Proactive service isn’t just for customers

If you have worked in any sort of retail operation with a receipt printer, you have undoubtedly seen this…

And you know what those pink stripes mean… you are about to run out of receipt paper.  In this case, they also sparked a leadership lesson!

After a glorious week at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, it was time to return my rental car and come home. I had rented from Alamo at the Sanford, FL (SFB) airport, and had noticed an “upping of their game” when it came to service lately.

Not only in Sanford, but in other locations, consistently getting friendly, genuine service when being checked in at the counter and equally hospitable attention when being shown to the car. Twice recently I rented cars that might have needed some explaining… a convertible and a hybrid. While I probably could have figured things out on my own, it was very helpful to have the finer points of operation explained to me by a knowledgeable employee.

Upon returning the car(s), not only was the process quick, I consistently heard these two phrases (or some variations thereof):

  • “How was your service with us?”
  • “Was there anything else we could have done to make the experience better?”

In my last few cases, the answers were, “Great”, and “Nothing I can think of”.  Really, short of driving the car for me, I don’t know that there is anything else I expect from a rental car company.

And this brings us to the receipt tape.

On my most recent return, I pulled up and got out of the car.  I was immediately greeted by a young lady who appeared to be a supervisor (based on her appearance and demeanor). Her greeting was enthusiastic and welcoming.  She then asked the two questions above.

And my answers were the same.

She proceeded to walk around the car looking for damage while telling me that Ruben was just finishing up with the car ahead of me and would be right over to print out the receipt.

Her inspection complete, she then called to Ruben “this car is all set”.

With a smile, Ruben walked up to my car, scanned the bar code and asked me how everything was.  I didn’t mind telling him that everything had been great.

Just as Ruben hit the print button on his portable printer, the supervisor came back over with a new roll of receipt paper.

“How did you know I needed paper?” Ruben asked.

“I noticed the pink stripe on your last printout”, she said.

“Thanks so much!” Ruben responded.

So is this really about receipt paper? Partially. But more importantly its about a leader who is setting the example, supporting her employee and proactively serving them at the same time.

  • This supervisor set the example with her enthusiastic greeting.  Ruben followed suit.
  • The supervisor helped Ruben more efficiently check in the cars as she took care of the walk around inspection for him.
  • The supervisor anticipated and filled a need (receipt paper) so that Ruben wouldn’t have to stop what he was doing to go find a fresh roll.

To me this all started with an observation. The supervisor observed that there were ways she could help, so she did.  She observed that he was running low on paper, so she proactively went to get a replacement.  We talk all the time about anticipating our guests needs… how often are we applying those same thoughts and actions to our employees?

Being realistic, do we think this supervisor is out there all the time performing these actions?  I honestly hope not, otherwise you might as well just have two attendants. I would think she was out there checking on her team and decided to help out a bit while she was there.

We all know that our employees are watching everything we do.  They notice when we help out, they notice when we just “stand around”, they notice when we aren’t there. This supervisor has taken it upon herself to make sure that her employees are noticing the right things, and that she is proactively serving and providing value to her teams at every opportunity.

This is not only important in the moment, but as a long term investment into the relationships you have with your employees. Fast froward 3 months from now, and this supervisor has to have a conversation with Ruben about performance or cost cutting or whatever. He will likely remember times like I’ve described above and have a feeling that at least she has his back. He may not like what she has to tell him, but he will likely believe that it’s coming from a good place.

Counter that with an employee who never sees their supervisor or when they do, they “stand around”, don’t contribute or only spend time criticizing.  Now when bad news comes down the pike, and it’s delivered by someone who they don’t respect, they will more likely feel attacked and get defensive.  Those conversations rarely go well.

So maybe it’s time to “Alamo” your leadership game?  Maybe its time to not only proactively serve your employees, but also to proactively illicit their feedback and input about their experience?  After all, isn’t your job as a leader to ensure your employees have the best experience possible so they will carry out your companies mission?

Let’s tweak these two questions a little bit to fit the leader/employee scenario:

  • “How is your experience with us, and with me as a leader?”
  • “Is there anything else we can do to make the experience better?”

Of course the follow-up to these questions is to A. LISTEN, and B. do something with the information. If you don’t do either, your employees won’t believe you are sincere.

Thanks for reading!

Did you miss AttractionPros Live in Orlando? Listen in as we tap into the collective wisdom of 30 attractions professionals!

 

 

No, no, no, no, no, no!

