Would you like to dance?

I’ve already written about the GREAT service we received while dining one day on our recent trip to California, and my overall impressions of the guest service at all of the parks we visited.  Today though, I want to explore an experience we had while waiting in lines that had nothing to do with how the employees treated us.

CNC Superman

Over the course of a week, we stood in lots of lines and waited for lots of rides.  What happened over and over again was the “dance” of large parties trying to get onto a ride at the same time.

Picture the “corral” set-up of most roller coaster loading stations.  There are chutes that guests get into that align them with the seat they are about to take.  This is where the dance happens, when people count the other guests in front of them and realize they may not be on the same ride as their friends.

So then this conversation ensues, “Would you like to go ahead of us so we can go with our friends?”

Let’s look at that.  So a guest is letting, in fact suggesting, that another group GO AHEAD of them in line.  At any other point in the line this would be considered “cutting” and not tolerated by the masses.  Yet, here it is encouraged.

And we saw this from guests of all ages and cultural backgrounds. It seemed that just about everyone was willing to wait a little longer for the chance to experience the ride their friends.

There is a special dynamic at an amusement park about sharing the experiences you have.  Even if you go on the exact same ride one cycle later, it’s not the same as going on on the ride WITH your friends.

Does this give us any insight into how people behave in the workplace?  I think it actually does.

The question about why people stay in a job, or what keeps them coming back, or what makes all the ups and downs worth it generally comes back to one thing: the people.

Of course we can’t overlook things like pay, benefits and working conditions, but so often people are driven by being around others that care about them, that support them and that THEY can have a positive influence on.  The more I am around people and get to study them, the more I truly believe that at their core, people want to GIVE as much as they GET.  That may not always be easy to do or articulate, but I do see it as a genuine human need.

As funny as it sounds, I think we sometimes marginalize what we allow our employees to GIVE us while they are working.  Yes, we get their time and usually their attention, but are we allowing them to give us their talents?

When people are unsatisfied in a job, is it because they haven’t worked enough hours, or is it because they haven’t been able to show what they are really capable of?

I’ve been a fan of Zappos for years.  Not necessarily as a retailer (although I have had good experiences) but as a company who has been able to sustain an amazing culture.  Look at their core values and tell me what you see.

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I see that the majority of items are centered around how people work together.  They tap into the deep need we have to connect with others on a meaningful level and use that to propel their business forward. It doesn’t say so explicitly in their values, but they are also very good at placing people where their talents are best utilized, which makes upholding their values a bit easier.

If experiencing the “dance” while waiting in line has taught me anything, it’s that the need to connect and be human is so powerful for some that it trumps some of our shorter-sighted goals, such as being first in line on a roller coaster.  It sometimes causes us to sacrifice what we’ve worked (or waited) for, but in the end we know it will be worth it because of the deepened connections we’ve made.

Is it a stretch then to say that being part of a strong, cohesive team is more important than making a lot of money?

To some, it just might be.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: This is always the toughest part of the post to write – trying to tell you a little about who I am and what I do, all while not sounding pompous.  How about this? If you liked what you read and would like to talk about working together to improve leadership, customer service or team dynamics at your company, please contact me in the manner you see fit. The end.

What does ‘above and beyond’ really look like?

A few weeks ago, my friends Alan, Darren and I set out on our annual coaster-palooza-extravaganza! It was an epic exploration of Southern California with visits to Disney, Universal, Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain.  While many lessons were learned, and notes of guest service experiences were taken (and will be included in a subsequent post), one experience early in our trip inspired me to share some thoughts about the ever elusive “above and beyond”.

We all hear it, we all say it.  We all tell our employees that we want to “exceed our guests expectations by going ‘above and beyond'”.  Yet, when pressed for what this actually means, very few people can put their finger on it.

So, I thought I would share an experience we had at Disneyland that epitomized ‘above and beyond’.

First I should tell you that during our visit, SoCal was experiencing record high temps and unprecedented rainfall. The rain didn’t bother us much, and the heat, while unexpected, just reminded us of Florida. So, when we sat down at the Carnation Cafe in Disneyland for lunch, we were THIRSTY!

We were greeted by Masayo, and ordered three waters.  Our tone must have been a little desperate because she returned VERY quickly with our first glasses of water and never let our glasses get more than half empty.  I don’t even think our ice had a chance to melt!  At the end of the meal, she offered us more water in to-go cups.  To me, this one small gesture of continued hydration was outside of “normal” server duties.  But Masayo wasn’t finished.

At the end of the meal, we asked her to take our picture.  Masayo quickly cleared the table to make sure the picture looked good, then actually came back a few minutes later and asked if the picture came out okay.

Carnation CafeHow many after dinner pictures do you have with a table full of culinary carnage?  The act of clearing the table AND coming back to ask if the picture came out okay are, in my mind, behaviors that were not expected and went “above and beyond” the call of duty.  Combine this with very friendly service, great menu recommendations and bottomless water glasses on a hot day, and you’ve got a very special dining experience.

To recap, Masayo did all the normal stuff of taking our order and delivering food – the basics.  Where she took it to the next level was in her CARE about our experience.  Specifically the water, clearing the table and checking on the picture quality.  She didn’t HAVE to do any of that, which makes it, “above and beyond”.

To be honest though, Masayo’s behaviors may not have seemed SO above and beyond if it weren’t for many of the other cast members we encountered during our stay.  Surprisingly, we noticed a lack of smiles, cast members talking to each other rather than engaging guests and giving one word answers (or even just a head nod) when asked for directions. And unfortunately, it wasn’t an isolated incident. The lack of guest focus in multiple areas was palpable.

I shared the feedback both about Masayo and the other cast members with a colleague who works at the Disneyland Resort, and he acknowledged the challenge of keeping everyone focused on the right things.  “Especially for Disney” he said, “because we set the bar so high for ourselves.”

I think that’s a challenge for a lot of leaders, and a big part of that challenge is knowing what behaviors you are actually looking for.  Otherwise, how do you know when you have hit the mark, made the grade, or have gone above and beyond?

You probably have goals and measurements for revenue, capacity, sales, etc.  Those are easy to quantify because of they are based on numbers.  If you really want people to go “above and beyond”, you have to define specifically what those behaviors look like not only so they know what is expected, but also so YOU can identify them (and recognize them) when they happen.

That’s your challenge.  Better get to it!

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt provides professional coaching, leadership training and highly interactive keynote presentations to individuals and organizations who want to make the most of their potential.