Report from Vegas

I can’t believe that the IAAPA show only has two more days left. It’s been a whirlwind of education sessions, reuniting with old friends and checking out what Las Vegas has to offer.

I haven’t been to Vegas since I was 11, so you can imagine that things have changed just a bit. It’s interesting to see the old parts of the strip sandwiched between the new mega resorts. Also interesting (to me at least) to find out where all this came from- how did sin city rise from the desert, and why here?

Turns out that this region (many, many years ago) was actually not the desert it is today. It was actually wetlands with a great source of food, water and vegitation for travelers going from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. The area became a stop over on the journey, and inevidibly, people started to settle here.

From what I read, gambling had been a popular pasttime of the residents, and at one point it was actually outlawed. That lasted about 3 weeks!

Fast forward to 20 years ago (give or take) when Atlantic City and the casinos on Native American reservations were increasing in popularity, and you see the birth of the mega resort in Vegas. They were no longer the only game in town, so they had to up the anti (pun intended).

While I am not a big gambler, I can certanly appreciate the allure of Las Vegas. There are some great restaurants and shows, and of coarse, roller coasters!

The highlights for me thos past week have been seeing old friends, participating in all the great initiatives the HR committee has been planning for the last year, and making new friends and memories along the way.

Two more days to go!

Step up to three burners

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this here, but my wife and I have been doing a little home remodeling.  It’s been quite a learning experience, and it’s great to see it finally all come together.  For the latest on ‘As The Dirt Turns’, click here.

The reason I bring this up is this morning (after about 4 months) was our first real, home cooked breakfast in our new kitchen on a stove that works.  In our old set-up, we were down to one burner, a toaster oven and a microwave for all of our meals that didn’t involve a phone or leaving a tip.  We had gotten quite good at improvising and juggling multiple parts of a dish on one burner.

This morning, as we had THREE burners going at once, Linda said to me, “this is a lot like taking on a leadership role or more responsibility – you have a lot more to watch.”

Too true… in our old kitchen set-up, we could take our time, focus on one thing and make sure it was done correctly before moving on to the next step.  Now, it’s more about how many different things we can handle at once.  Sound familiar?

One of the biggest reasons that new leaders fail is that they are not equipped to handle the added pressure, visibility, and accountability of the role.  Like a cook with too many burners going, something is going to get forgotten… and likely burned.

Being overwhelmed comes from not knowing what to do, or even where to start.  Think of the things you are really good at… when someone asks you to do it, it’s no problem, you’ll get it done right away, piece of cake!  Contrast that with getting asked to do something that you have never done before, and you don’t even know where to start.  Cripes!

Now, compound that by the number of things a new leader might be asked to do that they have never done before. Easy to see how they can get “in the weeds”, as our friends in the restaurant biz say.

Unfortunately, the remedy to this situation is the one thing we seem to have less and less of… time.  Not just time to do stuff, but time to learn.  Time to teach.  Time to grow.

If you are a seasonal business, you may be thinking of next summer’s leaders for your facility – which is great.  Your next challenge is to think of the leaders for 2011.  But don’t wait for 2010… do it now! Think of ways you can expose those employees to the critical skills they’ll need BEFORE they are handed the keys and radio for real.  Maybe they can shadow a current Supervisor when handling a guest complaint or have them take a crack at preparing the weekly schedule.  Anything to increase their confidence, and decrease the chance of being overwhelmed.

Successful leaders not only lead right now, but also set-up their teams to succeed in the future.

Oh, and they don’t burn stuff.

A lot to learn from a chicken

The other day I had the great fortune of hearing a presentation by Dan Cathy, President and COO of Chick-fil-A.  Dan had a lot of great things to share about leadership and service (which I will share in a moment), but what I really wanted to show you was the opening video to his presentation (found on youtube).

When Dan then came out on stage with two 6′ tall cows and did the Chicken Dance, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical corporate rah-rah speech.

If you don’t know Chick-fil-A yet – you will.  According to Dan there will be umpteen new restaurants opening this year, and from the sounds of it, he’ll be at most of them.  He told us about the tradition of how the Chick-fil-A faithful line up 24 hours early for a chance to be one of the first 100 customers at a new location.  Those first 100 get free Chick-fil-A for a year!  Not only does Dan attend these events, he often camps out with his customers.

Dan talked a lot about going the extra mile and applying luxury, upscale principles to his fast food restaurants.  For example, if you walk into the restroom and the soap is full and it’s clean, that’s the expectation (mile one).  But, if you go in there (in a fast food restaurant) and there are fresh flowers and a basket of mouthwash on the counter, that exceeds what you expect (mile two, or the extra mile).  His goal at his restaurants is to make the second mile, second nature.

To go along with this, he said that maintaining the first mile (the basics) will keep you in business, but it’s the second mile that will move your business ahead, create more fun and loyalty from your customers and differentiate your business from the competition.

He also told an interesting stories about his new hobby – beekeeping.  He mentioned that he was having trouble with one of his hives and that the queen bee was kind of nasty, and it showed in the worker bees and their production.  What he learned over time is that if you want to change the temperament of the hive, you have to change out the queen.  Never thought about it that way, but it makes sense.

One last thought I will share from the presentation is about respect, dignity and honor, which Dan says (and I agree) are in high demand, but low in supply.  People pay top dollar to go to a spa or retreat to feel like a king or a queen (not bee!) for a day or a week.  How many vacation packages do you see that are all about relaxing and letting all of your cares melt away?  Dan was referring to how we treat our customers, but I also think that can be applied to how we treat our team members as well.

Everyone is going through something, and may just need a little compassion.

Thanks for reading!