AIMS Communication Review – Part 5

Welcome to the final installment of our AIMS Communication Review series.  In case you missed the first 4, here ya go!

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

AIMS Communication Review – Part 4

And, we’re off…

Biggest communication struggle: When I need to council or discipline

Nobody likes to hear that they screwed up or could be doing better, right?  Not so fast.

It’s usually not the message that people object to, it’s the way the message is delivered. Ergo, “don’t kill the messenger.”  Since we are the messenger, it’s in our best interest to develop some survival skills.

First and foremost, we must not look at these situations as adversarial.  You know, us vs. them.  It’s our job to help our employees get better, and that means that we sometimes have to correct a behavior or action.  We may also have to document that behavior if a policy has been violated.

When it comes to having the conversation, your opening and the words you choose can set the tone for the entire experience.  Here are some examples:

“Karen, I can’t believe you got another guest complaint.  Your attitude is really slipping.  I had such high hopes for you in the beginning of the season.”

–OR–

“Karen, thanks for coming in.  I wanted to talk about some of the recent guest complaints that have come in, specifically the ones that mentioned you.  What can you tell me about those situations?”

The first one is very accusatory, and doesn’t give Karen much of a chance to tell her side of the story.  In fact, I could see Karen getting very defensive, which wouldn’t be very productive for the conversation.

What was different about the second one?  We acknowledged Karen’s willingness to participate, stated what we wanted to talk about, then immediately gave Karen an opportunity to share her perspective.  By approaching this as a way to help Karen, we are setting ourselves (and Karen) up for a much more meaningful and effective conversation.

Sometimes, even after the best opening, an employee could still try to deflect the blame on to someone else.  I’ll bet you have all heard things like:

“What about Jeremy?  He’s been getting guest complaints, too!”

“Really?  I wasn’t even trained for that position.  How could I be expected to know what to do?”

“It’s not my fault, we didn’t have the tools needed to do the job. Weren’t you supposed to get those for us?”

…and the list goes on.

The goal, of course, is to steer you away from the topic and place the blame elsewhere.  But you won’t be falling for that because you prepared for this conversation.  You thought of some of the objections or roadblocks the employee might throw at you and were prepared with a response.  For example:

“What about Jeremy?  He’s been getting guest complaints, too!” “We’re not talking about Jeremy, we’re talking about you.”

“Really?  I wasn’t even trained for that position.  How could I be expected to know what to do?”  “I’ve seen you in the position many times, and I know that Grant trained you.  You’ve actually done it very well in the past.”

“It’s not my fault, we didn’t have the tools needed to do the job. Weren’t you supposed to get those for us?” “Actually, yes, and they arrived last week. I saw three of your co-workers using them the very next day.”

Certainly your answers will vary based on the situation, but the point is to be prepared by taking the time before the conversation to think through some of these scenarios.

Biggest communication struggle: Don’t always relay the intended message

When hearing this, my first question is: how do you know?

Did someone not do what you asked them to do?  Did they badger you with follow-up questions that they should have known based on what you said?  Did you hear them relaying your message to someone else and they missed the mark?

If you do know that you haven’t relayed the intended message, there are two places to look: at you as the message originator and the other person, as the message receiver.

Here are some questions to ask about YOU:

  • Do I fully understand the message?
  • Have I taken time to explain all aspects of the message?
  • Have I made any assumptions about the message receiver (i.e. word choice, previous knowledge or experience)?
  • Have I emphasized or prioritized the most important parts of the message?

And also some questions about the RECEIVER:

  • Are they ready, willing, and able to receive the message?
  • Do they have any preconceived ideas that would cloud the message?
  • Have you had successful communications with them in the past?  If so, what made it successful?
  • Are there, or will there be, distractions that take away from the delivery of the message?
  • How will you check for understanding with this person?

That last one is pretty powerful… if you THINK there may be a discrepancy, how will you find out before it’s too late?  There are a number of ways to check for understanding or comprehension.  After you have relayed your message, you could ask:

  • Does that make sense?
  • What questions do you have?
  • How would you explain this to someone else?

Each of these offer a different level of feedback regarding their comprehension.  The first may just be a head nod.  Okay, they think they get it.  The second allows them to clarify anything they don’t get, but they may not know what they don’t know.  The last one allows you to hear, in their own words, how they would relay this message to someone else.  This should let you know if you are on the right track with that person or not.

Biggest communication struggle: Accepting change

For the last one of these that we’re going to tackle, this is a doozie.

Change.  Wow.  Okay.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that not all change is created equal.  Some change is easy to deal with and accept, some is not.  Let’s start there.

Change that is easy to accept is usually change that we initiate or immediately agree with.  I’m guessing that the person who submitted this was not having trouble accepting changes that they suggested, so…

On to the changes we that we didn’t choose, don’t agree with or don’t understand.

  • Sometimes we resist change because we think the change will harm us.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we think we won’t be able to keep up (although we rarely admit this one)
  • Sometimes we resist change because we can’t see what the true outcome is going to be (so our mind automatically goes for the worst case scenario)
  • Sometimes we resist change solely because of the person who suggested it

That’s a lot of reasons and ways we can resist change. Ultimately these all stem from our comfort zone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We create our comfort zones for survival, to put us in a confident position to deal with whatever comes at us.  They really are a way for us to protect ourselves.  The problem is when you get stuck in your comfort zone… you may be safe, but you also can’t grow and improve from there.

