We get advice all the time. From people that we know, we respect and those we don’t know and we don’t necessarily respect….but we learn from regardless. Here is a collection of advice from a group of people from all walks of life…. May something resonate with you!
1. Don’t lose sight.
“‘People who used to run car companies were really into cars. People who ran hotel chains loved hospitality. Now, everything is run by accountants, and you feel it as a consumer.‘ This slightly grumpy rant from one of my mentors, the famed mad man Martin Puris, inspires me to stay focused on the purity and passion of a business pursuit.” –Andrew Deitchman, co-founder of The New Stand
2. You get only what you settle for.
“The best business advice I ever got came from my dear old Dad. It’s quite simple and immeasurably powerful. It goes like this: ‘You, and only you, should set the value of your talents, ideas, services, and/or product. Don’t ever expect anyone to pay or give you more than they have to.’ As an entrepreneur, you have to get used to the fact that, quite often, you’ll be faced with an offer that seems less than the value of your talent, ideas, services, or product. That’s business. You are the sole arbiter of what you, your ideas, services, or product is worth. Therefore, what you get is what you are willing to settle for. You have to fight for what you feel you’re worth. Not that settling is necessarily a bad thing, but where you end up is what you settle for. Sage advice.” –Neil Powell, fine artist and co-founder of Mugnacious
3. Be clear and transparent.
“I learned many things while working for Steve Jobs in the ’90s, including what not to do. While Steve was arguably the greatest marketer of our generation and gave some of the most inspirational speeches of our time, he wasn’t the best communicator when it came to individuals. Steve didn’t set defined expectations for me or other employees: he simply knew it when he saw it. Watching him operate made me recognize the importance of clarity and transparency with my team, and how imperative it is to set expectations and effectively communicate with them. The more transparent I am about where I want to take the company, the clearer my team is about how to get there. Making sure everyone is on board before you make business decisions will help ensure you won’t alienate people (sometimes your best ones) in the process.” –James Green, serial entrepreneur and CEO of technology company Magnetic
4. Forget “having it all.”
“These days, there’s an ongoing debate about whether women can ‘have it all,’ and I’ve often been asked that question. I’m a person who likes to give 100 percent to everything I do. I want to be the best at my job and as a mother. But I realize I can only give 100 percent in the moment. If I’m at work, am I giving 100 percent to my kids? No. If I’m at home, am I giving 100 percent to my work? No. It’s a balancing act, but worthwhile as long as we don’t kid ourselves that we’re superwomen.” –from the book Getting Real by Gretchen Carlson, host of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on Fox News, used by permission
5. Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis.
“Work is never going to be as slow as it is today. The pace of business in general — and start-ups specifically — will only quicken in 2016. So, we have to make a lot of important decisions quickly. I got some great advice early in life, which was: ‘Sometimes you won’t know the right decision, so you have to make the decision right.’ In other words, when you lack perfect information and time, you have to be thoughtful about your process, be diligent in your analysis, then make the decision quickly. After that, it’s all about execution and putting all your energy into making it work.” –Don Smithmier, founder and CEO of The Big Know
6. Listening is very different from hearing.
“The best piece of advice ever imparted to me comes from my mom, who is fond of saying ‘What you say matters less than what people hear and understand.’ As a teacher, she was a brilliant listener, and she used what she heard to build a bridge between what she needed to teach and how the student needed to learn. From that, she taught me to focus my efforts on helping people understand rather than on what I wanted to tell them. She taught me how to hear, and it is the single most important skill in my professional success.” –Courtney Buechert, founder and CEO of creative marketing agency Eleven, Inc.
7. Put your weirdness into your work.
“These words were spoken to me by famed voice-over and recording artist Ken Nordine. This was many years ago, and I’ve carried these words with me ever since. He recognized that we all get a little weird from time to time, but it’s how we choose to channel our weirdness that’s key. To offset my very ordinary life, I infuse every project I touch with experimental and fluid creations. It’s what’s led to my best work and most successful endeavors. With weirdness and imaginative thinking embedded in all facets of your work, you are free to spend the rest of your time enjoying the little things in life, a balance that is delicate yet so profound.” –David Slayden, founder and executive director of designer-founder accelerator BDW
