Call me a coaster nerd, I really don’t mind

It’s time.

Yes, it’s time for CNC17 (coaster nerd con), where two buddies and I descend on one particular area of the country and begin an epic roller coaster road trip.  This year’s trip will kick off June 24th in Minneapolis.

Our final stop on CNC16!

This year, it seems like every stop is EXTRA special:

Here is our route in case you want to follow along or if you are ON the route and want to say HI!  (We do allow tag-a-longs, as long as you are willing to ride the coasters over and over and over again!)

And you can bet your sweet bippy that we’ll not only be evaluating the airtime and lateral G’s on the coasters, but we’ll also be making notes about guest service, food, cleanliness, etc.  In other words, the whole enchilada (and maybe one of those, too)!

While I’m gone, I have an assignment for you.  Take a good look at you and your leadership team.  What do you need?  What will help take you or your team’s leadership to the next level (or just help you get through the season)?

If it’s something I offer (like the list of links below), give me a shout and we’ll chat! Even if it’s not, let me know and I will help you find the resource(s) you need.  That’s how I Help Leaders Lead!

See you on the midway – 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!!

 

Your impact will have a long shelf life

At the recent Florida Attractions Association conference, we got to hear from Brett Culp, an award-winning filmmaker who helps tell the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  One of his main messages was about impact, and the fact that you never know when or how your impact will be felt.

I had an experience at that very same conference that proves this theory.

One of the breakout sessions was lead by my colleague and good friend, Josh Liebman.  Josh and I have known each other for years through various industry endeavors, and currently we get to work together through my partnership with Amusement Advantage and his role as their Director of Business Development. He was also one of my very first guests on #3 Questions.

At the conference, his breakout session topic was “Create Guest Loyalty and Exceed Expectations” – something I know he knows a lot about, so I was excited to go to his session to support him and learn from him.

Since doing presentations like this is not something he does everyday, he asked me to give him some feedback on his session.

Josh is a natural.  He had great content, spoke from the heart and engaged the audience.  After his presentation, we talked about some small improvements he could make for next time, but overall he did a very good job.  He then shared with me that one of the conference interns told him she was impressed by his public speaking skills and asked where he learned how to do it.

He said he did it by watching me.

I was blown away. I don’t share this to be boastful or to brag.  I share this because I truly didn’t know that I was having this kind of impact on someone.  And my internal reaction was somewhat surprising.  I discounted it.

I thought, surely he had some other resources besides me!  He’s got natural skills, no way I had that much influence over his speaking style. He just gave me a huge compliment, and I didn’t know how to take it.

There are a few lessons here.

  1. Know that your impact may not be known to you for many years (if at all), but you are making a difference.  Leaders (like teachers and parents) are shaping the view and work ethic of others. They will follow your lead if you make it compelling enough.  If YOU believe that what you are doing is IMPORTANT, they will too.  They may never tell you outright, but just know that somewhere down the line, a former employee is following your example (so make it positive!)
  2. Take the compliment! For someone who talks about giving compliments and feedback on a regular basis, I had a hard time receiving it.  If this is you, own it and accept it.  Let yourself be complimented on something outstanding that you did.  Resist the temptation to squash their recognition efforts by saying something like, “oh, it was nothing”.  To them, it was something.

The big lesson here is to keep on keepin’ on.  By doing the right things now, you are setting the example for how people will behave in the future. There is no expiration date on the impact you are making.

Thanks for reading!

Some call it peer coaching, some call it a support group! Whatever the label, being part of a Mastermind Program can help you get advice and guidance from a trusted group of industry peers. Performance Optimist Consulting runs the ONLY Mastermind Program specifically for attractions professionals.  Check it out here!

How to build loyalty

This is not theory.  This is not guesswork.  This is the real deal.

A few weeks ago I was working with a client and got to speaking with one of the long term (30+ years) employees.  He told me a story about a meeting he had with the company owner back in his first year.  Here is what he said:

“Back then, it was almost unheard of for someone who had only been with the company for a short time to be in a meeting with the owner.  But, there I was.

I was nervous, and didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing. About 1/2 way through the meeting, the owner’s secretary comes into the room and hands me a note.

The owner could tell something was wrong by the look on my face, so he asked to see the note.

I handed it to him and then he asked me, “What are you waiting for? We can do this meeting another time. Get out of here.”

The note said that my son had broken his arm at school and that he and my wife were on their way to the hospital.  Being new, and not wanting to screw up, I was conflicted with what I should do.  This meeting was a big deal, at least in my mind.

But the owner saw it differently.  He knew that family came first, and more importantly, not to make people choose between family and the company.  

From that day on, my loyalty has been pledged to this organization.”

So often we hear managers complain about the lack of loyalty they see from their employees.  If this story is any indication, it’s likely because the managers haven’t shown any loyalty or caring to their employees first… they haven’t made the first investment in the relationship.

Like respect and trust, loyalty is not given – it’s earned.  You don’t get to complain about someone not being loyal to you if you have not shown them that you are worthy of being loyal to.  And as a leader, you HAVE to take the first step.

