The Time of Our Lives

If the title of this post brings up memories of the Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes song from Dirty Dancing because it was the theme song from your prom, you and I have something in common.  But when you think of the “best time of your life”, what do you think of?

On a recent stint of R&R in San Antonio, our good friends Tom and Patsy shared that when they asked their grown kids about their favorite time during childhood, they both mentioned that it was the time that their Dad (Tom) was out of work.

Getting ready for a Segway ride - Patsy is in the white jacket on right, Tom is right behind her.


When asked why, they mentioned that they really enjoyed being able to spend more time with Dad (and Mom of course!), and that they really liked the simple things they did to spend time together.  Tom and Patsy recalled lunchtime picnics listening to the cars go by, feeling sort of bad that they couldn’t do more for their kids at the time.  Turns out, they were doing exactly what they needed to do.

If you have kids, feel free to take this as a lesson in parenting.  If you are a leader, PLEASE take this as a lesson about the MOST valuable resource you can give your employees – your time.

Your time means you care.  Your time means you’ll listen.  Your time means they can count on you and trust you.  You may have read my post from Jan. 16 about providing undivided attention to your guests.  Your employees deserve the same courtesy.

In that post I discussed looking at staffing levels and NOT reducing them to their bare bones level of efficiency, but to look at what is really needed to serve your guests properly.  Tom and Patsy’s example shows that we should be careful about spreading our leaders too thin as well.  In order to spend time with your employees, you have to HAVE the time to spend.  It’s unfortunate, but the area that usually gets eliminated when time is tight is the time with the employees.  Reports and paperwork seem to get done because there is a measurable deadline.  Why don’t we put the same value on time with the people who are most valuable to the organization?

This is also good to keep in mind when thinking about what it really takes to motivate your employees.  Ever wonder why gift cards and movie tickets lose their luster?  Same reason that toy you really wanted for your birthday is sitting in the closet collecting dust.  Those things cannot bring you the joy and value that quality time can.

Just like everything else regarding leadership, this is a balancing act.  So what can you do to carve out some extra time to spend with your employees?

A Practical Guide to Social Media

If you are interested in getting involved with social media, especially from a business standpoint, there is no shortage of resources out there to choose from. Especially if you are a small business or an entrepreneur, the choices of programs, consultants, seminars, and articles (this being one of them) out there are staggering, and you could easily spend more time trying to figure out what you should be doing than actually doing it.

I noticed I was doing that – spending more time reading about it than doing it.  And if there is one absolute truth I have learned about social media, it’s that this is not a spectator sport.  Read a bit about it, do your research, but then jump in.

If you remember one thing, remember this.  It’s a conversation.  A conversation between friends, among you and your guests, and potential guests.  Wondering about what to say, tweet, or post?  What would you say if you were standing in front of someone?  Type that.

I am going to keep this brief because I don’t want you to spend a lot of time reading, I want you to spend time doing.  So here are three steps to get you going (assuming you already have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account, and perhaps just don’t know what to do with them.)

  • Take no more than 5 minutes and find a discussion or topic you are interested in and make a comment.  Again, think about what you would say if you were right in front of that person, having a conversation.
  • Think of one of your most pressing business questions.  Post that as a discussion somewhere.  Chances are, someone else is struggling with that or they have a suggestion and they will continue the conversation.  Even if no one responds, you still started the discussion.  Don’t let that discourage you from trying again.
  • Set aside 5-10 minutes to do this every couple of days.  It takes time and consistency to build up these relationships, just like in real life.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on Likes, and landing pages and stats and followers and all that.  Make sure you are comfortable with who you are following or connected to and just be mindful (as you would in real life anyway) about who is seeing or hearing what message.

Lastly, I will say be nice.  That’s it.  Talk to people and be nice.  That’s my practical guide to social media.  Hope that helps!

Pay Attention!

I had a friend in grade school that said he was so poor he couldn’t even pay attention.  While I am sure he didn’t originate that phrase, it was still pretty funny to a bunch of 6th graders.  Today I was reminded that providing undivided attention is something your guests need and want.

