4 Qualities I Look For In High Performing Employees

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Michel Falcon:

Welcome to the People First Culture Podcast with me, Michel Falcon, where I share lessons I’ve learned and those of others on how to build a more purposeful business and career. Hey, everyone, thank you for your time and your interest on this topic. Welcome to the podcast. If you have listened to an episode before, welcome back. If you are new to the podcast, I’m Michel Falcon. I own restaurants. I’m a hospitality person. I’ve written a book. I’m a keynote speaker. I’ve done quite a bit over my career, which started in 2007 professionally. Everything that I discuss on the podcast is always related to people.

I know that’s a broad subject, but in this case, it’s related to employee performance, career development, creating great company cultures, customer experiences ultimately to grow a successful business. Success can mean many different things to many different people. For me, success is earning profit the right way. I don’t want to make money by stepping on people. I have investors in my business. They expect me to turn a profit, but they have all bought into something that allows us all to feel good about what we’re trying to build. And that’s a people first culture, what I wrote my book about in 2018.

Any episode you listen to is always centered around that. I think it’s applicable to anybody in any industry. I just came back from speaking at Shell. They were hosting a conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and I keynoted their event. I’m in restaurants, they’re in oil and gas, so you’d wonder, why would they invite you? I was speaking to I believe it was 400 or so of their gas station franchise owners. Whether you’re selling gas or salads, in my case, you need great people. Maybe you’re in insurance, real estate, or whichever industry, we actually have a lot of commonalities. Regardless of the industry, regardless of how we sell or present our products, at the end of the day, it’s people that are presenting them.

It is people that are operating the business. And that’s just human behavior. How do we manage human behavior both for customers, for our team members, for anybody that interacts with our company like suppliers, the media, the community, and investors? Welcome to this episode. I’ve started keynote speaking again. I mentioned a moment ago that two days ago I was speaking for Shell. If you are looking for a keynote speaker for your event, please reach out. I would love to have a conversation with you about it. I’ve been responsible for hiring people since 2009 is when I was given my first opportunity to hire people.

Let me tell you, I was awful at it. I did not know what to do. I’m much better at it now. I do not bat at a thousand, which is a baseball reference. I make mistakes. Ultimately, hiring people is a guess. You are truly making a guess. Now, you try to make the best guess possible, of course, but there are some things that I’ve learned that are very… They increase the likelihood that you make the best guess possible. There’s four qualities that I really look for, not just in high performing individuals who will serve the business and ultimately help us hit our goals, it’s four qualities that I admire in a human being, regardless of whether they’re an employee or a friend or a family member.

The first is they’re studious in nature. These individuals take ownership over their own education. They look for times after they’re working, perhaps even on the weekend, during their walks to listen to podcasts. They write notes or allow these messages that they’re listening to to be paradigm shifting, constantly evaluating how they might be able to do things better by listening to podcasts. For me, I’m still an avid podcast listener as well too in a way to be able to educate myself. Right now I’m really deep into my friend Cameron Herold’s podcast. It’s called the COO Alliance.

Wherever you listen to your podcast, whether it’s Apple or Spotify or another platform, just search Cameron Herold, and I’m sure you’ll come across this podcast there. There’s other ways that you can be studious, finding mentors for yourself. I have near and far mentors. Near are individuals that I can regularly call, such as my largest investor, Steve Arbib, or somebody like Drew Nieporent. He was introduced to me by one of my investors as well, Adam Franklin. Drew is the co-founder of Nobu. If you know restaurants, you know Nobu. If you know Nobu, you know Chef Nobu, maybe even Robert De Niro. Drew is the operating partner.

I get tremendous education from him. But then there’s mentors from afar, so people that you don’t know personally. You don’t have their numbers stored in your phone, for example, but you still learn from them. You can do this through MasterClass, MasterClass.com, for individuals that will pay for their own education. I think MasterClass is only like $20 a month or so. That says a lot about somebody. They’re learning from individuals in whichever way they can, whether it’s from near or from afar.

I like individuals that also increase their level of education by studying other companies, reading white papers about companies, going back, listening to podcasts and how the company was started, for example, and asking themselves, what can I learn from these companies to be able to bring this into our organization and improve the business? If I improve the business, then I could possibly get promoted and make more money and achieve what I deem to be success. That’s how it should be. We should be self-serving. We should have team members that are self-serving in the sense that I will give to the company, but I expect to get back.

Think of the strongest relationship you have in your personal lives. Maybe that’s with your spouse. You give by regularly going on dates, by cleaning up after yourself, or whatever that might be, but you expect that individual to meet you halfway. Relationships in the workplace between company and team member and employee is no different. That’s my approach to it, and it’s worked for me very well. The companies that I’m studying right now, and this doesn’t stop just because this is what I look for in people, it’s probably because it’s an extension of what I do. I’m studying Arc’teryx, Nike, and Warby Parker right now.

That’s as simple as just googling and finding interviews where executives share some of the strategies that are working for them. Again, mentioning podcasts. There’s a tremendous amount of education. Udemy.com could be the equivalent to MasterClass.com. I’m partial to MasterClass.com because I just really like the quality of the videos and, of course, the people that they have there like Bob Iger, Howard Schultz, and many other people of high, high caliber. The second quality that look for in individuals that I like working with is they have a plan for themselves, and they care about their namesake.

Everything that they do, they want to do it exceptionally because they care about what people think of their performance. I remember when I was starting my career at 1-800-GOT-JUNK, I really cared what people thought about me. I know we’re taught sometimes or we’re told… I remember being told this when I was younger in high school, don’t care about what people think about you. That’s actually awful advice. You do have to care for the right people, not for everybody, for the right people. Only you can determine who are the right people. But individuals that have a plan for themselves.