As we saw above, sometimes that comes from encouraging an employee to put other interests above work.  Eeeek, I know!!

Let’s say Johnny has to leave work early to go to football camp.  What if, instead of complaining about it, you actually encouraged him?  Ask him how long he’s been playing football… what position does he play?  Does he have a favorite team?  Show some interest in what he is interested in.

This shows that you value him as a person, not just as an employee.  Value builds trust, trust builds respect, and respect builds loyalty.  And loyal employees come back to help out when they can.  Maybe Johnny’s practices interfere with the park’s schedule in August, but in September and October, when he is free on Sunday, he will be more likely to come back to work for the person who made him feel good about pursuing his passion rather than the person who made him feel bad because he wouldn’t be there to make funnel cakes.

I think this gives additional perspective to the reality that people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders.  This also means that they stay, or come back, because of the leaders who understand that giving loyalty first is the only way to earn it.

Thanks for reading!

Are you looking for a way to build your network AND your leadership acumen?  It’s as easy as 1, 2, 6!!

If you can spare 1 hour every 2 weeks for 6 months, you should consider being a part of the ONLY Leadership Mastermind program exclusively for the attractions industry!

A Mastermind group is a small collection of professionals who learn from and coach each other. Find out more here!

Is that coaster grease I smell?

Spring is a busy and wonderful time in the attractions industry! Seasonal parks are getting ready to open their gates and year round facilities are gearing up for a busy summer.  This means that you, as a leader, have to be ready to take on the challenges that will be put in front of you.  And yes, there WILL be challenges!

One way to do be ready for what comes at you is to continue YOUR development throughout the season, and I am super excited to share a few ways you can do that!


Attractions Mastermind Group

If you remember back to my first post of 2017 (and I’m sure you do!) you may recall me talking about the Attractions Only Mastermind program.  Well, the pilot program just concluded and I am happy to say it was a big hit!  Over a 6 month period, 4 leaders from various attractions gathered bi-weekly over Skype, and we networked, learned, shared, laughed, learned some more and gained incredible insight on business and leadership skills!

“The program is filled with everyone’s good days and bad days, advice of a lifetime, and guidance from your peers that is priceless. The education you takeaway from the program will really help mold you into a better manager professionally and a better person personally!” – Mastermind pilot program participant

We are currently putting together details for the next program… to learn more, click here!


Coaching discussions

Another way to continue your development is through facilitated coaching discussions.  That sounds complicated, but it’s not!  I’ve been doing quite a few of these recently and they have been tremendously impactful. Why? Because they are casual (so people are comfortable sharing) but also targeted to address specific issues. They can be done at any time during the season and are a great way to keep people engaged!

For example, I worked with Ken Whiting and his team at Whiting’s Foods recently and we talked about the leaders’ influence on employee retention.  People really opened up about their challenges, which allowed us to explore some pretty powerful solutions!

“We asked Matt to share some insights on leadership influence with our seasonal leadership team. Matt established a casual but professional environment right away and got everyone engaged in the discussion. He was able to have them uncover some deep truths that young leaders rarely discover, and we also talked about some very practical and actionable solutions to current challenges.  To see these leaders so enthused and energized was incredibly inspiring – this is a session that will have a long-lasting impact on our team!” – Ken Whiting, Whiting’s Foods

Give me a call to find out how a session like this could benefit you and your teams!


Ready-to-go Supervisor development course

On a recent IAAPA Webinar dealing with supervisor development, I asked the audience about the biggest challenges they faced when training new supervisors.  Here’s how the numbers shook out:

  • 68% – not enough time
  • 18% – don’t know what material to train them on
  • 14% – don’t know how to train another leader

If you fall into any of these categories, The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program may just be for you!

To save you time on developing content, this package includes everything you need to conduct your own 8-week development program with your leadership teams:

  • A text book (The Myth of Employee Burnout) for each participant
  • A leader’s guide with pre-formatted lesson plans
  • Workbooks for each participant to recap the assigned reading and prepare them for the upcoming lesson

The sessions don’t have to be long… 20 or 30 minutes.  You may already have a weekly meeting where you have everyone together. This is a great way to add some continuous development to your agenda!

Click here to read more about it!


So what do all of these have in common?  YOU!  These are all tools, but it takes effort and energy on your part to put those tools to use.  I encourage you to find some way to continue to grow, learn and develop each and every day.  Read an article, watch a Ted Talk, speak with someone you have never spoken with before… even if it’s something small… you owe it to yourself and your team to continue to strive to be the BEST version of you that you can be.  And only YOU can make that happen!

Thanks for reading – see you on the midway!

AIMS Communication Review – Part 5

Welcome to the final installment of our AIMS Communication Review series.  In case you missed the first 4, here ya go!

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

AIMS Communication Review – Part 4

And, we’re off…

Biggest communication struggle: When I need to council or discipline

Nobody likes to hear that they screwed up or could be doing better, right?  Not so fast.