For some people change equals pain, or even perceived pain.  Dr. Henry Cloud gives us some perspective on the relationship between pain and change:

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

Yes, change can bring on pain.  But staying the same can also bring the pain.

Think of a business owner who is losing money.  If they stay the same, they will likely go out of business.  If they do something to change, it could be scary, but it could also save the business.  The pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.

For you to accept change, you have identify and possibly redefine the “pain” so you can make a better decision for you, your team, your family, or your company.  Let’s look at our list again…

  • Sometimes we resist change because we think the change will harm us.  Ask yourself, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ If it doesn’t involve death or dismemberment, it might be worth a try.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we think we won’t be able to keep up (although we rarely admit this one).  Honestly assess the skill you think you may or may not be able to handle.  Ask for others opinions and advice.  No one expects everyone to be an expert at everything.  A person who embraces a change, learns from it and gets better will be for more well respected (and valuable) than the curmudgeon who stifles the change out of fear or ignorance.
  • Sometimes we resist change because we can’t see what the true outcome is going to be (so our mind automatically goes for the worst case scenario). See step one (what’s the worst that could happen?), but also run through REALISTIC scenarios about possible outcomes.  Seek out the opinions and perspectives of those who DO agree to see why they think this is a good thing.  Listen with an open mind when they tell you!
  • Sometimes we resist change solely because of the person who suggested it.  Learn to identify this when it happens.  You know the people who push your buttons… don’t poo-poo a good idea just because it came from someone you may not get along with.  This could be the idea that takes the business to the next level… get over your differences and be able to admit when a good idea is a good idea.

And that’s it!!  We made it to the end of our AIMS Communication Review Series.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.  If you have additional communication struggles that you would like to address, feel free to contact me directly at matt@performanceoptimist.com.

Thanks for reading!

Are gearing up for your summer season?  Are you concerned that your employees won’t stay, or stay motivated throughout the season?  Don’t wait until it’s too late!! Act now and get the tools you need to avoid burnout!!

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AIMS Communication Review – Part 4

So far we’ve covered 9 major communication struggles submitted during the AIMS Safety Seminar in January.

AIMS Communication Review – Part 1

AIMS Communication Review – Part 2

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

Here are 3 more:

Biggest communication struggle: Being approachable by others

It’s REALLY hard to communicate if others don’t feel like they can approach you.  The remedy to this is firmly seated in the concept of actions speaking much louder than words.

This is partly because we “listen” with our eyes, as well as our ears.  Since seeing is believing, we tend to believe the things we see over the things we hear.  And here’s why…

Most of our communication from another person comes from body language.  There are many studies out there about this, but the one I am most familiar with puts body language, or non-verbals, at about 55% of the communication.  55%.  That’s over half, sports fans.

That means that over half of what we BELIEVE about what someone is telling us is communicated not through words, but through their actions.  So… when you tell someone that you are “listening”, but you are also checking your phone or finishing an email on your computer, you are sending a mixed message at best.  As worst, and I hate to be a pessimist here, you are stating that you are actually NOT listening and that you have better things to do.

Ergo… unapproachable.

Be conscience of your approach when others are trying to approach you… you are likely somehow putting off a vibe that you really don’t want to be bothered, otherwise people would believe you when you say your door is always open.

Watch your actions (distractions), facial expressions, body posture and tone in your reply.  You can smile, lean in, and make eye contact while someone is talking to you, but if your reply is snarky, or filled with  “that was the dumbest thing I have ever heard” words, tone and expressions, you will erase all of your approachable goodwill.

Biggest communication struggle: Clarity when communicating with certain people

THOSE PEOPLE!  Everyone has certain people that just rub you the wrong way, or that you have trouble getting through to.  They likely aren’t going to change, so you have to find a way to adapt to be successful.

And chances are, you are already doing this to some extent.  You already know that there are some people you can joke with, some you can’t.  Some people crave the facts, others shoot from the hip.  There is no right or wrong, they are just different.

To me, this is where understanding behavioral and communication tendencies is most helpful (like using the DiSC profile to determine communication styles).  Knowing that a different style isn’t a personal attack goes a long way in encouraging patience and understanding.  We are all “wired” a certain way, and sometimes those “ways” are at odds with each other.

When that happens, it’s important to know what the other person wants and needs in terms of communication.  If they need facts and data, give them that.  If they need time to process, give them that.  If they need direct and efficient answers… do you see where this is going?  Being clear with another person is about their clarity, not yours.

When I hear leaders say things like, “they should know better!”  I challenge them and say, “why?  Why should they know better?”  “Well, they just should!”  Have you taken the time to show them, have you taken the time to answer their questions, have you observed them to know if they do know better or not?  Maybe you weren’t as clear as you needed to be for them.  It was clear in your mind, but clearly not theirs.

If you pay attention, people will tell you what they need.

