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.   

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.   


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?   

New Leadership Book

It is an exciting day today!  Jon Gordon’s new book “The Power of Positive Leadership” is officially launching today!  Happy Book Birthday.  I encourage anyone in a leadership role to pick up a copy.  The only warning is that you may need a new highlighter by the end of the book for all of the great quotes and tips that Jon shares about being positive.  Great tips for work, life and family as well.  I hope everyone has a great week!

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.