It’s usually not the message that people object to, it’s the way the message is delivered. Ergo, “don’t kill the messenger.”  Since we are the messenger, it’s in our best interest to develop some survival skills.

First and foremost, we must not look at these situations as adversarial.  You know, us vs. them.  It’s our job to help our employees get better, and that means that we sometimes have to correct a behavior or action.  We may also have to document that behavior if a policy has been violated.

When it comes to having the conversation, your opening and the words you choose can set the tone for the entire experience.  Here are some examples:

“Karen, I can’t believe you got another guest complaint.  Your attitude is really slipping.  I had such high hopes for you in the beginning of the season.”

–OR–

“Karen, thanks for coming in.  I wanted to talk about some of the recent guest complaints that have come in, specifically the ones that mentioned you.  What can you tell me about those situations?”

The first one is very accusatory, and doesn’t give Karen much of a chance to tell her side of the story.  In fact, I could see Karen getting very defensive, which wouldn’t be very productive for the conversation.

What was different about the second one?  We acknowledged Karen’s willingness to participate, stated what we wanted to talk about, then immediately gave Karen an opportunity to share her perspective.  By approaching this as a way to help Karen, we are setting ourselves (and Karen) up for a much more meaningful and effective conversation.

Sometimes, even after the best opening, an employee could still try to deflect the blame on to someone else.  I’ll bet you have all heard things like:

“What about Jeremy?  He’s been getting guest complaints, too!”

“Really?  I wasn’t even trained for that position.  How could I be expected to know what to do?”

“It’s not my fault, we didn’t have the tools needed to do the job. Weren’t you supposed to get those for us?”

…and the list goes on.

The goal, of course, is to steer you away from the topic and place the blame elsewhere.  But you won’t be falling for that because you prepared for this conversation.  You thought of some of the objections or roadblocks the employee might throw at you and were prepared with a response.  For example:

“What about Jeremy?  He’s been getting guest complaints, too!” “We’re not talking about Jeremy, we’re talking about you.”

“Really?  I wasn’t even trained for that position.  How could I be expected to know what to do?”  “I’ve seen you in the position many times, and I know that Grant trained you.  You’ve actually done it very well in the past.”

“It’s not my fault, we didn’t have the tools needed to do the job. Weren’t you supposed to get those for us?” “Actually, yes, and they arrived last week. I saw three of your co-workers using them the very next day.”

Certainly your answers will vary based on the situation, but the point is to be prepared by taking the time before the conversation to think through some of these scenarios.

Biggest communication struggle: Don’t always relay the intended message

When hearing this, my first question is: how do you know?

Did someone not do what you asked them to do?  Did they badger you with follow-up questions that they should have known based on what you said?  Did you hear them relaying your message to someone else and they missed the mark?

If you do know that you haven’t relayed the intended message, there are two places to look: at you as the message originator and the other person, as the message receiver.

Here are some questions to ask about YOU:

  • Do I fully understand the message?
  • Have I taken time to explain all aspects of the message?
  • Have I made any assumptions about the message receiver (i.e. word choice, previous knowledge or experience)?
  • Have I emphasized or prioritized the most important parts of the message?

And also some questions about the RECEIVER:

  • Are they ready, willing, and able to receive the message?
  • Do they have any preconceived ideas that would cloud the message?
  • Have you had successful communications with them in the past?  If so, what made it successful?
  • Are there, or will there be, distractions that take away from the delivery of the message?
  • How will you check for understanding with this person?

That last one is pretty powerful… if you THINK there may be a discrepancy, how will you find out before it’s too late?  There are a number of ways to check for understanding or comprehension.  After you have relayed your message, you could ask:

  • Does that make sense?
  • What questions do you have?
  • How would you explain this to someone else?

Each of these offer a different level of feedback regarding their comprehension.  The first may just be a head nod.  Okay, they think they get it.  The second allows them to clarify anything they don’t get, but they may not know what they don’t know.  The last one allows you to hear, in their own words, how they would relay this message to someone else.  This should let you know if you are on the right track with that person or not.

Biggest communication struggle: Accepting change

For the last one of these that we’re going to tackle, this is a doozie.

Change.  Wow.  Okay.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that not all change is created equal.  Some change is easy to deal with and accept, some is not.  Let’s start there.

Change that is easy to accept is usually change that we initiate or immediately agree with.  I’m guessing that the person who submitted this was not having trouble accepting changes that they suggested, so…

On to the changes we that we didn’t choose, don’t agree with or don’t understand.

  • Sometimes we resist change because we think the change will harm us.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we think we won’t be able to keep up (although we rarely admit this one)
  • Sometimes we resist change because we can’t see what the true outcome is going to be (so our mind automatically goes for the worst case scenario)
  • Sometimes we resist change solely because of the person who suggested it

That’s a lot of reasons and ways we can resist change. Ultimately these all stem from our comfort zone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We create our comfort zones for survival, to put us in a confident position to deal with whatever comes at us.  They really are a way for us to protect ourselves.  The problem is when you get stuck in your comfort zone… you may be safe, but you also can’t grow and improve from there.

