You’ll never know what you missed

When I was going to school at Full Sail, there was one particular guest speaker that I was really looking forward to: Bob Ludwig.

Bob is a mastering engineer, which is a big deal in the music business and Bob is one of the biggest guys. Mastering, a form of audio post-production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced.  Chances are that if you have listened to popular music in the last 30 years, you have heard Bob’s work (even if you didn’t know it).

One of the reasons I was so looking forward to hearing him speak is that he had done extensive work with Rush, one of my favorite bands.

As it happened, Bob’s presentation was at the end of a long day of lectures in a darkened theater. He had a lot of great information and stories, but there were a few times I felt the day and the dark catching up with me, and noticed my eyelids getting heavy. And then it happened.

Just as I opened my eyes and stretched in my seat, I heard Bob say this: “And that’s what we did on Rush’s Moving Pictures album”.

What?  Seriously? I missed the one thing I really wanted to hear him talk about. He wasn’t on DVR and there was no rewind button. The moment was gone.

How many of these moments happen to us each day, not because we sleep through them, but because we are too busy racing from thing to thing to stop and notice that they are happening?

I’m going to guess that “all too often” is the answer, but would we really know if we missed them?  Hmmm…

Most of us only see a fraction of what our employees do everyday.  Sometimes we may see them do something great and think, “I’ve got to remember to tell them later how cool that was”.  Unfortunately, later often turns into never.

And that’s the problem… we’ve missed a golden opportunity to let our employees know how valuable they are.  It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, but it does need to be sincere.  Even a glance and a smile to a busy employee communicates volumes.

Since you will never know what you missed, it’s a good idea to address the things you DO see.  Your employees will thank you.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller is famous for his ice cube recipes and ability to relate any situation to a Seinfeld episode.  His favorite color is cobalt blue.

Know what you do well

The very first time I presented at the IAAPA Attractions Expo was in 2006. I flew to Atlanta for the opportunity, and will never forget how it went.

It stunk. At least in my mind.

I remember talking really fast and having no life in my presentation at all. I tried to be funny, but it jut wasn’t working. I realized (too late, I am afraid) what my problem was.

I was trapped on the podium behind a long table and a lectern. I was trapped by my nervousness as much as my short microphone cable. I was separated and cut off from the most important people in the room. The audience.

I didn’t realize how much I really fed off of their energy and emotion until that presentation. The next year I decided to get off the podium and work the crowd from a closer proximity. I was much more comfortable, and I could tell that the audience was having a better time, too.

The lesson?  My presentations generally go much better when I can interact with the crowd.  Since realizing this, I have never let myself get trapped on the podium again.

Recently, I had another, similar lesson.  It seems as though just about every independent speaker or trainer out there has some sort of video, either of them presenting or talking directly to the camera. Since I am working on building a business of my own, I figured I should have one, too.  So, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to my computer, setting up a decent shot, thinking of what to say, and trudging through footage of a recent class I taught.

I was über unsuccessful. I wasn’t getting my point across and even I got tired of watching after a few seconds. I just couldn’t see how anyone was going to be compelled enough to keep watching and hear my message.  (The video I shared last week is in direct response to my lack of success in this other medium).

Then it hit me. This is not what I do. It’s like being stuck on that podium at IAAPA. I realized my strength was in the live performance, so I should concentrate on that. Luckily, I’ve also had good response to my writing, so that’s worth pursuing as well.

I found this to be extremely motivating, because my efforts to do the same thing that everyone else was doing was not going well. I’ve never been one to blindly follow the pack, and maybe this was my wake-up call that I was trying to do just that.

If you have ever felt the same way, here are some questions for you to consider.

  • What are you good at?
  • Do you currently get to use your greatest talents in your job/career?
  • What do you do that may seem effortless to you, but is a struggle for others?
  • Have other people said, “You know, you would be great at X”… but X is something you’ve never considered?
  • Are you trying (and not being successful) at something right now that isn’t really “you”?

As you move through your career, these are good questions to keep in mind.  Over the years, the answers can change, and that’s okay.  In fact, trying new things and working at additional skills is how we grow and get better at what we do.  I am certainly not saying we shouldn’t try new stuff.

I am suggesting that while we are trying new stuff (and maybe struggling with it), don’t forget about what it is that you do well.  For me, I’ll keep writing and performing live until I can master talking to my computer.

Thanks for reading.

So… what do you do?

Since I have started Performance Optimist Consulting, people have been asking me, “so what do you do?”.  It’s a valid question.  Essentially I like to help leaders get the most out of themselves and their teams.  Take a look:

Take the blame, it’s okay

We’ve all said (or heard) the phrase, “it’s not my fault”, which is an effort to shift blame or negative attention to someone or something else. Ultimately we think it is going to get us off the hook and make the person we are talking to feel better about us, but maybe not the situation. We had one such experience when visiting a relatively new establishment in San Antonio.

The place in question had a cool vibe.  Sort of a neighborhood pub with music and a theme that ties to local history and lore. The building itself had been there for many moons, however the staff, in particular the manager, was clearly new and still learning.

Now, I am all about learning, and when the manager came, announced himself as the manager, and said to be patient because they are still learning, I can appreciate that. I’m ready to give the guy some slack. Until…

There was, inevitably, a mix up in one of the orders, and one person in our party of 10 didn’t get his food at the same time everyone else did. The explanation was:

“One of the bartenders took your burger for a customer at the bar. They are making you another one, but the cook is taking awhile. Sorry, it wasn’t my fault, nothing I can do about it.”

Really?  Aren’t you the manager?  Or is that just a title with no real authority, or do you not know what you can and can’t do?

Either way, my beef isn’t with the mistake or the company’s org structure, it’s with the managers response and attempt to blame the bartender, cook, and anyone else he can throw under the bus.

I have a long held belief that as a leader, everything is your fault. Meaning, whatever happens at your facility, you are responsible for it in some way. Did this guy take my friends burger to the wrong customer?  No. However if he were really thinking that he was responsible for everything (as the manager), he wouldn’t have tried to discredit the rest of his staff. In fact, if he had just said hey, we screwed up and we’ll have another burger out here as quick as we can, I wouldn’t even be writing this post. But he didn’t.

Why is this important, especially in the hospitality field?  For starters, things are going to go wrong. It’s a fact. And at some point you are going to have to apologize to your guests because of something someone else did. At that point, the main thing your guest is looking for is acknowledgement of their experience. You are sorry. You will take care of it. You will make sure it doesn’t happen again. They don’t want excuses, they want results and to be listened to.

Secondly, how you react to these situations will come back to your employees. If you think about trying to save face in front of your customers, then you will likely take that feeling of embarrassment back to your employees and read them the riot act. Do they deserve that? Probably not. Did the bartender make an honest mistake?  Quite possibly, so if instead you look at this as a learning opportunity (especially in a new establishment) rather than something that needs to be punished, the likelihood of that employee being open to the discussion is much greater.

So go ahead, take the blame. It’s all your fault, anyway. :o)