No, no, no, no, no, no!

Maybe I am just different, but I get REALLY annoyed when I see very smart people do, what I consider to be, very short-sighted things.

This morning I saw a well-known and highly respected leadership authority talking about how to teach leadership to young people.  (First strike was calling them millennials, but I’ll let that slide this time.) His contention: put it on their phone, give them an app and let them text each other.

This is when I shook my head and said, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no!”  Just like Lego Batman.

If you want employees to get their eyes away from the screen, you don’t give them MORE REASONS TO LOOK AT THE SCREEN!!!  This is especially true when it comes to leadership. Want to build someone’s ability to deal with conflict?  Put them in a conflict situation and coach them through it. Want to build up someone’s skill in providing real, effective and genuine feedback? Put them in that situation and coach them through it.  Want to help develop a new leaders decision making skills?  Give them decisions to make and coach them through the outcome. Are you seeing a trend here?

I get this guys desire to jump on the app bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean its right for every situation.  Got an app to track your steps?  Sure! Got an app to help keep your travel plans organized? Absolutely? But an app to teach people how to interact with another human being? I’m a little skeptical.

Why the skepticism from an optimist?  Because I have seen first hand the difference between how people act and interact in person versus online.  It’s quite literally night and day in many cases.  And leadership is about communication and relationships, which are built and sustained in person (or phone, Skype, etc. – someplace where you are interacting with another human in real time).  Just look at how many people feel alone even though they have a bazillion friends and followers on social media.

I’ve said it before… leadership is a full contact sport.  You’ve got to get in there, mess things up, make some mistakes, get humbled, have some success and LEARN from every experience.  It’s a journey that takes a long time, and is never really finished (if you are doing it right). And in my opinion, cannot be learned by looking at your phone.

Related: If you’ll be at IAAPA’s IAE18 in November, I’ll be talking about how to create a supervisor training program that fits any budget.

Whether you will be at the expo or not, if you are looking for an non-app based ready-to-go Supervisor Training Program, check out The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program. 

Hoping to see many of you at the Expo! It’s going to be a great week!

Thanks for reading!!

Matt’s IAAPA Don’t Miss list:

My Mean Joe Greene moment

I recently had what I can only describe as a “Mean Joe Greene” moment. If you weren’t watching football in 1979, you might not know what that means.  Here is the historical document that will put that phrase into perspective:

Very much like the kid in that stadium tunnel, my MJG moment included me receiving an unexpected gift from an unexpected source.

Here’s the story… I was brought in to work with a client recently who had some people who were not playing well with one another.  It’s not a huge company, so any disruption in the work-life harmony was noticed by many and it spread quickly.

One individual, we’ll call him “Jim”, was a guy I was particularly warned about. “He’s gruff, grumpy, and is really unhappy outside of work.”

This should be fun.

So I met with Jim and we started talking. We first spoke about the job, the company, and his work-related challenges.  Somewhere along the line the conversation turned to what he did outside of work, and football came up. He mentioned he was a Browns fan and our conversation detoured from work for a bit. Growing up in Cleveland myself, we had a lot to discuss from the Kardiac Kids to Bernie Kosar, Jim Brown, and the early days of Bill Belichick.

We then started talking about music… he was also a drummer, worked with lots of bands and even ran sound and lights for many years.  So the conversation went down THAT rabbit hole for a bit.

We steered it back to work and finished up. I thanked Jim for his time and he went back to his department.

A few hours later, I was leaving for the day and I was about 1/2 way to my car in the parking lot when I heard someone calling after me. I turned to see Jim walking toward me with something in his hand.  As he got closer, he revealed this Browns lighter.

When we were speaking earlier in the day, he mentioned getting this from someone in the Browns organization, and that he actually had two.  Not being a smoker, he doesn’t really have a need for one, let alone two.  I’m not a smoker either, but he wanted this to go to a fan, even if I would never use it.  “Better to go to a fan than in the trash”, he said.