For some people change equals pain, or even perceived pain.  Dr. Henry Cloud gives us some perspective on the relationship between pain and change:

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

Yes, change can bring on pain.  But staying the same can also bring the pain.

Think of a business owner who is losing money.  If they stay the same, they will likely go out of business.  If they do something to change, it could be scary, but it could also save the business.  The pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.

For you to accept change, you have identify and possibly redefine the “pain” so you can make a better decision for you, your team, your family, or your company.  Let’s look at our list again…

  • Sometimes we resist change because we think the change will harm us.  Ask yourself, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ If it doesn’t involve death or dismemberment, it might be worth a try.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we think we won’t be able to keep up (although we rarely admit this one).  Honestly assess the skill you think you may or may not be able to handle.  Ask for others opinions and advice.  No one expects everyone to be an expert at everything.  A person who embraces a change, learns from it and gets better will be for more well respected (and valuable) than the curmudgeon who stifles the change out of fear or ignorance.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we can’t see what the true outcome is going to be (so our mind automatically goes for the worst case scenario). See step one (what’s the worst that could happen?), but also run through REALISTIC scenarios about possible outcomes.  Seek out the opinions and perspectives of those who DO agree to see why they think this is a good thing.  Listen with an open mind when they tell you!
  • Sometimes we resist change solely because of the person who suggested it.  Learn to identify this when it happens.  You know the people who push your buttons… don’t poo-poo a good idea just because it came from someone you may not get along with.  This could be the idea that takes the business to the next level… get over your differences and be able to admit when a good idea is a good idea.

And that’s it!!  We made it to the end of our AIMS Communication Review Series.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.  If you have additional communication struggles that you would like to address, feel free to contact me directly at matt@performanceoptimist.com.

Thanks for reading!

Are gearing up for your summer season?  Are you concerned that your employees won’t stay, or stay motivated throughout the season?  Don’t wait until it’s too late!! Act now and get the tools you need to avoid burnout!!

The Myth of Employee Burnout book and Supervisor Training Program!!

AIMS Communication Review – Part 4

So far we’ve covered 9 major communication struggles submitted during the AIMS Safety Seminar in January.

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

Here are 3 more:

Biggest communication struggle: Being approachable by others

It’s REALLY hard to communicate if others don’t feel like they can approach you.  The remedy to this is firmly seated in the concept of actions speaking much louder than words.

This is partly because we “listen” with our eyes, as well as our ears.  Since seeing is believing, we tend to believe the things we see over the things we hear.  And here’s why…

Most of our communication from another person comes from body language.  There are many studies out there about this, but the one I am most familiar with puts body language, or non-verbals, at about 55% of the communication.  55%.  That’s over half, sports fans.

That means that over half of what we BELIEVE about what someone is telling us is communicated not through words, but through their actions.  So… when you tell someone that you are “listening”, but you are also checking your phone or finishing an email on your computer, you are sending a mixed message at best.  As worst, and I hate to be a pessimist here, you are stating that you are actually NOT listening and that you have better things to do.

Ergo… unapproachable.

Be conscience of your approach when others are trying to approach you… you are likely somehow putting off a vibe that you really don’t want to be bothered, otherwise people would believe you when you say your door is always open.

Watch your actions (distractions), facial expressions, body posture and tone in your reply.  You can smile, lean in, and make eye contact while someone is talking to you, but if your reply is snarky, or filled with  “that was the dumbest thing I have ever heard” words, tone and expressions, you will erase all of your approachable goodwill.

Biggest communication struggle: Clarity when communicating with certain people

THOSE PEOPLE!  Everyone has certain people that just rub you the wrong way, or that you have trouble getting through to.  They likely aren’t going to change, so you have to find a way to adapt to be successful.

And chances are, you are already doing this to some extent.  You already know that there are some people you can joke with, some you can’t.  Some people crave the facts, others shoot from the hip.  There is no right or wrong, they are just different.

To me, this is where understanding behavioral and communication tendencies is most helpful (like using the DiSC profile to determine communication styles).  Knowing that a different style isn’t a personal attack goes a long way in encouraging patience and understanding.  We are all “wired” a certain way, and sometimes those “ways” are at odds with each other.

When that happens, it’s important to know what the other person wants and needs in terms of communication.  If they need facts and data, give them that.  If they need time to process, give them that.  If they need direct and efficient answers… do you see where this is going?  Being clear with another person is about their clarity, not yours.

When I hear leaders say things like, “they should know better!”  I challenge them and say, “why?  Why should they know better?”  “Well, they just should!”  Have you taken the time to show them, have you taken the time to answer their questions, have you observed them to know if they do know better or not?  Maybe you weren’t as clear as you needed to be for them.  It was clear in your mind, but clearly not theirs.

If you pay attention, people will tell you what they need.

When someone interrupts: (they could just be rude!) but it could also be because your message is jumbled and lacking focus.  They don’t get it, and need to understand the first part before moving on to the second part.

When someone doesn’t initially respond: They likely need time to process everything you just said. They take it all in and THEN formulate their response.  If you keep talking, they will keep processing.  You need stop periodically to give them time to respond.

