A legendary restauranteur's formula for hiring top performers.
You’ll always recognize a high-performer when you work with one.
These are people who are incredibly energetic, smart, determined, and hold a high degree of emotional intelligence. They thrive in most environments, with business being one, and hospitality another.
Danny Meyer (Shake Shack, Union Square Cafe, Eleven Madison Park) has built a successful career in hospitality from his ability to hire the best people. In his book, “Setting The Table”, he refers to this type of high-performer as the “51-percenter”.
The only way a company can grow, stay true to its soul, and remain consistently successful is to attract, hire, and keep great people…
…We are hoping to develop 100-percent employees whose skills are divided 51-49 between emotional hospitality and technical excellence. We refer to these employees as 51-percenters.
The five attributes of a 51-percenter
(1) Optimistic warmth — thoughtful people who radiate friendliness, happiness, and kindness.
It feels genuinely good to be around them. There’s an upbeat feeling, a twinkle in the eye, a dazzling sparkle from within.
(2) Intelligence — Intellectually curious, open-minded, and keen to learn.
A hallmark of our business model is to continually be improving. I need to stock our team with people who naturally crave learning and who want to evolve—people who figure out how each new day can bring rich opportunities to do something even better.
(3) Work ethic — accountable and reliable; someone who strives for excellence.
We want people on our team who are highly motivated, confident and wired to do the job well. It’s not hard to teach anyone the proper way to set a beautiful table. What’s impossible to teach is how to care deeply about setting the table beautifully.
(4) Empathy — awareness and genuinely caring for others.
Empathy is not just an awareness of what others are experiencing; it’s being aware of, being sensitive to and caring about how one’s own behavior affects others.
(5) Self-awareness and integrity — having a pulse of your emotions, how they affect your actions, and the integrity to stay grounded.
I want to work with people who have a handle on what makes them tick. In a sense, it is a personal weather report. Is the mood dry or humid? Is it rainy or stormy? Is it warm and sunny or chilly and cloudy?\
*Note: all quotation blocks are excerpts from Danny’s book.
Every industry, company, and role demands a different set of skills. But, I think these traits are pretty universal.
Some may believe these to be innate traits, but I disagree:
Optimistic warmth is the result of being friendly and kind.
Intelligence stems from the willingness to open-minded and curious.
Work ethic is the presence of hard work and effort.
Empathy is the extra step taken to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Self-awareness and integrity is the product of asking for feedback and reflecting on it.