Should we be striving for loyalty over engagement?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big employee engagement guy. In fact I talk a lot about engagement in The Myth of Employee Burnout.  I truly do think we should be focused on engaging the hearts and minds of our employees. After all, that’s how we get the best out of people, right?

I’d like to challenge my own theory.  The other day I was thinking about guest loyalty programs. You know the ones… a special card or program companies use to get you to come back and continue using their service (i.e. create loyalty).

For example, one of the grocery stores in my town offers fuel points… the more you spend in the store, the more fuel points – i.e. discount – you get.  Makes me a loyal customer, right?

Maybe.  It certainly brings me back because I like the discount on gas, but if another grocery store has similar products, maybe offers better service, I might go there.  It might even depend on my mood.  If I can waffle back and forth that easily, I don’t think I’m that loyal.

Why? Because when you look up the definition of loyal, you get this: a strong feeling of support or allegiance.  Based on the example above, I would say that I have a moderate feeling of support or allegiance to the grocery store that offers fuel points. Why?  Because it’s transactional, not emotional.

More on that in a minute.

Back to my original theory – if we truly want employees to embrace our values and put forth their best effort, should we be concentrating on employee loyalty more than engagement? Should we be focused on creating “a strong feeling of support or allegiance” in our employees, over and above their level of engagement?  Maybe even instead of?  Or maybe loyalty creates engagement?

Here’s what I know: loyalty is powerful. Loyalty will “motivate” people to do things they may not otherwise do.  Think of the people you consider yourself “loyal” to… would you stick your neck out for them, step outside your comfort zone for their benefit?  I’m going to bet YES was the answer.

I know what you might be thinking… loyalty in the workplace went out of style like the promise of a gold watch at the end of 40 years of service.  Wrong.  Loyalty from our employees went out when we stopped being loyal to our employees.  When we got the idea in our head that they were going to jump ship for more money down the road, we stopped trying to earn their loyalty. And that’s our fault.

Earning loyalty in 2019 is going to be different than earning loyalty in 1989 or 1979, or 1959.  Many of your employees have different life situations and circumstances that lead them to your company, so we have to look at how we support them and gain their allegiance in a different way.

Is support about training?  Yes.  But it’s also about a listening ear, guidance from a trusted leader, and knowing that you have their back.

And allegiance, like we mentioned earlier, is about emotion. It’s about deeply believing in something to the point you choose it over other options. You feel so emotionally connected to to the cause, company or person that you feel compelled to take action. Probably why we pledge “allegiance” to the flag here in the USA.

When we focus on fostering support and allegiance, it is no longer about what our employees can do for us, but what can we do for our employees, which is a fundamental shift in thinking for many leaders.  It’s the upside-down triangle that puts the “top” of the organization on the bottom of the triangle, because as a leader, you are there to support the efforts of everyone else to create a successful team or company.

But before you print and hand out employee loyalty cards, remember the story of the gas points.  It’s counting transactions, which will only produce moderately loyal actions.

Contrast that with my experience with Alamo earlier this year. Long story short, they had a car for me when another rental company would not honor my reservation.  Not only that, the agent was so kind and accommodating (and could sense my urgency), I couldn’t help but feel supported and that they truly cared about me. Since then, I have pledged my allegiance to Alamo. (Full disclosure, I had been a member of their Alamo Insiders loyalty program before this, but it was this experience that truly made me LOYAL!)

Related: AttractionPros Podcast Episode 92 – Service Urgency (and more on the Alamo story)

So creating employee loyalty should not be about cards or programs. It should be about creating bonds and relationships with people so they feel supported and naturally want to pledge their allegiance to you.

Loyalty is not dead. You just have to earn it.

Thanks for reading!

Want to support a great organization AND learn some important leadership concepts at the same time??  Now you can!  A portion of all book sales in 2019 will be donated to Give Kids The World!

 

Diligence, Persistence and Stick-to-it-iv-ness

A recent trip to work with the amazing leaders at Carowinds yields a lesson in diligence.

What do YOU do when employees don’t listen the first time? What is YOUR plan B?