8. Action creates opportunity.
“There’s a variety of advice that has had lasting impact, but this is the one that I continue to return to on a weekly basis. It’s a quote from my former CEO. This phrase remains valuable in the big and small, in the tactical and the strategic. We are in an industry that requires the creation and fostering of constant change. We have to invent new ideas, create new services and capabilities, all while increasing the quality of our craft. So while we can all spend an endless amount of time contemplating and planning, there is one force that cannot be denied. Take action, as it will surely create and open up new opportunities.” –Ed Brojerdi, CEO of KBS New York and co-founder of Spies & Assassins
9. No cohesion, no team.
“In creative industries especially, teams are central to the work. They are integral to collaborative cultures and, far more often than not, essential to innovation. What too many people fail to recognize, however, is that two or more people working together doesn’t automatically constitute a ‘team.’ These people may be partners and co-workers, but that’s not enough to effect the magic that genuine teamwork can produce. When I was running the brand-strategy practice for consultancy FutureBrand, we assembled teams to take on each assignment and were careful to include a diversity of skills and backgrounds in each. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that certain teams were far more effective than others. In a management meeting, we discussed the issue and then we each went off to gather more data. When we reconvened, the lesson became clear: No cohesion, no team. It turned out that the highest performing teams simply liked each other more. They would break for dinners. Go bowling. Share their weekend plans and recaps. They genuinely cared about one another. And that led to a level of performance that far outstripped anything that less cohesive teams could hope to achieve. I keep that lesson in mind, not just when I’m putting teams together but also when I’m hiring. However brilliant or accomplished a prospect is, I don’t want to hire that person if he or she can’t play well with others. I look for the right mix of skills and mindset, of course, but beyond that I want to know that the person will be worthy of colleagues’ trust and a positive presence within the company. If not, I’d prefer that person play on someone else’s team.” –Andrew Benett, Global CEO of Havas Worldwide and Havas Creative Group
10. See the spaces, not the trees.
“This is a snowboarding reference. It can be daunting, standing at the top of the mountain readying yourself for the trip down, and seeing all the trees in your path. But the key is to see the space between the trees. This sort of mindset, seeing the opportunity and not the obstacles, is important as you start out on your next life chapter, both personally and professionally. When you’re deep into your work or facing a personal challenge, it’s easier to see the barriers, but don’t let them stop you from pursuing the opportunity that exists around them. Remember the business of your business. Many companies get caught up in the service they provide versus what actually drives their business. For example, Twitter is a micro-blogging service. But at the end of the day, what pays the bills is selling ads and sponsored tweets on the platform. Don’t lose sight of the actual economics of your business; it’s what keeps the lights on
Great employees and employers show mutual admiration (Shutterst0ck)
Employees and employers have a shared interest in discovering the attributes that define the all-time favorite employees. Employees want to be the most-favored, and employers seek to attract those individuals who seem irreplaceable.
Michael Gottlieb is the founding partner of Momentum Law Group – a law firm that serves entrepreneurs. At a recent meeting of his monthly CEO round table, he asked the group, “ What attributes would you use to describe your all-time favorite employees? ” The list of attributes is surprising. Even more surprising is that the group of 12 CEOs all agreed on the list.
At the top of the list: Lack of drama. These favorite employees don’t complain. They don’t seek attention. They don’t gossip. They simply perform their jobs without a need to draw attention to their professional or personal challenges. They don’t see a need to remind others of how challenging the task might be. They don’t call attention to the fact that someone else didn’t complete their task.
Jeff Lesher, Principal at EntreQuest, an award-winning consultancy with a vision to shift engagement in the work world to transform the real world, says, “Most highly valued employees not only perform their jobs admirably – with skill, focus, and passion – they do so in a way that demonstrates their commitment, first and foremost, to the work.”
Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
Most high-drama people don’t see themselves as dramatic.
The next item is commitment to operational execution. Top employees don’t just talk about ideas or identify problems. Rather, they always focus on how to accomplish the task at hand. These talented individuals know that there is a big difference between having intention and getting things done. The most valued employees know that nothing matters until it is implemented and achieving results.
Top employees know that their commitment to customers and accomplishment can help to grow the business and engender customer trust. These superstars always follow-through and don’t need reminders of what is important .
Initiative: Confidence And Internal Motivation
Top employees don’t wait around to be told what to do. Once they know the goal and they are self-motivated to move toward that goal each day. Nothing will get in their way. Some might see them as stubborn. Most see them as possessing superpowers.
Their greatest superpower is the ability to receive and internalize feedback. They have sufficient confidence and self-awareness to accept constructive criticism as a way to improve, without seeing the input as negative.