When someone responds with something from left field: Chances are they are distracted by other things going on or they completely misinterpreted what you said.  You can try your message again in a different way, or find a better time when other distractions are minimized.

When it comes to communication, what works for you does not always work for others. Your job as a leader is to adapt to give them what they need, so you can get what you need.

Biggest communication struggle: Handling insulting, violent people who exaggerate

In my experience, people who hurl insults, get violent and exaggerate for effect are doing so because of some unmet emotional need, or some issue that has not been resolved.

That means that we have to deal with the emotion first, before any other logical conversation can take place.  This is also about what you tolerate as a leader.

And I’d like to start there first, with what you tolerate.  There are things that we encourage as leaders, and there are things we tolerate.  If we tolerate insulting, violent, exaggerating behavior, then we have no one else to blame but ourselves when it continues to happen. You have to know where your, and your companies standards of behavior are, and I would imagine that most employee handbooks contain a section that specifically denounces these behaviors, and even outlines steps for disciplinary action.  If that’s the case and it’s still happening, you have an enforcement problem.  That’s on you.

What if it’s a guest?  I was once dealing with an upset guest who stated, in front of my staff and any other guest within earshot, that “If this company was run by Jewish people, it would be run much differently”.  And while her comment was actually intended to say that Jewish people knew how to run a business, it was completely inappropriate in that setting.  My next statement was, “this conversation is over, I am going to ask you to leave the park now.”

She then did a 180… apologizing for her comment and becoming much easier to talk to because she knew her shenanigans were not going to be tolerated.

Getting back to the emotional issues, I find that the L.A.S.T. model is extremely effective in diffusing these situations.

Listen – listen to what they have to say, let them vent (to a point if they are getting insulting, violent and loud).

Apologize/Acknowledge – If an apology is needed, even if you were not at fault, say so.  A sincere “I’m sorry” will diffuse a lot of anger. Sometimes, an acknowledgement of the situation is more appropriate. “I understand you are upset, and I want to help.  I can’t do that if you are being inappropriate.  This behavior is unacceptable and cannot continue if you want me to help you.”

Solve – Now, once you talked the person off the ledge or acknowledged the situation, you can work toward a resolution.

Thank – This is another acknowledgement… “thank you for allowing me to help”, “thank you for being calm and working through the issue”… whatever is appropriate.  It’s a nice way to close it out.

Specifically for the exaggerators, once you have them calmed down, you can ask if the situation was really as bad as they said, or present some counter data that would allow them to save face and see the true story.  Last thing you want to do once you have someone calm enough to discuss things logically is to stir the pot and rile them up again.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for Part 5, our last installment of the series!

Matt

Did you know… 44% of new leaders feel unprepared for their role? 

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training program has everything you need to arm your seasonal supervisory staff with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful.  Click here for more information!

myth-training-package

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

Aloha! This is post 3 of the series, and just this morning I determined that there will be 2 more after this. So buckle up, and get ready to tackle YOUR communication struggles!

Biggest communication struggle: Tact

For this one, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the definition:

Tact: a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. – Dictionary.com

I think another way to put this is… “how to not make things worse.”  Which is something we have all done in the past.

Unfortunately, tact is something you learn by actually making things worse… at first. Certainly this is not your intent, but you don’t develop “a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense” without at some point doing or saying something that DID give offense.  The more you interact with people, the more you develop that sense.

That is not to say that you can’t apply what you have learned about one person to the interactions you have with another. You absolutely can use those experiences as a guide – but remember that everyone is different, and you also need to take into account what you know about that individual to determine what is going to make things worse, or give offense.

Spider-man has his spidey-sense that helps alert him to imminent danger.  You need to develop a similar sense in yourself that alerts you to when you are about to make things worse.

The definition also mentions “skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations”.  What makes the situation difficult or delicate?  Generally, it’s the people you are interacting with (their personality or behavioral trends) or the subject matter.  To me, the ultimate use of ‘tact’ is when you have to tell someone something that they really don’t want to hear.

Let’s say an employee did not get the promotion they were going for.  One approach would be to say, “You didn’t get it.  Too bad, so sad”.  Pretty easy to see that those last 4 words were not only inappropriate, but most likely will make a difficult, potentially awkward situation, worse.

Using a little more tact, you would take into consideration what kind of employee they are, how far away from being qualified were they, and how much of the relationship do you want to preserve?  This is where your powers of observation and perception come in, to guide your keen sense of what to do and how to approach the individual.  You probably want to communicate WHY they didn’t get the promotion, and offer up any insight you have about what they could have done to increase their chances of consideration in the future.  If you want this employee to continue to be a productive member of the staff, you have to approach this with their thoughts, feelings, impressions and desires in mind.

Most likely when you take all of those things into consideration, you will be acting with the appropriate amount of tact.

Biggest communication struggle: Not listening

Huh?  What’d you say?