I’d love to hear your success stories, too!  Leave a comment below or email me at matt@performanceoptimist.com.

Thanks for watching!

Want to support a great organization AND learn some important leadership concepts at the same time??  Now you can!  I will be donating a portion of the proceeds from all book sales in 2019 to Give Kids The World!

Talking blog posts

It’s true.  I’ve been writing fewer blog posts over the last year or so, but it’s not because I haven’t experienced any blog-worthy thoughts.

To the contrary, I’ve had a lot, but many of them have taken a new form!  A podcast!

Some of you know that Josh Liebman and I have joined forced to create the AttractionPros podcast, a weekly show dedicated to helping leaders and operators in the attractions industry.  Sometimes, we feature amazing guests like Jeffrey Siebert, John Anderson, Ben Story, Jennifer Berthiaume, Bill Lupfer, John Hallenbeck, Katie Bruno, Steve Amos, Shaun McKeogh, Christine Buhr, Tim Morrow and many more!

AP Podcast – Episode 80: Seamus Fitzgerald talks about aloha, kokua, kapu, ohana and lot of other Hawaiian words!

Sometimes we take a deep dive into a recent or hot topic:

AP Podcast – Episode 82: Matt and Josh dissect a delicate leadership situation that could have been avoided

Sometimes we record an episode LIVE with a studio audience:

AP Podcast Episode 64: AttractionPros LIVE from Orlando, FL!

If you want to find out more about the podcast, check us out on AttractionPros.com.  We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and LinkedIn. Feel free to send us questions for an upcoming mailbag episode or suggestions for guests you would like us to profile.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

PS – In case you haven’t heard, I will be donating a portion of my book sales in 2019 to Give Kids the World. Either title, paperback or kindle, they all count!  If you’ve been waiting for a reason to pick up a few more copies, now is the time! Click here for the bookstore!

 

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

The two T’s… Trust and Teamwork

If you have been reading my blog for awhile (especially this post from 2012), or you have read The Myth of Employee Burnout, you may be familiar with a guy named Dallas Hobbs. I originally met Dallas when we both worked at Universal Orlando, and I am glad to say we have kept in touch in the years since we both left.

Dallas is now the Guest Services Manager at The Fountains Resort in Orlando.  We exchanged a few emails the other day, and he mentioned how he had taken over a team at the Fountains and was able to really turn them around.

But he didn’t tell me HOW!!!

So I asked.  Here is what he said. If you are leading a new team, or if you are struggling with team morale, take note.  Take lots of notes.

“The how was actually simpler than I thought it would be. One of the first things I did after being trained at their jobs and spending time on all 3 shifts with them, was to start 1-on-1’s. Dedicated time that each associate could spend with me, uninterrupted, each month. Very quickly I learned the problem was trust. Not that they thought the person next to them was a liar, but trusting that they were doing their job. Common phrases from my PBX operators would be, “Front desk is out there doing X instead of Y!” Or “PBX isn’t picking up because they are playing on their phones!” Even though they are all the same team, one department. They talked as if they didn’t know each other.

So several things had to happen. First everyone went though refresher training so they all knew that everyone knew what to do and how to do it. Then they all spent 2 days shadowing other departments learning what they go through (housekeeping, activities, F&B, engineering). Then the segmented schedule became one giant schedule. Regardless of position or shift, we were going to be one team, even if only on paper.

Very slowly I started rotating people into different positions. Though some were better or more comfortable in specific roles, I needed them to occasionally experience the rest of the department. This was the rough one because no one likes their schedule messed with or going outside their comfort zone. So of course I had a few ruffled feathers. Again the 1-on-1’s were key here. Positive and individualized encouragement helped those through the process. Change management 101. As well as opening the lines of communication. Simply encouraging each other to talk!
I also began hiring differently than my predecessor. Before they hired experience and resumes.  I hire people and personalities. Hiring people I know would get along with the people I already have and be a part of my team. Which meant passing over very qualified candidates.