This superpower only surfaces in work environments where employees are not punished for taking risks. Confident self-starters will happily take constructive feedback. If you punish them for taking initiative, they’ll sit back — probably while searching for a new job where they can unleash their initiative.
What The Experts Say
According to HeliosHR’s CEO, Kathy Albarado, “The fact that CEOs cite a desire for ‘No drama’ could point to a gap in hiring practices. With the right screening and interview process, you should be able to spot those most likely to be valuable members of the team.” Kathy encourages employers to seek similar attributes that the Girl Scouts of America teach young women: Courage, Character and Confidence. The courage to take risks, the character to follow through,and the confidence to take feedback.
Gabe Muller is the COO of Glassman Wealth Services, named “Best Place to Work” in the Washington DC area by Washingtonian Magazine and the Washington Business Journal three years in a row. “I love the three attributes of 1) Solution orientated mindset, 2) Adaptability; and 3) The ability to receive feedback and collaborate with others.”
Notice that the themes are consistent with the CEO round table that Michael Gottlieb assembled. Also take note that nobody is listing skills, educational background or certifications. While those capabilities are important, nobody said that their all-time favorite employee had the best technical skills.
The best employees get stuff done with passion and results. If you don’t value your employees who demonstrate those attributes, rest assured that another employer is anxiously waiting to meet them.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think makes for favorite employees? Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on LinkedIn- https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4499329 or Twitter.@winerycareers.com
It’s critical to note that people who’ve made a real difference aren’t all privileged, advantaged or “special” by any stretch.
Many come from disadvantaged families, crushing circumstances and initially limited capabilities, but have found ways to pick themselves up and rise above their circumstances (and their genes) to transform their own lives and those around them.
Researching these makers, shakers and disruptors, and working with our own clients who shape the world around them in powerful and constructive ways, We have observed 9 core behaviors that set them apart – habitual ways of behaving and approaching life and work that distinguish them from those who long to make a difference but can’t or won’t find the way.
The 9 core behaviors of people who positively impact the world are:
- They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.
- They commit to continually bettering themselves.
- They engage with people in open, mutually-beneficial ways
- They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be.
- They embrace critique.
They spread what they know.
They uplift others as they ascend.
They view the journey as the goal.
They use their power and influence well.
Now go out and impact the world!
When talking about their careers, there are two stories I often hear women telling themselves:
- “Unless I figure out the one thing I’ve always wanted to do, I’m going to be miserable.”
- “I’ve invested so much time striving to be successful in this industry, if I transition to something else it’ll have all been for nothing.”
Women (and men) often feel an urgency to find their ‘one thing.’ Or, they stay in the same industry longer than they’d like because they feel obligated or stuck. To discuss finding purpose and getting unstuck I talked with Nicole Antoinette, the host of the Real Talk Radio podcast. Antoinette is a self-described “recovering self help addict” and a queen of reinvention.
With a resume that includes highlights such as camp director, owner of a web design firm, goal setting coach, and cookie shop owner, Antoinette says the theme of her career has been change.
This is a dramatic juxtaposition to her husband, an engineer at Twitter whose path has been pretty linear. She says, “He’s taken the more traditional or ‘recommended’ path that was put on a pedestal when I was younger: pick your thing and become really good at your thing.”
Around the time she turned 30, Antoinette struggled with shame and guilt that she hadn’t found her ‘one thing’ like her partner. Without her ‘one thing’ all the choices she had made in her 20s felt like a waste. She asked herself, “What’s wrong with me that I’ve had all of these seemingly unrelated careers?”
Paths Aren’t Always Linear, But Skills Are Transferable
Antoinette felt badly about this pattern of behavior until she had a realization. “The model of pick one thing, get better and better at that thing, and always be continually interested in that thing is actually pretty rare.” Stories of achieving greatness through perseverance in the same profession (picture Michael Phelps) are the ones celebrated in the media, she argues, which causes us to falsely believe that kind of career consistency is the norm.
In addition to craving an idealized ’one thing’, people are reluctant to lose all the opportunities they’ve created for themselves in their industry. Antoinette, who’s had at least 4 careers already, says if you go to do something else, all the experience, skills, and relationships you’ve developed come with you. “ It’s not like you leave a job or an industry and someone comes and ‘Men in Blacks’ your brain ,” she explains referencing the memory erasing technology from the popular film series.
