A tale of two fortunes

Got this fortune with some Chinese food the other day:

At first reading I thought, YES!! Trust yourself! Be confident! Boldly go where no one has gone before! Pass the crab rangoon!!

But then I read it again. Now I think there is more to the story.

My first take was that this was really empowering. Trust in yourself… your abilities, your skills, your knowledge. Trust that you have more going right than going wrong. Trust that you have the confidence to surmount any challenge.

But those sneaky fortune writers, whether they planned to or not, got me thinking that it might be possible that we can trust ourselves TOO much. That if we trust ourselves with the wrong stuff, we could still THINK we’re right – even when we’re not.

For example, I LOVE peanut M&M’s. Can’t get enough of them. But when I trust myself to open up that bag and have just a few, I know that when half the bag is gone that that isn’t right.

So maybe I should trust myself a little less in those situations. Take 3 out of the bag, close the bag, put the bag back in the cupboard and walk away. THEN I think I would trust myself to do what’s right.

Personally, I think we need a balance of trust and distrust to make the right decisions. It’s a delicate balance, though, because when do you trust yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to grow versus distrusting yourself to not get involved with a situation you are destined to make worse?

This will take a little reflection.

Think of a time when you DID step out of your comfort zone and successfully learned something new or enhanced your skills/experience. What was your confidence level going into that situation? Was it over 50% that you would be successful? Was it 70%? 80%? I would bet it was not any LOWER than 50%. Otherwise your brain would have told you that this situation would bring more harm than benefit.

Now think about a time that you did NOT act. Where was your confidence level that this particular situation would turn out positively? I would hazard a guess that it was somewhere under the 50% mark.

Now think about the things in your world that you do on the regular, without hesitation and without fail. Confidence pretty high in those situations? Then you should TRUST yourself that in those situations, anything you do will be right.

Contrast that with lower confidence situations, and you should have a healthy DIS-TRUST of your behaviors under those circumstances. But do not despair – this is GOOD NEWS!!

Now you know exactly what you need to work on. You know what skills or knowledge you need to explore in the future so you can build your skills and confidence and start trusting yourself in those areas. Just like me with peanut M&M’s!

Now, who’s hungry?

Thanks for reading!!


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The beginning of the end

It was 2013. I was sitting in my publishers office in Sarasota, FL and my eyes were closed. My publisher, Julie Ann, told me to hold out my hands and I did.

She then handed me the first printed copy of The Myth of Employee Burnout. My first book. For a guy who hated English class in school, this was quite an accomplishment.

I really thought this was the beginning of the end. The beginning of my career as an author and the end of burnout.

I was right about one of those things.

I went on to write a second book, but have yet to completely eradicate burnout.

And that’s because I can’t do it alone. I so appreciate those who have read the book or attended a course and have applied these concepts. You know what a herculean effort this is.

But the fight is not over. So on March 24th, I’ll be leading a virtual workshop to help leaders understand their role and responsibilities when it comes eliminating burnout.

“If you apply what you will learn in this workshop, it will forever change you as a leader.” – Kristen Mulady

If you sign up but can’t attend on March 24th, you will get a link to watch the replay. This is not a webinar, but an interactive workshop that will give you lots of practical tools you can use right away.

We’ll be following the foundation originally laid out in the book by answering these three questions: What is burnout? Why does it happen? What do we do about it? (And we’ll spend most of our time on that last one.)

I hope to see you on the 24th, not only for the workshop, but also to continue the fight against burnout.

Together, we CAN do this!

Contact me with questions or just to chat!



Book a time to chat

Happy New Year!

I know many of you have kicked 2020 to the curb, and I’m with you.

But amid the rubble that is 2020, there have been some bright spots. New opportunities, new partnerships, new ways of doing business. But that didn’t all come easy.

If you had any success in 2020, even if it was to NOT reveal your pajama bottoms on a Zoom call, it can be attributed to two things.

Your attitude and your actions.

But here’s the thing… we aren’t always self-aware enough to know when our attitudes or actions are actually holding us back.

No way! Not me!?! Yes, even you.

