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!

 

 

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!!

 

Trying something new!

Many of you have seen my #3Questions video series. If you haven’t, it’s an interview series I did where I would ask 3 questions of a guest and they would ask 3 questions of me. The guests I had were INCREDIBLE, and I want to thank them again for their time and willingness to share.

For the fun of it, decided to change up the format a little to challenge myself and to get even more people involved.

So… #3Questions LIVE was born.  I’ll explain more in the episode below, but long story short, YOU are now the guest.

Here are the questions I answered in Episode 1:

  1. Was Renegade really the best coaster on CNC 17?
  2. What advice do I have for someone who wants to write and speak?
  3. How do I get a job with Universal or Disney?

And here are the questions I have for you:

  1. How do you deal with “difficult” employees?
  2. What is your best advice for new leaders?
  3. What is your favorite coaster, attraction, exhibit, or haunt?

You can respond in the comments here, on YouTube, or email me: matt@performanceoptimist.comYou can also submit YOUR questions for me to address in another episode.  

Thanks for watching, listening, and participating!!!

Founder – Performance Optimist Consulting

www.performanceoptimist.com

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

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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 for PRE-ORDER through Nov. 10!

 

 

 

Company culture – aahhhhhhh!!!!!

What the heck is company culture?  SO MUCH has been written about it… so many people are talking about it… but what is it?  And more importantly, how do you get the culture you WANT in your company??

Our first order of business is to establish this fact: every business HAS a culture.  You already have an accepted way of doing things… it just may not be the way you WANT to do them.

So instead of trying to create a culture, you should probably be focused on changing the culture – which is ultimately more difficult, but not impossible.

If you went to the IAAPA Attractions Expo (#IAE16), you noticed a culture.  Remember that feeling when you walked into an education session or onto the trade show floor?  That palpable feeling of excitement, anticipation, and camaraderie, that you were sharing this experience with 30,000 of your closest friends?  That’s the “culture” of IAAPA, and it didn’t happen overnight.

And your current company culture didn’t just appear overnight, either. It has taken years of influence from you, previous leaders, and unofficial leaders (those without a title, but with plenty of influence). Notice I said influence, but didn’t assign a positive or negative spin to it.  The fact is that company culture is driven by both.

And here is the problem I have seen over the years… leaders start out with every intention of creating (or changing to) a positive culture, and they define the actions needed to get there.  Unfortunately, what they overlook is how to deal with the negative influences that creep up… the people who are not fully bought in… the curmudgeons who would rather see things stay the same (no matter how dysfunctional), and time.  The true time investment it will take to change the way people think, act, and perform their jobs.

Hopefully if you were at #IAE16, you took advantage of some of the educational sessions put on by the HR Committee.  Each of the sessions we planned had “culture” as our over-arching topic, then we divided it into subtopics, such as:

  • Recognition
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Leadership/Supervisory development
  • Recruiting/hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Front line staff development
  • Diversity
2016 Human Resources Symposium

2016 Human Resources Symposium at #IAE16

Even if you didn’t get to these sessions, the above topics can serve as a road map to changing your own culture.  Think it’s just about leadership?  Nope.  Gotta have the right people on board.  Think it’s just about proper training?  Nope.  Gotta have the right people processes in place.  It’s all connected.

It goes back to something you have probably heard me talk about before… the Employee Lifecycle.  Thinking about ALL of the factors that influence an employee’s experience (from recruiting to termination) is a necessary part of creating, defining, establishing and altering your company culture.

The Employee Lifecycle.  Don’t leave home without it.

So where does this leave us?  If you are trying to change your culture, know that it’s not going to be an overnight process.  Know that you are going to have stumbling blocks along the way (like people who don’t want to change).  Know that it will not come from a wall poster or new fancy set of values that you come up with but don’t uphold with your actions.  That’s the biggest culture killer of all… mixed messages when it comes to what you say you stand for.