For example, the same organization and communication skills that made her a good camp director were a tremendous asset when she ran her own business. As I started my consulting practice, a woman I’d met in my last role, managing a political campaign, became my first client.
Ask Yourself Good Questions
When it comes to her own transitions, Antoinette says the best advice she’s ever gotten is to ask yourself good questions, such as:
- What’s something you’ve been told is really important that actually isn’t important to you?
- What are you willing to give up?
- What’s true for you that you’ve been denying?
Referencing her own experience, Antoinette says, “If you’re actually willing to go back and ask yourself again and again, eventually you just get sick of yourself,” and get to the answer.
Asking herself those questions relentlessly, she realized she didn’t care about having a big flashy career. She says it took all of her 20s to accept that a “capital C Career” wasn’t important to her. She challenged the idea that there was a finite destination to reach, and she’s not looking back. Or as she says,“F*ck, I’m so much happier now.”
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or decades in, consider giving yourself permission to explore what kind of work is fulfilling rather than searching frantically for your ‘one thing’. Who knows, maybe cookie shop owner is in your future.
The human brain is hardwired to judge. This survival mechanism makes it very hard to meet someone without evaluating and interpreting their behavior.
While we tend to think that our judgments are based on the content of conversations and other obvious behaviors, the research says otherwise. In fact, the majority of our judgments are focused on smaller, subtler things, such as handshakes and body language. We often form complete opinions about people based solely on these behaviors.
We are so good at judging other people’s personalities based on small things that, in a University of Kansas study, subjects accurately predicted people’s personality traits, such as extroversion/introversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, simply by looking at pictures of the shoes they wore.
Our unconscious behaviors have a language of their own, and their words aren’t always kind. These behaviors have likely become an integral part of who you are, and if you don’t spend much time thinking about them, now is a good time to start, because they could be sabotaging your career.
How you treat waiters and receptionists. How you treat support staff is so indicative of your makeup that it has become a common interview tactic. By gauging how you interact with support staff on your way in and out of the building, interviewers get a sense for how you treat people in general. Most people act the part when they’re speaking to the hiring manager or other “important” people, but some will pull a Jekyll and Hyde act the moment they walk out the door, treating others with disdain or indifference. Business lunches are another place this comes to light. No matter how nice you are to the people you have lunch with, it’s all for naught if those people witness you behaving badly toward others.
How often you check your phone. There’s nothing more frustrating than someone pulling out their phone mid-conversation. Doing so conveys a lack of respect, attention, listening skills, and willpower. Unless it’s an emergency, it’s wise to keep your phone holstered. A study from Elon University confirms that pulling out your phone during a conversation lowers both the quality and quantity of face-to-face interactions.
Repetitive, nervous habits. Touching your nails or face or picking at your skin typically indicates that you’re nervous, overwhelmed, and not in control. Research from the University of Michigan suggests that these nervous habits are indicative of a perfectionistic personality, and that perfectionists are more likely to engage in these habits when they’re frustrated or bored.
How long you take to ask questions. Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they talked about themselves the entire time? The amount of time someone allows to pass before they take an interest in you is a strong personality indicator. People who only talk about themselves tend to be loud, self-absorbed “takers.” People who only ask questions and share little about themselves are usually quiet, humble “givers.” Those who strike a nice balance of give-and-take are reciprocators and good conversationalists.
Your handshake. It’s common for people to associate a weak handshake with a lack of confidence and an overall lackadaisical attitude. A study at the University of Alabama showed that, although it isn’t safe to draw assumptions about someone’s competence based on their handshake, you can accurately identify personality traits. Specifically, the study found that a firm handshake equates with being less shy, less neurotic, and more extroverted.
Tardiness. Showing up late leads people to think that you lack respect and tend to procrastinate, as well as being lazy or disinterested. Contrary to these perceptions, a San Diego State University study by Jeff Conte revealed that tardiness is typically seen in people who multitask, or are high in relaxed, Type B personality traits. Conte’s study found that Type B individuals are often late because they experience time more slowly than the rest of us. Bottom line here is not to read too much into people showing up late. It’s better to ask what’s behind it than to make assumptions.
Eye contact. The key to eye contact is balance. While it’s important to maintain eye contact, doing so 100% of the time is perceived as aggressive and creepy. At the same time, if you only maintain eye contact for a small portion of the conversation, you’ll come across as disinterested, shy, or embarrassed. Studies show that maintaining eye contact for roughly 60% of a conversation strikes the right balance and makes you come across as interested, friendly, and trustworthy.