As I walked to my car, I totally felt like that kid in the Coke commercial. Jim was a guy that was supposed to be gruff, tough and didn’t like anyone, yet here he is giving me something that meant something to him, because he figured it would mean something to me.

And it does mean something to me.

So how did this happen? Like the kid in the commercial offering Joe his Coke, I offered Jim somethings without expecting anything in return… my time, a listening ear and my genuine interest.  I was also careful NOT treat him like he was the gruff and tough so and so that I was warned about. It’s AMAZING the barriers you can break down when you listen to people without judgement.

To be fair, I do also think it helped that we had no history, meaning that there wasn’t any bad blood or muddy water under the bridge to clutter our conversation.  We all know that kind of baggage can prevent us from seeing things clearly, or it can even stop us from attempting to foster a solution.  But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.

If you have a team member like Jim, don’t write them off just yet.  Be the leader you know you need to be and bury the hatchet, let bygones be bygones and wipe the slate clean.  Whatever cliche you choose to adopt, it’s up to you to take the first step, to listen, and to invest the time to build the bonds you know you need to build.

And who knows, you may end up with a Mean Joe Greene story of your own to tell!

Thanks for reading!

Mastermind (group/peer coaching) groups forming NOW! Programs start in January 2019!

To apply: http://www.performanceoptimist.com/mastermindapplication.html

Service recovery… on the flip side.

My faith in service recovery has been restored!  Many of you remember my tale of a cancelled flight and the subsequent call at 2 am that was a complete service recovery failure.  If you missed it, check it out here.

Then, this morning, I get the following email (different company, different situation), that is again an attempt at service recovery. To me, this one is so many light-years better than my previous example, I just have to share it in it’s entirety.  I don’t even think you need much context, I think you’ll get the drift.

Pretty spectacular, huh?  Before we go any further, I will not hesitate to recommend SuperheroStuff.com for any of your superhero stuff-type needs.  I needed buttons.  You might need a t-shirt or a hoody.  Here is a direct link their site: https://www.superherostuff.com/

Now, I hope we can all agree that this was a great way to handle a lack of inventory. Since I’m all about the learnin’, lets break this down to see exactly what they did so we can all up our service recovery game.

  1. Addressed me by my first name. This is personal to ME!
  2. Stated the problem quickly (and in a humorous way). ‘Holy Inventory error Batman!”  Showed they knew what the problem was and weren’t afraid to admit it was their fault.
  3. Again admitted it was THIER problem (“we had a snafu”) then stated its impact to me.
  4. They apologized. Early and sincerely.
  5. Used soft language (“I was wondering if there was another item you might…”).  No demands (“You gotta pick new ones” or “you’re going to have to drive to Charlotte” – see previous post for more on THAT one!)
  6. No robo-choices (“we’ve substituted 5 other random buttons”)
  7. Made the resolution easy (and their responsibility).  I just had to pick 5 other buttons (link included) and viola – done!  Even brought back a little humor!
  8. Apologized again and told me they appreciate my business.
  9. Showed more humor and consistent branding/theming in the signature block.  But ALSO included a real name. Imagine responding and addressing the email to: Black Widow?

Was there anything else you noticed?  How would you have reacted if you got this same email?

Most importantly, how many of these things do you or your teams do when responding to a guest concern or situation?  I think one of the great things about this is how quickly they admitted wrongdoing and started proposing solutions.  Gave me no time to stew and get disproportionately angry.

Have a great service recovery story to spin?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

Are you listening to THE LEADING resource for leaders in the attractions industry?  If you aren’t listening to the AttractionPros podcast, that answer would be no.

The 6 words I didn’t want to hear at 2 am

Thing is, I had already planned for the exact situation described by these words in the middle of the night.  In fact, I was kind of excited about it.

How about some context…

My wife and I were at dinner at a friends house and I had put my phone on a table away from where we were sitting. When we got up to clear the table after dessert, I decided just to peek at my phone since I was traveling to a conference the next day.  That’s when I saw this text:

Okay. Flight cancelled. Not the entire flight, just the first leg.  With the amount of traveling I do, this was bound to happen, right?  Not a big deal, I will call the number and get rebooked.