Maybe I am just different, but I get REALLY annoyed when I see very smart people do, what I consider to be, very short-sighted things.

This morning I saw a well-known and highly respected leadership authority talking about how to teach leadership to young people.  (First strike was calling them millennials, but I’ll let that slide this time.) His contention: put it on their phone, give them an app and let them text each other.

This is when I shook my head and said, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no!”  Just like Lego Batman.

If you want employees to get their eyes away from the screen, you don’t give them MORE REASONS TO LOOK AT THE SCREEN!!!  This is especially true when it comes to leadership. Want to build someone’s ability to deal with conflict?  Put them in a conflict situation and coach them through it. Want to build up someone’s skill in providing real, effective and genuine feedback? Put them in that situation and coach them through it.  Want to help develop a new leaders decision making skills?  Give them decisions to make and coach them through the outcome. Are you seeing a trend here?

I get this guys desire to jump on the app bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean its right for every situation.  Got an app to track your steps?  Sure! Got an app to help keep your travel plans organized? Absolutely? But an app to teach people how to interact with another human being? I’m a little skeptical.

Why the skepticism from an optimist?  Because I have seen first hand the difference between how people act and interact in person versus online.  It’s quite literally night and day in many cases.  And leadership is about communication and relationships, which are built and sustained in person (or phone, Skype, etc. – someplace where you are interacting with another human in real time).  Just look at how many people feel alone even though they have a bazillion friends and followers on social media.

I’ve said it before… leadership is a full contact sport.  You’ve got to get in there, mess things up, make some mistakes, get humbled, have some success and LEARN from every experience.  It’s a journey that takes a long time, and is never really finished (if you are doing it right). And in my opinion, cannot be learned by looking at your phone.

Related: If you’ll be at IAAPA’s IAE18 in November, I’ll be talking about how to create a supervisor training program that fits any budget.

Whether you will be at the expo or not, if you are looking for an non-app based ready-to-go Supervisor Training Program, check out The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program. 

Hoping to see many of you at the Expo! It’s going to be a great week!

Thanks for reading!!

Matt’s IAAPA Don’t Miss list:

My Mean Joe Greene moment

I recently had what I can only describe as a “Mean Joe Greene” moment. If you weren’t watching football in 1979, you might not know what that means.  Here is the historical document that will put that phrase into perspective:

Very much like the kid in that stadium tunnel, my MJG moment included me receiving an unexpected gift from an unexpected source.

Here’s the story… I was brought in to work with a client recently who had some people who were not playing well with one another.  It’s not a huge company, so any disruption in the work-life harmony was noticed by many and it spread quickly.

One individual, we’ll call him “Jim”, was a guy I was particularly warned about. “He’s gruff, grumpy, and is really unhappy outside of work.”

This should be fun.

So I met with Jim and we started talking. We first spoke about the job, the company, and his work-related challenges.  Somewhere along the line the conversation turned to what he did outside of work, and football came up. He mentioned he was a Browns fan and our conversation detoured from work for a bit. Growing up in Cleveland myself, we had a lot to discuss from the Kardiac Kids to Bernie Kosar, Jim Brown, and the early days of Bill Belichick.

We then started talking about music… he was also a drummer, worked with lots of bands and even ran sound and lights for many years.  So the conversation went down THAT rabbit hole for a bit.

We steered it back to work and finished up. I thanked Jim for his time and he went back to his department.

A few hours later, I was leaving for the day and I was about 1/2 way to my car in the parking lot when I heard someone calling after me. I turned to see Jim walking toward me with something in his hand.  As he got closer, he revealed this Browns lighter.

When we were speaking earlier in the day, he mentioned getting this from someone in the Browns organization, and that he actually had two.  Not being a smoker, he doesn’t really have a need for one, let alone two.  I’m not a smoker either, but he wanted this to go to a fan, even if I would never use it.  “Better to go to a fan than in the trash”, he said.

As I walked to my car, I totally felt like that kid in the Coke commercial. Jim was a guy that was supposed to be gruff, tough and didn’t like anyone, yet here he is giving me something that meant something to him, because he figured it would mean something to me.

And it does mean something to me.

So how did this happen? Like the kid in the commercial offering Joe his Coke, I offered Jim somethings without expecting anything in return… my time, a listening ear and my genuine interest.  I was also careful NOT treat him like he was the gruff and tough so and so that I was warned about. It’s AMAZING the barriers you can break down when you listen to people without judgement.

