No one told me

“No one told me”

At a recent event that my wife organized, an employee from the host hotel repeated this phrase a few times, and it got me thinking about where it came from.

First, a little context.

At the hotel where the event was held, there was a mix up with when the ballroom was supposed to be unlocked on the second day. (It was unlocked too early). We went to the front desk to ask that it be relocked, and the desk agent called over the radio to someone to take care of it.

In a frustrated tone, we heard, “No one told me that” coming from the radio speaker.

Barring the obvious frustration, the doors were relocked as requested, and we went about our business. When it was time to unlock them for the day, the person who apparently answered the radio call showed up and unlocked them. “No one told me” again was uttered to us as the doors were unlocked.

That was pleasant.

At first glance, this seems like an annoyed employee shirking their responsibility and protecting their turf. But the more I thought about this, the more I realized what a quagmire it really is. Is this a communication issue, an employee issue, a culture issue or a leadership issue? Hmmm…

Of course you could argue that it’s all of these, or at least a combination.

Let’s explore a little deeper:

Communication issue: it seems at a minimum that the request of the client was not relayed to the person who could carry out the request. Why? Was it not understood by the event manager? Was it communicated to another person in the door unlocking department, but not to the person on duty that day? Is there no process for communicating these requests (beyond word of mouth) to the right people? If there is a system, is everyone using it (or are they proficient in using it?) Was it not communicated from the client? (In this case, I can confidently say this is not the care, because I was there. Still, it’s an option that should be explored.) Ultimately, where did the communication break down?

Employee issue: Hearing something like this we probably think that this employee doesn’t care, they are burned out, frustrated, overwhelmed, not accepting responsibility, etc. All of those may be true, but I heard something else, too. I heard a desire to help. “No one told me” could be saying “don’t blame me, it’s not my fault”, but behind that could be “I want to help, I’d love to help, I want to make this right for you, I want you to have a GREAT experience, but that’s really tough if I don’t have the information to do my job.” Which leads back to our communication issue, but also nods to a culture issue.

Culture issue: Like ANY action or behavior, there is more to it than what we see on the surface. This employee could be reacting to an unsettling trend of being repeatedly blindsided with these types of requests. Have the employees’ requests for additional information or clearer direction gone unheard? Are they tired of getting the brunt of aggravation from guests when things don’t go right? Are they the one that gets blamed by management when these shortfalls in service occur? THAT can be frustrating.

Of course all of these issues point to one thing…

Leadership issue: who has the greatest impact on communication? Who defines the culture of a company through their words and actions? Who is responsible for making sure that employees are heard and supported?

If you are a leader, that would be you.

Also as a leader, you often can’t take things a face value. This post contains more questions than specific answers, and that’s the point. When you see something go wrong, it’s important to ask enough questions to get you to the true root cause of the problem so you can find the right solution.

Yes, that is your responsibility as a leader. There, now you can’t say “no one told me.”

Thanks for reading.




About the author: Matt wants to help open doors to your leadership potential. He’s been educating and entertaining audiences for years, offering customized leadership and team training courses, one-on-one coaching and development, and recently co-created Lessons in Fun – a totally new kind of learning adventure!  Contact Matt today to find out how to maximize your leadership potential!!

Build up your tolerance

This post starts like many… as an interesting situation that my mind twists into a leadership lesson.  This one starts at the grocery store.

While picking out some apples, oranges and mangoes, my wife Linda noticed that I picked up 3 or 4 pieces of fruit before deciding on just the right ones.  She rightly pointed out that if all of the customers do that, I am likely picking up a lot of their germs, and then if I don’t wash the fruit before I eat it (which I don’t), I will then be ingesting all those germs, pesticides and chemicals.

She had made a pretty good case, but it was my turn for cross-examination.

My argument?  I rarely get sick.  Once, maybe twice a year, I have to stock up on orange juice and DayQuil to get me through a sniffley patch.  Whether my lack of sickness is due to ingesting (and then building up a tolerance to) those germs, or my daily intake of the fruit itself, I don’t know.  I do think there is something to that tolerance thing, and that’s what struck me as a leadership topic.

As leaders, how many things do we do that (at least at first) make us uncomfortable?  And how often to those get easier with time?

And why do they get easier?  Because we have built up a tolerance for the unsettling feeling we get just before we have to discipline someone, terminate someone, or address any situation where the stakes of the relationship and the stakes of the situation are high.

We learn that the pit in our stomach is just energy, and we can choose how to use it.  I remember in the early days of my leadership career how that energy would be used to think of ways to get out of doing something.  I gave in to the nerves, because I had no tolerance for it.  I couldn’t take it.

