All you have to do is…

How many times have you seen an employee (yours or at another establishment) looking bored?  Have you seen them looking at their phones, staring off into space or doing things they shouldn’t be doing?

This couldn’t be YOUR fault, could it?  Of course not. It’s the kids these days. They don’t want to work, they just want to play on their phones.

And when we view them as half-brain dead zombies, that’s how we treat them. And that’s how we train them.

When giving instructions to your employees, how many of you have ever said, “all you have to do is…”?

If this has been your training strategy, you might want to think about what you are really asking them to do.  Whether you realize it or not, what you’re saying to them is that they don’t have to think, they don’t have to act, and there’s no brainpower required for this activity.

Then what happens when the one activity they ARE supposed to do isn’t required?

They get bored. People, by our nature, need challenges and for our minds to be active. So, we’ll find ways to KEEP our minds active if the task in front of us isn’t fulfilling that need. What might this look like for your employees?  Yep.  Texting.

A few years ago I heard T. Scott Gross talking about how we have idiot-proofed so many of our jobs.  Rather than take the time to find the right people and prepare them for the role, we dumb down the responsibilities so any Joe Schmoe could do it. But as T. Scott says, the only person willing to do an idiot-proof job is an idiot.  Do you see the cycle we’ve created?

Are your jobs “idiot-proof”?  If so, I challenge you to put some challenge back in those roles.  Let your employees use their brains and their talents FOR you, not in spite of you.

Will this take extra time, because you now have to work with your employees to help develop the right skills and judgements?  Yes.  But wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing that than hiring and firing and hiring and firing a bunch of idiots?

That’s what I thought.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: It took Matt about 45 minutes to write this post. When asked, he tells people it took him 25 years to write his first book, The Myth of Employee Burnout, because it includes experiences and insights from his entire career to this point.  He’s really hoping the second book doesn’t take nearly that long!

What shuffling through iTunes taught me about business

On a recent flight to Minneapolis, I got the chance to listen to a lot of great music. As it would happen, iTunes did a nice job shuffling through my songs, picking a bunch that I hadn’t heard it a while. Probably no coincidence that many were by Rush, as they represent the largest collection of songs by any artist in my library.

And here is what I noticed. As I listened carefully to these songs, especially some of the Rush songs, I noticed a distinct progression happening… A journey that Rush ITunesthe artist takes you on from the beginning of the song to the end, adding layers and textures, building intensity, telling a story, subtly changing rhythms and melodies to propel us forward to the next verse, chorus, bridge or solo.

It was the first time in a while that I really listened to music as an event, rather than using it a way to fill the air with sound.

And it was great.

And then it hit me. This is what an ideal consumer experience should be like, too.

Think about it… If someone walks through the doors of a store or talks to someone on the phone before their visit, that’s like the intro of a song – setting the tone for the experience.  As they go through the store, they may experience repeating patterns that become familiar, such as brand or promotional messaging – much like a familiar and repeatable chorus of a popular song.

They also get to see, touch and smell different items that continually pique their interest, inviting them to try more. This would equate musically to changes in key or melody, time signature and tempo.

If done correctly, the end result is a very satisfying experience where both the listener and the consumer feels they have been on a wonderful journey that they want to repeat.

Now, I will say that not every song I listened to took me on this journey. Some had a good hook or a great beat, but didn’t quite bring it all together… for me. And that’s okay.

So how does your business compare to this musical metaphor?  Are you set up to maximize transaction efficiency while failing to tell a story, your story, that ultimately draws your customer in and makes them part of the journey?

If so, how could you change that?  When was the last time you truly experienced your business as your consumer does?  It sounds simple, but seeing things from their vantage point can uncover incredible opportunities.

This concept also applies to the employee experience. They start off not knowing much about your organization, but ultimately they will be the ones “telling” your story to your guests. How can you create a welcoming environment, intrigue them with new information and skills, and engage them in your brand so they will WANT to share your story?

If you could do this, both with your guests and employees, wouldn’t that be music to your (and their) ears?

Thanks for reading!


In case you are interested, the song that most inspired this post was “Manhattan Project” by Rush.  Below is a video of just the lyrics, but I challenge you to close your eyes, put on some headphones and just listen. (If you are reading this in an email, click here to view the video.)

Are you like an encyclopedia?

You may think I am asking if you have a lot of knowledge.


I’m asking if the information you have (or delivery of information) is like an encyclopedia?

Why?  Because while encyclopedias were once the bees knees, they are now information dinosaurs.  And if you are like an encyclopedia, you could be a dinosaur, too.

Having not thought about encyclopedias for years and years, I thought about them the other day when looking for a store that had recently opened near my house.  I pulled up the trusty-dusty Google Maps, and there is was.  The store had only been open a few months, and my go-to map was already updated with the information.

And honestly, this is what I expected.  With the frequency that software, computers, and phones update, there is no reason for it not to be there.

Would I find this sort of updated information in an encyclopedia? Again, nope.

For the information that we used to have to gather, encyclopedias were the “technology” of the day.  They contained as accurate of information as they could about things that happened in the past, but were not very good for doing research about more recent events. And, the only way to “digest” the information was to read it.

So I’ll ask you again… are you like an encyclopedia?  Is your information out-of-date and do you rely on only when method to deliver it?

Before you answer, think about these few questions:

  • Do you frequently use one of these phrases – “When I was young”, or “Back in my day”?  (By the way, these phrases are not reserved for old fuddy-duddies. I recently overheard a pair of 20-somethings lamenting the fact that their late teens counterparts didn’t possess the life experience that they did.)
  • Have you changed the way you communicate information in the last year, or ever?
  • Are you having a hard time getting through to your employees?

The last question is really a bi-product of the first two.  Getting stuck in the past and refusing to alter our communication methods with the changing times and technology, you will be viewed as a dinosaur.  And unfortunately, unless you are a 6 year-old having a birthday party or paleontologist, dinosaurs just aren’t as relevant as they used to be.

And here’s the kicker… when asked what employees need and want from their supervisor in order to do their jobs, one of the most common answers is information.

And not just any ol’ information.  Timely, accurate and relevant are pretty important pieces of that puzzle.  They WANT that information to feel part of the team, and they NEED that information to do the job you’ve hired them to do!

I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked for where the marketing team put out a great promotion, but the operations team didn’t know anything about it, or it wasn’t communicated to the people on the front lines.  Then, when a guest shows up wanting to take advantage of that promotion, the employee looks clueless.  That look of cluelessness turns into a hassle for the guest and frustration for the employee.  We all know what that frustration can lead to… #noburnout

If only they would have had the information…

As a leader, you probably have the information (if you aren’t a dinosaur) and you likely have the ability to disseminate it to the people who really need it (again, barring the dinosaur designation).  There could be a legitimate concern of information overload, if it’s the wrong information.  I would be much more concerned with information UNDERLOAD with the right information.

And for a little information inspiration… Newman.

Thanks for reading!


About the author:  One of the first pieces of feedback Matt got on his book, The Myth of Employee Burnout was, “there is too much information”.  After rewriting it, the second bit of feedback was that there was “something missing”.  After a third crack at it, it seems to be just right. Just like that third bowl of porridge.