To be fair, I do also think it helped that we had no history, meaning that there wasn’t any bad blood or muddy water under the bridge to clutter our conversation.  We all know that kind of baggage can prevent us from seeing things clearly, or it can even stop us from attempting to foster a solution.  But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless.

If you have a team member like Jim, don’t write them off just yet.  Be the leader you know you need to be and bury the hatchet, let bygones be bygones and wipe the slate clean.  Whatever cliche you choose to adopt, it’s up to you to take the first step, to listen, and to invest the time to build the bonds you know you need to build.

And who knows, you may end up with a Mean Joe Greene story of your own to tell!

Thanks for reading!

Mastermind (group/peer coaching) groups forming NOW! Programs start in January 2019!

To apply: http://www.performanceoptimist.com/mastermindapplication.html

Service recovery… on the flip side.

My faith in service recovery has been restored!  Many of you remember my tale of a cancelled flight and the subsequent call at 2 am that was a complete service recovery failure.  If you missed it, check it out here.

Then, this morning, I get the following email (different company, different situation), that is again an attempt at service recovery. To me, this one is so many light-years better than my previous example, I just have to share it in it’s entirety.  I don’t even think you need much context, I think you’ll get the drift.

Pretty spectacular, huh?  Before we go any further, I will not hesitate to recommend SuperheroStuff.com for any of your superhero stuff-type needs.  I needed buttons.  You might need a t-shirt or a hoody.  Here is a direct link their site: https://www.superherostuff.com/

Now, I hope we can all agree that this was a great way to handle a lack of inventory. Since I’m all about the learnin’, lets break this down to see exactly what they did so we can all up our service recovery game.

  1. Addressed me by my first name. This is personal to ME!
  2. Stated the problem quickly (and in a humorous way). ‘Holy Inventory error Batman!”  Showed they knew what the problem was and weren’t afraid to admit it was their fault.
  3. Again admitted it was THIER problem (“we had a snafu”) then stated its impact to me.
  4. They apologized. Early and sincerely.
  5. Used soft language (“I was wondering if there was another item you might…”).  No demands (“You gotta pick new ones” or “you’re going to have to drive to Charlotte” – see previous post for more on THAT one!)
  6. No robo-choices (“we’ve substituted 5 other random buttons”)
  7. Made the resolution easy (and their responsibility).  I just had to pick 5 other buttons (link included) and viola – done!  Even brought back a little humor!
  8. Apologized again and told me they appreciate my business.
  9. Showed more humor and consistent branding/theming in the signature block.  But ALSO included a real name. Imagine responding and addressing the email to: Black Widow?

Was there anything else you noticed?  How would you have reacted if you got this same email?

Most importantly, how many of these things do you or your teams do when responding to a guest concern or situation?  I think one of the great things about this is how quickly they admitted wrongdoing and started proposing solutions.  Gave me no time to stew and get disproportionately angry.

Have a great service recovery story to spin?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

Are you listening to THE LEADING resource for leaders in the attractions industry?  If you aren’t listening to the AttractionPros podcast, that answer would be no.

The 6 words I didn’t want to hear at 2 am

Thing is, I had already planned for the exact situation described by these words in the middle of the night.  In fact, I was kind of excited about it.

How about some context…

My wife and I were at dinner at a friends house and I had put my phone on a table away from where we were sitting. When we got up to clear the table after dessert, I decided just to peek at my phone since I was traveling to a conference the next day.  That’s when I saw this text:

Okay. Flight cancelled. Not the entire flight, just the first leg.  With the amount of traveling I do, this was bound to happen, right?  Not a big deal, I will call the number and get rebooked.

Except, when I called the number, I got an automated system telling me that the department I was trying to reach was extremely busy and that I should call back later, then the system hung up on me.

Three more attempts, same result.

Again, I get it. Everyone and their brother was trying to call in at the same time.

I checked my connecting flight out of Charlotte (CLT) and it was still listed as scheduled and on time.  So, worst case scenario, I would drive to Charlotte (2-hour drive I had done MANY times) and catch that flight.  It was shaping up to be a nice weather day, so I actually started looking forward to driving the convertible to Charlotte and having a little less airport time than usual.

I tried calling the number one more time.  This time I had the ability to leave a callback number, since they said the hold time would be in excess of 4 hours. Yeah, YOU can call ME back, please.

So, at about 2 am, the phone rings.  I was asleep, but I got up and took the call.

After being on hold for a few more minutes, an agent came on and asked how she could help. I said, “You, well not you personally, but American Airlines cancelled my flight tomorrow and I was told to call this number to get it rebooked.”