Except, when I called the number, I got an automated system telling me that the department I was trying to reach was extremely busy and that I should call back later, then the system hung up on me.

Three more attempts, same result.

Again, I get it. Everyone and their brother was trying to call in at the same time.

I checked my connecting flight out of Charlotte (CLT) and it was still listed as scheduled and on time.  So, worst case scenario, I would drive to Charlotte (2-hour drive I had done MANY times) and catch that flight.  It was shaping up to be a nice weather day, so I actually started looking forward to driving the convertible to Charlotte and having a little less airport time than usual.

I tried calling the number one more time.  This time I had the ability to leave a callback number, since they said the hold time would be in excess of 4 hours. Yeah, YOU can call ME back, please.

So, at about 2 am, the phone rings.  I was asleep, but I got up and took the call.

After being on hold for a few more minutes, an agent came on and asked how she could help. I said, “You, well not you personally, but American Airlines cancelled my flight tomorrow and I was told to call this number to get it rebooked.”

Silence as she looked up my reservation.

The next 6 words I heard, even though I was already preparing to do this very thing, made my blood boil.

The attendant came on and said, “You’ll have to drive to Charlotte.”

No context, no apology, no asking about my circumstances or if driving was even an option. What if I didn’t have a car?  What if I was unable to drive and relied on someone else to get me from point A to B.  What if this wasn’t a 2-hour drive for me, but a cross-country flight? What if, what if, what if?

Feeling my face getting warm, I asked, “So since the airline canceled the flight, are they going to pay for a rental car, gas, a shuttle, anything since this is a major hassle?”

I sensed a slight scoff/chuckle/sigh… “No”, was the only answer I got.

Why was this making me so upset when I was planning to do the thing she just told me to do in the first place?

Probably because it was no longer my choice. Probably because I still expected some sort of resolution from the company that put me in this position in the first place.  And probably, most likely, because the agent made no effort whatsoever to empathize or even understand my situation.  She had likely been on the phone with hundreds of others just like me, but that doesn’t matter. To help me, she ideally should get try to find out more.

The rest of the conversation didn’t go so well, and more for the people who might be “monitoring and recording these calls for quality assurance” I did express to her just how let down and abandoned I felt.

Her, “well, you could just cancel this entire flight and rebook with someone else comment”, really set me off.  If I had any question before, there was no doubt now that her priority was to get me off the phone, not get me to Las Vegas.

Thing is, if, at 2 AM, she would have said, “I am so sorry sir, it looks like we won’t be able to rebook you on a flight to make your connection.  Can we look at alternate ways to get you to Charlotte, or maybe rebook you on another flight to Las Vegas altogether?”, this wouldn’t even be a blog post.

During the rest of the conversation, though, she made it clear that she was “over” dealing with people that she had to rebook.  I was likely not the only person who got a little upset, and wouldn’t be the last. At one point she even said that. “Sir, I just need to finish this so I can get to the other 1000 people that are waiting.”

Wow.

So I think there are two morals to the story.

  1. Word choice matters – especially when dealing with someone who you (or your company) had a hand in inconveniencing. A simple apology or acknowledgement (and willingness to take care of the situation) goes A LONG WAY.  I was ready to do EXACTLY what she was now telling me to do, but it was conveyed in an uncaring, almost combative way.  Even if she knew she couldn’t do anything but refund the unused portion of my trip, the slightest inkling to want to help would have changed the entire dynamic of the conversation.
  2. Take a break – Would it have mattered if I got this call at 2 or 2:15 AM?  Not to me. But I would imagine that the people overseeing the call center were adamant about clearing those call queues as fast as they could.  In fact, this agent may have been pushing HERSELF to the brink out of a sense of duty.  When we get pushed, or push ourselves, to our very outer limits, we can often do and say things we wouldn’t normally do. Taking a few moments to catch our breath or even expend some pent up anger can do wonders for your outlook.