Later I learned to push through the initial awkwardness and use the energy to propel me forward, not backward.  As time went on, the awkward phase got shorter and shorter, and the positive energy just appeared without much effort.

Here are some things to think about as you build up tolerance:

  • It’s going to be okay – unless you are taming lions with a toothbrush, chances of your survival are pretty good.  Use that confidence to take the first step in turning that pit of energy into something that will help you, not hold you back.
  • It’s not an overnight process – don’t expect to go through one situation and be an old pro.  Just like I wouldn’t eat an apple that was covered in mud and axle grease, we shouldn’t try to rush this process too much.  A little here and there goes a long way.
  • Pace yourself – Seinfeld fans know that “unbridled enthusiasm” was Billy Mumphrey’s down fall. Part of the redirected positive energy will be used to move yourself forward, but part of it should also be used to keep yourself calm, so you can continue moving forward.

Thanks for reading!





About the author: while Matt has a tolerance for moderately dirty fruit, he very little tolerance for boring training seminars.  That was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Lessons In Fun, an interactive, immersive, more-fun-than-you-should-be-allowed-to-have-at-a-training-seminar seminar!  Click here for more information or to register. Seats are limited!



Theme park or a classroom… or both!

Many of us have heard of theme parks and amusement parks being used as a physics classroom… where students study the dynamic forces of rides and attractions to understand the real-world application of the theories they have learned in school.

Now imagine that principle, but for business and leadership!

That’s Lessons In Fun!  A brand-new kind of training seminar that uses the world’s greatest theme parks as your business classroom.  And it’s not just for people who work at theme parks and amusement parks – it’s for ANYONE who wants to be a better leader, improve customer service and gain a competitive advantage!

Scott Brown and I created the program, and it combines our love of theme parks, teaching, leadership, customer service and business improvement! We can’t wait for you to experience it!

Our goal is not to have participants adopt what other companies do (because that rarely works) but to adapt what they’ve learned and experienced to their own business or situation.

For more information and to register, check out



Epic recognition fail

Please tell me I didn’t just see that.

Yesterday I was at a local office store, waiting to pick something up from the copy/print center.  Behind the counter, two employees, Dustin and Tina, where feverishly working to complete the orders of the people in line in front of me.

I had worked with Tina before, and she is a true rock star.  Any business would be happy to employ her. She’s knowledgeable, friendly, efficient, and just a pleasure to work with.  Maybe that’s why this recognition fail was so profound to me.  Tina deserves SO much better.

Tina had come up to the computer at the front counter.  She was working on something for one of the other customers. You could tell by the look on her face that she was deep in thought and concentration.

At that moment, a young man in Manager-type clothes walks up to Tina with a piece of paper.  He starts talking to her with little regard for the work she was already doing. I was standing pretty close, so it was pretty easy to hear what was being said.

Manager – “Have you seen this?” (showing the paper to Tina)

Tina – (while still trying to work) “no, what is it?”

Manager – “You were mentioned personally on the President’s list.”

Tina – (1/2 looking at the paper, 1/2 looking at the computer screen) “Oh, uh, okay.”

Manager – (as he walks away) “You can keep that one, I’ve got another one for the break room.”

Do you feel that knot in your stomach?  That’s a completely wasted recognition opportunity.  Kinda makes me sick even to think about it.

Even more so, as I observed Tina just after that, she looked confused and a little annoyed.  Last time I checked, those were NOT the emotions people should feel when they’ve been recognized.

Then again, I cannot really qualify this as recognition. At best, it was a drive-by-manager-doing-his-duty.  I don’t know what the “President’s List” is, but I bet the recipient deserves better than a photo copy and an interruption.

Probably the hardest part for me to fathom, was the look on the Manager’s face as he walked away – the look of total managerial satisfaction. Yes, it does feel good to recognize others and to praise their accomplishments, but he did neither.

He failed.

But he doesn’t know he failed, at least not yet.  My guess is that it will be years before he has the managerial maturity to know that what he just did was about as far from effective recognition as you can get.  Even if Tina’s performance fades or she leaves, he probably won’t equate that to his actions.  And that’s too bad.

So what would you have done differently?  If you were this manager, how would you have recognized Tina for appearing on the President’s List?  Email me or leave a comment!

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Along with his business partner, Scott Brown, Matt has helped develop and launch Lessons In Fun – an all-new business training seminar where the world’s greatest theme parks become your classroom. Click here for more information. Registration for our session in Feb. 2015 is now open!