The Right Stuff (part 3) “Smart”

This is part 3 of my current series where I am taking a closer look at each of the attributes outlined three weeks ago that make up an ideal team player: humble, hungry and smart.  Last week we took a deeper dive into “hungry” and how to spot that quality in our company.   

  • The third virtue or quality to discuss is 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 people 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.  Smart people learn not to take comments that others make personally.  They can adapt to others and spin most interactions into a positive interaction. 
  • One habit that creates enormous impact is to have a genuine interest in others.  People don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care.  Leadership is about influence, not about position.  If you can build real relationships with those around you, your influence elevates.  This is true both for our guests as well as our team members.  If you build a relationship with a guest, they will give you the benefit of the doubt if something is amiss during a visit.  With no relationship, they will most likely take it personally and never return.  The same is true with a team member.  If all you have is power or position over a team member, they will not listen to what you say once you leave the room.  If you have influence, they will follow your directions even when you are not in the building.  I feel that one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is if you do not treat your team members as good as your guests. 
  • Along these lines is the idea of empathy.  A smart person can demonstrate empathy by understanding how and why someone is feeling a certain way.  They can talk to that person and show that they really care about that person.  They can alter their leadership style at certain times based on the temperature of the people in the room.  A manager that can only lead one way cannot connect with everyone.  A smart person understands how to really communicate with everyone.  People that lack empathy get annoyed by others and don’t try to take the time to understand and learn why someone is acting a certain way.    
  • One of the best ways to improve your empathy skills is to become a better listener.  One of the best ways to become a better listener is to ask follow up questions that dig a little deeper into the subject.  This helps others feel that you really do care and that you are interested in what they have to say.  People’s favorite subject is themselves.  Try not to cut people off when they are talking.  Don’t spend all of your time figuring out what you are going to say next.  Don’t try to one up them by talking about your life.  One of the easiest ways to do this is simply say “tell me more” about ____.     
  • Smart people are also very good communicators.  Along the line of communication comes coaching and giving feedback.  Smart people can coach and give feedback in a way that is not resentful.  Having influence and making sure that others know that you care about them helps feedback become helpful to others, not hurtful.  I wanted to touch on the 5 to 1 rule one more time.  I think that this is key to keeping any relationship in positive territory.  For every one time you need to coach or give negative feedback, you need to make sure that you praise or give positive feedback at least 5 times to that person.  Over the past few months since I have learned about this technique I find myself looking for positives on a regular basis.  Think about relationships in your life.  Which ones make you feel good about yourself?  The ones with positive interactions always make me feel like a better person. 
  • The final tip to help spot a smart person is to ask yourself the question.  Would you want to work for this person?  Most smart people come across to others as a type of person that they like and that they would want to work for someday.  This is a new question that we have added to our 2nd interview process.  This is a question that I ask myself when I look at our general managers and potential mentor candidates.   
  • I hope that it has been worth your time reading about these three qualities over the past few weeks.  As hiring, training and retaining is one of our key priorities I felt it was important to dig a little deeper on this subject.  I think that there is some real magic to this formula as it relates to building a better team.  

The Right Stuff (part 2) “Hungry”

This is part 2 of my current series where I am taking a closer look at each of the attributes outlined two weeks ago that make up an ideal team player: humble, hungry and smart.  Last week we took a deeper dive into “humble” and how to spot that quality in our company.   

  • The second virtue or quality to discuss is hungry.  Hungry tends to be one of the easier qualities to spot in our current team members.  Do they show up on time or a little early for their shift?  Are they dependable and hardy ever call out?  When you call them in to cover a shift or ask them to stay late, do they say yes?  When they are working are they always in their station or are they wandering in the back, getting a drink or hanging out in the office?  Do they help others and jump in before someone else asks them to do so?  Have they gone through our certification process and are always pushing to learn more? 
  • One quality I see in people that are hungry that may not be obvious is that they are willing to do the little things needed every shift to succeed.  They follow procedures and do things how they are supposed to be done, they don’t take shortcuts or say that something is good enough.  Doing it the right way actually drives this type of person to keep doing more. 
  • Can you feel and see the passion or vision in someone?  If someone is hungry, they will have a fire and passion that you can feel and hear when you talk to them.  Tony Robbins credited the poem “The Will To Win,” in shaping his hunger and drive at an early age.  The one interesting thing I have come to learn about hungry is that it seems almost impossible to teach.  It seems that the hunger gene is learned in each of us at a very young age.  One of my biggest disappointments as a leader is when I see unlimited potential in someone but knowing that without the hunger, they may never be able to reach their potential. 
  • As mentioned before, a person needs to have all three of these qualities to really succeed long term.  Someone who is only hungry without being humble or smart is simply a bull in a china shop.  People that only have hunger often lack a vision or long term purpose that keeps them charging in the right direction.  The book Rhinoceros Success is one of the few books out there than can potentially help bring out the hunger in someone. 
  • Being hungry means that a person is willing to make a sacrifice to achieve something.  When interviewing try to spot a time of real, yet joyful sacrifice.  They shouldn’t be resentful for what they had to do to achieve it, they should be proud and grateful for the experience.  One of the words that bothers me in an interview is when someone starts talking about balance.  To me the work life balance myth was created by people that were left unfulfilled with their career choice.  I look at my life and realize that there are seasons of your life when more energy goes into certain areas.  What you are working to achieve should be part of your life and part of who you are.  Back to the Tony Robbins poem, having a real hunger consumes you. 
  • At Culver’s we have a process called the mentor program where a manager can work their way all the up to becoming a part owner of a restaurant.  I am consistently amazed how few of our team members will even ask me about the path or the process.  Many current Culver’s owners have gone from team member to manager to mentee to partner and then even onto being a mentor themselves.  For someone with all three of these qualities Culver’s is living proof that the American Dream is alive and well. 

