Big time service in a small town

Since moving to the mountains of North Carolina, we have encountered many “small-town” pleasures… being surrounded by caring neighbors, greatly reduced traffic-induced anxiety, and knowing both our mail carrier and UPS driver by name.

Before we even moved in, we happened to run into a local UPS guy who told us that Eric would be our driver.  Based on our businesses, we knew that UPS would be making lots of trips up and down “The Beast” (our neighbors unofficial name of our steep and curvy driveway).

And Eric has proven to be a reliable, pleasant, personable and considerate deliverer of goods. He is always smiling and ready to offer a friendly greeting or comment.  It’s been fun getting to know him, and we especially appreciated the over-and-above service he provided the other day.

First, a little context: while in Orlando recently, my laptop bag was stolen. And yes, my laptop was in it at the time. Upon returning home, I trucked off to the Apple store to get a replacement.  They didn’t have the exact configuration I wanted, so I had to order it and have it shipped to my house. I had already been without my main laptop for about a week, so what’s a few more days?

I knew I was going to have to sign for the box when the laptop was delivered, so I watched the tracking carefully to make sure either my wife or I would be home.  On the day it was to arrive, it said the earliest it would be delivered was 1 pm.  My wife and I had some errands to run, so we got in the car and headed down “The Beast” at about 10 am.  We would be back in plenty of time.

As we headed down the driveway, a very familiar brown truck made it’s way past our driveway and up the road. I wondered if it was Eric just as the truck started to slow down.  It stopped right in the middle of the road, and I knew what was happening.

Eric saw our car coming down the driveway, and because he knew we were going to have to sign for the package, he decided to stop and make sure we got it right then to avoid missing us on his way back through the neighborhood.

To me, that was amazing. 

He didn’t have to do that. He could have kept driving, knowing that he would have gotten back around to our house eventually and maybe someone would have been there to sign for the package, maybe not. In the grand scheme of things, what difference did it make to him?

Thankfully for me, it made at least a little difference to him, and his actions made a BIG difference to me.

And quite frankly, I don’t know if this scenario plays out the same way in a different municipality, if a different driver was on the route that day or if we hadn’t gotten to know Eric before this point. My guess is that it wouldn’t have.

So first and foremost, I am thankful to Eric and his efforts to make sure I got my new laptop in a timely manner.  Secondly, I think there is a business lesson to explore.

Not knowing a ton about the UPS culture, I would imagine that as an experienced driver, Eric has the freedom to make these kinds of decisions… to alter his route or delivery schedule to better serve his customers.  What’s another way to say “freedom to make decisions”?

Empowerment.

Yes, I said it. And yes, I know that this was an over-used business cliche a number of years ago.  But here’s the thing… when it’s done right, it actually works.

I think empowerment has gotten a bad rap because of the lazy managers who let the process fail.  You can’t simply say to an employee, “you’re empowered” and expect them to all-of-a-sudden know what they are empowered to actually do.  It just doesn’t work that way.

But that’s what we did back in the day. We told people they were empowered and left it at that. We then scratched our heads when this great empowerment initiative didn’t work.

Once you say, “you’re empowered”, thats when the work actually STARTS!  Now you have to set parameters, provide guidance, seek out suggestions, give feedback, equip with resources, observe behaviors, rinse and repeat.

And maybe lazy is too harsh a word for those managers… maybe forgetful is more accurate?  How often do we forget what it’s like on the frontline, or to be a new employee?  How often do we forget that the things we know BY HEART are things that others may just be learning or may be struggling with?  How often do we forget that not everyone has had the same experiences that we have, which means they could be on a totally difference planet when it comes to appropriate empowerment.

Empowerment is like delegation… it takes a truckload (no UPS pun intended) of work upfront to make it work, but the results can be outstanding!

So whether UPS got empowerment right, or Eric just took it upon himself to help me out, the result was the same, and I am thankful.

Thanks for reading!

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Want to SLEEP BETTER?  Ensure your Supervisors are ready to LEAD with these two resources:

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program – takes the worry and stress out of supervisor development!

NEW BOOK – “ALL CLEAR! A Practical Guide For First Time Leaders and The People Who Support Them”.  Available NOW!

Trying something new!

Many of you have seen my #3Questions video series. If you haven’t, it’s an interview series I did where I would ask 3 questions of a guest and they would ask 3 questions of me. The guests I had were INCREDIBLE, and I want to thank them again for their time and willingness to share.