Today it was Doris at our local WalMart who reminded me of this.  Linda and I were approaching the checkout, and Doris waved us over to her register.  Very pleasantly she walked with us from the aisle to the register, joking that we had just won something.  “You are the big winner”, she said.  Being at a checkout line with no wait, I figured we had already won, but I wanted to play along.

“What did we win?”  I asked.

“My undivided attention.” Doris proclaimed.

And she was right.  While ringing up our stuff, she joked and chatted with us like we were old friends.  She learned a little about us, we learned a little about her. And at the end of the transaction, she didn’t thank us for our purchases… she thanked us for the conversation.

This really made me think about what a customer or guest wants from a service interaction, and why so many of them go horribly wrong.


Think about it.  With today’s smaller budgets and lower staffing levels, front line service employees are being asked to do many more things than they have in the past.  Answer the phone, ring up a sale, find a missing item, process a return, answer the phone again, make change, call the warehouse, etc. And these are just generic retail responsibilities.  Think about how many things you are asking your employees to do.

Some people can handle the pressure.  William at Full Throttle VW here in Orlando is one of those people.  He has a vast experience dealing with the public, and it shows in the way he can handle multiple responsibilities all at once.  I am working on more in-depth profile on William for a future post.

If you are like many who long for the grand ol’ service of yesteryear, don’t think in terms of the quality of people (which is the typical assumption), instead think of the number of people involved and how they were allowed to specialize in their field.  A quick example is the gas station.  One person comes out to fill the tank, another person is checking your oil, and another person is washing your windshield.  Is this expensive in labor dollars?  Yes.  But think about the experience the customer had… they probably thought that was great service – and they came back for the service.  You can get gas anywhere.

Today you would pull up, pump your own gas, check the fluids and wash the windows if you felt like it, and possibly have no contact at all with an employee.

Until the pump doesn’t work.  Then the employee calls over the intercom to try to help, but the audio quality is shaky at best, so you can’t understand them.  You get upset, they get upset, all while they are also dealing with a line up people in front of them and the Pepsi delivery that just showed up 4 hours early.

You drive away thinking the service sucked because some untrained teenager who would rather be texting is completely incompetent and you weep for the future.

Get over yourself.

If you are a leader, I urge you to look at this from a workload standpoint.  If your first thought when the budget needs to be cut is to cut staff and combine duties, please stop.  Look at history and think through that move.  Think about the best service experiences you have had (and the places you want to go back to) and see if there is any corollary between the attentiveness and attention of the employees and your wonderful experience.

Then ask yourself about the worst experience, and the places you don’t want to go back to.  Probably someplace like the gas station example above.

People will wait longer, drive farther and pay more for great service.  Don’t make them choose you because you are cheapest, make them choose you because you are the best.

Thanks for reading!

Who’s vision is it anyway?

As leaders, we hear a lot about vision.  Not the kind that Lenscrafters can help with, but that kind of forward thinking, forward seeing strategic concept that drives a company to new heights.  However, I think this is only part of the picture, and as a quote shared by my friend and colleague Val Paralitici states, it’s as much (if not more) about finding the vision within your employees.

“Leadership has nothing to do with blindly driving your own vision onto those you lead, it has to do with discovering that vision inside every person and helping them in their path towards achieving it.” H. Landolfi

I think this quote identifies two types of leaders… those who can let go, and those who can’t.

In the past, I have written about Dave and Nancy Tkachuk, who I worked with for a short period of time between theme park jobs, and how they reacted when I told them I would be leaving their company.  You can read about that here.

Dave and Nancy really understood that if I wasn’t happy trying to achieve their vision, it would be better in the long run for me to leave to pursue my own path.  They were supportive, generous and kind.

On the other hand, we have probably all known leaders who were so afraid of losing their top talent that they did whatever they could to keep them on board, whether it was good for the employee or not.  They tried to manipulate, control and just hold on too tight.  Ironically, this usually leads to frustration from the employee, and they end up quitting (sometimes bitterly) anyway.

If you can let go, you encourage development and exploration.

If you can’t let go, you encourage blinders and closed-mindedness.

If you can let go, value your own opportunities for growth.

If you can’t let go, you are likely afraid of your opportunities to fail.

Where do you fall?  If you are someone who can let go, how do you help your employees find their own vision?