Case in point – Over Thanksgiving, I was talking with my 26-year-old niece, Samantha, who works at a social media tech company in Austin, TX.  At one point, she said she really liked the company culture.  So I had to ask, what is it that you like?  She mentioned two main things:

  • The values of the company were widely accepted by the employees, and those who didn’t fit with the culture didn’t find themselves employed very long.  One example was that it’s an expectation to seek help when needed, to find ways to better yourself with the assistance of others on the team.  Those who felt they were the smartest people in the room, or that didn’t accept coaching or feedback, ultimately didn’t grow or build the right kind of relationships with those around them.  This is a case of the culture taking care of those who don’t fit the culture.
  • She knows what the values “look like” and how her daily actions uphold the company vision.  This is why fancy posters with verbose mission statements don’t work.  Without the right kind of reinforcement, people don’t even know what they mean, let alone know what they would have to DO to uphold or achieve the mission.  If an employee can’t see how their daily behaviors impact the bigger picture, they will never understand, nor buy into, the culture you are trying to create.  They just won’t.

Related: 3 Ways To Improve Company Culture

Here are my bottom line must-do’s when thinking about changing your culture.

  • Decide what culture you want
  • Figure out what it takes (behaviorally) to get there.  Do that. Everyday.
  • Pursue your cultural goal relentlessly – DO NOT LET UP!
    • Hire people that will support your culture
    • Fire people who won’t
  • If something doesn’t fit your culture, don’t do it – no matter how expedient it might be.  You will only be hurting yourself.

Ultimately your culture will be what you decide it should be minus what you allow that it shouldn’t be.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

The Myth of Employee Burnout shows leaders how each facet of the Employee Lifecycle is critical to keeping employees engaged.  For a limited time, use coupon code IAE16 to take 10% off!  Click here to order now!

(Additional bulk discounts will automatically be applied at checkout)

Book for web V1

 

Three Questions – George Deines

Welcome to the first (of hopefully many) installments of a new video series called “Three Questions” were I will prepare three questions for a guest, and they will do the same for me.  We won’t know what the questions are prior to recording, so answers are unrehearsed and unedited.

My first guest is George Deines, longtime water park operator, leadership aficionado and fellow Seinfeld fan.  I’m still learning the technology and format, but what George has to share is gold, Jerry. Gold.

Thanks for watching!

Matt

New promo video

Howdy friends!

Wanted to share a new promo video I recently added to my website.  If you like it, feel free to “like” it, link it, share it, or tweet it!

If you don’t like it, at least is was only 1 minute and 48 seconds!

Big thanks to Charlie with the North American Farm Direct Marketers Association for providing the footage!

Thanks for watching!

 

Matt

Learning How To Drive

As I was driving around town the other day, I noticed a car trying to make a left-hand turn across oncoming traffic. It struck me (the idea, not the car) that the driver had to develop good judgement in order to time the turn just right to avoid a collision.

Not sure where the synapse collision happened in my head, but it made me think of the judgement a leader must develop, and just how long it takes to develop “good judgement”.

Think about when you learned to drive… there was some classroom or online instruction, practical application behind the wheel, and probably more than one very stressful episode with a parent or older sibling trying to enlighten you on the finer points to vehicle manipulation.  You then took a test and got your license.  Even with this certification, it doesn’t mean that you learned everything there was to know about driving, or that you would consistently apply what you do know (turn signals, anyone?).

In many ways, the judgement you need to be successful as a leader is similar to that of driving a car – and it takes just as long (if not longer) to develop even a remedial level of “good judgement”.  You need to know the hazards, the capabilities of your resources, and what your overall role is in the process.

Also like driving, good judgement in leadership comes from experience.  And experience takes time.  No matter where you are on your leadership journey, it is your previous experiences that determine how you judge future situations.  When it comes to developing other leaders, we have to remember that teaching the tasks of what to do is only part of the equation… we also have to give them the opportunity to gain experience, make some mistakes, and develop good judgement.

