Podcast: How Do You Prepare a Team Member for Leadership?

On this episode, I welcome Aaron Kaufman, the President of the Fifth Element Group, based in Toronto.

Aaron asks:

  • What can companies do to rebuild their company culture?
  • When do you empower your team and how do you measure it?
  • How do you prepare a team member for a leadership position?

Listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Email me if you’d like to be a guest on my podcast.

Follow me on Linkedin.

Will Zoom Become a Customer Experience Tactic?

In this episode, I welcome Troy (@troy), the co-founder of Juice Marketing (NYC) and we chat about:

– If Zoom meetings will become more popular than face-to-face interactions with customers.

– How to identify what type of interaction each customer wants.

– How he has been managing his B2B customer experience.

– What is the best restaurant in NYC?

You can listen to the episodes on Apple podcast or Buzzsprout (recommended for Andriod users).

Follow Troy on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/troy/

Michel’s Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelfalcon/

Interested in having me as a keynote speaker in your company?
If so, visit → http://www.michelfalcon.com/keynote/

My online course: https://get.michelfalcon.com/tos/ 

Check out my Book ‘People First Culture’ → https://www.amazon.ca/People-First-Culture-Lasting-Company-Shifting/dp/1544512147/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550677572&sr=8-1&keywords=people+first+culture

About Breaking it Down:

Breaking it Down is a Podcast hosted by Michel Falcon, with the purpose of helping business owners, executives, CEOs and entrepreneurs to breakthrough their business and  professional careers to the next level.

Follow Michel Falcon:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelfalcon
Instagram: instagram.com/michelfalcon
Website: https://www.michelfalcon.com

Navigating a World of Work: Strong Sentiments From 1,350 Employees and Their Expectations From Their Company and Leader

My friend Shane Skillen and I surveyed 1,350 employees across North America and asked them dozens of questions about coming back to work.

You can read the report by clicking the link below.


A few things that I believe business owners and leaders will find interesting include:

  • 38.1% of respondents are going to find another employer and 17.1% will go back to school.
  • Only 60.1% of respondents want to go back to work. This is a massive threat because employee productivity and morale will need to be at an all-time high if the relaunch of businesses will be successful.
  • 36.2% of respondents will “yes, definitely” report their company to authorities if they don’t follow social distancing regulations.
  • Plus, more.

Enjoy and please share the whitepaper with anyone you feel might enjoy it.

Podcast: How to Get Your Employees to Tell You The Truth

On today’s podcast, I chat with Steven Weaver Founder, The Candle Lab.

Some of the things we discuss include:

– How he pivoted his business and is achieving 3x more sales than before.

– Why he paid an employee’s drug debt.

– How to get employees to tell you the truth about how they’re feeling.

Click the links below to listen to the podcast on the platform of your choice. Enjoy!

Buzz Sprout

Apple Podcast

PODCAST: Employee Wellness and Leadership Ideas (During Covid-19)

On this episode, David Carins (SVP, CBRE) and I chat about:

  • How to manage our employee’s mental health.
  • Ways to lead our teams during uncertainty.
  • Why you should buy a Masterclass membership for your employees.
  • What are better pancakes, french toast or waffles?

Click the links below to listen to the podcast on the platform of your choice. Enjoy!

Apple Podcast


Buzz Sprout

Company Culture of Truth: How to Get Employees Speaking With Conviction and Honesty

Building a company culture of truth is a key priority for me and something I’m speaking candidly about. This quote summarizes why.

“A great leader will provide a safe environment for people to tell the truth. Without truth, democracy, innovation, and trust are compromised.”

I heard coach George Raveling say this and I immediately bookmarked it. George is famous for more than one reason. He played basketball for Villanova, coached for Washington State, University of Iowa and USC. George had Martin Luther King Jr. give him the original ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and played a part in Michael Jordan signing with Nike, not Adidas. This isn’t his entire story but it may give you confidence that he may know a thing or two about building great teams.