Related – the topic of the “grumble station”, a spot for guest service personnel to safely and appropriately rid themselves of extra frustration-induced anger/energy, is outlined in The Myth of Employee Burnout.

As an update, I started writing this post before knowing that this situation was a result of a computer glitch with American Eagle affiliate PSA Airlines.  That being said, it’s understandable that agents would be getting pushed (and pushing themselves) to the limit to take care of their customers.  I think a little care for themselves would have made caring for their customers just a bit easier.

Thanks for reading!

Want to lead your teams better?  Invest in yourself!  Just two hours a month can yield INCREDIBLE results, if you spend those two hours the right way!

Learn more about POC’s Mastermind program for attractions leaders.

Gotta keep ’em calibrated

During a recent trip, I had a very interesting conversation with a friend who works in telecom.  He used to work in the attractions world, so he is still one of “us”!

He told me about something they do called a calibration meeting.  He works in quality control, and during the calibration meeting, everyone who works in quality control gets together to ensure that their interpretation of the rules and standards are the same. I thought this was brilliant.

Especially for a quality control department, if the view of quality is different, you have no control! In some ways, we ALL work in the quality control department.

We may call it something else, of course.  You may be an Operations Manager, or a Retail Supervisor, or an Accounting Lead, but our goals are all the same: produce a HIGH QUALITY product.

That product could be service to an employee or guest, a tasty funnel cake or accurate accounting methods.  In any case, you are responsible for QUALITY!

So it only makes sense that your vision of quality and your team’s vision of quality be the same. Calibrated, even.

Like you have heard me talk about before, that starts with your company values and goals.  But it’s not enough to know what they are, you also have to have a shared vision of what they mean, what they look like, and how they will be enforced.

And yes, I have encouraged many individuals and companies to define their values, determine what specific, observable behaviors indicate that those values are being “lived” (or not lived) and the steps to coach or discipline as appropriate.  In a way, this is a method of calibration, but I think we can take it a step further.

What this conversation with my friend taught me is that there is also an opportunity for those in charge (us) to more deeply examine the values and calibrate OUR vision of quality based on those values.  And not just our vision, but again, how we will enforce them.

How often, during a leadership meeting, for example, do we talk specifically about our company values, especially in the context of the leadership team being on the same page regarding what they look like and how they will be enforced?  If the answer is never or not much, you have the opportunity to be a little bit better calibrated.

And why would you care? If you have ever wondered why one department “gets away” with certain things that you vigorously enforce, a lack of calibration is why. Not only is it frustrating for you, but it’s also frustrating and confusing for your employees.  They see the result of the lack of calibration (and thus, consistency), and wonder why things are not the same between departments.

A “calibrated” leadership team shares a vision of the quality product they are producing and acts consistently while either recognizing or correcting value-based behaviors.

Let’s pause. Do you think your leadership teams are calibrated?

With all this talk of calibration it can be easy to think I am advocating for an almost-robotic approach to leadership.  I am not.  Any of these calibration discussions have to balanced with compassion and judgement.  That said, I think where the calibration discussion is a true benefit is that requires your actions be justified.  If you feel that a situation warrants an approach that is outside of the agreed upon calibration, fine.  But you better be able to make your case.  And your argument should not begin with, “we’ve always done it that way…”

If you can truly explain WHY your situation is different, I am sure the leaders around you will buy in.  It’s when we have no rhyme or reason, or we are acting out of insecurity rather than compassion that our actions could be questioned… and rightly so.

If you have a set of values or guiding principles, you CAN calibrate your teams to ensure those values or principles are being adhered to. Ultimately, calibration leads to consistency, and don’t all of your guests deserve a consistently HIGH QUALITY experience?

I thought so.

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

If you are trying to calibrate your own leadership skills, might I suggest joining a mastermind group? I think it’s a pretty cool program, but don’t take my word for it, here is a recent graduate talking about the experience.