That’s why we need other voices in our lives.  The ones that say you’re doing great, or you missed the mark.

Last week for me, that voice belonged to EJ Randolph, who very eloquently pointed out that I had misspelled a word on a social media graphic that I had been using for months. Oddly enough, this graphic was for a “Share Your Win Wednesday” promo that we do in the ALL CLEAR Facebook Group

I quickly changed the graphic and thanked EJ. People like this need to be celebrated!

Who are the voices in your life that can point out when your attitude is on point or if you’ve missed the point?  Who are the people who can praise or correct an action when they see the need?

These are the folks who can truly help you calibrate your attitudes and actions for maximum positive impact.

So my challenge to you for 2021 is simple: embrace those who are giving you feedback, even if it stings to hear it a little bit, because ultimately they will help you become a better version of yourself than you ever thought possible.

And in 2021, we’re going to need you at the top of your game more than ever.

Be well, my friends.

407-435-8084, matt@performanceoptimist.com

They did what?

What do you notice about Omar?

What I noticed first was his mask. Clearly this ad was created in the last few months to show current safety procedures. Cool.

But what I also noticed was Omar’s tats and earlobe plugs (I think that’s what they are called). Why did this catch my eye?

Because for decades of working the in attractions industry, visible tats and ear piercings (on guys specifically) were not allowed. Now here is Fresh Market showing an employee with both IN AN AD!  

Why is this GOOD and IMPORTANT? It’s good because like many of you, Fresh Market has embraced recent personal appearance trends to increase, and in many cases improve, their pool of qualified applicants. It’s important because in this ad they are not just selling a salad (or whatever is in the plastic container), they are also selling the idea of an employee expressing themselves while also providing great service. Yes, it can be done. 

After seeing this ad, I looked at some websites from around our industry (yes, yours) and I found something interesting. I saw lots of smiling faces in perfect dress code, as you would expect.  I found diversity of gender and ethnic decent. But I didn’t see any tattoos, yet I know a lot of you allow them in your workforce. It sounds like a small thing, but what does this say to a potential employee?

If they don’t see someone like themselves, it might be hard for them to imagine working for you. Isn’t that why we show different genders and ethnic backgrounds? Should tats be any different?

In some ways, it feels like we have come full circle from when Walt Disney started enforcing the boy-and-girl-next-door appearance standards in 1955.  Well, it’s not 1955 anymore and it’s likely that the folks next door (including the parents) have more ink than Walt would have tolerated back in the day. 

So if you would hire Omar, tats and all, would you also put him front and center in an ad campaign?  Would it be his smiling face that not only sells the salad, but your jobs as well?  Food for thought.

Thanks for reading!


Book your FREE 30 minute call to chat about:

  • Dealing with COVID
  • Favorite roller coasters
  • Your 2021 leadership learning plan
  • Anything else that’s on your mind
Every business has a story about how they have dealt with COVID. Here’s mine.

I need your help


I need your help.

I have decided to launch a brand-new (for me) learning platform that will provide a pathway for leaders to grow, develop, and ultimately become more promotable.

It’s a year-long program (to start) where you will achieve personal and professional goals, become part of a supportive community and transform your leadership skills.

Because I have never done this before, I need 20 brave souls who are willing to join the inaugural class of POC YOUniversity – where we will build lasting skills for your leadership journey. Catchy, right?

If you already know you would like to be put on the short list for this opportunity, let me know by clicking the button below.

 Put me on the list!

Need more info?  No problem!  Join me for a 30 minute informational webinar on Monday, Oct. 26. We will describe the program in detail and leave plenty of time for Q&A. There is absolutely no obligation to join the program, but if you are interested in learning more or staying in the loop, I will be asking for you to indicate that at the end of the webinar.

 Register for the Informational Webinar

Please let me know if you have any questions! Hope to see you all on the 26th!

De-escalation Techniques – Webinar replay

This past Monday, Scot Carson, Josh Liebman and I presented a webinar where we shared guest feedback data around new COVID procedures and tips and strategies to both proactively and reactively de-escalate tough situations.