Whoever wrote this is not alone.  Listening is a HUGE issue for many of us.  We unfortunately now live in a society that, in public arenas, does not value true listening, but stating your case at all costs.  There is no better example of ineffective communication than two people screaming at, and over, each other.

You said what you wanted to say, good for you.  No one was listening.  It’s like that question about the tree falling in the woods… it does make a sound, but no one is there to hear it, so it doesn’t matter.

If you know that listening is an issue for you, there are two major questions to ask yourself (and be honest with the answer, ‘cuz it doesn’t work any other way).

  • Are there particular situations that I find it more difficult to truly listen?
  • Are there specific people I tend not to listen to?

Notice I said nothing about the physical ability to hear. That’s because hearing and listening are two different things.  It takes ears and the mechanisms in the ear canal to “hear” it takes an open mind to “listen”.

If you identified certain situations where it’s more difficult to listen, what are the common factors?  Do you not like or understand the subject matter, does it not interest you, do you have opposing view points, is it due to distractions, either physical or mental…?  The list goes on… Whatever you have identified, is there a way for you to get over that roadblock so you CAN listen?  Even if you don’t like the subject matter, if you find that it’s important information you can use for your job, it can be easier to digest and willingly listen to.

If it’s a person, examine the level of trust and respect you have for them. We tend not to actively listen to those we don’t trust.  It’s survival thing. Work on the trust and you’ll increase your ability to listen to them.

Listening takes focus, and it’s a skill you can develop. The distractions you create for yourself, the inner story you tell yourself that may or may not be true, clouds your ability to take in information more than any external factors ever could.  The next time you feel yourself not listening, no matter the situation, try this:

  • Clear your mind of assumptions and preconceived notions from the past
  • Avoid the temptation to judge what you are hearing as its being said
  • Allow the other person to speak without interruption
  • Ask unassuming, non-threatening questions to clarify meaning and intent
  • THINK before you respond (see post 1 for a piece on being patient)
think

This works for ‘tact’, too!

 

Biggest communication struggle: Hot headed/emotions clouding communication

I’m not sure if these folks meant that other peoples’ hot headedness was clouding the communication or if it was their own. If others are getting hot headed, please refer to exhibit A & B (the previous topics in this post).  If YOU are the hot head, read on.

We are emotional creatures, and that’s not something that will change. Emotions often drive our thoughts, which drive our behaviors.  Sometimes when we think about things too much, and our multiplied thoughts actually drive our emotions, which drive our behaviors.  Either way, our emotions are in the drivers seat, or are at least riding shotgun.

That means we need to be acutely aware of the things that DO boil our blood, and how to remain tactful (again, see exhibit A) in those situations. If you already know what kinds of things get under your skin, you can brace yourself when you sense them coming and CHOOSE to take a different path.

Since everything we do is a choice, choosing how you react to a situation is up to you – even if it angers you to the point of a vein popping out of your forehead.  The key is to be ready for it… remember that a pot of water on a stove doesn’t boil (or boil over) immediately.  It takes time to reach the right temperature.  You generally have a “warming period” that you can use to examine the situation and choose a different path.  Take a deep breath.  Consider your options. Consider what blowing a gasket will do and how it probably is not the best scenario in the long run.  Take another deep breath.  Count to ten. Don’t you feel better already?

And you are probably thinking clearer, too, which can only help in the long run.

But what about those situations where you seem to go from 0 to 700 MPH in a split second?  Well, you either don’t know your triggers, or other things have been building up that you have not addressed. When we don’t address things (i.e. closure), our emotions don’t get a sense of resolve; they still feel uneasy or unsettled.  That’s like a bomb just waiting to go off… and you may never see who lit the fuse or just how short the fuse was.

The next time that happens, take a minute afterwords to replay the incident in your mind.  Was there a trigger this time, or was this a little thing that is equivalent to the straw breaking the camel’s back?  If so, what are the unresolved issues that have been ignored and that need to be dealt with?

One last thing that helps control or reduce our hot headed outbursts is trying to understand the other point of view.  It’s not always easy, but if you have an appreciation of where they are coming from, you will see that they probably have some validity, even some things in common with what you are saying.  If you are too busy trying to yell over them and make YOUR case, you’ll never hear that.  And they won’t actually listen to you, either, no matter how loud you yell.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Okay, so that was a long one.  How about no more reading for now?  Instead, here are two nerds on a roller coaster.  Can anyone tell what coaster this is?

img_7876

 

AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

In case you missed part 1 of the series, it can be found here: AIMS Communication Review – Part 1.

On with the struggles!

Biggest communication struggle: Asking for help.

If you need help as a leader, good luck.  You should know everything and be able to do everything all by yourself and on your own.

As if.

No one, despite trying to convince you otherwise, knows everything.  As an emerging leader, you don’t know everything either. Heck, seasoned leaders (the good ones) know that they still have stuff to learn and that they need help.

I think there is a BIG misconception out there among new leaders that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  It’s not.  It’s actually a very confident demonstration of strength of character and a willingness to get better.