Here are some lessons we can take from drivers ed…

  • Vary the teaching method: give some theory, allow time for practical application, and provide feedback the progress
  • Allow mistakes (to a point): In the special drivers ed car, the instructor has an emergency brake, but other than that the student is in control.  Allow your leaders to take the wheel, so-to-speak, but be there to assist if they really get into a jam.
  • Give it time: drivers need to practice parallel parking, much like leaders need practice providing feedback to their teams.
  • There will be tears: learning to drive and developing leadership skills are life-changing processes, both with their share of bumps along the way. Know that these will make you stronger.

Please lead, and drive, carefully.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Matt’s first car was a 1977 Buick LaSabre.  Her name was “Bessie”.

What Employees Want From Their Leaders

I’ve been reading a series of legal thrillers recently and the main character talks a lot about the law of unintended outcomes.  This blog post is a direct result of that phenomenon.

I am currently working on a leadership session and wanted to gather some opinions about what employees look for in their leader.  I posed the question to former IAAPA Show Ambassadors who represent a great demographic cross-section of the young staff members many of us work with.  When I saw their answers, I thought this information was bigger than the one session I was working on, and needed to be shared with as many people as possible.  Thus, an unintended outcome of asking my original question.

So, here are the answers they gave. I am including them as they wrote them, with no editing.  Watch for common themes and feel free to self evaluate regarding where you fall on the “what-my-employees-want” scale (each persons response is separated by a space):

  • Feedback: Positive or Needs Improvement. It’s always good to know how you doing, and to get assistance with development.
  • Empathy: Sometimes leaders need to understand what it’s like on the front line, especially if they haven’t done it in awhile.
  • Communication: It’s the worst when a leader does not communicate with the front line important information about the daily operations.
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Solicit input from staff when developing new policies or procedures
  • Share the big picture and long-term goals
  • Doesn’t micromanage.
  • Firm yet understanding.
  • Knowledgeable and willing to teach you and help you grow.
  • Work hard/play hard attitude.
  • Approachability
  • Humility
  • Passionate
  • Dedicated
  • Honest
  • Passionate
  • Always willing to give you constructive criticism. Sometimes I think leaders hold back on their responsibility to communicate as both professional and personal relationships build. Whenever I find myself hesitating to give feedback to a team member I always think about how much I appreciate when people give me both positive and constructive feedback.
  • Also, someone who invests time in understanding the thought process that goes into how you do your job and how you make decisions. Especially in cross-functional teams where your leader might come from a different background then you.
  • Someone who shows that they are committed to their team members success, and is willing to work with their team to help them achieve their goals.
  • Someone who leads by example (someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but can walk the walk.)
  • Someone who can effectively communicate the teams goals, small and big picture.
  • Someone you can relate to and have fun with!
  • Dreamer –I look to someone with vision, a purpose for their labor, who is constantly seeking methods for either sustainment or improvement and innovation. To me, a great leader not only has a vision for their individual responsibilities but also how his or her efforts contribute to a greater purpose. Ultimately, the person is a “big picture thinker”
  • Inspirational –Those that lead well are those who instill motivation in others. Altruism paired with purpose and passion produce someone with fervor enough to inspire others. I find that work becomes more meaningful when I can attribute passion to it -whether it be intrinsic or inspired by another. Leaders with this quality have an excellent way of helping an organization grow because they constantly build their teams’ esteem and motivation with the passion they carry themselves.
  • Admirability –A true leader, in my eyes, is an authentic leader, a person respected and highly esteemed by others because of his or her ability to honest, caring, and dependable. Respect is built with time by the outcome of experiences. Leaders who demonstrate a high level of truthfulness, conviction in their teams and a sincere concern for others’ well-being, as well as a reputation for keeping promises is endeared by many but, chiefly, is respected by all.

What are the common themes did you notice?  How did you do on your self evaluation?  Are we missing anything that YOU look for in a leader?

I want to thank Bobby Monnerat, Ivey West, Todd Swetnam, Greg Matthew, Dave Mugnaini, Sarai Henning, Brandon Bruce, Alex Reszitnyk, and Krystal Lambert for not only chiming in to answer my question, but also for unintendedly contributing to this blog post and the betterment of leaders everywhere!  You rock!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Now that you know what your employees want, are you and your leadership teams equipped to provide it?  I’m here to help your leaders lead!