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. 

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.   


Here is a link to a blog post by Jon Morrow.  I encourage everyone to click on the link to read this article.  Hard to have any excuses after reading his post.


  • I love the way he talks about acceptance and dealing with reality.  It really points back to the idea that people that focus on the past are often depressed and feel that life is unfair.  People that focus on the future often face anxiety and think too much about what may happen.  The real win comes in the messy middle.  The “now” part of your life where you need to grind your way through to success. 
  • Another great point he talks about is the concept regarding the concept of “the punch, counter punch.”  Everyone is going to get hit or take a punch, this is often the time where your opponent is left wide open for a knock out.  You need to change your mindset from hateful to grateful and find a way you can counter punch the situation to your advantage.  As he says, when turning lemons into lemonade, you can’t be mad at the lemons. 
  • I also really like how he talks about embracing the crazy.  The goal in life shouldn’t be to be normal.  When you fall into the rut of society, you lose your voice.  Find your real purpose in life and set some wild and crazy goals to get there.  He also talked in an interview about going from a survival mode to living a life of real contribution.  Everyone has their own unique story, what is yours? 
  • Finally he reminds us all to never, ever give up.  He comments that some of the greatest victories are made by the weakest people who overcome challenges that most others would cower down at.  The number one reason for failure is that people give up and quit too soon.  90% of those that fail in life fail because they gave up too soon. 

Road Blocks To a Better Connection

A few weeks ago we talked about having the “it” factor and ways that you can help improve your charisma and level of connection with others.  We learned that charisma is not a mythological quality, it can be learned and improved.  The other day I came across an article that talked about reasons why we fall short of connecting with others.  I thought I would use this as a base for a post today.  Below are 5 common road blocks that prevent us from connecting or building great relationships with others.

  • Reason #1: Pride.  For the most part people do not want to follow or be around someone that feels that they are better than everyone else.  Are you able to accept when you are wrong at times?  Do you have so much pride that you are always right and put others down along the way?  I think that pride also points to someone that thinks they know it all.  Someone that is afraid to ask for help or even look at another point of view.  Pride is one of the most common road blocks for people achieving much success.   
  • Reason #2: Insecurity.  How do you view yourself?  If you are insecure about yourself, chances are that others will be as well.  Again people tend to shy away from relationships where they do not feel better about themselves.  By being strong and secure you can actually help others feel that way about themselves.  Don’t let self doubt creep in. 
  • Reason #3: Moodiness.  Are you consistent?  Do people know what they are going to get when you are in the room?  The worst thing you can do is to be all over the place with how you feel and act.  People want to know what to expect, if it is too up and down they will begin to expect too much down.  It adds another level of stress to the situation if people are afraid of how you will react.  They will be less likely to confide in you if they cannot predict that you will listen to them and support them if needed.   
  • Reason #4: Perfectionism.  I think this is one of my biggest weaknesses.  People can respect the high standards and the pursuit of excellence but do not like the feeling of never being good enough.  I always talk about continually raising the bar but I also need to make sure that the expectations are reasonable and attainable.  Small wins are the best way to build momentum.  Momentum is one of the best traits an organization can have to win long term.  Perfectionism stands in the way of building this momentum.   
  • Reason #5: Cynicism.  This is probably the one that irritates me the most.  I cannot stand someone who always sees the negative in a situation.  Someone that always tells me why something can’t or won’t work.  People that are positive do not want to stifled by someone that always wants to rain on their parade.  One of my favorite quotes from Henry Ford is “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  The more people fill their head and the heads of others with reasons we will fail, the chances of failure increase exponentially.  It is ok to be a realist and voice an objection but this cannot be your answer for every suggestion. 
  • The bottom line is that we all need to be self aware.  Our ability to grow and achieve more is based on our ability to be self aware of our strengths and our weaknesses.  Here is the challenge for this week.  Which one of these areas is holding you back from achieving and connecting at a higher level?  Chances are others will see these qualities in us long before we notice them ourselves.  Ask people close to you to be honest and tell you which one area you should focus on over the next 6 months to help make better connections.  As you look at improving those qualities about yourself remember to strive for being humble, secure, positive, consistent and hungry.