Bringing It All Together
Sometimes the little things in life make a big difference. It’s good to be ready for them, so that you can make a strong impression.
What other behaviors yield insight into people’s personalities? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
There’s an enormous amount of research suggesting that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to your performance at work. TalentSmart has tested the EQ of more than a million people and found that it explains 58% of success in all types of jobs.
People with high EQs make $29,000 more annually than people with low EQs. Ninety percent of top performers have high EQs, and a single-point increase in your EQ adds $1,300 to your salary. I could go on and on.
Suffice it to say, emotional intelligence is a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with tremendous results.
But there’s a catch. Emotional intelligence won’t do a thing for you if you aren’t genuine.
A recent study from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washingtonfound that people don’t accept demonstrations of emotional intelligence at face value. They’re too skeptical for that. They don’t just want to see signs of emotional intelligence. They want to know that it’s genuine—that your emotions are authentic.
According to lead researcher Christina Fong, when it comes to your coworkers,
“They are not just mindless automatons. They think about the emotions they see and care whether they are sincere or manipulative.”
The same study found that sincere leaders are far more effective at motivating people because they inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that authenticity is important to them, but genuine leaders walk their talk every day.
It’s not enough to just go through the motions, trying to demonstrate qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence. You have to be genuine.
You can do a gut check to find out how genuine you are by comparing your own behavior to that of people who are highly genuine. Consider the hallmarks of genuine people and see how you stack up.
“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity.”
–Janet Louise Stephenson
Unicorns are hard to catch. Back in the 1500s, it was believed that only fair young maidens could gain the trust of these elusive, horned creatures.
I’m no fair maiden. Still, in my time, I’ve had the luck of getting close to many magical unicorns … in the form of “unicorn” employees. Not to be confused with unicorn companies—startups valued at $1 billion or more—“unicorn” employees, for me, are staff who possess a unique set of qualities that make them extremely rare and valuable. Like actual unicorns, they’re hard to find, but once hired, offer up enormous benefits in the workplace. To name a few, they shatter expectations, raise the bar for everyone and are simply a joy to be around. Unicorn employees can literally take your business to the next level.
Whether you’re looking to build a unicorn army, or hoping to boost your own value in the workplace, here are the five key qualities of unicorn employees:
You aren’t limited by your job title.
In the span of about 5 years, my company, Hootsuite, went from a 100-person tech startup to a 1000-person global company. Through this stage of “hyper growth,” employees who truly flourished were flexible and intellectually curious.
Earlier on in the business, this meant having the ability to wear many hats and excel at varied tasks, critical at a fast-growing startup. For example, just because somebody’s job title was “Office Administrator,” didn’t mean she would shy away from pitching in on a major marketing campaign by helping brainstorm some catchy tweets.
Later, as the company grew, unicorn employees jumped at the chance to dive deeper into specific, growing areas of business, which needed good people. Some even decided to move across several departments. I saw unicorn employees make surprising leaps—one even went from financial specialist to software engineer. I think this is so important to employee growth that we recently launched a new pilot initiative, called the “stretch program,” to help people expand their knowledge and expertise across the business … and grow their unicorn horns.
You think big and small.
Exceptional employees are able to think strategically. This means having the ability to take a step back and see the overall company goals, or the industry as a whole, then apply it to your work. To be effective in business, you must be able to see the big picture.
On the flipside, while big-picture thinking is critical, I’ve also found that the best employees also know the devil is in the details. Running a business requires meticulous attention. A minor copyright issue, improperly executed email campaign, or even what seems like a small technical glitch can end up being catastrophic, affecting a lot of clients in a short period of time. The best employees are those who take the time to read the fine print. These are the types of people I know I can entrust with serious responsibility.
You have true grit.
The concept of “grit” has made its way into popular culture recently, perhaps sparked by psychologist Angela Duckworth’s popular TED talk and book, on the subject. She defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” and says it’s a crucial factor to achieving success.
I couldn’t agree more. Being an entrepreneur since I was a teenager, I’ve learned that the business world is like being on a boat in the open sea. Whether it’s a patch of rough waves or an unexpected storm, unexpected obstacles are inevitable. During these turbulent times, having grit—a dogged persistence—can help you keep focused on the destination. In fact, that very outlook helped my billion-dollar company weather the storm and get to the next level. Unicorn employees have true grit, and are able stay calm and focused on the task at hand, even on choppy seas.