Are you master of your leadership domain?

There is more than one way to develop leadership skills.  Classes are great.  Books are great. I believe in both of those methods.

I also believe that sometimes you just need to sit down with a small group of trusted peers and hash things out.  That’s what we do in a Mastermind group.

As you’ll see in this video, you don’t have to be, or think of yourself as, a “MASTERMIND” to be part of the group. To the contrary, the mastermind IS the group. It’s the “more heads are better than one” theory.

So if you have ever felt overwhelmed, alone, or just like you need some guidance, this program is for you.

To learn more and to apply for an upcoming program, click here.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

Thanks for watching!

Performance Optimist Consulting

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

A failure of leadership

I’m not even sure where to begin.  Maybe, like my friend did with the story below, I will start at the end, with the lesson.

Good employees don’t just leave bad managers. Good employees leave when ineffective managers can’t handle or resolve conflict, nor stop an employee when their destructive behavior impacts the team.

Here we go…

A good friend recently took a new job.  I knew he wasn’t entirely happy at his old job, but I had no idea how miserable the work environment had become until tonight.  After a 2-1/2 hour Skype call, I had a better idea.

As my friend (we’ll call him Peter) started relaying the story, he said, “I’m going to give you the last page of the book first.  My boss failed me.  I actually think she failed the company as well.  There were things going on that she had the authority and responsibility to fix, but she didn’t.”

So I asked, “what was going on?”

Peter had hired a new person (we’ll call him Daniel) for his team who was highly intelligent and articulate, but came with some “communication issues” according to his old boss.  Peter was impressed by Daniel’s desire and drive, so he hired him.

Not too long after, Daniel’s communication issues came to light.  What Daniel’s old boss really meant to say was that Daniel was a manipulator and tended to pit people against each other for his own gain.  Not good.

About a year after Daniel was hired, a position opened up that would be a promotion for Daniel and would make him a peer with Peter.  Daniel and Peter talked about it, and Peter didn’t feel Daniel was ready and told him so. Peter explained that to be ready for the promotion, Daniel would need more experience in certain areas of the job, but Peter was committed to putting Daniel on a path to get there. Daniel was okay with that.  Or so it seemed.

Then, Daniel gets the promotion anyway without Peter’s knowledge. Peter later learned that Daniel had an offer letter for a job from another company, and while he can’t prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, he believed Daniel used that letter as leverage with Alicia (Peter’s boss) to force the issue. No other explanation was given, so that’s where it sat.

And this was just the beginning.

Daniel then started complaining to Peter (and everyone else) about the way Peter’s staff was treating him. His accusations were just believable enough at first that Peter took action and addressed his employees.  After a few (too many) times of this, Peter saw the pattern and stopped believing Daniel.  Daniel would also talk poorly about Peter to Peter’s staff and others, while continuing to play on people’s perception of what he said.  He would slightly alter his delivery or the emphasis of a message so that it left a lot open to interpretation.  When confronted about causing tension due to mixed messages he would skirt responsibility by saying, “that’s their perception, but it’s not what I intended.”

Then he would shrug his shoulders as if to say, “sorry, not sorry.”

And so it went on.  The trouble, Peter said, was that neither he nor Alicia saw Daniel for what he was right away.  It wasn’t until they started connecting the dots of various conversations and accounts that they realized just how much trouble and drama Daniel was causing.

Peter and Alicia both agreed something had to be done.  Peter didn’t shy away from the fact that he likely contributed to the situation by not recognizing what Daniel was doing and also by playing into it to some extent.  But the fix had to come from Alicia.  She oversaw both of them and it was time for her to make things right.

But she didn’t.  She allowed Daniel to continue with his antics to the point that Peter just couldn’t take it anymore, so he found another job.  Daniel still works there.

And this is what we mean when we say that good employees leave because of the inability of leaders to manage conflict, or to stop destructive behavior.  Alicia chose to look the other way and NOT address Daniel’s manipulation.