Silence as she looked up my reservation.

The next 6 words I heard, even though I was already preparing to do this very thing, made my blood boil.

The attendant came on and said, “You’ll have to drive to Charlotte.”

No context, no apology, no asking about my circumstances or if driving was even an option. What if I didn’t have a car?  What if I was unable to drive and relied on someone else to get me from point A to B.  What if this wasn’t a 2-hour drive for me, but a cross-country flight? What if, what if, what if?

Feeling my face getting warm, I asked, “So since the airline canceled the flight, are they going to pay for a rental car, gas, a shuttle, anything since this is a major hassle?”

I sensed a slight scoff/chuckle/sigh… “No”, was the only answer I got.

Why was this making me so upset when I was planning to do the thing she just told me to do in the first place?

Probably because it was no longer my choice. Probably because I still expected some sort of resolution from the company that put me in this position in the first place.  And probably, most likely, because the agent made no effort whatsoever to empathize or even understand my situation.  She had likely been on the phone with hundreds of others just like me, but that doesn’t matter. To help me, she ideally should get try to find out more.

The rest of the conversation didn’t go so well, and more for the people who might be “monitoring and recording these calls for quality assurance” I did express to her just how let down and abandoned I felt.

Her, “well, you could just cancel this entire flight and rebook with someone else comment”, really set me off.  If I had any question before, there was no doubt now that her priority was to get me off the phone, not get me to Las Vegas.

Thing is, if, at 2 AM, she would have said, “I am so sorry sir, it looks like we won’t be able to rebook you on a flight to make your connection.  Can we look at alternate ways to get you to Charlotte, or maybe rebook you on another flight to Las Vegas altogether?”, this wouldn’t even be a blog post.

During the rest of the conversation, though, she made it clear that she was “over” dealing with people that she had to rebook.  I was likely not the only person who got a little upset, and wouldn’t be the last. At one point she even said that. “Sir, I just need to finish this so I can get to the other 1000 people that are waiting.”

Wow.

So I think there are two morals to the story.

  1. Word choice matters – especially when dealing with someone who you (or your company) had a hand in inconveniencing. A simple apology or acknowledgement (and willingness to take care of the situation) goes A LONG WAY.  I was ready to do EXACTLY what she was now telling me to do, but it was conveyed in an uncaring, almost combative way.  Even if she knew she couldn’t do anything but refund the unused portion of my trip, the slightest inkling to want to help would have changed the entire dynamic of the conversation.
  2. Take a break – Would it have mattered if I got this call at 2 or 2:15 AM?  Not to me. But I would imagine that the people overseeing the call center were adamant about clearing those call queues as fast as they could.  In fact, this agent may have been pushing HERSELF to the brink out of a sense of duty.  When we get pushed, or push ourselves, to our very outer limits, we can often do and say things we wouldn’t normally do. Taking a few moments to catch our breath or even expend some pent up anger can do wonders for your outlook.

Related – the topic of the “grumble station”, a spot for guest service personnel to safely and appropriately rid themselves of extra frustration-induced anger/energy, is outlined in The Myth of Employee Burnout.

As an update, I started writing this post before knowing that this situation was a result of a computer glitch with American Eagle affiliate PSA Airlines.  That being said, it’s understandable that agents would be getting pushed (and pushing themselves) to the limit to take care of their customers.  I think a little care for themselves would have made caring for their customers just a bit easier.

Thanks for reading!

Want to lead your teams better?  Invest in yourself!  Just two hours a month can yield INCREDIBLE results, if you spend those two hours the right way!

Learn more about POC’s Mastermind program for attractions leaders.

Gotta keep ’em calibrated

During a recent trip, I had a very interesting conversation with a friend who works in telecom.  He used to work in the attractions world, so he is still one of “us”!

He told me about something they do called a calibration meeting.  He works in quality control, and during the calibration meeting, everyone who works in quality control gets together to ensure that their interpretation of the rules and standards are the same. I thought this was brilliant.

Especially for a quality control department, if the view of quality is different, you have no control! In some ways, we ALL work in the quality control department.

We may call it something else, of course.  You may be an Operations Manager, or a Retail Supervisor, or an Accounting Lead, but our goals are all the same: produce a HIGH QUALITY product.

That product could be service to an employee or guest, a tasty funnel cake or accurate accounting methods.  In any case, you are responsible for QUALITY!

So it only makes sense that your vision of quality and your team’s vision of quality be the same. Calibrated, even.