What is “proactive de-escalation”?  Push play and you’ll find out!

For the audio podcast version, click here: AP Podcast – Episode 156

Thanks for listening, watching, and de-escalating!!


Don’t wait for HR

I used to work in HR.  I liked working in HR. I know most of the people who dedicate their lives to HR are caring individuals trying to help their teams and organizations grow, not the policy-police overlords you read about.

That said, you SHOULD NOT wait on HR to recognize your employees and show that you care. You can do that anytime and anywhere… for FREE!!

So yes, this will be my second post in a few days that deals with employee appreciation. Why? Because literally the day after my conversation with “Shane”, I spoke to another manager (from a different company) about virtually the same topic. As we talked about how he was going to personally recognize and acknowledge his team, he said, “I’ll see what HR has in terms of scratch offs or recognition cards.”

And this is when I said, “Don’t wait for HR.”

Not because they don’t want to help. Not because they can’t help. Not because they are too busy to help.  It’s because for the kind of appreciation we’re talking about, you don’t NEED HR.

You need YOUR voice, YOUR eyes, a little of YOUR time and YOUR caring heart. That’s it.

When you see something worthy of recognition, here’s what you do:

  • Go up to that person (maintaining 6 feet physical distancing if that is still required) and look them in the eye to show you care and that you’re serious. Don’t look at your phone while doing this.  That’s rude.
  • Describe what you saw. “I noticed that you waved at every guest as they walked by, and many waved back. Thank you for doing that. It makes them feel welcome and that we want them here. It also makes you more approachable in case they have a question. Rock on with your great guest service!”

And look, that didn’t take very long and you didn’t need a recognition card from HR. Best of all, it was FREE and infinitely repeatable!! If you want to tie your recognition to an official HR program, fine. But you DO NOT have to wait to have that card in your hand to show your appreciation for a job well done.

A MUST READ on appreciation: Infographic “How To” Post 6: Appreciated

Back to our story… what about the caring heart?  Oh yeah. The above conversation CAN NOT be delivered nonchalantly. As I stated in that post from 2016, you have to genuinely appreciate your team so your appreciation comes across as genuine. Do you, deep down, really care about your team?  Like, for realz, I mean?

If you do, then you know that the power to recognize and appreciate your team does not come from a scratch-off card.  And, it’s not the scratch-off card that people appreciate.

When I was at Universal, we had a program called “Winning Moments”.  This was a way for team members to recognize each other. There were little cards that you would give to a deserving co-worker with a hand written note about how they had a positive impact on you. That team member would then turn that card in to Team Member Services for the chance to win a prize.

But guess what. Very few people turned in those cards. Can you guess why?  Because they were pinned up in their cubicles and lockers as reminders of how someone appreciated them. These were badges of honor, and worth a heck-of-a-lot-more than anything you could get in the drawing.

So, the Winning Moment form was changed.  A tab was added at the bottom so people could keep the part with the personal note and turn in the stub with their name on it. Brilliant.

This again should show you that you don’t NEED to wait for HR. People value the MESSAGE over the MECHANISM.  And you control the message.

After all this conversation, the manager I was talking to said, “So I just need to get out and look for it. While observing the operation and the guests, I ALSO need to be looking for the great things my employees are doing.  Maybe even make it a goal to praise a certain number of people a day.”

YES! (but with a caveat – they have to DESERVE the praise). Don’t be the manager who is praising just to praise with no specificity behind it.  That’s not genuine either.

So to sum up…

  • You have to appreciate people so you can appreciate people
  • Your genuineness is the KEY to great employee appreciation
  • You DO NOT have to wait on HR to praise or recognize your team

I am happy to talk to anyone about how to show appreciation for your team. Call or email anytime or if you prefer, grab a spot on my calendar: https://calendly.com/matt-810/30min

Thanks for reading!



In the near future, I will be publishing new articles on the AttractionPros site and on LinkedIn. I would love to connect on LinkedIn if we aren’t already, and I encourage you to sign up for updates from the AttractionPros site to get ALL the latest updates and relevant content!