For the fun of it, decided to change up the format a little to challenge myself and to get even more people involved.

So… #3Questions LIVE was born.  I’ll explain more in the episode below, but long story short, YOU are now the guest.

Here are the questions I answered in Episode 1:

  1. Was Renegade really the best coaster on CNC 17?
  2. What advice do I have for someone who wants to write and speak?
  3. How do I get a job with Universal or Disney?

And here are the questions I have for you:

  1. How do you deal with “difficult” employees?
  2. What is your best advice for new leaders?
  3. What is your favorite coaster, attraction, exhibit, or haunt?

You can respond in the comments here, on YouTube, or email me: matt@performanceoptimist.comYou can also submit YOUR questions for me to address in another episode.  

Thanks for watching, listening, and participating!!!

Founder – Performance Optimist Consulting

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

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Want to SLEEP BETTER?  Ensure your Supervisors are ready to LEAD with these two resources:

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program – takes the worry and stress out of supervisor development!

NEW BOOK“ALL CLEAR! A Practical Guide For First Time Leaders and The People Who Support Them”.  Available for PRE-ORDER through Nov. 10!

 

 

 

Will you suffer from FOMO at IAE17?

FOMO – You know, that nagging feeling that something cool is going to happen and you’re going to miss it! 

Fear Of Missing Out.

And with the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando just around the corner… the FOMO is REAL!

So much to see, so much to do!  But where do you start?  With a plan.

If you are looking to take on some new knowledge, here are some of the educational opportunities I HIGHLY recommend!

For the full list of educational sessions, click here!

And if you miss a cool exhibitor (like my friends below), the FOMO will be unbearable!

Okay, seriously. Missing out on these last two things (not specifically IAAPA related, but still not to be missed!) SHOULD be keeping you up at night!

Just say NO to FOMO!!  Get involved and take it all in!

I’ll be there all week (tip your bartender!). Give me a ring at 407-435-8084 if you want to meet up!  Can’t wait to see you all!

Founder – Performance Optimist Consulting

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

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Bad service – who gets a pass?

My wife and I just spent a few wonderful days with friends in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Crazy Horse, Wall Drug… it was a GREAT time!  We even got to stop and see my friends Cameron, Vivian and Mark at Rushmore Tramway Adventures (with a bonus ride in the Mammoth)! 

And of course, with great times come great guest service lessons! 

Because it was October, the area was in the wind-down phase of their busy season.  We caught our friends at Rushmore Tramway Adventures on the very last day of operation, and other establishments were closing up soon or were at skeleton staffing levels.

Unfortunately, two experiences stood out with underperforming/unprepared staff members, but they were received very differently.  Here they are – would love to hear your take.

  • Server 1 – mentioned multiple times that she was normally the bartender and was not used to waiting tables. The service at this restaurant was slow and inconsistent.  There seemed to be one ketchup bottle being shared by all tables (5 out 30 were occupied), and 4 out of 6 of our orders were delivered incorrectly.  When service recovery was performed, it was with an air of frustration.
  • Server 2 (different restaurant)- When asked what beers were on draught, the waiter said, “I’m not sure, it’s only my 4th day.”  He was young and timid, hoping against hope to make it to his 5th day. “Could you find out, please?”, we asked. “Sure”, he said, and disappeared.  He came back with a written list. His confidence grew throughout the meal, and when service recovery was needed this time, there was a sincere apology AND a 10% discount on the bill.  In fact, one of our pizza’s came without the pepperoni we ordered.  We were too hungry to wait for another pizza to be made, so he brought out some cooked pepperoni to add to the pizza that had been delivered.

When analyzing the groups’ reaction, it confirmed something I have believed for a long time about service… people don’t necessarily want service perfection, but they do want effort and don’t want to hear excuses.  To me, the bartender telling us she wasn’t normally a server felt like an excuse.

I think it felt like an excuse because she didn’t put forth any effort to overcome the deficit.  We joked that she was probably also responsible for housekeeping, maintenance and renting kayaks at the lake during the summer… and she would have rather been doing any of those activities at that time.

It may be a fine line, but server 2, after announcing that it was his fourth day, never returned to the scene of the crime.  He didn’t use his lack of experience as a crutch. He smiled, answered our questions, apologized for errors, made efforts to improve, and actually did improve, right before our eyes.

