Share the pain

How do you express to your boss that a situation is dire? That you and your team are running yourself ragged and may not last the week? Or, as someone in our POC YOUniversity Hot Seat Coaching Call said, “how do you tell them that ‘shit’s on fire!’?

I’ve heard this from so many people recently… talented, well-intentioned leaders are doing their best to keep as many fingers in the damn as possible. The problem, however, is that you do that SO well that your leaders and managers don’t see that there is something wrong.

Because you want to do your job well, and because you don’t want to let anyone down, you shield them from the pain – which is the natural human tendency.

However, if you are going to get their support, they need to feel the pain. Your pain.

Your boss needs to understand your struggle and the toll this situation is taking on you and your team. They need to understand that while the duck (you) may look calm above the surface, it’s paddling for it’s life below the surface.

But how do you tell them that without looking weak, or that you can’t do your job? Let’s start with this…

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Say it with me: asking for help is not a sign of weakness!

One more time for the folks in the back: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS!!!!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do we ask for help? I’m glad you asked (for help!):

  • Tell the story that moves your boss. Some people like numbers, others like anecdotes, others respond to employee feedback. Whatever language speaks to your boss, frame your question and/or request in a way that draws them in and makes your point.
  • Have a plan. How many times have you gone to your boss with a problem and they said, “what do you think we should do about it?” What DO you think we should do about the current issues? Develop a thoughtful, cohesive plan (that speaks your boss’ language). Show that you have thought this through and it’s not just an emotional outburst.
  • Make sure you have their attention. Your boss is busy, and there is a good chance that you are not the only one making theses requests. This should not be an “oh, by-the-way, if you have time, could you maybe think about how to fix this mess, if it’s not too much trouble” conversation. Set a time on the calendar, get your paddling ducks in a row and make your case.
  • Help your boss make a case to their boss. Maybe your boss agrees with you but they won’t be making the final decision. Help them develop the story and plan to present to their boss.
  • Don’t give up! Be respectful, but keep after it. Remember, lots of people are counting on you – not just to get the job done, but to be their advocate. Giving up is really not an option.

So that was a few more bullet points than usual, but desperate times… amiright? Even with all that extra typing, it’s not an easy conversation to navigate. I’m happy to chat with you about your specific situation. All you have to do is ask (this one is super easy!).

Thanks for reading!



Doing more with less is not a long term operating strategy, right?

Let’s first acknowledge that the conditions that COVID-19 has thrust upon us have created situations we couldn’t have imagined, and we’re in survival mode.

We’ve got less staff, less time, less resources, and less patience.

So naturally, we’re going to bang the “do more with less” drum. I get it. For now.

My hope for our post-COVID world is that the “do more with less” mantra finally sees it’s way into the annuls of no-longer-useful corporate jargon like value-added, synergy, and paradigm.

Why? Because I don’t think we’re really doing more. We’re doing less.

For example, I’ve worked for a number of organizations who tried to make their staffing model more efficient. Two teams of ten under two different leaders became one team of 20 under one leader, and over the years that grew exponentially. Now that same leader that had 10 people now has 100 people and we wonder why they are barely keeping their head above water.

And because of this we see other problems creeping in… we can’t seem to get employees to show up. Service levels have gone down. We’re questioning our culture. Gotta be these younger generations, right? Don’t get me started.

The real problem is our doing more with less mantra has given us less leadership in the field, less time for training, less oversight of an individuals development, less time for the leader to show the employee that they care.

And I hate to say it, but that’s part of the perfect storm we are encountering with our current staffing issues. Our environments and employee experience were “good enough” in an employer driven market, but as tides have shifted and the employees now have the power, they are making choices that we don’t like.

So how do we get out of the downward spiral of always trying to do more with less?

  • Recognize that over time, you have actually been doing less with less. Our adherence to this flawed business model has hurt us more than it has helped. Stress, mental health issues, burnout and worker fatigue can all be linked back to the self-imposed condition of trying to do more with less.
  • Think ahead. WAY ahead (at least 5 years). Just like you would for a new attraction or business expansion, think critically and strategically about your employee experience. What does your pay look like? Your benefits? Your leadership? Your support of your employees? Go blue sky then work backwards on how to make it happen.
  • Make the best of today. Don’t do more than your staff can handle. We may want everything open, but what is the cost of doing that? Spreading your team too thin to make a few more bucks will likely cost you plenty down the road. You might not see it right away, but your attrition and turnover costs will far outweigh the few extra dollars you are making now. Not to mention the devastation this will do to your culture (which is really your best recruiting tool.)

No one has ever (to my knowledge) enthusiastically said, “we get to do more with less today!! Giddy up!” Fact is, more with less is a temporary fix to a temporary situation, and should have never become our operational norm. Once we kick COVID to the curb, let’s do the same with doing more with less.