Some of the most well respected leaders I know (with titles like CEO) ask for help.  They ask for it from the peers, outside counsel, their employees, their families… basically anywhere they can get it.  As you mature as a leader, you start to understand the vastness of the things you don’t know and can’t do.  You realize you can’t possibly have all the information, nor can you be an expert at everything.  If you don’t ask for help, you’ll be sunk.

So ask for help. It’ll show how strong you really are.

Biggest communication struggle: Not getting to the point.

Why do we not get to the point?  Do we not know what the point is, or are we afraid of the reaction of those who are receiving the point?  Two very different scenarios.

If we don’t know the point, how do we figure it out?  Are we relaying information to our team that we aren’t clear on… a new initiative, promotion or mandate from the top?  Remember when we talked about asking for help? Ask for clarification.  Make sure you CLEARLY understand before trying to explain it to others.

If we are afraid of the consequences, it can cause us to beat around the bush and sugarcoat the true message.  That’s really not fair to the person you are talking to.  They deserve the truth, and for the truth to be delivered in a clear, respectful and productive way. It can help to think through the conversation and it’s many possible outcomes BEFORE jumping in.  Consider the ultimate outcome you are going for so you have an idea of where you are going (like a GPS when driving).  State the facts, avoid interjecting too much emotion and be brief.

The other danger of beating around the bush is that it can take a long time… we may start rambling, trying to find just the right thing to say.  That’s counterproductive to the conversation.

Biggest communication struggle: Not being able to say no.

Here’s the conundrum… as a new leader, you want to do well. You want to please your boss, you want to please your employees, you want to do whatever it takes to be successful. What’s the opposite of all that?  Saying no.

But here’s the thing… you also have a responsibility to yourself.  I know, I know… you’re a selfless workaholic who can handle the pressure – in fact you work best under pressure.

Good for you, but you won’t be able to sustain this.  Trust me.

Emerging leaders often don’t know what the true time commitment is for all the stuff they take on.  They don’t realize how much time they do or don’t have.  They don’t know because they don’t have the experience yet.  That leads to the idea that they can say yes to everything.  And they would be wrong.

Instead of a blanket YES when asked to do something, think through a few things:

  • How long will this take?  Since you may not know, ask.  If your boss is asking you to do something, ask how long they think it will take (hopefully they at least have an idea).  Also ask about a deadline and any resources that are available.  Maybe you can divide and conquer.
  • Is this aligned with your current goals?  First, if you don’t know your goals, start there. Now you can determine if the ‘ask’ is in line with where you want to do and what you need to do.  Maybe it’s something you REALLY want to do but has little to do with what you SHOULD be doing… would you do it?

Still having trouble saying no?  Think of this… when you say YES to something, you are actually saying NO to something else.  Saying YES to staying late, you are saying NO to spending time with family or friends.  Saying YES to taking on a special project, you are saying NO to the time you can spend with your employees.

These are not hard and fast rules, as there are times when you absolutely should say YES.  Just as there are times to say no.  Of course the key is balance, and having the ability and guts to say no when the situation is right to do so.

That’s six communication struggles down and more still to go.  Probably enough for at least one more post.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Reading is fundamental!

Book with quote for blog

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

Last week at the AIMS Safety Seminar in Orlando, I had the pleasure of teaching the “Operational Leadership and Communication” course.  If there is anything, in my mind, that goes together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s leadership and communication!

After going through a communication assessment to determine their strengths, everyone wrote down their biggest communication struggle and turned it in to me.  Then as a group, we all brainstormed ways to over come that particular issue.  It was a great opportunity to learn from everyone in the room.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get to them all, and some students have already emailed me asking to address their particular trouble spots.  If you were in the class, I am happy to do that for you, too.  In the meantime, I thought I would use the blog to address some of the ones that many people seem to be struggling with.

Here we go!

Biggest communication struggle: Being patient with others’ opinions.

You are not alone!  In class we talked about the fact that listening has more to do with an open mind than anything else.  When we hear someone state an opinion that is different from ours, we have a few choices.

  1. Immediately launch into a rebuttal
  2. Think about what to say, then respond
  3. Say nothing at all

Too often, option 1 is taken and that rarely ends well.  In order to make options 2 or 3 a reality, it takes patience, and what allows us to be patient more than anything else?

Thinking of things from the other person’s perspective.  Since there are (at least) two sides to every story, first consider that yours might not be right, or at least it’s not the story that the other person believes.

Take a deep breath.  Try to imagine where they care coming from.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Consider your previous impact on the situation. THEN, feel free to respond.

Biggest communication struggle: Being vocal

This came up a few times, and it doesn’t surprise me considering the class was full of leaders who are still developing their chops. Expressing your thoughts to your peers, employees or even management can be tough… there is a lot of fear that can encircle those situations.

  1. Fear of rejection – either the idea or you as a person
  2. Fear of sounding stupid – you’ll fumble your words and sound incompetent
  3. Fear of indifference – there will be no reaction, just awe-inspiring silence

These are legit, but can be overcome!  Best way to do that?  Just do it.  Work up the gumption, plan what you are going to say and state your case.  As a leader, you MUST have the confidence to state your position or vision.  If you know of a better way, SAY IT!