Here’s what I find interesting… server 1 was probably in her late 30’s or early 40’s (I am a terrible judge of age), and had a worn name tag, like she had been working at this establishment for some time. She’s the experienced one who fell back on the “this isn’t my normal job” excuse. You would think, hope and maybe even expect that with her level of experience at that hotel/restaurant, that she would be able to jump in to many different positions and perhaps not excel, but at least not act like a fish out of water, either.

By contrast, server 2 was probably in his early 20’s, admittedly in his 4th day of employment at that restaurant, and didn’t seem to possess a TON of worldly work experience.  He was the one who busted his hump to make things right.

And who knows, maybe server 1 was like server 2 on her 4th day on the job?  Maybe she LEARNED how to shirk responsibility and play the victim from the people around her and her – GASP – leaders! Since we know that leaders have a tremendous impact on employee morale, engagement and productivity, she could just be reacting to her environment.

What are the lessons?

  • Cross train early and often – to combat the “not my job” syndrome at the end of a long season, prepare those who will be with you to the very end.  Create a plan to have them ready to take on the new role BEFORE others vacate the job.  Just because it’s the end of the season, it doesn’t mean that training is automatically easier or less time consuming (if you do it right).  When cross training is done at the 11th hour, it can be viewed as a desperation move, and people will be less likely to see it as an opportunity.  Doing it early gives you a chance to reframe the conversation from “oh crap, we have to do this” to “this is what we planned all along.”
  • Encourage effort, even if not perfect – server 2 wasn’t perfect, but he did display a good amount of effort.  That effort needs to be encouraged so he will put forth the effort again. That effort might show up as learning the draught beers by heart or reaffirming the order with the kitchen.
  • Discourage the “victim voice” – Even as you reframe the conversation with early cross training, you may still hear people saying “it’s not my job”, or “I normally don’t do this”. If they say it, they believe it.  If they believe it, their actions will reflect it. There is no need to beat them over the head with “it IS your job!  Your job description says ‘and other duties as assigned!'” Instead, talk to them about their objections… maybe learning a new area brings them back to new hire fears… maybe they have gotten so comfortable (and it’s taken awhile) that they don’t feel they can achieve that level of skill in such a short time.  They need to SEE for themselves that it IS their job (and that it will be okay) before they start telling themselves that.

What do you think? What do you do to prepare your team for the end of the season?

And oh… would you have given a “pass” to server 1 or 2?  Neither?  Both?  Let me know.

Server 2 gets a pass from me.  Server 1?  Not so much.

Thanks for reading!

FREE Event in Orlando – November 12, 2017

Seating is limited!  Click the pic for details and tickets!

“You should be a counselor.”

That’s what a friend said to me recently.

“You should be a counselor.”

What’s interesting is that I have heard that a number of times over the last few months from people I don’t normally work with.  This last time was just a few weeks ago.

Some friends from high school and I got together at a buddies lake cabin for a guys weekend. One friend and I sat down to have lunch one day and started talking about business.  He’s a business owner and he started sharing some things that had been going well and some things that had not been going so well.

I listened, asked some questions, and offered my perspective on a couple of his points. We spoke for about an hour and then he said, “man, that felt like therapy! You should be a counselor.”

I share this story for 2 reasons:

  1. If you are in a similar spot as my friend… maybe you’re stuck in a rut, or are looking to take things to the next level, but don’t know where to start, give me a call.
  2. This experience really solidified for me that if your personality, purpose and passions are fully aligned with what you do as a profession, work is no longer “work”, but an extension of your natural behaviors.

That second point really hit home because this conversation was not planned. We didn’t schedule a coaching or counseling session, we were just talking. But when my friend shared that something was bothering him, my mind immediately jumped to “helping” mode.

“How can I help him?  Or how can I help him help himself?”

And my PURPOSE, I believe, is to help people. It’s even in my tag line- Helping Leaders Lead. I learned early on that my greatest joy came when I could help other people be successful.

My PASSION is people (and the amusement park industry, of course!). I enjoy meeting people, hearing about their journeys and learning from their experiences. I could also talk for days about roller coasters, but that’s another story for another time.

And my PERSONALITY lends itself to serving my purpose and passion. I like having (and instigating) fun, but also enjoy listening to others, analyzing situations, and trying to connect the dots.

