Media (Books, Podcasts, Etc.), Other
In this post, you'll learn about the 7 traits Danny Meyer looks for when he is hiring. I share this not to improve your interview or hiring skills but because of how these traits which make people "exceptional" are mostly related to a focus on self-improvement. I'm also sharing for the simple fact that I found this topic interesting so I thought others might as well.
I'll be honest - when I saw the title of Danny Meyer's podcast episode on The Tim Ferriss Show and for the first few minutes of listening, I wasn't sure if it would be worth the time. The title is #665 - Danny Meyer, Founder of Shake Shack - How to Win, The Art of The Graceful "No," Overcoming Setbacks, The 6 Traits of Exceptional People, The 4 Quadrants of Performance, Lessons from Hospitality Excellence, and More. It's almost a "too good to be true" title and starting off without knowing Danny Meyer, I was a bit skeptical to start, thinking he was just a CEO who thinks he knows all and sells his advice to self-help junkies. To my surprise and gladly so, I was mistaken.
Danny is certainly experienced - he is the founder of Shake Shack as well as the founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, a restaurant group currently operating a dozen different restaurants in New York City. From listening to this episode, you learn that Danny really cares about slow growth while putting his employees first and having a strong focus on hospitality. He states that the hospitality business is "a virtuous cycle where one input leads to something even better. So if you want to have really happy customers, they shouldn't be the input. You should have really happy employees, which I think leads to a greater chance you're going to have really happy customers" and then states how this in the end leads to happy investors.
His perspective makes the whole episode worth listening to but in this short post, I want to share the part the stuck out most to me and that is Danny's 7 traits that he looks for in his employees that makes them extraordinary. And they are:
1. Kind Eyes
This was glossed over in the podcast with not much added context but I think it comes with more than just the eyes. Someone's overall energy (whether they are friendly, fun, etc.) comes through their appearance and so, especially in the business of hospitality where first impressions are very important, you can see why he would look for this.
Most workplaces would agree, that they don't want to hire someone who is a know-it-all. Confidence is one thing but you need to be willing to learn first. Danny's big question he asks himself when interviewing is if the individual sees themselves as a finished product or if they are going to take opportunities to learn and improve.
In interviews, Danny scales the empathy of future employees by asking the question:
On a scale from 1-10, tell me how lucky you are.
An employee in hospitality should likely answer this question by going into how much they care about how they make others feel through their work. This is another trait that would be key to the restaurant business especially but in any business, it's good to be aware of how others are affected by things on an emotional level. Despite how much of a business operates on work, logic, and rationality, people by nature are emotional beings and this will always play a large factor.
4. Work Ethic
The questions I have gotten in interviews that relate to this are ones that prompt you to explain a project where you had to go above and beyond and the outcome of doing so.
Work ethic I'm sure is a difficult one to see in an interview conversation but it is an obvious essential. If you aren't willing to work hard to deliver a good product, why would someone want to hire you?
Danny's question for this in interviews is:
What is the single biggest misconception people have about you?
There are many things that could be asked to test self-awareness - really any question on personality or asking about areas they've noticed they needed to improve on but this is certainly a more creative question than that typical, "What is your biggest weakness," question that nobody likes (especially if they're interviewing for a job they have no experience in).
From my little time as a manger, I can't speak with too much authority but I believe being able to reflect so that you can know where you can improve and how others see you in your role is really what seems to make a good employee a great one in the long run.
This is another trait which Danny has a specific question for:
What is something that happened to you before the age of 12 that has changed your life forever?
This question is a clever one for integrity/trust but it forces a deep, authentic answer because it is likely unexpected and would be something personal they're willing to share with others. I would think this trait is probably one of the toughest to gauge in an interview because (for me, at least) it can take a while to know to know how much you can trust someone, even after working with them for a while. But it is certainly essential.
7. Love to Win
This trait was added during the episode of The Tim Ferriss Podcast mentioned above and he stated this is the only thing missing from his other 6 which are tried-and-true in his business. He describes how their are 3 types of winners:
The 3rd type seems to be the winners that he's looking for because he states:
“…I know that I want to be the best and I can’t do it by myself so I’ve got to stock my team with people who look at every day as an opportunity – not for perfection because I think perfection is stupid, it’s impossible, it’s a recipe for unhappiness – but I do look for people who look at every day as an opportunity to honor whatever they did yesterday and figure out how to do it a little bit better today, that’s the journey of success.”
I personally would say the 7th trait didn't need to be added because it is a culmination of the others. No matter what your career is, most of these traits are ones that are beneficial for all of us to work on. #2, 4, 5, and 6 are traits I can see all workplaces having in their top 10, the others I see as best in the hospitality business - they're still beneficial for all but may not make the top 10. Those same traits (#2, 4, 5, and 6) all relate to self-improvement since working on them benefits us, no matter who you are.
As Danny says, "I don't want know-it-alls, I want learn-it alls." Don't ever lost curiosity or stop learning. Curiosity is also the trait that Walter Isaacson seems to arrive at most when comparing the exceptional people he has written about (Steve Jobs, Leondardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, etc.).
In order to make real progress, you have to work hard and stay disciplined. It's very easy for us to fall back to things that are comforting but it's important we stay focused. This is why work ethic is key.
Self-awareness is all about reflection and so is self-improvement. We need to take the time to take note of where we can use improvement before doing the work. Most people just don't take the time to reflect; I can't blame them because most people are overwhelmed by career and/or family matters.
And integrity/trust you build by keeping your promises and being there for the support of others, even when they don't know it. Great things can't be accomplished alone, they require a team, so if you want to work with people you can trust, you have to able to show that they can trust you as well.
That's why I wanted to share these traits here - not for hiring purposes but so we can focus on what traits are most valuable in our own lives and reflect on what we can do to be better.
Thank you for reading! I'd love to hear if you have any comments; drop them below. If you're not already subscribed but would like to be, head over to the Contact Page, provide your email, and you'll receive updates from me when new posts are up and news on other projects I'm working on!
I realize it has been a bit since I've posted last -- I've been working on a much bigger writing project and making pretty good progress (hint, hint).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.