“This a problem that pizza can’t solve”

Someone actually said that. “This is a problem that pizza can’t solve.” Woah.

How did this come about?  A few days ago I had a conversation with a good friend and industry colleague (GM of an FEC, we’ll call him Shane) who called me because he was having issues with staff morale.  His team had told him they felt unappreciated, but when pressed about WHY they felt unappreciated, the staff really couldn’t put their finger on it.

So Shane and his management team did what any good, loving mom or grandmother would do when others are suffering… they fed ’em. Everything is better on a full belly, right?  This may work when you fail a test or you got picked last for soccer, but its actually not as effective as we’d like to think it is when it comes to true employee appreciation. It reminds me of this meme:

Oh. The horror.

I believe it was sometime after the pizza party that a member of Shane’s management staff said, “this is problem that pizza can’t solve.”

And why not?  Because as yummy as pizza is, it can’t communicate the value someone brings to the team or organization.  It can’t quantify a team member’s impact on the company or the guests, and it can’t sincerely thank a person for their extraordinary efforts.  Only another human being can do that.

But it wasn’t like Shane’s team wasn’t trying.  He shared with me some of the things that had been going on, and we quickly identified that while well intentioned, these actions may not be creating the desired results

Let’s take as look at some of the things Shane’s team had done (and how we decided to fix them):

  • They thanked people on Facebook – after creating an employee only FB group, the managers decided that each day they would go into the group and thank the team for all of their hard work.  Sounds like a good idea, until your team tells you they feel this isn’t very genuine.  Oops. It also potentially thanks or recognizes people who phoned it in that day. So their good intention was not received well. The remedy? Personal, in the moment, specific thanks and recognition to individuals to build trust and show that they genuinely care.
  • They built in flexibility in scheduling, meaning that they would schedule enough people to run the operation but didn’t decide what they were actually doing until they showed up. Flexible for management? Yes. Unstructured, unnerving and unsettling for employees? ALSO YES! This left the employees feeling out of control and haphazard. During these crazy times, employees crave clarity. They actually probably need MORE structure to feel safe. The remedy?  Think through assignments and communicate them prior to employees showing up for their shifts.
  • They helped out. What??? How could this go wrong? Picture if you will, a crew at a go-kart track who is busting their collective hump to keep things running smoothly.  Then, without a word, your GM shows up and starts wiping down the cars. Sounds nice, right? Helpful even?  But to that crew, they may take it as a message that they aren’t doing their jobs well enough, fast enough, or to the satisfaction of the boss, so now he’s got to come step in a take over. It could also be that the GM just took away the one position where the crew gets a little break and breather from the intensity of constant go-kart races. The remedy? The GM comes over, lets the crew know he is there to help and asks them how he can best assist them.

**Related story… Josh Liebman and I were talking about this last bullet point prior to recording an episode of the AttractionPros podcast, and he said he had a very similar situation when working for a photo concession. As the manager, he would jump in, grab the picture off the printer and hand it to the guest. Little did he know that he was taking away a special “moment” that the team really enjoyed. They had worked with this guest to pick the right photo package, etc, and they wanted the satisfaction of completing the transaction by handing the guest the final product. In trying to help, Josh was actually taking away one of the best parts of their job.

So if you are struggling with employee appreciation right now, remember that TRUE appreciation is about:

  • Communicating the value someone brings to the team or organization
  • Quantifying a team member’s impact on the company or the guests
  • Sincerely thanking a person for their extraordinary efforts.

And these come from you, not a pizza. So the next time you are inclined to schedule a pizza party, think about Shane.  Is there a better way to deliver your appreciation message than with dough, sauce and cheese?  I’ll be there there is.

If you’d like to chat about how to do this at your facility, grab a 30 minute time slot and we’ll brainstorm! Click here to schedule your FREE 30 minute call with Matt.

RELATED: Situational Employee Engagement Webinar Replay

Thanks for reading!

