Life with a canine guides us through the re-onboarding process

I’ve had and trained dogs before, and I’ve on-boarded people before, but never have these two concepts collided SO HARD as they have in the last month.

Meet Otis, a 4 month-old Border Collie/Basset Hound mix we adopted in late March. For those who know dog breeds, you can probably guess his personality: really smart but kind of lazy and stubborn.

So, we started with the dog training, which is NOT about training the dog. It’s about training the humans to learn to think like a dog so we can better communicate with him. This is where these worlds collided…

Organizational training should not be ONLY about teaching employees about their job and their roles… leaders should also be LEARNING about the employees so they can speak their language.

In other words, training an employee should NOT be a one-way venture. BOTH sides should actively be in the learning mode. Ah-ha!

This is especially true now as facilities are anticipating coming back online in a post-COVID-19 world.

So what I have learned from “onboarding” Otis that would help you as you onboard or re-onboard your teams in the coming weeks and months?

  • Like I said above, let’s look at the training process as a two-way proposition. You WILL NOT be able to bring your folks in and tell them the new information and expect results. Just because I tell Otis to sit, that doesn’t mean he is going to do it. Your protocols are not the same, and I would dare to say that your teams are not the same. More than ever you will have to focus on how your employees are reacting to coming back to work and the “new normals” in order to get the best performance.
  • This means you’ll have to be even MORE diligent and consistent with your messaging. One day Otis may respond well to a command followed by a treat, the next day maybe not. Over time, the more consistent I can be with my expectations, messaging and communication, the better results we’ll get. If you do not consistently reiterate your standards and expectations (in a few different modes) the performance of your employees will be haphazard.  If you are promising your guests that you will be cleaning and sanitizing on a more aggressive schedule (for example), “haphazard” doesn’t jive with that.
  • Encouragement is KING. Do you have any earthly idea how many times I’ve said, “good boy” in the last 1.5 months? I don’t, but I know it’s a TON. Why so much? Because dogs respond to positivity and a friendly tone of voice. They also respond to firm reprimands, which we have had to do, but the scales have tipped toward encouragement SO much more often. Encourage the behavior that you want – where have I heard that before? As your employees come back, they may be scared, they may be apprehensive, they may be unsure if they should even be at work. This is your time to summon up as much compassion and empathy as possible and encourage the behaviors YOU want to see.  Will you have to correct people, sure. But do that in an encouraging way, too.  Focus on getting better in the future rather than reliving a mistake of the past. Leave the firm reprimands for the stuff that really deserves it – like if their safety is in jeopardy.
  • While you are doing all of this, you will need to re-learn (or learn) how your employees communicate and the best way to respond. When we first brought Otis home, we didn’t know his “tell” for when he had to go to the bathroom. We had a few accidents, so we started taking him out just about every hour or so until we learned what he was trying to tell us. When there was an accident, did we get angry and stuff his nose in his pee spot? No. We did our best to remain calm, we picked him up immediately and took him outside. We can’t get mad at him because he doesn’t know the expectation, so we have to A. be consistent with our reactions and B. watch more closely for his signals so we could avoid the accident in the first place. I know you are going to have a lot on your plate when you re-open, and watching, caring for and anticipating the needs of your employees should be at the top of your list.

In some ways, I think if you have had to shut down you are at an advantage over places like grocery stores who have been open this entire time. They fell into a new normal, you get to plan for it.

And plan for it you should! Plan for your guests and their experience, but also plan for your employee’s experience.

If you need help navigating any of these preparations, I’m happy to assist. You can call/text 407-435-8084 or email matt@performanceoptimist.com.

Thanks for reading!

Did you miss the Situational Employee Engagement Webinar?  You’re in luck. We recorded it just for you! Click here or the picture below.

THE formula for employee retention

Had a few employee retention thoughts swirling around my head pre-pandemic.  They are still valid now, as they will also be when it’s time to welcome our employees back.

For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, check out my online workshop*: Engaging Humans, April 7 at 2 pm Eastern.

Video link: https://youtu.be/kBYRg2FVKKs

*There is a charge for this program. Like all businesses right now, I am adapting my business model to the “new normal”.  I will still offer lots of resources for free including this blog, the AttractionPros podcast and the ALL CLEAR group on Facebook. I can’t thank you all enough for your support!

Thanks for watching!