However trust takes time. We’ve all lost trust in someone or something and only time will win that trust back. So I could not force it over night. Which was the hardest part. Sitting back and telling my superiors and HR that it’s working, just give it time. Looking back now it didn’t take too much time at all. In 2 months my scores did a 180 and have been climbing ever since. In our score system, we celebrate single digit increases because it takes a lot to move that needle. I had increases of 15% points over previous months. In fact my summer scores are the highest in the history of the resort. And they are the highest year to date. In the middle of the 100 days of summer, my team is crushing it. (By the way, I’ve not lost a single associate all summer. #BurnoutIsAMyth)

They are no longer focused solely on their individual jobs but are helping those next to them. And even doing more work to make the next shifts job easier. I have associates seeking out MORE work to do, on their own. Simply because the shift prior to them did the same.

Now there is more to it than just trust. Empowerment, empathy, etc. are all key elements to a great team, but the major issue at the start was simply trust.”

Dallas built trust through communication and stirring things up a bit.  Sometimes complacency, although comfortable, can be the biggest enemy of progress, productivity, and yes, trust.  Thanks for the insight, Dallas!!

If you have a story or experience that might help others and would be willing to share it, please email it to me here.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

NEW RELEASE!  88 of Matt’s favorite leadership blog posts, all in one convenient downloadable package!!

LT Leadership Cover

 

 

 

 

 

“Come sweat with me”

When my friends and I on the #CNC16 trip visited Cedar Point a few weeks ago, we got up bright and early to experience the Sunrise Thrills VIP Tour.  Not only did we get to see the park from the top of Valravn, we also got incredible coaster-nerd access to Top Thrill Dragster, Millennium Force and Maverick.

IMG_7688

223 feet above Cedar Point!

IMG_7686If you are at all interested in a bird’s eye view of an amazing park, or just want to geek out on some incredible roller coasters, this tour is for you.  However, this post is not about the tour specifically.

It’s about sweat.

Our tour guides were two Guest Services associates who were also roommates.  One was a front line associate (Steve), the other was a Supervisor (Jeff).  We learned that after the tour concluded, Jeff was going to be working at the Iron Dragon roller coaster, helping guests fill out forms to be part of a Virtual Reality beta test.  Jeff shared with us that a lot of people want to do this, so it’s an intense, go-go-go, seemingly endless kind of process. Combine that with the expected heat, and Jeff wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

Since many hands make lighter work, Jeff was trying to enlist Steve’s help.  His convincing argument was a statement I’ll never forget.

“Come sweat with me”, he said.

To me, this acknowledges that while the assignment might not be the most desirable, it’ll be a lot better doing it together than alone.  It also indicates that Jeff will be there WITH Steve, and he’s not just telling him to go do something without supporting him.

And while I don’t know the history between these two, I think it also indicated that Jeff would do the same for Steve if the situation were reversed.

At it’s core, these four words communicate the one thing employees need more than anything from their leaders… support.

Support comes in many forms… communication, listening, providing feedback/coaching, working alongside them, providing tools, creating opportunities to learn, and yes, sweating.

We all know that actions speak louder than words, so the act of going through the same hardship as an employee speaks volumes about your understanding of their struggles. (And no, they don’t care that you used to do their job back in the day.  They want to see you do it TODAY!) When they see that you ‘get it’, it’s much easier for them to trust you, believe in you and want to follow you.

If you haven’t been out to work with your staff in a little while, I encourage you to find the time to do so – even if you don’t HAVE to.  If your season is winding down, you know that you need the remaining employees to pour on the afterburners to finish out the season strong.

Your display of “sweat equity” could be just what’s needed to ignite the flame.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

Book with Buy Now

Those pesky employees

If I were to ask you, “What is the #1 challenge you face with employees?”, how many of you would list one or more of the things below?

FAA employee Challange poster1Well, that’s exactly what I did at my expo booth at the Florida Attractions Association conference in June.  I wanted to know what people were struggling with in terms of employee behavior and performance.  It was interesting because some people grabbed a marker right away and added their thoughts to the list, while others needed time to ponder the question for a bit.  Either way, it was fascinating to hear their perspectives.

Of course me being me, I had to ask where they thought these behaviors came from.  Some offered a quizzical look and said, “I just don’t know”.  Others sheepishly said, “well, if I’m being honest, it probably stems from something I did… or didn’t do.”