If your work is enjoyable and feels like a natural extention of what you do, there is a good chance your 3 P’s are in alignment.

Congratulations!!!

If that’s not the case for you, try this:

  • Passion – what do you care about? What do you go out of your way to learn about, or be involved with?  What are you constantly looking for or are aware of – no matter where you are? At a flea market recently, I found a tiny little toy bus that said Six Flags on it. It caught my eye right away and I had to have it. The people I was with said they never even noticed it. Probably because that’s not what they were looking for.  
  • Purpose – this is a big picture question… do you help people, build things (I.e. houses, roller coasters or kitchen cabinets), do you solve problems, do you communicate well or do you enjoy inspiring others? This is not an exhaustive list of “purposes”, but will hopefully give you an idea of what to ask yourself.
  • Personality– when are you at your most comfortable or productive? Are you on a stage, in an office or on a job site? Are you working with others or by yourself? Is the work largely cerebral or physically active? You can answer affirmative to more than one, and that’s okay. That means you can exist and thrive in many environments.

So if you are in a rut, trying to take things to the next level, or need help aligning your 3 P’s, give me a jingle.  We’ll see if my friend was right! :o)

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

A bunch of Supervisors from Silverwood Theme Park went through the Myth of Employee Burnout Training Program – here’s what they had to say about it.

 

If you liked that post…

Many of you have been faithful readers since I started this blog back in 2009. THANK YOU!! I love hearing about how you use the stories to better yourself and your business and quite frankly, that’s what keeps me going!

That’s also what led me to put together over 80 of my favorite leadership articles into one, free, downloadable eBook.

How do you get it? Click this link and enter your email so we know where to send it.  That’s it.

Should you have any trouble with the download, let me know right away.

Happy reading!!

This story just keeps getting better

Stop me if you heard this before… Sara was trying to figure out if she should hire a sales manager or not.  If you missed that story, click here for the details.

If you heard that story, you know that Sara, with the help of her Mastermind group, ultimately decided to hire a sales manager rather than try to spoon those duties onto her already-full plate.

While that story was really about having a trusted group of peer advisors, that wasn’t the end of the tale.

After I published that post, Sara emailed me to tell me that the person they hired is really working out well… he’s full of energy, has tons of creative ideas and fits the team and culture beautifully.

Then she dropped the hammer.  In addition to all that, attendance is up 34%.

Um.  Okay.  Wow.  How’s THAT for return on investment?

Of course there are many factors that could impact this bump in attendance. The park did debut a new attraction, so that has to be figured in.  Even with that, Sara is pretty confident that their sales guy has had a significant role in their success.

And maybe even more importantly, he has taken a huge burden off of Sara’s shoulders.  She is now free to deal with the 9,073 other things on her list.  That story of the ROI is a little less straightforward, but there is no denying his impact beyond the sales department.

What decisions are you wrestling with?  What would it mean to you to have a group of people in your corner whose sole purpose was to help you succeed?  If you would like to learn more about the Mastermind process and how it helped Sara, give me call (407-435-8084), send me an email or click here for more details.

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

Do you NOT play well with others??  Maybe individual coaching is more your speed.

  • Personalized program
  • Transform your leadership
  • Uncover unknown potential

 

Time management tips for leaders BY leaders

If you have ever struggled with managing your time and actions as a leader, don’t feel bad.  Everyone has a tale or seven about how time has gotten away from them or how they haven’t been as productive as they would like to be.

Which is why time management should be at the forefront of every leaders’ agenda.

Especially for new leaders…  learning to manage a whole new set of peers, tasks, responsibilities and employees can just about break most humans.  That’s why when I came across the following advice, I knew that it HAD to be shared!

These time management tips come from two experienced attractions leaders, Meghan Milliken (left) who is a Creative Intern at Herschend Family Entertainment, and Brittany Arndt (right), who is an Operations Leader at Walt Disney World.

I had reached out to Meghan for some help on an IAAPA eLearning course I am working on, and she enlisted the help of her roommate, Brittany.  I was looking for three major time management challenges that new supervisors face.

Here is what they said. You can take their advice to the bank!