If we dig a little deeper, we might not be too surprised by Alicia’s actions.  According to Peter, she consistently avoided conflict and even reacted with nervous laughter anytime situations got remotely tense.  She also seemed to lack the confidence to stand her ground which led to waffling of opinions.  She would also then get defensive when questioned or challenged.

And by Alicia’s own admission, she rarely saw her boss.  Their biweekly one-on-one meeting was often cancelled and when it wasn’t, her boss was “on his phone” during a majority of the meeting.  To me, this is another failure of leadership, as he wasn’t engaged enough in Alicia’s performance to address her weaknesses and help her develop.

And because of that, Peter left.  But Peter wasn’t the only one.  Out of a 7 person team, 6 people have left or are leaving. Daniel is still there.

Should we be worried when good people leave?  Of course.  What this also shows us is that this can be a double whammy.  Ignore the bad behavior, and that’s all you’ll be left with.

If there is conflict on your team, you have to deal with it.  You might not resolve it 100% the first time you address it, but you have to take the first step.

If you don’t know how to deal with the conflict, the first step is to get help.  I’d be happy to assist, so contact me anytime so we can make sure this blog post doesn’t turn into your biography.

Thanks for reading!

Performance Optimist Consulting

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

I know you REALLY don’t want your employees to burnout this season.  If only there was something that could be done… oh wait…

Time management versus adding staff

I’ve recently started working with a new client, and have been conducting “discovery” calls with some of their management team members to assess their challenges and how I can best help.

Out of the 7 people I spoke to, all but one mentioned the same challenge. Time.

Time in the day to balance all of their tasks.  Somedays it would be great to have another “me”, they said.

I’m sure we’ve all been there, but what struck me was the consistency of this feedback among the people I spoke to.  6 out of 7.  Too much to do and not enough time. And they said that this was one of the things they all complained about when they got together, so it goes deeper than just this 6.  Hmmm…

So as I am hearing this I am noticing a trend.  This isn’t just one person that is feeling overwhelmed, it’s looking like the majority.  So my curiosity is piqued.

Do they need better time or action management skills, or is it time to expand the staff?  How do you know?

No, I’m asking.  How do YOU know?  We’re all trying to do more with less, but when does that reach the point where you are no longer effective because the demands of the job become unreasonable?  What measures do you look at to determine if spending more time or money up front would actually SAVE you money or allow you to MAKE more money as a result?

How many of you have felt this way… you’re just glad you made it through the day and that the facility didn’t burn down?  Many of us consider ourselves firefighters, putting out one fire as you wait for another one to flare up. We tolerate lower guest service levels because we just don’t have the time, staff tor resources to properly train and coach our frontline employees.  Something has to give. Budgets?  Nope.  Ordering supplies? Nope. Dealing with angry guests? No, but…

Couldn’t we reduce the number of angry guests if we had more time to train and coach our frontline employees?  And don’t angry guests impact our reviews which drive repeat and new visitors?

I think this is where we get into a bit of a catch-22. You know, “a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.”

Are we not CAUSING the angry guests (or at least lack-luster service) in some cases because we have cut our staff or training budget?

Speaking of your staff, have you noticed that they need and crave more of our time than ever? This is not a condemnation of the younger generation, it’s a fact across all levels of employees.  Yet, with tighter budgets and fewer resources, many managers find themselves with less and less time to spend with their team, having to dedicate a huge chunk of their day to meetings and admin work.  When I talk to people about coaching their employees, they are all for it, but then ask, “when am I supposed to do that?  I barely have time to walk by and say hi, let alone spend time actually observing their performance.”

I’ve always said that eventually we would hit a tipping point… where the more-with-less mantra would cease to be effective because employee performance would dip to the point of unacceptable.  Funny thing is, in many areas it has (how many times have YOU complained about the state of customer service today?), but no one wants to blame the more-with-less initiatives.  It’s got to be the employees fault, right?