You’re respectful by nature.
The ability to work well with others is a skill that benefits any workplace. It seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised.
A few years ago, I put out a job posting for a high-level sales role. Many people applied, and after a series of interviews, I had some top candidates in mind. However, when I checked in with my executive assistant at the time, I was shocked to find out how many of those people who had been personable and courteous to me, had been downright rude to her.
Unicorn employees are respectful by nature, and would never treat someone—regardless of title —in this way. It’s something that absolutely sets a stellar employee apart from an average one. In fact, this is so important to the well-being of our staff, it’s been built into two of our four core company values: “Respect the individual,” and “lead with humility.”
You get it done.
A few years back, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sent out a short status update on his platform: “In simplest terms possible, the people I most enjoy working with dream big, get it done, and know how to have fun.”
The update blew up, striking a chord with the tens of thousands of people who commented and liked it. (Weiner followed up by writing a full post on the topic.) Like him, I too am a huge proponent of having fun at work and believe it’s crucial to success. However, I can’t stress how important it is for people on the job to be able to get shit done. After all, no matter how great a co-worker is to be around, if he can’t produce actual results, his presence is isn’t ultimately helpful and may even be damaging to others. Great teams can be shattered by a single member who can’t get shit done.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that top performers contribute to a business 10 times more than their average counterparts. In fact, some firms, including Microsoft, claim that figure to be 100 times.
The bottom line: At the end of the day, you can be respectful, multi-talented, tenacious, detail-oriented and a big thinker. But if you don’t produce real results and move the needle, all those traits are wasted. You must be able to execute. It’s an essential unicorn quality.
For companies and business leaders, it’s probably worthwhile to put some extra time and effort into chasing unicorns. Unlike their mythical counterparts, they’re very real and they can change your company. And for unicorn employees in the making, it’s never too late to grow your strengths and make yourself more rare and valuable than ever.
CEO @ HootSuite
Image: Evonne Heyning
Celebrating 21 years in the Wine Industry
There’s two things you need to know, right off the bat, about these hiring criteria.
First and most obviously, the six criteria on Danny’s list are psychological traits, not technical skills. Even though it is generally easier to hire for technical skills, whether they are knife skills in the kitchen, great customer-centric leaders like Meyer feel confident that they can teach technical know-how to almost any newly-hired employee, but on the other hand find the idea of teaching empathy, teaching work ethic and so forth to be essentially a fool’s errand, much better addressed in the selection process than in post-employment training and discipline.
The second point is this: Even though you’ll be hiring for personality traits rather than technical skills, you still need to develop highly-skilled employees before they even face the first customer. Otherwise, you’re doing your customers (and your company) a huge disservice.
Meyer: “I used to think that you could just hire people for their emotional skills and if they had the six essential emotional skills, that’s all it took. I learned the hard way that you can’t unleash somebody’s hospitality unless you have first completely drilled all the systems, the technical skills and know-how that are needed, to a point of excellence.”
In other words: These wonderful, warm personality traits that you have hired your new employees for aren’t going to manifest themselves in ways that are useful to your customers until the training for skills is complete and has become second nature.
Meyer compares this to learning to drive a stick shift.
I remember when I first learned to drive a stick shift [as a teenager back in St. Louis], I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And until I had learned to be proficient at doing that, I wasn’t having any fun while I was driving. I wasn’t switching the stations on the radio dial. I wasn’t telling jokes to my friends. I wasn’t pointing out the beautiful trees on the side of the road.
At that beginner’s stage, I was “all systems all the time.” But once I learned those systems, how to shift gears, find a sticking point when I was on a hill, all those kinds to things that are really taught. Once I cleared all that out, that’s when I could get back to being myself and pick the best music for whoever was in the car, tell jokes with people, you know, enjoy the scenery.
So even though the emotional skills that lead to hospitality are not really teachable, but they are also not revealable until first you’ve learned the systems, the technical side of getting the job done.”
Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants hire for what Meyer calls an employee’s “hospitality quotient.” These are the six traits he feels are required for an employee to have the potential to provide true hospitality to the guests of his restaurants.
Here’s his list of six traits to hire for, which I’m using here with his permission and hope you find useful.