Time Management Challenges

  • Don’t wear yourself out: when you’re a new manager, this may seem like the time to prove your worth – and what better way is there to show you’ve done that than with working extra hours? What most people don’t realize is that the extra hours put in today, will only lead to a lack of energy tomorrow. It’s not just understanding that balance, but its also understanding you shouldn’t have to prove your worth ethic through self-exhaustion.
  • Finding the right time to get to know your team – Respect is a two way street and one-on-one conversations with your team can help, but having to leave for something time sensitive or “more important” can be an issue. At the end of the day, projects like making a bulletin board doesn’t gain your teams TRUST, but talking to them and getting to know them will. Projects may look good on paper, but this is about learning to spend time on something much less tangible, but FAR more impactful on the people you’re leading. After all workplace relationships are the foundation on which your team stands.
  • Setting aside time to talk to your leader/boss – This one is especially tricky for NEW leaders with a boss they’ve never worked with before. It can be intimidating to approach them so many people don’t until they need help. This is the point of no return. Where the boss is left to imagine what it is you’ve actually been doing since you started. Instead of reaching this point, take a head start in requesting scheduled meetings with them. Taking the time to talk on a regular basis allows new leaders to learn their boss’ expectations and allows their bosses to offer advice as they pave their new path of leadership.

Some of this may actually sound counter-intuitive, and that’s what I really like about it!  If we only let our intuition drive us, we may never get out of our own way.

The first item on Meghan and Brittany’s list takes patience.  New leaders may not know it yet, but they are in a marathon, not a sprint. Conserving your energy is the only way to survive the long haul. It’s like Lao Tzu said…

Item 2 to me is about where you choose to spend (or invest) your time.  For new leaders, it can be easy to hide behind projects that take time, but offer little in terms building true rapport with your team.  If you look at time as an investment, you can also then look at the ROI (return on investment). “What will this activity do for me, the team or the organization in the long run?”

And how about that last one… are they really saying that in order to save time you have to spend more time?  Well, yes.  But spend it more wisely.  Spend it being proactive rather than reactive. Spend it building something, not putting out fires.

I can’t thank Meghan and Brittany enough for this incredible insight!  If you have time management tips that would help other leaders, feel free to put them in the comments or email them to me here.  Happy to pass them along!

Thanks for reading!

How’s this for a time saver?  With one move you can check “SUPERVISOR TRAINING” off your list!

The Myth of Employee Burnout 8 Week Supervisor Training Program is a ready-to-go training program that teaches your supervisors about leadership influence, communication and more!  Here’s what a recent graduate of the program said:

“I caught myself coasting, being able to sigh and take a breather, and realized No, No, No! If I coast, they coast. So I turned “it” back on. The lessons have made a difference in my thinking.”

Click here to learn more and order yours today!

*Waffles optional.

 

Visiting 7 amusement parks in 7 days taught us…

CNC17 (Coaster Nerd Con) is but a memory (and a bunch of Facebook posts), but the lessons learned still linger!

For those who like data, here are a few things to chew on:

  • Number of rides and coasters ridden: 52 rides on 27 coasters
  • Number 1 coaster of the trip (IMO) – Renegade at Valleyfair (especially in the rain at night!) Super fast, lots of airtime, and out. of. control.
  • Total length of all coaster track ridden: just over 28 miles
  • Day 1 of trip in MN – 59 degrees
  • Day 7 of trip in TX – 95 degrees (biggest temp swing on any CNC trip)
  • Total driving miles: just under 1300 miles

So what did we learn?  As I mentioned in my last post, we observed that an old concept is still true: the parks with the more visibly engaged management teams also had the best performing employees.

And the parks where this was most evident were Adventureland, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Silver Dollar City*.

I put an asterisk by Silver Dollar City because while we did see engaged management, there was something else going on there.  Something beyond employees and managers and good guest service.  At SDC, it wasn’t about a theme, it was about a lifestyle.  There was something so genuine about the experience that you didn’t feel you were in a “park”. It’s more like stepping into another time and the people aren’t employees or cast members or actors playing a role, this is who they are.  And for many, this is absolutely true.  For the craftspeople and artisans that line the foot trails, this IS their life.  And others around them embrace it.  I didn’t feel like anyone was putting on a “show” (unless they were literally part of a show) but that they were just living their lives and we had been invited to be a part of it.

While you can’t replicate that kind of atmosphere everywhere, you can replicate the genuineness that people display.  Whether you run a museum, zoo, theme park or FEC, allowing and encouraging people to use their talents and creativity on the job generally leads to higher satisfaction levels for both employees and guests.