It’s this quote that is motivating me to write this blog post for you.

I believe the most successful relationships in our personal lives are based on truthful and honest conversations.

Why can’t our professional ones be built on the same foundation?

I think they can.

In this blog post, I’m going to share:

  • Stories of great companies and leaders who speak truthfully.
  • Three ways you can start doing so in your company (the one you have today or the one you will build in the future).
  • My real-world example of achieving this.

When I attend events to be a company’s company culture, employee engagement and customer experience keynote speaker, I share examples of how to build and lead a team.

In short, it’s by teaching everyone to speak honestly and with conviction. You may associate these words with,

“Oh, he must be a jerk to work with” or “He must speak too bluntly.” I know myself well and I wouldn’t suggest I do either but I definitely get my point across, respectfully.

I believe I have found a balance between sharing what’s on my mind, giving feedback and building a company culture of truth.

Some leaders and companies have shied away from this because:

  1. Their culture isn’t built for this.
  2. They haven’t hired for this trait.
  3. They tried it before and it failed.

Let’s evaluate each scenario.

Building the Company Culture of Truth

I’ve discovered that companies that have an open and honest company culture through communication have it as a core value.

Netflix is a great example of its company culture being built for these honest conversations. Two of their core values help shape this type of culture and behaviour.

Communication: you listen well and treat people with respect independent of their status or disagreement with you.

Honesty: you are known for candor and directness.

Netflix has a very competitive company culture and not suited for everyone but don’t immediately dismiss this trait of honest for your culture.

Take Zappos as another example. Their company culture is not as strict and, as they put it, “weird.”

One of their core values is, 

“Build open and honest relationships with communication.” 

Whether it’s for your personal relationships at home or with friends, Netflix or Zappos’ honest relationships and communication breed success.

Hiring for Honesty

Once you’ve established that these types of conversations are going to be the bedrock of your company, you must start hiring for this trait.

During the interview process, I will probe for this by asking the candidate the following questions:

What do you think of our interview process so far? I want to hear them critique it so that I can see if they are honest and to generate ideas to improve it.

What is the hardest conversation you’ve had to deliver with a senior ranking team member in a previous organization? I won’t let the candidate get away with a vague answer. I will ask follow-up questions to really understand how they approached the conversation, what obstacles they needed to overcome and more.

What is the hardest conversation you’ve had to deliver to a junior ranking team member? I will pay attention to whether they approached the conversation with a junior ranking person as they did the senior one. For example, were they just as respectful?

Some people are what I refer to as “professional interviewers.” It’s likely that you’ve interviewed someone, hired them then weeks later you realized that they told you everything you wanted to hear in the interview. Avoid this misstep by ensuring you ask plenty of follow up questions to understand if they can speak honestly, respectfully and with conviction. 

Introducing Honest Conversations to Your Company

“All employee surveys are going to be received with names attached.”

This is what I told my management team when I decided against receiving anonymous surveys for our hospitality company.

We debated whether we should move forward with this or not. Many people said,

“Our employees won’t feel comfortable giving feedback like this” and “we will receive fewer responses.”

These reasons are why I wanted to move forward with it. Yes, we did receive fewer surveys but the answers and feedback we collected were more valuable.

This was going to be new to our culture and because we hadn’t built our company to communicate this way from the beginning, we were going to experience a learning curve. I expected and welcomed this challenge.

After we launched the program, we saw a decline in response rates from 75% to nearly 25%. But, as I suspected, the feedback was much more valuable. We gradually increased the response rates after each time we sent out a survey, eventually getting to above 40%.

We were able to show our team members that you can deliver honest feedback and not be punished because of your candor. This was one of the ways that we were able to move the needle to achieve higher response rates.

Remember George Raveling’s quote at the beginning of this blog post?

“A great leader will provide a safe environment for people to tell the truth. Without truth, democracy, innovation, and trust are compromised.”