They have this vision. They might not know how to get there, but they’ve got these big goals. They’re wide-eyed people, and they think anything is possible, but they recognize that I need some help. I need some mentorship. I need somebody to help clear the trees along the path so that I can walk down it. That is my responsibility as a leader within my organization is I have to cut those trees for them. I have to guide them. I do that by sharing experiences. I share what works and what might not work based on past experiences.

I love it when people come and say, “I want to be your next general manager, or I want to earn $100,000,” whatever that might mean, because it means that they’re willing to do the work more often than not. Sometimes individuals say that they want something, they see the road ahead of them and say, “Actually, I don’t want to go down that road.” That’s fine. They’re just not going to work with me. I do know the type of people that I want to work with and it’s not those individuals. I want to work with people who really do have these big goals for themselves. They see the company as being a stepping stone to be able to achieve those goals.

Maybe it is earning $100,000 within three months or six months. Maybe it is starting their own business one day and they’re going to use brass approving kitchen as an opportunity to learn, get paid to learn, do good work while working with the company, but then also one day leave. I’m fine with that one. 1-800-GOT-JUNK was my real world MBA, and I keep sharing that story because it really was. I remember this one time I interviewed the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK a couple years ago on my podcast and I told him, I said, “Thank you for building this company that allowed me to succeed.”

He said, “I appreciate it. You say that a lot, but remember that it’s also your parents who raised you in a way that allowed you to succeed.” And that was something that really impacted me, because I was able to draw solid thick lines to my development and my parents. Now, whether it’s your parents or somebody else that has impacted your life, if you do have that drive, if you have a plan for yourself, it came from somewhere and it’s very advantageous to learn, where did that come from. Who am I? Where did I get these great qualities from? Because once you start getting clear on your greatest qualities, double down on those efforts.

The third thing that I look for, and it’s actually a non-negotiable. I won’t care about the other two that I just mentioned until I can check this box in somebody. They’re kind. This is a non-negotiable for me. I’m tired of working with jerks. I refuse to work with them. I want somebody who is kind through and through. Now, that does not mean that everything is sunshine and rainbows, right? They don’t have to be a Ned Flanders like character, but they just have to be a genuinely kind person that doesn’t step on people, don’t cross people. They’re kind to everybody they interact with. As the expression goes, don’t take my kindness for weakness.

I’m not saying I just want kindness. Somebody that can combine kindness and grit. Kindness and grit pair well together like a glass of red wine and steak. The grit or perseverance part of it means that they can stand up for themselves. They don’t allow people to walk all over them. They draw a line in the sand if somebody does and says, “Don’t cross that line.” They get knocked down, they’re going to spring right back up. I think kindness is perceived in a way that doesn’t lend itself well to growing a career. Now, I have worked with people before that really lead with kindness, and it’s phenomenal.

I would never say not to, but you have to be careful because there’s people that will try to take advantage of that. They will see that as weak and they will try to step on you. Finding a balance between kindness and drawing a line in the sand so that people know don’t F with me is a very advantageous balance to have. Because one, they’re both respectful, right? People respect kindness. People respect that iron rod spine. Knows that you can’t walk on that person. That person has high integrity for themselves and high standards, and they’re not going to allow you to push them. If you push them, they’re going to push you back.

Pardon the physical expression or comparison, but I wanted to paint a picture for you on what I mean by that. Having both is extremely important, especially when you start getting into senior levels within the organization. And the last one, the fourth quality I look for in people and I actually interviewed for is what’s an unrelated skill. It’s something about you that’s unrelated to your role or your career that just lights you up. I don’t want to always be talking about work with somebody. If you are a master at pruning trees or bonsai trees, tell me about that. If you’re a phenomenal swimmer, if you just like anything, if you know how to make croissants better than anybody on the planet, tell me about that.

I’m thinking my fiance would be correcting me. It’s not croissants, it’s croissant. She always corrects me on that. But picture being in the workplace, whether it’s virtual or in office, and I am pro in office, if anybody’s wondering, I don’t want to always talk about work. Tell me about something that that you’ve done in your career that really lights you up. It humanizes you. It tells me you have a life outside of work. For me, what is something about me? I would probably say if somebody asked me to talk about something other than the work that lights me up, probably would be my dog, Maggie.

I’m getting pretty I wouldn’t say competitive, but I take strength training quite seriously so I can share some things that I’ve learned if one would be interested. I’m still a student of strength training, by the way. But just something unrelated to work. Tell me that you’re not just one dimensional. Those are the four things that I look for in individuals to join the team. I have found that if you can get these four things correct, and of course, they have a great background and experience in what you’re hiring for, then the performance is going to be phenomenal. Your customers are going to be delivered an experience they’ve never seen before.

You’re just going to ensure that these customers come back again because they want to see the show again. They want to interact with these great people that you’ve hired. That’s a phenomenal customer experience, and that customer experience will lead to greater organic growth, and that leads to great profitability. You’ll notice that on the podcast my messaging will always come back to the team members, whether that’s how you interview for them, how you visualize who you’re looking for, like I’ve described today. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. I will be back every single week with a new podcast that you may enjoy.

For now, if you are active on any social media platform, search my name, first and last name, you’ll find me. I don’t know if there’s one other person on this planet with the same name as me. If you know somebody with the same name as me, please introduce me. Head over to my website. Perhaps you’re on there right now listening to this podcast, MichelFalcon.com. Join my email list so that you are alerted every single time I release a new podcast. I have some phenomenal people that I’m going to be interviewing. This is all free education.

The studious part, if you are a studious individual looking for education, well, you found it. Thank you so much for your time. I am Michel Falcon everywhere online. I look forward to connecting with you.




Michel travels the world speaking at annual conferences and company events. His speaking topics are focused on customer experience, employee engagement and company culture. To have him speak at your event, contact him directly.