Having trouble knowing how to lead through this unprecedented pandemic? Need to just vent or talk about anything NOT related to COVID-19?  Sign up for a FREE 30 minute call!

 

Feeling all the feels

NOTE: This post was in the works prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the concepts still hold true for our new normal of communication, and will be especially important once we are able to gather together again. 

Many of you have heard me talk about the model I use when putting training programs together: KNOW, FEEL, DO.  In a nutshell, when developing a training program on any topic, we need to have a clear idea of what we want the trainees to KNOW (information, facts), how we want them to FEEL (emotions) and what we want them to DO (actions, tasks).

When I went to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis recently, I happened upon another aspect of FEEL that we need to be focused on… how can we prepare our trainees for what they will FEEL when they are out in the real world of their job?

Unfortunately, I was there when the arch wasn’t open so I didn’t get to go up to the top, but I could walk all around it and up to it.  Now, I’ve seen many, many pictures of the arch over the years, but they pale in comparison to being right up close. Pictures also can’t convey what it FEELS like to stand right next to the towering structure.

When I looked up, like from the angle below, I felt a little queasy and that I needed to sit down.  My legs were a little wobbly and there was a pit in my stomach. As soon as I brought my gaze back to the horizon, I felt normal.  Of course I had to see if this was an anomaly, maybe just a one-time thing… nope.  I got the exact same feeling the 2nd and 3rd time I tried this. Some people call this vertigo and it happens whenever you look up at a tall building or structure.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it was an intense, visceral feeling that I could not deny.

It was that very REAL feeling that I was not prepared for that got me thinking about training…

Both customer service and leadership are full of emotional situations. And it makes sense, because both endeavors are built around human interactions.  We’ve all probably felt the frustration of dealing with an upset guest or the joy of reuniting lost parents and children. In leadership there is the satisfaction that all elements of the business are working well (even for a short time) versus the overwhelm of having too many things on your plate and not enough time.

In my experience, it’s the inability to deal with these REAL emotions, or the FEELS, that send people on the wrong path in either area.  This is why I think it’s important to include as many opportunities as possible for people to “feel the feels” in a safe training environment before they are thrown out to the wolves.

This means giving people a chance to practice their skills and get feedback on as many real-world situations as possible.  This could be done as the dreaded ROLE PLAY, or a situational assignment that puts people through the real experiences they are going to go through once on the job.

Why is the role play so hated?  I think it’s because it’s a little embarrassing to get up in front of people an act out a scripted scene. Here are a few ways to get around that:

  • Have participants come up with the scenarios and determine how they are going to act them out.  Ownership over the process helps a lot!
  • Don’t call them role plays.  I use the term “skill practice”.  It may word smithing, but practicing a skill you actually need is a lot more enticing than acting out a “role play” you aren’t connected to.
  • Make it a true learning experience, where you build confidence and competence with everyone, not just the people going through the skill practice.

Role plays or skill practice sessions are vital to get people to understand not only the mechanics of what you are asking them to do, but also how to get through it emotionally.

The reason I think all this talk about the feels and emotions hit home with me is because of the advancement of e-learning in so many organizations.  I do believe that e-learning has a place when it comes to knowledge or compliance, but it can’t replicate the real feelings someone feels when interacting with another human being. For that, you need to interact with another human being.

That’s where we need to take a cue from when we learned to drive.  There was a classroom portion and a driving portion. Both were important but for different reasons.  The classroom taught you the nuts and bolts of what it means to drive a car, the driving portion taught you what it FELT like to on the highway going 65 mph with other cars passing or cutting you off.  No way you could have learned that from a book or in the classroom.

So if you are having trouble getting your training to “stick”, or if your employees or leaders are failing because they aren’t prepared to handle the emotions and feelings of their job, then take this as your challenge.  Strategically include opportunities for them to experience as many true emotions in the training as possible, so they will be prepared when the reality of the situation kicks in.

Thanks for reading!

Having trouble knowing how to lead through this unprecedented pandemic? Need to just vent or talk about anything NOT related to COVID-19?  Sign up for a FREE 30 minute call!

 

 

New online workshops available!

Everyone knows I’m an optimist (even when playing Ring Toss), and as such I believe we’ll all get through this pandemic, we’ll open our doors/gates again and we’ll serve our guests and employees like never before!