I was motivated to ensure that our company had a safe environment for people to tell the truth.

RELATED: What is an Employee Advisory Board (EAB)?

Becoming More Honest

Covid-19 has upended our businesses. Some of us will go out of business or be permanently laid off giving us an opportunity to start and lead another company.

We have been given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit the pause button and reevaluate how we want to operate and lead.

I’m recommending that we use this time to create great change for our employees, customers and ourselves.

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, is your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company

Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience: Learn How to Describe Both (Like a Pro)

I want every business professional to learn the difference between customer service vs. customer experience. By knowing this, it will help your business (regardless of industry).

When setting out to open multiple restaurants and bars in downtown Toronto, one of the first things I needed to clarify to my business partners (and eventually our management and employees) was the difference between customer experience and customer service. 

That was four years ago.

But, even today, when I’m invited to attend an event as a customer experience and customer service keynote speaker, I still find that companies are trying to create awareness and alignment within their organizations about these two topics.

In this blog post, I’m going to share the difference and how differentiating the two can be extraordinarily valuable for your business.

Customer Service

How I define customer service to our team, anyone that I keynote speak for or someone who purchases my online course is quite simple,

Customer service are actions. (customer service is an action)

Let’s take two very relatable experiences.


When you courier a package using FedEx the person helping process your package from delivery point A to point B is delivering customer service to you.

Whole Foods

“Where can I find blueberries?” The employee walking you over to the produce section of the store and possibly asking you how your day is going is delivering customer service to you.

Often, customer service is micro-interaction within the customer journey that we neglect to continuously refine. 

My rule of thumbnail for businesses of all sizes and industries is to constantly inspect what you expect to ensure that your customer service levels and reputation don’t become stagnant or a thing of the past.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself honestly:

  • When was the last time I trained my employees (or myself) on customer service techniques? Is it habitual or often a one-time event? There are many ways to provide weekly micro learnings to your team.
  • Do I find myself asking, “I don’t have the budget for customer service training?” Yes, you do! You’re choosing to spend it somewhere else.
  • What is going to happen to my business and brand if I’m known for delivering average customer service? Will my competitors get my business? Will I have a poor brand? The answer is yes to both!

Customer Experience

I describe customer experience as,

“A collection of interactions your customer has with your brand from beginning to end.”

Do you see the difference between customer service vs. customer experience?

These interactions can be all-encompassing and include digital and analog components involving your employees or even robots. The way you market on Instagram or Pinterest also has a role in your customer experience. Your sales team has a role in the customer experience by way of how they manage the customer from the beginning, during and after the sale.

Let’s use an example we may all be able to relate to.

SweetGreen is a fast-growing, venture-backed, billion-dollar company in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry. They sell salads and grain-based bowls.

Their customer experience is inclusive of many things.


SweetGreen has a mobile app that is powering 50% of all orders (this is astronomically high!) and has been downloaded over a million times. By having this as a strong part of their customer experience, SweetGreen is able to have a direct connection with their customers to understand their behaviours and purchasing patterns.

Similar to other apps, it enables customers to order directly through their mobile phones and pick up their meal without the requirement of waiting in-line which positively impacts the customer experience.

I’m not suggesting that every business needs an app, in fact, the far majority don’t, but your digital presence needs to be evaluated. Whether it’s an app, your social media or desktop website, our digital presence must provide a seamless customer experience. By doing so, you can expect to increase digitally-driven sales.

It’s helpful to ask a family member or friend to evaluate your digital customer experience to see if you’re on the right track.


These interactions are inclusive of any off-line customer experiences. Often, they involve your frontline employees but aren’t exclusive of employees in your finance or marketing teams. After all, your finance team likely manages relationships with investors, suppliers and more. They must be just as customer-centric as your cashier or receptionist.

Long before my book, People-First Culture: Build a Lasting Business By Shifting Your Focus From Profits to People, was released I’ve been advocating that we can’t deliver the exact same experiences to every single customer.