Leader vs. Manager

This debate may not be as age old as whether the chicken or the egg came first but in our current environment this is a well debated topic.  What is more important, to have a leader or a manager?  Even I have made a point over the past year of referring to our management teams as leadership teams.  In most of my blog posts I have always tried to use the term leader vs. manager.  We have even renamed our General Manager title in our restaurants to Director of Happiness.  It has struck me over the past few months that both sides of the argument are equally important. 

  • A leader’s main focus is on the people whereas a manager’s main focus is on the results.  In a recent Forbes article that surveyed 60,000 workers the findings were amazing.  The article stated that people that focused primary on the people were only viewed as great by their workers 12% of the time.  People that focused primarily on results were viewed as great only 14% of the time.  People that focus solely on results tend to lose the enthusiasm of their team.  People that focus solely on the people have happy, excited team members that may not be going in the right direction or paying attention to the details.   
  • The real answer to the debate is “Leadership”.  You can call yourself a manager or you can call yourself a leader, but to be truly successful you need to be able to focus on both people and results.  The study found that less than 1% of leaders / managers studied were able to focus on both people and results.  Those 1% were viewed as great by the workers 72% of the time.  To me this is one of the keys to successful employee engagement which we touched on a few weeks back and how it is at an all time low.  By focusing on both the people and the results, you are able to motivate and engage the team but still keep everyone on the correct path and paying attention to the details.  Leadership is a choice, management is a position. 
  • As we strive to always create loyal, raving fans as well as loyal, raving team members we need to remember what makes a great experience.  It takes a great, people-focused interaction to create the relationship and it takes a detail orientated, consistent interaction to keep the relationship positive.  We all need to be great leaders and great managers every day to keep moving ourselves and our business forward.  One good thing is that we can teach most good leaders to become good managers by having great operating systems in place.  Are you a leader, a manager or a combination of both?   

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. 


I often seem to get inspiration from all kinds of places and today is no different.  I often wonder why the world is so fascinated with zombies.  They seem to just wander through life with no real purpose or sense of being.  It is amazing to see how many people seem to imitate this action in their own lives.  So many people seem to be on auto pilot and just seem to let life happen as it may along the way.  Very few seem hungry enough to attack life.   

  • I believe that there are 5 or 6 really big decisions that most of us will make in our lifetime that will forever change the course of our lives.  It isn’t apparent at the time but as you look back 5, 10 or even 20 years you can see how your life was altered based on a certain decision.  One of my favorite songs is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.  The very first line is “Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip.”  This is the attitude that I try to maintain as I approach new situations.  You will never know if a certain opportunity was that one opportunity if you didn’t give it 100% and see where it takes you.  I try to approach every new opportunity and every new relationship as it could potentially be life altering.  The first time I ever met my current business partner was when I was working for free.  I was at a new store opening in Surprise, AZ and I approached that opening (not even being paid to be there) as if I was a partner in the business.  I treated every minute of my time there and made every decision as if it were my own restaurant.  I would be among the first people to arrive every morning and then I would be among the last people to leave at night.  It was those few crazy weeks that led to the start of an amazing business partnership.       
  • Sometimes the decisions we make are based out of fear and we tend to make those decisions from a defensive mindset.  Decisions made from a defensive mindset are usually very limiting decisions.  They tend to limit the risk but at the same time they limit the potential upside.  I find it much more challenging, yet potentially more rewarding, to make offensive minded decisions.  So many great things can happen when we step outside of our comfort zone.  One thing I have found to be true is that you cannot change people.  As much as you may like to or think that you can, it is really up to that person to change.  For people to really make a monumental change they must be to the point where the pain is finally to the point where they decide to change.  They play defense and wander through life until they finally get knocked out. 
  • Challenge yourself to look back and see if you have made some life altering decisions in the past.  Look at your current situation and ask yourself, what if this is your opportunity?  What will you do moving forward to go all-in?  Five years from now you may look back and say that it wasn’t but that is a lot easier to live with than saying it could have been.  I never want to look in the mirror and think that I let something slip by. 

It’s Not About The Game


As Culver’s was a sponsor of the Milwaukee Brewers spring training, I was able to attend two games this year.  I went one time each with one of my daughters.  It is very rare for me to be able to spend any time alone with just one of my children, let alone a 4 hour block without multiple distractions.  It helps that they have to watch for a foul ball to come our way so their phones are used very sparingly. 