In the near future, I will be publishing new articles on the AttractionPros site and on LinkedIn. I would love to connect on LinkedIn if we aren’t already, and I encourage you to sign up for updates from the AttractionPros site to get ALL the latest updates and relevant content!


Strategic Conversations Online Workshop

“This is a great way to help with those leaders who may struggle addressing issues with employees. This gives them a clear guide and can take some of the guess work out of it.” – Strategic Conversations graduate

To learn more and enroll: Strategic Conversations Online Workshop

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the importance of intentional communication into the very forefront of our lives. Whether you are communicating sensitive information to your teams, providing coaching to an individual team member or relaying critical material to your leaders, those leading intentional and strategic conversations need to understand and follow specific steps ensure these conversations will bring about the intended results.

This session will outline a model to lead intentional conversations and allow participants to practice the model in real time.

Our next session will be June 10 at 2 pm EDT.

  • This 2.5-hour program will be delivered online via Zoom and a specific link will be sent after registration
  • A worksheet and session pre-work will be sent to each participant prior to the session
  • A mic, webcam and high-speed internet are required to fully participate
  • This class is limited to 6 participants to ensure adequate skill practice
  • The entire session will be recorded and participants will receive the video for review

To learn more and enroll: Strategic Conversations Online Workshop

Thanks for reading!


Now is not the time for radio silence

I don’t know who needs to hear this.

Scratch that. I know EXACTLY who needs to hear this.

  • Managers who are afraid to talk to furloughed or laid-off employees
  • Managers who think they have nothing to say
  • Managers who want their teams to return to work engaged and enthused

I know you are a caring person if you are reading this blog. Tell me if this email I recently received doesn’t break your heart.

“I was furloughed 6 weeks ago. Access to my work email and information was removed. In addition, I have not heard from my boss and or employer during this period of time. In complete honesty, it has been a difficult pill to swallow because I am not in the communication loop. I recognize from a legal perspective why the communication line has been cut off, however I’m not allowed to talk work with anyone; that would include my seasonal staff. So I have a lot of concerns about staff engagement and retention.”

I wish this was the only example. I had a gut-wrenching conversation the day before this popped into my inbox with another friend who was in the same situation. And another just a week before that. C’mon people, we can do better. We have to do better.

If communication is the #1 thing that determines success or failure during the good times, it becomes even MORE important in the difficult times.

Even for furloughed employees, you ask? YES! It’s true you can’t talk to them about work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them at all!  In one conversation I had, a concerned manager said he was told by corporate that he couldn’t call to check in on his team, one of which had a family member diagnosed with COVID-19. Seriously? Where is your humanity?

I asked a lawyer about this and you know what she said? “You have a right to be human”. There. Make the call.

For those who don’t know what to say or don’t feel they have anything to talk about with your employees, just say something. Your employees are craving connection right now, just like your guests are craving entertainment. You’ve put up weekly youtube videos for your guests about home school resources and what you are doing to keep them safe. Put that same energy into your employees.

If you don’t think this communication/connection thing is important, you may also be under the impression that your best employees will want to sit at home on unemployment because they can make more money that way. If you are worried about that, you likely have not done a good enough job engaging with them, and dare I say, you may have a bigger employee retention problem than just competing with unemployment.

Why? Because people who are truly engaged, bought in, and share a purpose DO NOT want to sit home doing nothing. It might seem attractive in the short term, but that’s because you have not made your case for the long term benefit of coming back to work.

All this communication also gives you the chance to discuss with your employees what you are doing to keep them safe. It’s true that some people will not want to come back to work because they don’t feel safe. Don’t rely on them filling in the blanks about what they think you are or are not doing to protect them. Be explicit. Get their input. Understand their point of view.

While many discussions are turning to reopening at this point, we are by no means out of the woods.  It’s not too late to fire up the communication machine and get cracking. And by the way, I am NOT talking about a text or a blast email. I’m talking about real conversations where you can hear their voice and maybe even see their face.

RELATED: Situational Employee Engagement Webinar

Now is not the time for radio silence. We have to do better.

Thanks for reading.

To see what others are doing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the AttractionPros COVID-19 Video Series.