This story just keeps getting better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

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

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Time management tips for leaders BY leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Management Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Click here to learn more and order yours today!

*Waffles optional.

 

Visiting 7 amusement parks in 7 days taught us…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Just before the deluge!

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

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

A quick recap:

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

NEWS YOU CAN USE!!

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

For you:

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

For your team:

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

4th of July… Resolutions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

DON’T LET YOUR EMPLOYEES BURNOUT THIS SEASON!!

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

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

  — Sam Gage, Director  of Operations, Silverwood Theme Park

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

 

 

 

 

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!

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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

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