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.   

The Hard Choices

The statement about hire slow and fire fast has been around for ages and most of us in a leadership position can say that we all agree with the idea.  Even though we all may say we believe this statement we need to ask ourselves if we really live by these words.  Last week I talked about the article written by Eddie Jackson that talked about how Alabama football stays at such a high level every year.  This article made me look at all of my teams and ask the following question: who is raising the bar and who is lowering the bar on the team?

  • Most of our team members come into their job with a great attitude and a desire to succeed.  Not all of them, but I believe that this statement is true more often than not.  It is interesting (sad) to see this level of excitement slowly fade away at some stores.  Our retention and growth of our newest team members can really be a true reflection of how our long term team members treat their daily tasks.  Over the past couple of years we have tried to pair up all of our team members with mentors.  Our hope was that not only would new team members feel more welcomed but existing team members would also have a direct line of communication with leadership.  Looking back at the past year I can say that we didn’t fully embrace this ideal.  Even though we didn’t have 100% commitment for the entire year we did see some wins and loses along the way.  We did notice some trends with certain leaders and how many people that they were mentoring had either moved up or moved out of the organization. 
  • This brings me to the main point of today’s post.  One of the hardest decisions we have to make in any company is to let someone go.  Typically the longer the person is in our organization the harder that action becomes.  It is sometimes our veteran team members that we feel that we cannot live without so we let them get away with actions that we would stop immediately in a new team member.  The problem is that once we accept certain behavior from our veteran team members, the newer team members learn this is how we do things.  This attitude can spiral out of control if it is not addressed quickly and convincingly.  Performing a life raft exercise at least once a quarter is a good way to evaluate who is really part of your inner circle.  List all of your team members on a piece of paper and then pretend that they were all floating in the ocean and you drove the life raft.  Who would you pick up, in what order and why.  Is there someone that you would not pick up?  Sometimes we get too comfortable in our daily flow and are afraid of the change that will come with letting someone go.  At the end of the day we will experience much longer pain by keeping the wrong people in the company versus the short term pain of letting the wrong people go.  Think about how much time and energy the wrong people can take from you, imagine if you put that same time and energy into the right people that always move your team forward.    

Hiring The Right Person

  • I wanted to talk a little bit about hiring today.  When you look at your business your #1 asset should be viewed as your people.  As odd as it sounds, our #1 job as an interviewer is to not hire the wrong person.  It is a lot easier at the end of the day to spend more time hiring the right person as opposed to spending all of your time and energy managing the wrong one.  How involved are you in the hiring process?  The hiring process shapes the direction of the store and ultimately your future.  Who is in charge of this key profit center?
  • I read that Steve Jobs personally interviewed 5,000 people while he was at Apple.  Talk about feeling that the future path of his company was driven by hiring the right people. 
  • There are many people that believe hiring the right people is even more important than the direction your company is going.  It doesn’t matter where you want to go if you have the wrong people you will never get there.  One common pitfall we face is that we often times have to hire under pressure.  This almost always leads to a poor hiring decision just to fill the position with a body.  We need to stay ahead of the game and always be hiring for the future.  This lets us be more selective in the type of person we think will fill the position.
  • One of the biggest mistakes that most of us make during an interview is that we are looking for reasons to hire the candidate so subconsciously we ignore some not so great answers.  Our brain hears what it wants to justify the hire.  We should go into every interview with the mindset of why I shouldn’t hire this candidate.  If we have this thought on our mind those questionable responses will stand out. Most people think that if they grant someone an interview they have to hire the person.  Great hiring decisions are all about eliminating the wrong candidate. 
  • If it isn’t a hell yes, it should be a no.  I heard this on a podcast once and it has stuck in my brain ever since.  Think about the person and decide if they are a “Hell Yes” applicant.  Remember by saying yes to a mediocre applicant may prevent you from even meeting a “Hell Yes” applicant. 
  • Some common phrases by an applicant to watch out for during the interview: I need a job, I need money, My parents want me to get a job, I left my last job because they didn’t appreciate me.  Be cautious if they are negative about past employers, or if they are unable to answer your questions.  I am amazed how many people will simply not answer an interview question.
  • Here are a few interview questions to ask potential job seekers to open up a bit:
  • 1.  Tell me what you feel is your biggest accomplishment to date.  (This works well even for teenagers with no prior job experience)  Ask them to walk you through the whole process from planning to executing to measuring results to final accomplishment. 
  • 2. Describe yourself as a brand.  Give me a 30 second commercial about yourself that would make me go out and hire you.  What sets your brand apart?  What do you stand for? 
  • 3. If you had $1 Million and you could start your own business, what would it be?  Why?  (This can give you a great insight into what really drives this person)
  • 4. How would you describe hard work?
  • 5. What do you expect from this job or working at this company?  In other words, what does this applicant feel entitled to by working here…
  • 6. Keep asking why.  Some interviews can go 30 minutes on 1 question.  After the initial answer ask a deeper question on the initial question.  Ask why this or why that?  Ask how this or how that?  Ask them to explain something in further detail.
  • Hopefully these few tips and questions can help us all build an amazing team!