I would tend to agree that a lot of these can relate back to the environment created by the leader and the example they are setting.  That said, that might not be the entire story.

To dig a little deeper, we have to ask the question that we seem to get asked a lot… why?

  • Why won’t your employees do paperwork?
  • Why don’t your employees have passion for the job?
  • Why is product quality lacking?
  • You get the idea…

But you can’t stop there.  You may ask, “Why don’t employees do paperwork?”  There could literally be dozens of reasons:

  • They don’t know how.
  • They don’t have time.
  • They don’t understand its importance.
  • And so on…

From here, you then have to ask “WHY” again, and for each possible answer.

  • Why don’t they know how?
  • Why don’t they have time?
  • Why don’t they understand the importance?

Let’s tackle one of these… we’ve discovered that they actually DO know how, but say they don’t have time.  Okay.

  • Why don’t they have time? For grins and giggles, we’ll say this person is a tour guide at your facility.  They are currently scheduled for 6 hour shifts, with their first tour starting 30 minutes after they clock in, and their last tour usually ending 15 minutes before the end of their shift.  They do three 1.5 hour tours a day, which means they are on tour 4.5 hours out of their 6 hour shift.  They need time to rest in between, eat and prep for the next tour.  Traditionally, the paperwork has been done at the end of the shift.  Your tour guides are saying that 15 minutes (when they are tired from 3 tours) is not enough time to get the paperwork done.

If you then ask “why is that not enough time to get the paperwork done?”, that leads to… “how long does the paperwork really take?”  You realize that to be done correctly, to summarize and close out all three tours, it takes about 30 minutes.

So no, the 15 minutes at the end of the day are not enough.

So we go back to why…

  • Why is the paperwork done at the end of the shift?”  Because that’s when it’s always been done….  (hopefully you see the opportunity here!)
  • Why can’t the paperwork be done in chunks, closing out the tours as you go?  That way you are only taking 10 minutes at the end of each tour, and at the end of the shift they should have time to do the last one and get out on time.

So that’s one possible solution to one possible cause of the problem. You give that a try and see if it works.  Are your employees now doing their paperwork on a more regular basis?  If so, great! If not, back to the drawing board to try something else.

And if you do find that something you did (or didn’t do) caused these situations, take that as good news.  If you were part of the problem, you know where to look to find the solution.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

Book with Buy Now

Challenge – the breakfast of champions for Millennials

I’m so excited! The IAAPA Attractions Expo will be upon us in a few short weeks and it’s shaping up to (again) be the most wonderful time of the year!

This year, one of the educational programs I am working on is called “HR NOW – The Frontline Speaks: Insights From The People Who Are Truly Running Your Business.”  In this session, we’ll hear what frontline employees from around the world think about technology, leadership, motivation and more. This is your chance to hear directly from the people who are serving your guests!

We’ll have 3 frontline employees from various attractions as our panelists in the room, and we have also gathered video footage of frontline employees from parks around the world answering the same questions we’ll be asking our in-room panelists.  During the session we will play some of those clips in addition to hearing directly from the panel.  You won’t want to miss this!

Now back to our title… in reviewing the video submissions that came in, an interesting trend emerged.  When talking about what motivated people, or what would even cause people to leave, many answers were different sides of the same coin.

And that coin is… CHALLENGE.

One employee said it was very motivating when their supervisor assigned them more complex tasks, and another said he would leave if there were no more challenge to the job.

Yet another spoke at length about how he had left his park for another job… a 9 to 5, weekends off, low-stress kind of job, but it didn’t last.  He craved the excitement, variety, and yes, challenge of his old job.  He found it by going BACK to the park.

I first heard T. Scott Gross say this during an education session at IAAPA back in 1997… “The only people who want to do idiot-proof jobs are idiots.”  I think it was true then, and it’s even more true today.  We can’t expect our employees (especially young employees) to be satisfied with same-old, same-old, hum-drum jobs where all of the challenge and decision making were removed to make sure no one made a mistake.  People don’t work that way… at least not the good ones, and those are the ones you want!