  • The Brewers play in a small 8,000 seat stadium where you feel like you are almost on the field with the players.  The players are great at signing autographs for fans and tossing multiple baseballs into the stands.  It really seems to be the team’s way to help build the long term ROI (return on investment) with the fans and build a relationship.  The fans would clap and cheer every time a ball got tossed into the stands.  Even the visiting team would take time to interact with all of the fans.  It really is a unique experience that should make it on everyone’s bucket list.   
  • Here is the reveal, I am not even a big baseball fan.  I will watch the world series on TV but the only time I go to a game is for spring training.  This year as I was able to spend time with my daughters, I realized that it isn’t about the game at all, it is about spending that 3-4 hour time block with someone.  Baseball leaves a lot of down time for basic conversation, some coaching time where you can explain what is happening and of course you get to indulge with all kinds of overpriced food.  Food is always a great bonding experience, even when your daughter drops her spoon for her Italian ice twice and you get to go get her another one and another one.  It is these experiences that leave a lasting memory on people’s minds.  Thinking back to when I was young, a baseball game was one of the few times where I had some real alone time with my father.  I didn’t realize it until I was sitting there with my daughters and at the end of the game both of them said how much fun they had.  They created Instagram stories and even took a selfie with dad. 
  • This post isn’t a commercial for spring training, it is a reminder of how important it is to take the time to invest in building relationships with those that are important to us.  Did I have other things that I could have done with 4 hours of my time on a Sunday afternoon?  Yes, but what will have a lasting impact?  We need to remember that children and I believe team members spell love “T-I-M-E”.  I once heard my business partner Brian mention that we need to floss the teeth that we want to keep.  It was a great way to remind us that we need to make a daily effort in connecting with those that are important to us.  Take a few minutes every day or every shift and try to connect and build a relationship with the people that you spend time around.  You never know how much just one simple conversation can mean to someone.  As mentioned earlier food is a great bonding experience.  We are lucky to be in a restaurant every day where we can help create those special moments for others.  If people feel a connection with us they will be life long brand ambassadors.   

A Leadership Lesson In Lent

Today starts the unique religious tradition of Lent.  To some, lent is simply a 40 day period where they do not eat meat on Friday.  To others, it is a time where they choose to give up something as a sign of sacrifice for 40 days.  The 40 days originates from the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry.  The word lent actually comes from the word “lencten” which means spring.  I can still remember going to church as a child and writing down what bad things I did during the year on a piece of paper, taking them to a cross and burning them to signify a clean slate.  Most of us can probably think of a time in our life where we could have used a clean slate from which to start.  As a leader, I try to give everyone a clean slate from which to start.  If someone makes a mistake and we talk through it, I try to move forward without holding a grudge or holding that previous action over their head.  If someone really does want to change I give them the opportunity to do so.   

  • I am very big into journaling and goal setting.  Every month as I look forward to the new month, I write down 1 habit that I would like to stop doing to be a better version of myself.  Lent is always about giving up something or making a sacrifice.  My challenge to others is to also look at the other side of the coin.  Every month I also write down 1 habit that I would like to do more of to be a better version of myself.  I feel that this exercise really makes me self reflect every month as I realize that continual growth is foundation to becoming a better leader.  The other point that this helps solidify is the idea that you should only compare yourself to yourself yesterday.  So many times we look at others and compare ourselves to unattainable targets which leads us into despair.  The more we measure our progress against ourselves, the more momentum I believe we can build.  Challenge yourself by asking yourself the following 2 questions.  What should I stop doing and what should I do more?
  • One other thing that I have just recently started doing that I feel has really helped me focus is OTED.  One thing every day.  Everyday in my journal I write down one thing I need to do today to move myself forward “personally” and I write down one thing I need to do today to move my business forward.  Basically it is writing down the number one priority to accomplish in each of these two areas.  So many times we have a long list of things to do and we try to tackle the easy ones first to get more things crossed off the list.  The real question is if we were able to accomplish the most important task of the day to move towards our goals.  Brian Tracy is famous for saying “eat that frog.”  This leadership tip is to tackle that biggest task first no matter what.  Put the most important thing first. 
  • One final thought as we go through the Lenten season is that it is a time of reflection and a time where we should realize how lucky we are to live in such an amazing time and place.  We need to remember that we all have so much for which to be grateful.  Thank you to everyone that takes a few minutes out of their week to listen to my thoughts.   

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.