Thanks for reading!

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The struggle (for talent) is real

Signing bonuses. Increased wages. Expanded perks. All of this to attract more employees to our businesses to handle the pent up demand we were hoping for.

The demand is here, so where are the employees?

Some people say that the unemployment benefits are keeping people away. I don’t doubt that’s true. Some employees say they want to return, but new circumstances such as at-home school or child care availability is standing in the way. Again, no argument from me.

Either way, our tactics to rebuild our talent pool are likely based on flawed reasoning. The reasoning that starts with the question, “What do they want?”

At best, that’s a moving target.

The question we should be asking is: “what do they NEED?”

They NEED emotional security. They NEED physical safety. They NEED to know that you’ve got their back. They NEED to know there is a good reason to come back.

A signing bonus won’t give them that.

Remember, you don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with a fire extinguisher. So we can’t fight money with money.

Your fire extinguisher is your story, your reputation, your ability to look at what you provide and how you interact with your employees in a new way. Same old, same old ain’t gonna cut it.

We talk all the time about how a good story will engage our guests. How we need to create immersive experiences for people to feel a part of our attractions so they’ll keep coming back. Why aren’t we applying that same logic to employees?

Because it’s harder and we don’t know how to do it? Oh, and we’ve never done that before? Time to change that.

How? I’m glad you asked.

First, look at what every human on the planet needs from an emotion standpoint. We all need three things: Attention, Connection and Purpose.

Attention – positive attention that tells people that they care about us.

Connection – interactions and relationships that make us feel whole and that we are part of something larger than ourselves

Purpose – a reason to get up, get out of bed and make the world a better place.

Related Video: Attention + Connection = Retention. Originally released March 31, 2020… hint… still valid today.

Those are building blocks of your story.

One way to put it together is to work with your marketing team (internal or external) to craft a story that can be told over many channels (most likely social media) that will touch and engage your current and potential employees. Work to create an emotional connection that ranks higher in someone’s mind than their unemployment bennies.

Maybe there is a partnership you can forge if you already work with an attraction design firm to help craft and create a story, and find a compelling way to bring that story to life. That’s what they do everyday for your guests.

Lastly, look at the services you provide your teams. If, for example, enough of your employees say they can’t come back because of child care issues, step up to the plate and help them find a solution. We find solutions to those kinds of things all the time. And if it helps bring back a significant part of your workforce, how can that NOT be good for business?

You don’t just WANT your employees to come back, you NEED them to. So think about what they NEED to make that happen.

Thanks for reading!


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A tale of two fortunes

Got this fortune with some Chinese food the other day:

At first reading I thought, YES!! Trust yourself! Be confident! Boldly go where no one has gone before! Pass the crab rangoon!!

But then I read it again. Now I think there is more to the story.

My first take was that this was really empowering. Trust in yourself… your abilities, your skills, your knowledge. Trust that you have more going right than going wrong. Trust that you have the confidence to surmount any challenge.

But those sneaky fortune writers, whether they planned to or not, got me thinking that it might be possible that we can trust ourselves TOO much. That if we trust ourselves with the wrong stuff, we could still THINK we’re right – even when we’re not.

For example, I LOVE peanut M&M’s. Can’t get enough of them. But when I trust myself to open up that bag and have just a few, I know that when half the bag is gone that that isn’t right.

So maybe I should trust myself a little less in those situations. Take 3 out of the bag, close the bag, put the bag back in the cupboard and walk away. THEN I think I would trust myself to do what’s right.

Personally, I think we need a balance of trust and distrust to make the right decisions. It’s a delicate balance, though, because when do you trust yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to grow versus distrusting yourself to not get involved with a situation you are destined to make worse?

This will take a little reflection.

Think of a time when you DID step out of your comfort zone and successfully learned something new or enhanced your skills/experience. What was your confidence level going into that situation? Was it over 50% that you would be successful? Was it 70%? 80%? I would bet it was not any LOWER than 50%. Otherwise your brain would have told you that this situation would bring more harm than benefit.

Now think about a time that you did NOT act. Where was your confidence level that this particular situation would turn out positively? I would hazard a guess that it was somewhere under the 50% mark.

Now think about the things in your world that you do on the regular, without hesitation and without fail. Confidence pretty high in those situations? Then you should TRUST yourself that in those situations, anything you do will be right.

Contrast that with lower confidence situations, and you should have a healthy DIS-TRUST of your behaviors under those circumstances. But do not despair – this is GOOD NEWS!!

Now you know exactly what you need to work on. You know what skills or knowledge you need to explore in the future so you can build your skills and confidence and start trusting yourself in those areas. Just like me with peanut M&M’s!

Now, who’s hungry?

Thanks for reading!!