If I had a nickel for every time a manager complained to me about their employees not interacting with guests, I’d need a few semi trailers to hold all those coins.  Here’s the catch-22.  So much of our training has either gone online, on a mobile device, or we’ve cut back the hours because we don’t think our employees have the attention span. So when are we teaching them guest service and interaction skills?  Oh right, their manager is supposed to teach them when they get to their jobs but wait, they’re in a meeting or putting out another fire.

SOAPBOX MOMENT: Regarding shorter training times… if someone is falling asleep in your session or it appears their mind is wandering, it couldn’t be because you’re delivering the material in a lackluster, boring way, could it?  No, it has to be their nano-second attention span.  If they aren’t engaging, change up what you are doing so they WILL engage.  Getting through it faster won’t help.

This is precisely why I made the decision to not make the Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training program available as an app or an online course.  To learn to lead you have to get in there, mix it up, talk to people, make some mistakes, put your ideas out there…. and this takes TIME!  Leadership is a full contact sport… one that you cannot learn by looking at your phone. But I digress…

So I’ll get back to the original question… how do YOU know when it’s appropriate to polish up your time management skills or add more staff or resources?  Would love to hear your comments below!

Thanks for reading!!

www.performanceoptimist.com

No catch-22 here! :o)

 

Even new hires at TSA want to do their best

We’ve all heard the horror stories and jokes about TSA agents. Some of the ridicule and criticism is warranted whether on an individual or organizational level, some is not. One thing you can’t argue from a recent experience that I had… even TSA new hires have a desire to do their best.

The other day there were two trainees at my home airport in Asheville, NC. I could tell they were new right away because they both wore white, button-down shirts rather than the typical blue ones.

They were also behaving a little different than many TSA agents… they were smiling, friendly and attentive.  They were a little timid in their duties as their trainers looked on, but they seemed to be getting the hang of things. I saw one of them ask his trainer a procedural question, trying to understand the finer points of his new job.

Why are these observations so important?  Because jokes and criticism aside, these two were in it to win it.  They had undoubtedly heard about the bad reputation TSA had, yet still chose to seek employment there.  Maybe they would be the agents of change that would turn around the entire agency.

Or, in a few short months, maybe they will be just like most of the people we have come to expect who are checking our ID’s and boarding passes… gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful.

(I’m just going to leave this right here.)

(To be fair, not ALL TSA agents are gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful… the ones in Manchester, NH were very friendly today, but they are not the norm in my experience.)

But here they are as new hires, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the world.  Sound familiar?

In any job, new hires are generally engaged and ready to impress.  Their purpose is easy to identify and articulate… to learn their job and make a good impression so they can KEEP their new job.  Once they have accomplished that, then what?

They need a new purpose. But sometimes they don’t find one. And that’s our fault.

Once someone moves on from the honeymoon phase of a job, they need new challenges and to be reminded of how they fit into the big picture. To this point they have just been trying to fit in, now they need some context.  Sure, in orientation we talked about the company values and goals, but honestly for a new hire those don’t mean much until they see them in action.

Which is why, when I work various parks and attractions, one of the first things I ask about is their values.  Do they have them (most do) and what are they doing with them (some a lot, some not much).

Sometimes it’s that a company will have a set of values, but they only reside on a poster in the training room.  No one really knows what they are, what they look like, or as leaders, how to role model and enforce them.

So when I think about these TSA trainees, I wonder which set of values they are being exposed to after the initial training period.  Will it be the ones they talk about on the website: Integrity, Innovation and Team Spirit?  Or, will it be what the tenured agents have told them and demonstrated the values to be… gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful?

I don’t think ANY employee at ANY job starts off with the intent to be mediocre or to live a set of underwhelming values.  But if we don’t actively model and enforce the right values, who knows where that journey will take them?

Thanks for reading!

Want to train your SUPERVISORS to role model the right behaviors so your new hires don’t fizzle out?  We’ve got just the thing…

Why you absolutely, positively do NOT need a leadership coach in 2018

In 2018, business is slowing down.  We’ve got more resources at our fingertips than ever, and we have the time to use all of them to their fullest.  You just got out of a meeting where your boss said your budget was increasing and was reversing the “we’ve got to do more with less” directive.