Like you have heard me talk about before, that starts with your company values and goals.  But it’s not enough to know what they are, you also have to have a shared vision of what they mean, what they look like, and how they will be enforced.

And yes, I have encouraged many individuals and companies to define their values, determine what specific, observable behaviors indicate that those values are being “lived” (or not lived) and the steps to coach or discipline as appropriate.  In a way, this is a method of calibration, but I think we can take it a step further.

What this conversation with my friend taught me is that there is also an opportunity for those in charge (us) to more deeply examine the values and calibrate OUR vision of quality based on those values.  And not just our vision, but again, how we will enforce them.

How often, during a leadership meeting, for example, do we talk specifically about our company values, especially in the context of the leadership team being on the same page regarding what they look like and how they will be enforced?  If the answer is never or not much, you have the opportunity to be a little bit better calibrated.

And why would you care? If you have ever wondered why one department “gets away” with certain things that you vigorously enforce, a lack of calibration is why. Not only is it frustrating for you, but it’s also frustrating and confusing for your employees.  They see the result of the lack of calibration (and thus, consistency), and wonder why things are not the same between departments.

A “calibrated” leadership team shares a vision of the quality product they are producing and acts consistently while either recognizing or correcting value-based behaviors.

Let’s pause. Do you think your leadership teams are calibrated?

With all this talk of calibration it can be easy to think I am advocating for an almost-robotic approach to leadership.  I am not.  Any of these calibration discussions have to balanced with compassion and judgement.  That said, I think where the calibration discussion is a true benefit is that requires your actions be justified.  If you feel that a situation warrants an approach that is outside of the agreed upon calibration, fine.  But you better be able to make your case.  And your argument should not begin with, “we’ve always done it that way…”

If you can truly explain WHY your situation is different, I am sure the leaders around you will buy in.  It’s when we have no rhyme or reason, or we are acting out of insecurity rather than compassion that our actions could be questioned… and rightly so.

If you have a set of values or guiding principles, you CAN calibrate your teams to ensure those values or principles are being adhered to. Ultimately, calibration leads to consistency, and don’t all of your guests deserve a consistently HIGH QUALITY experience?

I thought so.

Thanks for reading!

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

If you are trying to calibrate your own leadership skills, might I suggest joining a mastermind group? I think it’s a pretty cool program, but don’t take my word for it, here is a recent graduate talking about the experience.

Even new hires at TSA want to do their best

We’ve all heard the horror stories and jokes about TSA agents. Some of the ridicule and criticism is warranted whether on an individual or organizational level, some is not. One thing you can’t argue from a recent experience that I had… even TSA new hires have a desire to do their best.

The other day there were two trainees at my home airport in Asheville, NC. I could tell they were new right away because they both wore white, button-down shirts rather than the typical blue ones.

They were also behaving a little different than many TSA agents… they were smiling, friendly and attentive.  They were a little timid in their duties as their trainers looked on, but they seemed to be getting the hang of things. I saw one of them ask his trainer a procedural question, trying to understand the finer points of his new job.

Why are these observations so important?  Because jokes and criticism aside, these two were in it to win it.  They had undoubtedly heard about the bad reputation TSA had, yet still chose to seek employment there.  Maybe they would be the agents of change that would turn around the entire agency.

Or, in a few short months, maybe they will be just like most of the people we have come to expect who are checking our ID’s and boarding passes… gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful.

(I’m just going to leave this right here.)

(To be fair, not ALL TSA agents are gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful… the ones in Manchester, NH were very friendly today, but they are not the norm in my experience.)

But here they are as new hires, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the world.  Sound familiar?

In any job, new hires are generally engaged and ready to impress.  Their purpose is easy to identify and articulate… to learn their job and make a good impression so they can KEEP their new job.  Once they have accomplished that, then what?

They need a new purpose. But sometimes they don’t find one. And that’s our fault.

Once someone moves on from the honeymoon phase of a job, they need new challenges and to be reminded of how they fit into the big picture. To this point they have just been trying to fit in, now they need some context.  Sure, in orientation we talked about the company values and goals, but honestly for a new hire those don’t mean much until they see them in action.

Which is why, when I work various parks and attractions, one of the first things I ask about is their values.  Do they have them (most do) and what are they doing with them (some a lot, some not much).

Sometimes it’s that a company will have a set of values, but they only reside on a poster in the training room.  No one really knows what they are, what they look like, or as leaders, how to role model and enforce them.