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The beginning of the end

It was 2013. I was sitting in my publishers office in Sarasota, FL and my eyes were closed. My publisher, Julie Ann, told me to hold out my hands and I did.

She then handed me the first printed copy of The Myth of Employee Burnout. My first book. For a guy who hated English class in school, this was quite an accomplishment.

I really thought this was the beginning of the end. The beginning of my career as an author and the end of burnout.

I was right about one of those things.

I went on to write a second book, but have yet to completely eradicate burnout.

And that’s because I can’t do it alone. I so appreciate those who have read the book or attended a course and have applied these concepts. You know what a herculean effort this is.

But the fight is not over. So on March 24th, I’ll be leading a virtual workshop to help leaders understand their role and responsibilities when it comes eliminating burnout.

“If you apply what you will learn in this workshop, it will forever change you as a leader.” – Kristen Mulady

If you sign up but can’t attend on March 24th, you will get a link to watch the replay. This is not a webinar, but an interactive workshop that will give you lots of practical tools you can use right away.

We’ll be following the foundation originally laid out in the book by answering these three questions: What is burnout? Why does it happen? What do we do about it? (And we’ll spend most of our time on that last one.)

I hope to see you on the 24th, not only for the workshop, but also to continue the fight against burnout.

Together, we CAN do this!

Contact me with questions or just to chat!


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Happy New Year!

I know many of you have kicked 2020 to the curb, and I’m with you.

But amid the rubble that is 2020, there have been some bright spots. New opportunities, new partnerships, new ways of doing business. But that didn’t all come easy.

If you had any success in 2020, even if it was to NOT reveal your pajama bottoms on a Zoom call, it can be attributed to two things.

Your attitude and your actions.

But here’s the thing… we aren’t always self-aware enough to know when our attitudes or actions are actually holding us back.

No way! Not me!?! Yes, even you.

That’s why we need other voices in our lives.  The ones that say you’re doing great, or you missed the mark.

Last week for me, that voice belonged to EJ Randolph, who very eloquently pointed out that I had misspelled a word on a social media graphic that I had been using for months. Oddly enough, this graphic was for a “Share Your Win Wednesday” promo that we do in the ALL CLEAR Facebook Group

I quickly changed the graphic and thanked EJ. People like this need to be celebrated!

Who are the voices in your life that can point out when your attitude is on point or if you’ve missed the point?  Who are the people who can praise or correct an action when they see the need?

These are the folks who can truly help you calibrate your attitudes and actions for maximum positive impact.

So my challenge to you for 2021 is simple: embrace those who are giving you feedback, even if it stings to hear it a little bit, because ultimately they will help you become a better version of yourself than you ever thought possible.

And in 2021, we’re going to need you at the top of your game more than ever.

Be well, my friends.


They did what?

What do you notice about Omar?

What I noticed first was his mask. Clearly this ad was created in the last few months to show current safety procedures. Cool.

But what I also noticed was Omar’s tats and earlobe plugs (I think that’s what they are called). Why did this catch my eye?

Because for decades of working the in attractions industry, visible tats and ear piercings (on guys specifically) were not allowed. Now here is Fresh Market showing an employee with both IN AN AD!  

Why is this GOOD and IMPORTANT? It’s good because like many of you, Fresh Market has embraced recent personal appearance trends to increase, and in many cases improve, their pool of qualified applicants. It’s important because in this ad they are not just selling a salad (or whatever is in the plastic container), they are also selling the idea of an employee expressing themselves while also providing great service. Yes, it can be done. 

After seeing this ad, I looked at some websites from around our industry (yes, yours) and I found something interesting. I saw lots of smiling faces in perfect dress code, as you would expect.  I found diversity of gender and ethnic decent. But I didn’t see any tattoos, yet I know a lot of you allow them in your workforce. It sounds like a small thing, but what does this say to a potential employee?

If they don’t see someone like themselves, it might be hard for them to imagine working for you. Isn’t that why we show different genders and ethnic backgrounds? Should tats be any different?

In some ways, it feels like we have come full circle from when Walt Disney started enforcing the boy-and-girl-next-door appearance standards in 1955.  Well, it’s not 1955 anymore and it’s likely that the folks next door (including the parents) have more ink than Walt would have tolerated back in the day. 

So if you would hire Omar, tats and all, would you also put him front and center in an ad campaign?  Would it be his smiling face that not only sells the salad, but your jobs as well?  Food for thought.

Thanks for reading!

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  • Dealing with COVID
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I need your help

I need your help.

I have decided to launch a brand-new (for me) learning platform that will provide a pathway for leaders to grow, develop, and ultimately become more promotable.

It’s a year-long program (to start) where you will achieve personal and professional goals, become part of a supportive community and transform your leadership skills.