Here are some things we oberserva-learned (made that up) during our trip:

  • Valleyfair – speaking of letting people be creative, there is no better way to stifle that creativity than to surrender your safety spiels and announcements wholly to an automated system. Luckily, Valleyfair balances this pretty well.  On many rides, we heard operators using the theme or name of the ride in their speils.  On High Roller (roller coaster), the operator would say, “enjoy your ride on the Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh Roller!” – and they would hold that out until the last car left the station.  At Renegade, they said “Yee Haw” as you left the station.  In both cases, guests were playing along, which enhanced their experience.  You can’t do that with a recorded speil that says the same thing every 45 seconds.  People tune those out.
  • Nickelodeon Universe – It was hard not to be nostalgic both here and at Valleyfair, since I had worked at both places. At NU though, the changes over the years not only included new rides and attractions, but a new name, brand and theme.  When I was there is was Knott’s Camp Snoopy, and it was themed to the woods of the upper mid-west.  It was cool and quaint and really neat.  And while there are some elements of the old park still there (like home plate from the old Met stadium), there are also LOTS of new things to dazzle the kiddies and extend a stay at the Mall.  And that’s when the “don’t do what you’ve always done” lesson kicked in.  It would have been neat for me to see the park exactly as it was when I worked there, but that would have been bad for business (most notably since the Knott’s name was no longer able to be used!).  For any business to survive, they have to change, grow, and adapt.  And that’s exactly what has happened.  The park has evolved to offer new and fresh experiences that keep people coming back.
  • Adventureland – This was our first visit, and boy were we impressed.  We enjoyed the mix of rides, the cleanliness of the park and the friendliness of the employees. It really shows that you don’t need a Disney or Universal sized budget to provide a great experience and excel in all areas of operation.  It just takes a commitment to quality and knowing who you are so you aren’t trying to be something that you’re not. PS – Petunia the Pig says hello!
  • World’s of Fun – Despite the rain (and it RAINED!), we had a great time at World’s of Fun! This was largely due to our tour guides, former IAAPA Ambassador and friend Deborah Burnett and her roommate Koen.

    Just before the deluge!

    They both have a deep love of the park and it’s history, and it was so fun hanging out with them and hearing their stories.  What this reiterated to me was that enthusiasm really is contagious, and that a positive attitude can make even a rainy day at an amusement park a fun and memorable experience.  Don’t let others, or the conditions of your situation, stifle your natural enthusiasm about something… there are others who need to see your example.

  • Silver Dollar City – See above! Oh, and do the cave tour.  It rocks.
  • Six Flags Over Texas – File this under, “you may not think people notice, but they do!”  Okay, so we rode The New Texas Giant a bunch of times on this visit.  A bunch. When we rode it first thing in the morning, there was a young lady with red hair at the controls, and she was there just about every time we rode. Toward the end of the night, she was still there, however this time she was on the load side of the platform where we could talk to her.  As we entered the station, she smiled and said in a humorous way, “oh you guys are back?  Going to the front seat again?”  Apparently, we made an impression – and were predictable! The point is that while I could see her diligently watching the ride when at the controls position, it hadn’t dawned on me that she was actually paying attention to us – so much so that she remembered us and where we sat. Thinking back to my operating days, this really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  I remember when the same people would ride over and over and again, and it was fun to interact with them.  This also proves that as a leader, people are watching you, too. Your employees, guests, managers and peers – they all notice what you do, even if you don’t notice that they’ve noticed.
  • Six Flags Fiesta Texas – this is where the “visible management = better performing employees” really came to life.  While at the park, we had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with Park President Jeffrey Siebert, Director of Marketing Ron McKenzie, and Admissions/Waterpark Manager Josh Parisher.  And while a bunch of the time was spent geeking out and talking “theme parks”, we also got to observe these three in their natural habitat… talking to guests and employees, picking up trash and setting an incredible example for employees to follow.  One of the first things Jeffrey did while walking us through the park was to straighten a trash can on the walkway.  I found myself later wanting to do the same thing, almost as if I had stepped back into my management shoes and was suddenly responsible for such things.  But what was most impressive was how each of them, at different times, broke away from our conversations to address an employee, usually by name, and genuinely interact with them for a few moments.  We could tell by the employees’ reactions that this seemed to be a pretty normal occurrence, that talking to the upper management was not out of the ordinary. There were genuine smiles and conversations that only happen when a trusted relationship had been established. We also saw this when we weren’t with these three.  By and large the employees were friendly and efficient, and absolutely added to an outstanding overall guest experience.