So, just because we have to keep our distance doesn’t mean we can’t learn, right?  Many people are taking up new hobbies and crafts, and it’s incredibly inspiring.

For those looking for additional personal or professional development, I have designed two online workshops that I will be delivering via Zoom.  These are not listen-only webinars or follow-along e-learning modules… these are live, interactive sessions that just happen to be at a safe social distance from another human being!

The two sessions are:

  • Engaging Humans – Strategies to engage and retain employees and guests alike
    • 1 hour
    • Choice of dates: March 30 at 2 pm EST or April 2 at 2 pm EST
    • Cost – $99
    • For more information and to enroll, click here.
  • Strategic Conversations – Practical skills to lead intentional and effective conversations
    • 2 hours
    • Choice of dates: March 31 at 2 pm EST or April 3 at 2 pm EST
    • Cost – $169
    • For more information and to enroll, click here.

Space is limited in these sessions to ensure high levels of interaction.

PS – I still have spots open for my FREE 30 minute calls! These can be about anything… or nothing!  It’s up to you.  Click this link to pick a time and sign up!

Thanks for reading – hope to see you all soon!

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

Check out the latest AttractionPros episode with Dennis Speigel of International Theme Park Services as he talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the attractions industry. 

http://attractionpros.com/

Got some extra time on your freshly washed hands?

The CVOID-19 virus is everywhere, or at least discussions of it are everywhere.  Here are a few things I KNOW about the situation.

I cannot cure someone with COVID-19, nor can I make up for the loss of work or a cancelled event.  What I CAN do… is listen.

If you have found yourself with some unintended downtime, don’t waste it – embrace it!  

The link below will allow you to sign up for a FREE 30 minute call… we can chat about leadership, roller coasters, hand washing techniques or anything NOT related to COVID-19! It’s truly up to you!

And the best part is, we’re following proper “social distancing” protocols!

Here’s the link: https://calendly.com/matt-810/30min

This break in the normal action could also be a great opportunity for some development for your team that you usually don’t have time for. Let me know if you would like to chat about setting up a virtual (online) development session for your team.

Either way, stay safe and stay positive!!

Thanks for reading!

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

Another great way to pass the time (and maybe learn something along the way)!  Check out one of our 132 episodes!

http://attractionpros.com/

Your snow mound challenge

My friend Dan Edwards is probably tired of me mentioning this, but it’s one of those things in life that strikes a chord and you can’t help but smile when you think about it.

What am I talking about?  A pile of snow.

But this isn’t just ANY pile of snow. This is an annual attraction that guests can enjoy – during the Summer! What, what?

Yes. At Breckenridge in Colorado, they expectedly get a lot of snow over the Winter.  What you might not expect is that if you gather up a bunch of that snow in the Spring and make a big pile, it’ll last almost all Summer.  That’s what the team at Breck did, and now guests get to experience a really unique “Summer” attraction. I don’t know why, but I LOVE THIS!

Maybe it’s the ingenuity, or the unique ‘wow’ factor… I can’t quite put my finger on why I think this is so cool, but I do!

To hear the expert talk more about the snow mound, check out AttractionPros Episode 88 with Dan Edwards.  We start chatting about the snow mound at the 27:30 mark. AttractionPros Podcast – Dan Edwards

So were’s the challenge, you ask? The snow mound was a result of listening to guests, putting on your creative thinking cap and doing something out of ordinary. We’re all looking for ways to improve our business or our own performance, so my challenge to you is: what is YOUR snow mound?

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • What is something that your guests or team have been asking for or talking about that you haven’t done anything about yet?
  • What resource do you have (like snow) that is already available and could potentially be used in a different way?
  • What “this’ll never work” idea have you been harboring, too afraid to suggest or try?

If Breck can turn the accumulation of precipitation in the form of ice crystals into a Summer attraction, your idea is worth exploring!

Would love to hear what you’re thinking! If you need help getting started or flushing out the details, let me know. I love this stuff!!

Thanks for reading and accepting the snow mound challenge!

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

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 will be donated to Give Kids The World!

Thinking of doing a book club with your team? Bulk discounts available! 

 

No “I” in team? Not so fast…

Hear me out on this. I think the phrase “there’s no ‘I’ in team” could be working AGAINST our efforts to build successful and cohesive organizations. More accurately, the way our brain can interpret this phrase could be standing in the way of amazing team-related breakthroughs.