One way to bolster your confidence to speak up is to do a trial run with some trusted allies.  Let’s say you know the topic at the next manager meeting is going to be reducing guest complaints.  You have sort of an out-of-the-box idea that you fear will get shunned if spoken aloud.  Try it out on a few people one-on-one to gauge their reaction.

Also ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?”  If you won’t die or lose your job, you can handle just about anything else.  And we always make it worse in our minds than it really is.  PLUS, you may have the winning idea, the suggestion that saves the company from total ruin!  You don’t want to hold that back, do you?

Biggest communication struggle: Expecting people to know what I am talking about.

Hello, McFly! We don’t all get it, get it? Seriously, this is something we all suffer from at one time or another.  Why? Because we forget that other people can’t read our minds.

Think of all the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years.  What are the chances that someone else has the exact same database of knowledge and information rolling around in their skull?  Very slim.  So, we can’t take our communication for granted.

I love it when I hear managers say, “he should really know that!”.  Really?  How?  Do you know that he knows that?  Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have the knowledge and context to reach the same conclusion?  If not, get your specifics ready because that’s what it will take to avoid confusion.

If you have been with your company for a while, you know lots of stuff and jargon that a lot of new employees don’t know yet.  You have the benefit of time and experience.  They have someone getting frustrated with them because they don’t understand your abbreviations or nomenclature.  Don’t blame them.  Blame you for either not explaining it or assuming that someone else did.

I think this one goes along with being patient.

And we’re back.

There were a bunch more struggles that I will save for future posts.  In the meantime, if you have questions about communication, leadership, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my inbox is always open.  Drop me a note anytime!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

What? You want to read more?  Might I suggest:

My commitments for 2017

slide1

Photo – Cedar Point during CNC16!

How many of you have committed to something new for the new year?  If you have noticed that many resolutions that start on January 1 often lack the resolve to make it to February 1, you are not alone.  That’s why I started working on improvements and commitments for 2017 back in the middle of 2016.

Of course my overall commitment was, is, and will continue to be to “Help Leaders Lead“.  Whatever you need to better lead your teams, I am here for you!

To this end, I have updated my website to include eCommerce so it’s easier to get the things you need… like bulk copies (with discounts) of the Myth of Employee Burnout or to sign up for a coaching program.

I can also now do one of those fancy auto-magic PDF download things… so I packaged up 80+ of my favorite leadership articles and made it a free downloadable PDF.

Two of the things I am MOST excited about are my new Mastermind program (currently in pilot phase) and the Myth of Employee Burnout 8-week Supervisor Training Program.

If you haven’t heard of a Mastermind group, it’s essentially peer or group coaching. There are 4 attractions professionals and me, and we get together every 2 weeks via Skype to help each other with current issues.  We also have a private Facebook group to share documents and discuss things between calls.

vid-cap-3

Some of the topics have included: group interviews, encouraging buy-in and urgency, whether or not to hire a sales manager and communication.

Early feedback for the program has been very positive, including:

“I like learning from other professionals and hearing about what they go through.  Very similar to my experiences.”

“Flexibility to discuss current issues is great.  We can talk about what’s going on and get immediate ideas to implement.”

We’ll wrap up the pilot group in a few months, at which point I will be starting another round based on their feedback.  If you would like to participate in the next round, just let me know.

If you have been looking for a cost-effective way to keep your Supervisors engaged and learning throughout the season, the Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program may be just the ticket!  This 8-week experience will:

  • Cover the major learning points of the book, giving participants a well rounded understanding of employee motivation and engagement
  • Encourage leaders to discuss and explore their leadership strengths and areas of improvement.
  • Build necessary leadership skills like communication, problem solving and leading a diverse workforce.

The program is broken up into 8 lessons and is designed so that a department manager or trainer can meet with a small group of supervisors for about 30 minutes to build the skills needed to lead on a daily basis.

The best part is that you get everything you need… detailed lesson plans, participant workbooks and a copy of the Myth of Employee Burnout for each participant.  You only pay for the number of people going through the program – no waste, no mess!  For more pricing and samples of the included materials, click here.

I don’t know about you, but I am excited for 2017 to unfold!  Below is a list of conferences I will be at to start the year.  If you will be at any of these it would be great to connect!  Just let me know.

Happy New Year – have a safe and prosperous 2017!!

Matt

Just a few places I will be to start 2017:

AIMS Safety Seminar
Ops. Supervisor Basic & Advanced (all new content!)
Operational Leadership and Communication (all new format!)
Orlando, FL
January 12-13, 2017

Texas Public Pool Council Annual Conference
Cause and Effect of Leadership
San Antonio, TX
February 7, 2017

American Pyrotechnics Association Winter Conference
The Myth of Employee Burnout
Henderson, NV
February 16, 2017

IAAPA Webinar
The New Supervisor: Tools, Tips, and Talking Points for Today’s Workforce
Time: 1:00 pm EDT
March 1, 2017