How do these compare to YOUR challenges?


At the recent Florida Attractions Association Annual Conference, I asked participants to share their #1 Leadership Challenge for 2021. The answers may or may not surprise you.

I’m going to expand on these below and would love to hear your take on these topics and responses. Also feel free to let me know what you would add to the list.

Conflict with bad (underperforming) employees

I’m glad that they added underperforming to this entry. Underperforming indicates that there is potential for greater productivity. Bad indicates there is a character flaw or evil intentions behind what they do. Hate to say it, but underperforming employees is a reflection of leadership. Wait, I take that back – I don’t hate to say it – it needs to be said. If someone if underperforming, look at your training, your coaching, your reinforcement of policies, your ability to communicate with your staff, your ability to keep them safe BEFORE you label them as underperforming. Chances are, their lack of performance can be tied back to you. You may also not be setting the right example, but we’ll talk about that later.

Balancing surviving (daily operations) with thriving (future vision)

This is about balance. Right now for many leaders and operators, the balance is out of whack because of staffing issues. Why do we have staffing issues? Take a look at the answer to the first item on the list.

Even if things are out of whack now, that doesn’t mean they will be forever. If you used to devote 30% of your time to your future vision, and now you can only afford to spend 10%, make sure you are making the most of the 10%. Like any large, long-term project, you have to have others who are bought into your vision to help get you there. Do not go it alone.

Conflict between managers of other departments

I often see this occur for a few reasons. Lack of understanding (or empathy) for what the other departments are going through, competing priorities, or baggage left over from previous run-ins.

The solution? Talk to each other. Well, first you have to admit that you are part of the problem (which you are). Then consider, are we partners or opponents, and which one is better for the organization? Sometimes the exercise of listing the positive attributes of the OTHER department can be a good first step. Like Jim Timon, VP of Entertainment at Universal Orlando Resort used to say, “sometimes the hardest thing to do is to talk to people. But sometimes the easiest thing to do is to talk to people.”

Entitled Employees

Yes, they are entitled. Entitled to a respectful workplace. Entitled to a living wage for the work they are doing. Entitled to opportunities to grow and develop. Entitled to fair treatment. Entitled to work for someone who will support them and have their back.

I have a feeling that’s not what this person meant. I think they probably feel like employees seem entitled to things they haven’t earned yet. How long do they have to be on the job before they earn any of the things above? I am going to say they should be immediate and consistent. Why do we get so upset when employees want or ask for things that WE didn’t get when we first started out? Are we jealous? Maybe we’re mad at ourselves for not asking for those things? Or maybe, we think the world is exactly the same as it was when we started our job 20-30 years ago. It’s not.

Lack of affordable housing

This may be a new and growing problem based on where people live, and it’s not just about housing people for the summer. Dorms are a great answer to the employees who come to work for us from overseas or other parts of the country. But this particular comment was about the specific area she lives in where the majority of real estate is taken up by large homes, expensive condos or hotels. Very few options to offer if people are moving in from out of town. This is why it’s important to build relationships with community leaders so these bigger issues can be addressed.

Staying out of the way

Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and them tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Sometimes being bought-in and passionate and engaged actually means stepping back. You know you can do certain things, but it’s better in the long run to let others develop the skills to take that over. Will it be messy? Yes. Will people make mistakes? Yes. But if you play the role of micromanager too well, you’ll stifle the growth of your team AND the company.

Lead by example

People are watching you. They watch how you interact with the team, with your co-workers and your guests. Is that type of scrutiny fair? Doesn’t really matter because that’s the way it is. That’s what you signed up for as a leader. What does matter, is that you are human and the last 18 months or so have put us all through the wringer, so being the best example 100% of the time may take more bandwidth than you have to offer. So, lead by example for self care, for being human, for showing how to productively deal with stress and frustrating situations.

Ever wonder why your team doesn’t take time off? Are you taking time off? Want your team to know it’s okay to prioritize their mental health or time with their family? You have to do that, too.

I want to give a big shout out to the members of the Florida Attractions Association for creating this list. They really gave me a lot to think about – hope it did the same for you!

Thanks for reading!

Matt Heller

PS – If you are looking for a community that can help you with the above challenges, look no further than POC YOUniversity!

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