So when I think about these TSA trainees, I wonder which set of values they are being exposed to after the initial training period.  Will it be the ones they talk about on the website: Integrity, Innovation and Team Spirit?  Or, will it be what the tenured agents have told them and demonstrated the values to be… gruff, unfriendly and unhelpful?

I don’t think ANY employee at ANY job starts off with the intent to be mediocre or to live a set of underwhelming values.  But if we don’t actively model and enforce the right values, who knows where that journey will take them?

Thanks for reading!

Want to train your SUPERVISORS to role model the right behaviors so your new hires don’t fizzle out?  We’ve got just the thing…

Why you absolutely, positively do NOT need a leadership coach in 2018

In 2018, business is slowing down.  We’ve got more resources at our fingertips than ever, and we have the time to use all of them to their fullest.  You just got out of a meeting where your boss said your budget was increasing and was reversing the “we’ve got to do more with less” directive.

Your applicant pool is deep and wide, and you get to pick from the best of the best.  Your current staff is 100% on board and all working together to reach your company goals.  There is no in-fighting, no dissension in the ranks, no drama, no insubordination.  Everyone works as hard as they say they do, and appreciates the uncompromising efforts of their co-workers.

No one is thinking of leaving for a different job, especially you. You’re ensconced.  Your boss listens to you, your ideas are met with open arms and you know exactly what it takes to communicate effectively with everyone you work with.

Oh, and everyone has a Unicorn as a pet and lives forever.

How nice would all that be? Maybe a little boring if it were ALL true, but that seems to be the utopian image we get when we think about the perfect workplace.

Of course it’s not real.  But you already knew that.

There IS drama, in-fighting and people who don’t listen. We DO have challenges with budgets, staffing and keeping everyone on the same page… and it’s never ending.

Because you are a leader, a problem solver and person who by-golly gets things done, you have found ways to make the best of those situations.

But what about the stuff that slips through the cracks?  Doing “more with less” is a popular mantra that doesn’t seem to be going away. And who has to do more?  That would be you.

But that doesn’t have to mean failure, pain and heartache.  Quite the opposite, it can present untold and unthought of opportunities that could take your leadership performance and your business to the next level.  But only if you are willing to ask for some help.

One of my favorite quotes about coaching comes from my friend Mike Auman.  We worked together at Universal Orlando Resort, and he used to say: “how many professional sports teams have coaches?  All of them.”  Of course highly paid athletes should have their stuff together, but even they need guidance, encouragement and course corrections.  What makes us think we are any different?

In just the last few weeks, I have gotten a number of calls from people who needed a little help. Maybe not enough to sign up for a full 6 or 12-month coaching program, but just a little push to get them over the cliff, as it were.

Exhibit A: A guest experience director at a museum called because she had been assigned the task of improving the culture in her facility, and didn’t know the best way to propose her plan to her boss.  We talked about the best ways to connect the dots and actually work the process backwards for him.  She did it, and told me it worked like a charm.

Exhibit B: A guest services manager at a theme park wasn’t feeling the passion anymore.  He was afraid to start looking in other departments because he was afraid his bosses would take that as a lack of loyalty and try to block his move. Turned out the fear was on him… he was afraid to rock the boat.  Once he realized that he knew what he had to do. He is now seeking another position in a different department.

So now you can probably see that I don’t really believe the title of this post.  I do think everyone can use a little help now and then, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.  The number of CEO’s seeking the council of an executive coach is growing everyday.  Why should a lead, supervisor, manager or director be even different?  A case can be made that people on their way to a CEO position need it even more.

If you need some help and are willing to ask, here are some options;

  • Ask your manager – either ask them to coach you (more strategically than they may be right now) or ask them to financially support your desire to seek a coach from outside the company.
  • Seek out a mentor – generally someone in a different department or even from a different company, they should be a leader you know and respect
  • Enroll in a specific coaching programlike the options I offer, a more formal coaching program can bring you incredible insight from a trained and experienced coach who knows how to get to the heart of the matter to find the best solutions. The best coach for you will be able to understand what you are going through while being able to offer viewpoints that you wouldn’t be able to see on your own. I like to tell people that I (or any good coach) will provide an outsiders perspective with an insiders insight.”

If you agree with me but not with the title of this post, give me a call and we’ll see if we’re a good coaching fit.  One-off, 90 minute sessions are available, along with more in-depth 6 and 12 month programs.

Related: The Power of A Trusted Network (group coaching program)

Related: NEW Facebook Group: ALL CLEAR – Private Learning Community for Attractions Leaders

Thanks for reading!

