it” factor: ego, pride, not being humble, being a know it all, judging, demeaning, always having an excuse and always having to be right. 
  • The good news is that your brain can get rewired if you are willing to feed it differently.  What you focus on is typically what will improve.  Here a few ways I feel that we can all work on developing our own unique “it” factor.
  • 1. Get to know little things about others.  Once a week ask everyone on the shift a question that is not work related to get to know more about them and start to build the relationship.  People’s favorite subject is usually themselves, their least favorite is usually you. 
  • 2. When someone shares a story, don’t try to one up them.  Truly listen and then ask them 1 follow up question to dig a little deeper, this will make someone feel that you really are listening and that you truly do care about what they are saying.
  • 3. Write down one thing that you are grateful for everyday.  After a few months, this one step can help rewire your ideas and thought process.
  • 4.  Say a sincere, specific thank you to someone every day.  If possible thank the person in front of others as well.  People tend to remember how you make them feel more than what you actually say.  I have learned this the hard way with my daughters. 
  • 5. Be consistent and communicate often.  The two worst things you can do to kill your “it” factor is to be all over the place to where people are afraid to approach you and to make others try to read your mind.  The more clear and consistent you can be, the more likely other people will reach the goals you set out which leads to a better relationship.
  • 6. No complaining rule.  Don’t complain about things around others that you are trying to lead.  I remember Zig Ziglar saying that the problem with a pity party is that too many people show up and no one brings a gift. 
  • 7. Don’t speak poorly of others.  Always try to build others up, don’t tear them down in front of others.  Other people listening will start to wonder what you say about them behind their back. 
  • The only way to really stir up someone’s soul is through a human connection and building a real relationship where you care about the other person’s success as much as or more than your own.