1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full);
2. Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning);
3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done);
4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel)
5. Self-awareness (an understanding of what makes you tick;
6. Integrity (a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).
Yes, I hear you complain about them every day: Those millennials, they ask about vacation time in the first interview! They get a bad cold and disappear for days!
They want my job after a week in their job!
“Who do these upstarts think they are,” you moan to me over every business lunch.
I feel your pain—but question your premise. Sure, there are tons of indolent slackers lounging in their parents’ rec rooms and some of them should stay there because they make terrible employees. But don’t dismiss the generation; just take some hiring and management precautions. Here are six steps to weeding out the duds and finding the eager hard-chargers who’ll stick around, build your business and make you look good.
I used to mince words with prospective employees. In my lexicon, senior people with monstrous egos that needed to be not only tolerated but massaged were referred to as “challenging” or “difficult.”
I’m not polite any more.
I tell the prospective employee that the wine industry marketing environments, for an example can be hard to work in. I also tell them I don’t allow screaming, yelling, throwing things ain the organizations they may work in.…but those “difficult” people will still find ways to torture you. (I don’t, of course tell them that back in the day, at X Winery, one of the Sr. Marketing VP threw a box of yellow Kleenex at a friend of mine saying, “Don’t come back until these are white!”) I also tell them that the WIne Marketing business is a somewhat stagnant business right now. Several tiers of the job ladder have been eliminated and now there are only assistants and senior brand managers. Where I used to have five mid-level jobs to promote assistants into, I now only have one. I tell them it can take four years instead of two to advance. If they are still sitting in the chair across from me when I’m finished with this non-seduction, I figure they must really want the job.
2. Don’t hire them if you sense even a whiff of entitlement. I tell every prospective employee that they will be gofers for the first two years (that means chores like packing wine and POS for various events) even if they won’t be. When one young man who wanted to be a brand manager said, “But my university led me to believe…,” I said, “Stop right there. No one cares what your college led you to believe. They only care if you can use a copy machine and answer phones. That is how we all started.” No surprise: Our discussions ended there.
3. Do a hunger check. For a big part of my career, my assistant’s chair was held by a revolving door of fill in the blank recent top 10 University Grad . I wasn’t looking for a University Grad; it’s not as if I graduated from any of these schools or wanted to do something for my alma mater. It just so happened that at the time, these smart, heads-down kinds of people worked perfectly in the male dominated wine industry. Later on I tried out grads from other Ivies, but after going several rounds with Harvard kids who embarrassed me with their sloppy, “I’m above all this” office work, I put a moratorium on Harvard diplomas. (See, you don’t have to be a millennial to feel entitled.) I feel the same way today: The hardest-working, most attentive, most intelligent starters still come from schools with un-fancy names. They’re millennials, for sure, but not slackers. I have come to believe that America’s top-tier schools are doing their graduates a disservice by boosting their expectations about starter jobs. Entry level is the great flattener of the working world.
4. Remember, everyone announces themselves in the interview.
I learned this the hard way when I ignored my gut response and hired a young woman who made me feel uncomfortable in the interview. She startled me during our first discussion when she suddenly asked intimate questions about my children. Turns out that in preparing for the interview she had done something smart: She’d gone back and read all of my editor’s letters, in which I’d written often about my kids. But she didn’t explain that in the interview, leaving me to feel she’d snooped in a creepy way, which made me squirm a bit. But I hired her. Our entire time together (less than a year) was marred because she constantly tried to front run my desires and fumbled them; she couldn’t wait for direction.
5. Shake ‘em up a bit. Ok, so I’ve worked with some of the scariest people in wine—and made it through. While some people are just mean and awful because they can be, I’ve carved out a spot as a pretty nice person who is tough but fair. But every now and then, especially when working with the overly pampered (millennial or otherwise), I find it’s a good idea to borrow a trick from the monster-boss playbook and send a tiny chill down their spine. I am a little sterner than I would normally be; I play the tough parent who won’t put up with the crap they just handed me. I let them know I set a high bar and plan for them to jump high enough to clear it.
6. When you find the good ones, help them move up—even if that means losing them. Yes, I said that. When you find those great millennials, be generous. Part the waters for them, give them perks, jump into their court and use your influence to move them along to the next tier when it’s time—even if the better job is not in your winery and it kills you to lose them. That’s how you win their loyalty. Forever. And you just may be nurturing an employee who’ll come back to you years later.