What makes one customer tick, might tick off the next. Knowing this, I’ve been sharing my three customer personality type methodology with my companies and when I’m keynote speaking or hosting workshops.

Building customer-centric training material for your employees so that they can create customer loyalty-worthy offline experiences is imperative. Yes, I do agree that customer experience is slanted toward digital experiences (7-11 testing out cashierless stores similar to AmazonGo comes to mind) but I don’t believe the employee and human connection is going to be removed for a very long time or entirely removed at all.

How friendly, knowledgeable and helpful are your employees today? Be honest. Could they be trained more frequently?

In-store Design:

Until I entered the hospitality industry I wasn’t intimately aware of how much impact in-store design had on the customer experience. Of course, I knew that Apple’s retail customer experience had a great impact on their business but I needed to see it for myself. 

Today, at our flagship restaurant, Baro, the number #2 reason why we have promoters and an Actual Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 80 is because of our ambiance and design.

SweetGreen is no different. When you enter their stores you can feel the design of the store having a positive impact on their customer experience. 

In-store design is one thing but what about maintenance? Are those tables wobbly? Are the bathrooms clean? Does the front door shut properly so that guests aren’t cold on chilly days?

Pay attention to the intricate details of your in-store (or in-office) customer experience.


Delivering a great customer experience can’t  replace having a great product or service. For SweetGreen, it’s their salads and bowls. For a real estate agent, it would be the timeliness of your communication with the seller or buyer and more.

SweetGreen must compete with their product and customer experience, just like you must too. Imagine SweetGreen having great salads and bowls but rude employees. They might compete for a while but eventually, someone will copy their products and beat them on customer experience. Similarly, you can’t have a great customer experience and a bad product. You must compete in both regards.

Great and legendary brands, like Nike, have a strict focus on their product. Yes, there are times when their products fail, like when Zion Williamson literally fell out of his shoes and injured himself. But, for the most part, companies like Nike stand proud behind their products. 

If you’re a company with a product or service that a customer that has a genuine complaint toward your business, it’s not worth becoming defensive as it will hurt your product, brand and customer experience. Instead, have an operating budget to ensure reimbursement or future discounts are accounted for. This simple tactic will save your product’s reputation.

Marketing and Brand:

Does your marketing educate your customers or does it simply showcase what you have to sell?

This is actually where I think SweetGreen does a poor job. Yes, their Instagram shows their audience pretty pictures, shares their relationship with famed chef, David Chang and showcases their latest bowls, but it doesn’t make me a more informed customer.

My friend, Clay Hebert, refers to this as “look at me vs. learn from me” content.

I’d be more inclined to engage with SweetGreen’s content if they taught me ways to be a better home chef. Imagine if they took their audience on a step by step guide on how to make the perfect trout (an item on their menu) in the ovens of our homes? 

Before you think,

“Well, Michel. Wouldn’t SweetGreen want their customers to eat in their stores, not their homes?” Don’t be so cynical. A true home chef wouldn’t need these step by step instructions in the first place. But, the far majority of people might try it once or twice then revert back to ordering from where they learned the recipes.

Creating customer-centric content for your marketing and branding strategies are imperative if you want to have a comprehensive customer experience strategy.

Think of the ways your products or service can make your current and prospective audiences smarter in your industry. Trust me, even the most “boring” of industries can give their audience the gift of education. This will make your customer experience stronger and earn customer loyalty.

What Does This Mean For You and Your Business?

Customer experience can impact all five senses. It’s what see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Hotels are a great example of this which is why many industries turn to hospitality to learn new customer experience strategies.

Beyond that, it’s what they feel. Do your customers feel like it’s easy to do business with you? Do your customers feel like you care about the details? Do your customers feel like you care about their patronage?

Are you interested in improving your company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience? If so, my online course, Team Operating System, may be your solution.

Click this link to book a call with me directly to learn if the course is right for you and your company.