Students and recent grads ask me for advice all the time on what C-Level Executives look for in an employee, and what I look for in someone that I would like to hire. I have had many great and not-so great employees, primarily because it is so hard to judge if someone is the real deal or not in the interview process. I guess it can provide an indication, but interviewing is such a haphazard way to employ folks. I truly prefer when a person is recommended to me by someone who is trustworthy and credible, or when someone first works as an intern and I can see first-hand what they are made of.
But regardless of how they get the gig, I look for one specific thing when they first start working for me – can they fetch coffee? Ok, don’t get all bent out of shape. I don’t mean it in a, “I am better than they are, so they have to fetch me coffee” way. It’s not about that at all. It’s truly about how someone approaches the request and delivers on it. Many times, folks come in with an attitude that they are above certain jobs, “I’ve got my MBA, and he thinks he’s using me wisely, sending me out to fetch coffee…?” Get my drift?
It’s not about the task; it’s about the manner in which it’s approached. If you have a bad attitude, pout and come back with a small coffee, cream and sugar – when I asked for a medium coffee with a little milk, then why would I trust you with a more complicated task? Your job (and life in general), isn’t always about what you want to do, it’s about what has to be done. No matter what aspect of life, there will be things that you prefer to do as opposed to others that you just do not want to be involved in. But if you approach everything in the manner that you are going to do your very best job… well, now that’s what I’m talking about.
When I ask someone to fetch coffee, I want them to own the task and to approach it as if it’s the most important thing that has to be accomplished at that moment. That shows me the person has a positive attitude. That shows me the person does not feel entitlement. That shows me the person is dedicated. Because let’s face it, if you treat fetching coffee in a manner that shows care and commitment, the likelihood is that you will face other, more important, responsibilities with even more dedication.
When I was in radio, there was a young man named Will McDonough who interned for me. Will reeked of the qualities I desire in an employee. He was a great coffee fetcher. Whenever I asked him to do something, he had that “can do” attitude and approach to things. When I asked him, “What are you doing tonight?” or “Where will you be this weekend?” he would say, “What do you want me to do?”, “Where do you want me to be?” That’s what I look for in an employee. So when I moved to the Patriots, do you think Will got a gig with the team? And when I was looking for someone to be the liaison between the players and marketing, who do you think I trusted with the gig? Will, of course. Guess who is killing it globally and making more money then most right now? You guessed it, Will. Funny thing, if we were together right now and I asked him to grab me a coffee, I don’t think he would even hesitate.
The more that you impress by delivering on menial tasks, the more you will be trusted with more important ones. Take on every assignment as if you own it and make sure you exceed expectations whenever possible. Those dedicated folks separate themselves from the rest of the pack, and those are the folks I look to hire and have work for me.
So, if you are asked to go and fetch coffee – be the very best coffee fetcher in the world.