Your applicant pool is deep and wide, and you get to pick from the best of the best.  Your current staff is 100% on board and all working together to reach your company goals.  There is no in-fighting, no dissension in the ranks, no drama, no insubordination.  Everyone works as hard as they say they do, and appreciates the uncompromising efforts of their co-workers.

No one is thinking of leaving for a different job, especially you. You’re ensconced.  Your boss listens to you, your ideas are met with open arms and you know exactly what it takes to communicate effectively with everyone you work with.

Oh, and everyone has a Unicorn as a pet and lives forever.

How nice would all that be? Maybe a little boring if it were ALL true, but that seems to be the utopian image we get when we think about the perfect workplace.

Of course it’s not real.  But you already knew that.

There IS drama, in-fighting and people who don’t listen. We DO have challenges with budgets, staffing and keeping everyone on the same page… and it’s never ending.

Because you are a leader, a problem solver and person who by-golly gets things done, you have found ways to make the best of those situations.

But what about the stuff that slips through the cracks?  Doing “more with less” is a popular mantra that doesn’t seem to be going away. And who has to do more?  That would be you.

But that doesn’t have to mean failure, pain and heartache.  Quite the opposite, it can present untold and unthought of opportunities that could take your leadership performance and your business to the next level.  But only if you are willing to ask for some help.

One of my favorite quotes about coaching comes from my friend Mike Auman.  We worked together at Universal Orlando Resort, and he used to say: “how many professional sports teams have coaches?  All of them.”  Of course highly paid athletes should have their stuff together, but even they need guidance, encouragement and course corrections.  What makes us think we are any different?

In just the last few weeks, I have gotten a number of calls from people who needed a little help. Maybe not enough to sign up for a full 6 or 12-month coaching program, but just a little push to get them over the cliff, as it were.

Exhibit A: A guest experience director at a museum called because she had been assigned the task of improving the culture in her facility, and didn’t know the best way to propose her plan to her boss.  We talked about the best ways to connect the dots and actually work the process backwards for him.  She did it, and told me it worked like a charm.

Exhibit B: A guest services manager at a theme park wasn’t feeling the passion anymore.  He was afraid to start looking in other departments because he was afraid his bosses would take that as a lack of loyalty and try to block his move. Turned out the fear was on him… he was afraid to rock the boat.  Once he realized that he knew what he had to do. He is now seeking another position in a different department.

So now you can probably see that I don’t really believe the title of this post.  I do think everyone can use a little help now and then, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.  The number of CEO’s seeking the council of an executive coach is growing everyday.  Why should a lead, supervisor, manager or director be even different?  A case can be made that people on their way to a CEO position need it even more.

If you need some help and are willing to ask, here are some options;

  • Ask your manager – either ask them to coach you (more strategically than they may be right now) or ask them to financially support your desire to seek a coach from outside the company.
  • Seek out a mentor – generally someone in a different department or even from a different company, they should be a leader you know and respect
  • Enroll in a specific coaching programlike the options I offer, a more formal coaching program can bring you incredible insight from a trained and experienced coach who knows how to get to the heart of the matter to find the best solutions. The best coach for you will be able to understand what you are going through while being able to offer viewpoints that you wouldn’t be able to see on your own. I like to tell people that I (or any good coach) will provide an outsiders perspective with an insiders insight.”

If you agree with me but not with the title of this post, give me a call and we’ll see if we’re a good coaching fit.  One-off, 90 minute sessions are available, along with more in-depth 6 and 12 month programs.

Related: The Power of A Trusted Network (group coaching program)

Related: NEW Facebook Group: ALL CLEAR – Private Learning Community for Attractions Leaders

Thanks for reading!

Just like you DON’T NEED COACHING, you don’t need this book on SUPERVISOR DEVELOPMENT, either!!