I re-looked at the word teamwork and still didn’t find an ‘i’, but I did find ‘me’ and ‘we’.  This is how I think those words can help us build better teams.

If better teamwork is one of your goals for 2020, also check out the latest AttractionPros podcast to hear about how you can achieve any goal!

AP Podcast – Episode 123: Josh and Matt get all resolutionary for the 3rd time, recapping 2019 and looking forward to 2020

Thanks for watching, listening, and striving for MORE!!

407-435-8084

Matt@performanceoptimist.com

The IAAPA Expo is over. Now what?

You made it. You walked a bajillion miles on the trade show floor, attended enlightening education sessions, saw all (or most) of your industry friends, collected a stack of business cards and wrote your “That’s a wrap” post highlighting all of your adventures at this year’s amazing expo.

Now what do you do?

There is no doubt you learned something while at the expo. Maybe you learned about your own strengths and struggles, or a new social media hack, or how to engage your team or better ways to organize your training manuals… no matter what you learned, if you want your trip to be truly WORTH IT, you now have to apply it.

But now you’re back to your non-IAAPA life and you’re wondering how to keep that IAAPA feeling alive for 51 weeks until IAAPA Expo 2020!  Here are some suggestions:

People you met:

  • Organize your business cards based on contact types (vendor, potential employer/employee, client, etc) and get them entered into your contact system.
  • Write a quick note about how much you enjoyed meeting them (if you did) and a little bit that will remind them of who you are and the time you spent together.
  • DO NOT ask for anything at this point (unless that is a natural follow-up to your initial discussion). Build the relationship first.

Ideas to better yourself:

  • Get a list going of all the things you thought of or learned throughout the week that YOU could do to be a better leader, salesperson, employee or human being.
  • Prioritize that list based on need and importance to you and your business.
  • Take the top 3 things and assign tactical action steps.
  • Work the steps!!
  • When you complete one, move on to the next.

Ideas to improve your business:

  • Get a list going of all the things you thought of or learned throughout the week that could improve a critical area of your business.
  • Involve your team to determine priorities.
  • Assign top 3 items to smaller teams and ask them to come up with specific tactical action steps.
  • Follow-up with them with support and guidance until complete.
  • Repeat.

By the way, if delegating was one of the things you wanted to improve about yourself, please re-read the ideas to improve your business section.

In my session on revealing your superhero powers, we talked a lot about choices. Specifically, the choices you made that lead you to that moment in time, but also the choices you could make in the future.  If there is something you don’t like about where you are, examine the choices that got you there.  If you want to change your path, it might take making some different (and difficult) choices in the future.

As you venture off to put all of your ideas into action, I will leave you with this: don’t look for external solutions to internal problems. If your choices or attitudes are holding your team or business back, don’t look for your team, company or guests to fix it – that’s up to you. Accepting responsibility for where you are is the only way to put yourself in a position to determine where you are going to go.

If you need help with that last part, give me a call.  It’s what I do.

Thanks for reading!

407-435-8084

Matt@performanceoptimist.com

Check out AttractionPros LIVE – a special edition of the AttractionPros podcast, recorded LIVE at the #IAAPAExpo! http://attractionpros.com/

 

 

Make your plan for IAAPA 2019!

The #IAAPAExpo is LITERALLY around the corner and I could not be more excited!  If you are deciding where to go and who to see, I highly recommend downloading the IAAPA app… it lets you quickly highlight the sessions and exhibitors you are interested in.  DO NOT come to the expo without a plan – I’m telling you!

I am honored again this year to be involved in a number of education sessions – hope to see you all there!

There are TONS of other great sessions on tap, just check out the schedule at a glance!

By the way, if you are wondering what AttractionPros Live is all about, Josh and I made this handy video for you:

The IAAPA show is also a great place to discuss your plans for leadership and staff development for 2020.  We can talk leadership coaching, customized workshops, the Myth of Employee Burnout Training Program, Attractions Mastermind program, or the NEW Performance Optimist Consulting VIP Program, where your training and development dollars go farther than ever!

Call me or email me anytime to set up a time to chat! I am committed to helping you and your teams be the best they can be in 2020!!

See you in Orlando!

407-435-8084

Matt@performanceoptimist.com

 

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!