Just like you DON’T NEED COACHING, you don’t need this book on SUPERVISOR DEVELOPMENT, either!!

 

The right tools build confidence

It snowed the other day.  Not a snowmageddon that has impacted other parts of the country, but even a little snow (with the accompanying ice) can have a crippling effect on transportation here in Western North Carolina.  Exhibit A: our driveway.

Top of the driveway, looking down

Bottom of the driveway, looking up. Yes, that is Irving the Gnome to the right! #irventures

The next day, I went out to clear the snow off the pavement so the sun could do it’s job and melt the ice underneath.  It may be hard to tell just how steep the driveway is from the pictures, but remember this is what our neighbors call “The Beast”!

As I was shoveling, I was also slipping and sliding down the driveway because of the ice.  Then it hit me.  We have clamp-on spikes for our shoes!!  We hadn’t needed them yet since we got them 2 years ago, but now by golly I was going to put them to use!

I went back up to the garage, slipped on the spikes and walked back down the driveway… confident that I wasn’t going to fall. I was still careful, but every step I took was solid and stable, even on the steepest, iciest patches.  I finished off the driveway with relative ease, and thought about how this experience relates to leadership.

Having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes us more confident.  With the spikes, I could concentrate more on my shoveling, instead of trying to avoid toppling down the hill.

Think about a leader who is unsure of how to handle a situation.  Maybe there is bad news to deliver to the team, and they are ill-equipped to convey the right message in the right way.  The leader fumbles, stammers, and conveys little assurance that they know what’s going on, or that they have the teams’ back.

Their team gets confused, upset, rebels or shuts down, and the leader is left picking up the pieces and wondering what went wrong.  All because they didn’t have the right tools.

In this case, a tool might be information… maybe the leader didn’t truly understand the message, so they weren’t sure what to say.

Another tool could be a communication technique… as things spiraled out of control in this meeting, you can almost hear the inexperienced leader say, “I know, I agree with you. I don’t know why we have to do this, either.”  Knowing, from experience or though guidance, mentoring or coaching, that this is not the right approach, could have driven this leader to more diligently prepare, which would have built up their confidence so that the out-of-control spiral would have never started.

One last tool in this situation that could have bolstered confidence could have been meeting management techniques.  Setting the right mood and expectation through pre-work, your agenda and overall demeanor before and during the meeting can go a long way in preventing the above derailment.

So the questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • What tools do I need?
    • For example: Communication strategies, delegation, managing up, time management, admin/tech skills, planning, etc.
  • How can I learn to use these tools?
    • For example: Talk to your boss or peers, a coach/mentor, books, articles, videos, online courses, in-person courses, podcasts, etc.

Related: Nothing Happens Without Confidence

A few weeks ago, a Guest Services Manager from a museum called me.  She had been put in charge of turning around the guest service culture in her museum, but she needed to communicate her plan to her Executive Director who was a big picture thinker.  We talked through a possible approach (the tool), and that discussion gave her the confidence to go in and explain her approach and what she would need.

She later told me that the approach worked like a charm, and things are moving forward.  I would say it was her approach in addition to the confidence she showed when she explained her approach.  It’s all connected.

The tools you need will vary by situation and your role within your organization.  Wherever you are, be diligent about getting the tools you need so you can confidently move forward, lead your teams and make a positive impact.

If you need help figuring out what tools you need or how to use them, I’m happy to help. Feel free to give me a call!

Thanks for reading!

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

“Hey Matt! I wanted to let you know I loved your book (ALL CLEAR!)!! There are a few things in there I have experienced myself, and others I haven’t even thought about! Very good read! You’ve given me my goal for this next season of helping to develop more leadership skills and mindsets in my team!”

Adam Woodall – Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, IAAPA Show Ambassador

Purchase your copy here!

 

 

Why you should remove the word “millennial” from your vocabulary in 2018

I’ll admit, 10-15 years ago, I was kind of naive about how business worked.  I am happy to say I’ve learned a lot over the years, and while still optimistic, the naïveté has tapered off.

In 2003, I picked up a book called “Employing Generation Why” by Eric Chester.  At the time, I thought it contained some really helpful and insightful information about dealing with the new generation of younger employees entering the workforce. And here’s where the naïveté comes in… I thought people would read this book (or ones like it), figure out the “generations” quagmire, develop some best practices and move on. I really thought once we figured this out we wouldn’t have to talk about it any more.

Boy, was I wrong.