A quick recap:

  • Find ways to let your employees use their creativity
  • Honor the past, but don’t get stuck in it
  • Budgets don’t determine quality, your commitment does
  • Let your enthusiasm be contagious
  • Be genuine, be who you are, know who you are
  • People notice what you do
  • Visible management = better performing employees (bonus – it all starts at the top!)

For some of you, there could be a few “A-HA” moments in there that you can work to implement.  For others, this may be validation of current practices.

For those of who KNOW this stuff but for some reason aren’t doing it, I challenge to think about why.  Is it you, your team, your company?  What is standing in the way?  What will it take to knock down the roadblocks?  Sometimes it can be hard to identify specifically what’s holding things back.  Let me know if you need some ideas about where to look.

Our itinerary for CNC18 is already in the works! Stay tuned for where we will go (and what we will learn) when we venture out next year!

Thanks for reading!

NEWS YOU CAN USE!!

Did this post get you thinking about how to develop your own leadership skills?  How about the skills of others?

For you:

Attractions Mastermind Group – a small, trusted group of peers who meet regularly to discuss issues and support one another

For your team:

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program – self-guided 8 week program that helps leaders build skills, relationships, and avoid burnout!!

4th of July… Resolutions?

If Jason McClure from Cedar Point can do a fun July 4th/Thanksgiving mash-up as a clever way to recognize his employees, I thought a July 4th/New Year’s mash-up might be fun, too!

Truth be told, I’m not big on actual New Year’s Resolutions, as they rarely last. What I am a fan of is when we we truly commitment to what we believe in.  And if you believe in your employees, there is no better time than right now to recommit and RESOLVE to support and guide them.

I will soon be sharing more of my observations during #CNC17 (Coaster Nerd Con) in which two buddies and I visited 7 parks over the last week, but what I can tell you now is this: the parks with the more visibly engaged management teams also had the best performing employees.

This really shouldn’t be a surprise if you have been following my rants about employee burnout for the last few years.  A leaders’ engagement has a direct impact on how an employee feels about their job and to what lengths they will go to be good at it.

The graph below shows what I have found to be the trend when tracking employee engagement.  Managers start off strong as employees are coming on board and the season is ramping up. As the season gets into full swing, if the management team disengages with employees or spends less time guiding and coaching them, employee engagement (morale, enthusiasm, energy) suffers (and it’s REALLY hard to get back).

Now, let’s not confuse leadership engagement with being busy – they are two different things. You can be doing a lot of stuff with very little time left at the end of the day.  But, are you doing the right things?  Are you taking an active role in the continued development of your team? Are you looking for and evaluating possible candidates to be in leadership roles next year?  Are you eliciting suggestions for improvements from your staff?

Heck, are you just out there with your team so they can see you?  At a few of the parks we went to, we didn’t see ANY management presence for about 90% of our day – and we were looking!  You can’t say you are engaged and only spend 10% of your time (if that) in the actual operation.

Contrast that with the parks that had engaging, service minded employees.  You saw a lot of this:

That is a manager at Six Flags Fiesta Texas picking up a piece of trash.  We saw this ALL DAY LONG there.  It made me, as a guest, want to pick up trash, too – which I did!  They were setting a great example, and the employees (and guests) were following it.

Now it’s your turn.  What is your 4th of July resolution?  What are you going to commit (or recommit) to that will help your employees feel supported and engaged?

If you feel so inclined, leave your resolution in the comments or email me here.  Would love to hear what you are committing to!

Thanks for reading!

DON’T LET YOUR EMPLOYEES BURNOUT THIS SEASON!!

You can prepare your supervisors to identify and eliminate burnout before it happens – but you have to start NOW! The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Development Program was designed with your busy schedule in mind!

“I am super excited about the Myth class. I have noticed a marked improvement in my supervisors who took the course. Their interactions with the employees they supervise have improved. They have a sense of purpose and belonging. The time spent in class definitely advanced their skills to the next level.”

  — Sam Gage, Director  of Operations, Silverwood Theme Park

Click here, or the picture below to learn more!!