I can’t wait to gather this panel and see what other great insights they will provide! Below are the session details if you are going to be at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando.

Date: Monday, November 16, 2015

Time: 9:00 AM

Location: Room S330CD, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando

Hope to see you all there!!

Matt

#TBwhenever

Impromptu gathering of current and former Universal Orlando Team Members at the annual Florida Attractions Association networking lunch at #IAE14.

UO at FAA

 

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!

Matt

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.

3 Ways To Improve Company Culture

I now live in North Carolina.  Feels kind of weird to say that.  I honestly never imagined myself living here until a few years ago when my wife and I started talking about the possibility of moving away from Florida.  Now I that I am here, I really like it.

What I also like is the “culture” of the community that we moved into.  We are in a small mountain community about 20 minutes from downtown Hendersonville, and I quickly noticed that there was a shared behavior of everyone once you got inside the community walls (i.e. subdivision).

Everyone waves.

And it doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. If you pass them in a car, if you see them out getting the mail or taking out the trash, the neighborly thing to do is wave in an effort to greet and acknowledge. And I have to say, it’s kind of nice.

But where did this “wave culture” come from and more importantly for this post, how is it sustained?

Since I only moved here about a month ago, I can’t speak specifically about where it came from or who started it.  For this discussion, we’ll agree that it simply came from a group of nice people who wanted a friendly environment to live in.

Great… but what happens when new people (like us) move in?  Is there a meeting, an in-service, a memo or handbook that says we should wave?  No.  It just happened.

And as I was bringing in the garbage can today (after waving at a neighbor I have yet to meet officially), I realized the steps that were taken to indoctrinate us into this culture.

  1. The culture was established.  Long before we got here, someone at some point had started waving.  Again, I don’t know the specific origins, but I do know it happened.  Many companies talk about “creating a culture of this or that”, as if they don’t HAVE a culture already.  The step they often miss is working to overcome the culture they DON’T want in order to achieve the culture that they do want.
  2. The culture was communicated.  Again, not through a formal process, but through the actions of those already here.  The interesting thing about being the “newbie” is getting to observe my surroundings to see what sticks versus what is talked about.  Waving wasn’t talked about, it was done.
  3. The acceptable and desired behaviors are reinforced. Everyone waves. Everyone buys into the notion that if we don’t have time to converse, we should at least acknowledge our neighbors with a friendly wave.  Sometimes they wave first, setting the example, other times I beat them to it but they return the favor with a wave of their own. It’s quite remarkable.

How does this apply to you?  Looking at the three things above, how can you improve the culture of your team, department or company?

  1. Establish your culture.  Don’t forget to figure out how to “un-establish” the old culture if it’s not what you want.  Then define in specific terms the behaviors of the culture you desire.  It’s got to start somewhere, at some point and with some one. It’s not going to develop by osmosis.
  2. Communicate your culture. Yes, you can talk about it in training, but don’t let that be the only vehicle for letting people know what you value and what’s important.  Live your values and culture, and find people to surround yourself with that will live the values, too.  Communicate with actions, not just words.
  3. Reinforce the acceptable and desired behaviors. Set the example, first and foremost. If someone on your team is living up to your standards, let them know you appreciate it. Recognize it, and it will keep happening. If they can’t or won’t display the behaviors that support your culture and values, let them know how they can improve.  If they choose to behave in a way that does not uphold your standards, they are not a good fit for your culture.  Might be time to thin the herd.

In business, there have to be consequences for those who are not fitting in with the culture you are trying to establish.  When less than the standard is tolerated, that level of performance will become your new culture.

In my neighborhood, I have yet to hear what the consequences might be for NOT waving at others.  Quite frankly, I am not too worried about it.  Waving at my neighbors has now become MY culture, something I WANT to do because it’s accepted, reinforced, and it’s the right thing to do.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author:  Matt has lived in Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Connecticut, Florida, and now North Carolina.  He has worked at an amusement park or attraction in four of the states, and has held a drivers license in five (soon to be 6 with NC). There is only one state where Matt didn’t have a drivers license AND didn’t work at an amusement park.  Can you guess it?