Because I have never done this before, I need 20 brave souls who are willing to join the inaugural class of POC YOUniversity – where we will build lasting skills for your leadership journey. Catchy, right?

If you already know you would like to be put on the short list for this opportunity, let me know by clicking the button below.

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Need more info?  No problem!  Join me for a 30 minute informational webinar on Monday, Oct. 26. We will describe the program in detail and leave plenty of time for Q&A. There is absolutely no obligation to join the program, but if you are interested in learning more or staying in the loop, I will be asking for you to indicate that at the end of the webinar.

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Please let me know if you have any questions! Hope to see you all on the 26th!

De-escalation Techniques – Webinar replay

This past Monday, Scot Carson, Josh Liebman and I presented a webinar where we shared guest feedback data around new COVID procedures and tips and strategies to both proactively and reactively de-escalate tough situations.

What is “proactive de-escalation”?  Push play and you’ll find out!

For the audio podcast version, click here: AP Podcast – Episode 156

Thanks for listening, watching, and de-escalating!!


Don’t wait for HR

I used to work in HR.  I liked working in HR. I know most of the people who dedicate their lives to HR are caring individuals trying to help their teams and organizations grow, not the policy-police overlords you read about.

That said, you SHOULD NOT wait on HR to recognize your employees and show that you care. You can do that anytime and anywhere… for FREE!!

So yes, this will be my second post in a few days that deals with employee appreciation. Why? Because literally the day after my conversation with “Shane”, I spoke to another manager (from a different company) about virtually the same topic. As we talked about how he was going to personally recognize and acknowledge his team, he said, “I’ll see what HR has in terms of scratch offs or recognition cards.”

And this is when I said, “Don’t wait for HR.”

Not because they don’t want to help. Not because they can’t help. Not because they are too busy to help.  It’s because for the kind of appreciation we’re talking about, you don’t NEED HR.

You need YOUR voice, YOUR eyes, a little of YOUR time and YOUR caring heart. That’s it.

When you see something worthy of recognition, here’s what you do:

  • Go up to that person (maintaining 6 feet physical distancing if that is still required) and look them in the eye to show you care and that you’re serious. Don’t look at your phone while doing this.  That’s rude.
  • Describe what you saw. “I noticed that you waved at every guest as they walked by, and many waved back. Thank you for doing that. It makes them feel welcome and that we want them here. It also makes you more approachable in case they have a question. Rock on with your great guest service!”

And look, that didn’t take very long and you didn’t need a recognition card from HR. Best of all, it was FREE and infinitely repeatable!! If you want to tie your recognition to an official HR program, fine. But you DO NOT have to wait to have that card in your hand to show your appreciation for a job well done.

A MUST READ on appreciation: Infographic “How To” Post 6: Appreciated

Back to our story… what about the caring heart?  Oh yeah. The above conversation CAN NOT be delivered nonchalantly. As I stated in that post from 2016, you have to genuinely appreciate your team so your appreciation comes across as genuine. Do you, deep down, really care about your team?  Like, for realz, I mean?

If you do, then you know that the power to recognize and appreciate your team does not come from a scratch-off card.  And, it’s not the scratch-off card that people appreciate.

When I was at Universal, we had a program called “Winning Moments”.  This was a way for team members to recognize each other. There were little cards that you would give to a deserving co-worker with a hand written note about how they had a positive impact on you. That team member would then turn that card in to Team Member Services for the chance to win a prize.

But guess what. Very few people turned in those cards. Can you guess why?  Because they were pinned up in their cubicles and lockers as reminders of how someone appreciated them. These were badges of honor, and worth a heck-of-a-lot-more than anything you could get in the drawing.

So, the Winning Moment form was changed.  A tab was added at the bottom so people could keep the part with the personal note and turn in the stub with their name on it. Brilliant.

This again should show you that you don’t NEED to wait for HR. People value the MESSAGE over the MECHANISM.  And you control the message.

After all this conversation, the manager I was talking to said, “So I just need to get out and look for it. While observing the operation and the guests, I ALSO need to be looking for the great things my employees are doing.  Maybe even make it a goal to praise a certain number of people a day.”

YES! (but with a caveat – they have to DESERVE the praise). Don’t be the manager who is praising just to praise with no specificity behind it.  That’s not genuine either.

So to sum up…

  • You have to appreciate people so you can appreciate people
  • Your genuineness is the KEY to great employee appreciation
  • You DO NOT have to wait on HR to praise or recognize your team

I am happy to talk to anyone about how to show appreciation for your team. Call or email anytime or if you prefer, grab a spot on my calendar:

Thanks for reading!


In the near future, I will be publishing new articles on the AttractionPros site and on LinkedIn. I would love to connect on LinkedIn if we aren’t already, and I encourage you to sign up for updates from the AttractionPros site to get ALL the latest updates and relevant content!