Fast forward to 2018, and we are still having the same conversation about ‘millennials’ that we were having in 2003 (and even before). If history, and the lessons I’ve learned over the last 15 years are any guide, I think the reason were still have the SAME conversation is that it is the WRONG conversation.

We keep talking about the differences between generations.  Gen X does this, milennials do that. We study the years people where born and the significant world events that likely shaped their way of thinking.

Unfortunately, while this type of conversation makes us feel better about our own generation, it does nothing to help build relationships.  It allows us to be stuck in the mindset of “my generation is better than yours” . Na, na, nah boo-boo!

We also then start to stereotype.  Once we put a label on someone, we feel like we know something about them and how they behave, so we adjust our behavior accordingly. Problem is, when you stereotype (based on ANY label) you risk alienating people based on your biases and assumptions.

Don’t get me wrong, there are differences in how people of different ages behave and view the world, but those differences exist with people of the same age, too.  Putting people into generational boxes is NOT HELPING.  That’s why I implore you to remove not only the word “millennial” from your vocab in 2018, but all the useless generational labels that are currently in vogue.

Baby Boomer.  Generation X. Tranditionalists. The Greatest Generation. Generation Y. iGen.

They are all equally useless. And, by the way, made up.

There is no official entity that tracks generations. The categorization of generations was made up by authors, management gurus and consultants as way to sell books, management practices and training programs. And it worked, too, because people inherently wanted to make sense of something they couldn’t understand. But we went about it in completely the wrong way, which is why we’re still talking about this today.

My mantra when it comes to exploring differences in generations in the workplace is two fold.

  1. Get over it. 
  2. Deal with it.

Get over your preconceived notion that there are these massive gaps in understanding among people of different ages.  We all want to be loved, cared for, and to provide value.  We also all want to be connected to the outside world, and phones are not the only culprit.

Once you make the emotional decision to get over it, to stop dwelling on it, to realize that you just have to deal with reality, then you can do something about it… you can DEAL WITH IT!

How do you deal with? By getting to know your employees.  By being diligent about teaching them how to be good employees. By understanding that young people (no matter when they walked the Earth) need guidance and encouragement, not a lecture about how you walked up hill to school with no shoes.

By the way, I’d like to know exactly when we started thinking that a 15-year old was going to come into the work place with the same skills and work ethic as a 30-year old?  That’s what it seems like we are expecting when we complain about “kids these days” always being on the phone and not wanting to work.

As I said above, we all want to be connected to something, so why not get your employees connected to your business? Instead of complaining about the phone, give them a reason to not be on it (and it’s not just a policy).  Provide a compelling reason for them to concentrate on the work you need them to do and they will stay off their phone.  They go to the phone because they are bored, and that’s because WE haven’t given them a reason to care about what they are doing.

That’s part of dealing with it… by not just accepting the status quo. Maybe the positions and jobs you have someone doing are outdated? Maybe you need to provide more options for input and self expression?  That has to be monitored, and is more difficult than assigning a script, but maybe that’s what needs to happen to engage your employees and keep them off their phones?

My friend Josh Liebman tells the story of when he worked at Cedar Point, and most of the attractions had automated spiels.  Great for consistency, not so great for encouraging the employees to have fun.  They then decided to allow employees to make the spiels live and put their own spin on it… they had fun, added in some coaster trivia and other fun facts, and the guests loved it.

That’s probably why a fews years ago I heard an attendant at Gemini doing the safety spiels as Cartman from South Park. It was hilarious.

I don’t think that kind of service or experience happens when we put each other into generational boxes. I don’t think it happens when we stereotype and treat the majority based on the actions of the minority. I also don’t think it happens if we don’t get to know your employees and find out what their particular strengths and struggles are.

That’s your job as a leader. And if you want to know what your employees want or need, ask them. You won’t find a better resource for what will make them outstanding employees.

Related: Adam Conover – Millennials Don’t Exist

Thanks for reading!

Want to SLEEP BETTER?  Ensure your Supervisors are ready to LEAD with these two resources:

The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program – takes the worry and stress out of supervisor development!

NEW BOOK – “ALL CLEAR! A Practical Guide For First Time Leaders and The People Who Support Them”.  Available NOW!

“Hey Matt! I wanted to let you know I loved your book (ALL CLEAR!)!! There are a few things in there I have experienced myself, and others I haven’t even thought about! Very good read! You’ve given me my goal for this next season of helping to develop more leadership skills and mindsets in my team!”

Adam Woodall – Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, IAAPA Show Ambassador