When someone interrupts: (they could just be rude!) but it could also be because your message is jumbled and lacking focus.  They don’t get it, and need to understand the first part before moving on to the second part.

When someone doesn’t initially respond: They likely need time to process everything you just said. They take it all in and THEN formulate their response.  If you keep talking, they will keep processing.  You need stop periodically to give them time to respond.

When someone responds with something from left field: Chances are they are distracted by other things going on or they completely misinterpreted what you said.  You can try your message again in a different way, or find a better time when other distractions are minimized.

When it comes to communication, what works for you does not always work for others. Your job as a leader is to adapt to give them what they need, so you can get what you need.

Biggest communication struggle: Handling insulting, violent people who exaggerate

In my experience, people who hurl insults, get violent and exaggerate for effect are doing so because of some unmet emotional need, or some issue that has not been resolved.

That means that we have to deal with the emotion first, before any other logical conversation can take place.  This is also about what you tolerate as a leader.

And I’d like to start there first, with what you tolerate.  There are things that we encourage as leaders, and there are things we tolerate.  If we tolerate insulting, violent, exaggerating behavior, then we have no one else to blame but ourselves when it continues to happen. You have to know where your, and your companies standards of behavior are, and I would imagine that most employee handbooks contain a section that specifically denounces these behaviors, and even outlines steps for disciplinary action.  If that’s the case and it’s still happening, you have an enforcement problem.  That’s on you.

What if it’s a guest?  I was once dealing with an upset guest who stated, in front of my staff and any other guest within earshot, that “If this company was run by Jewish people, it would be run much differently”.  And while her comment was actually intended to say that Jewish people knew how to run a business, it was completely inappropriate in that setting.  My next statement was, “this conversation is over, I am going to ask you to leave the park now.”

She then did a 180… apologizing for her comment and becoming much easier to talk to because she knew her shenanigans were not going to be tolerated.

Getting back to the emotional issues, I find that the L.A.S.T. model is extremely effective in diffusing these situations.

Listen – listen to what they have to say, let them vent (to a point if they are getting insulting, violent and loud).

Apologize/Acknowledge – If an apology is needed, even if you were not at fault, say so.  A sincere “I’m sorry” will diffuse a lot of anger. Sometimes, an acknowledgement of the situation is more appropriate. “I understand you are upset, and I want to help.  I can’t do that if you are being inappropriate.  This behavior is unacceptable and cannot continue if you want me to help you.”

Solve – Now, once you talked the person off the ledge or acknowledged the situation, you can work toward a resolution.

Thank – This is another acknowledgement… “thank you for allowing me to help”, “thank you for being calm and working through the issue”… whatever is appropriate.  It’s a nice way to close it out.

Specifically for the exaggerators, once you have them calmed down, you can ask if the situation was really as bad as they said, or present some counter data that would allow them to save face and see the true story.  Last thing you want to do once you have someone calm enough to discuss things logically is to stir the pot and rile them up again.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for Part 5, our last installment of the series!

Matt

Did you know… 44% of new leaders feel unprepared for their role? 

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myth-training-package

AIMS Communication Review – Part 3

Aloha! This is post 3 of the series, and just this morning I determined that there will be 2 more after this. So buckle up, and get ready to tackle YOUR communication struggles!

Biggest communication struggle: Tact

For this one, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the definition:

Tact: a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. – Dictionary.com

I think another way to put this is… “how to not make things worse.”  Which is something we have all done in the past.

Unfortunately, tact is something you learn by actually making things worse… at first. Certainly this is not your intent, but you don’t develop “a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense” without at some point doing or saying something that DID give offense.  The more you interact with people, the more you develop that sense.

That is not to say that you can’t apply what you have learned about one person to the interactions you have with another. You absolutely can use those experiences as a guide – but remember that everyone is different, and you also need to take into account what you know about that individual to determine what is going to make things worse, or give offense.

Spider-man has his spidey-sense that helps alert him to imminent danger.  You need to develop a similar sense in yourself that alerts you to when you are about to make things worse.

The definition also mentions “skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations”.  What makes the situation difficult or delicate?  Generally, it’s the people you are interacting with (their personality or behavioral trends) or the subject matter.  To me, the ultimate use of ‘tact’ is when you have to tell someone something that they really don’t want to hear.

Let’s say an employee did not get the promotion they were going for.  One approach would be to say, “You didn’t get it.  Too bad, so sad”.  Pretty easy to see that those last 4 words were not only inappropriate, but most likely will make a difficult, potentially awkward situation, worse.

Using a little more tact, you would take into consideration what kind of employee they are, how far away from being qualified were they, and how much of the relationship do you want to preserve?  This is where your powers of observation and perception come in, to guide your keen sense of what to do and how to approach the individual.  You probably want to communicate WHY they didn’t get the promotion, and offer up any insight you have about what they could have done to increase their chances of consideration in the future.  If you want this employee to continue to be a productive member of the staff, you have to approach this with their thoughts, feelings, impressions and desires in mind.

Most likely when you take all of those things into consideration, you will be acting with the appropriate amount of tact.

Biggest communication struggle: Not listening

Huh?  What’d you say?

Whoever wrote this is not alone.  Listening is a HUGE issue for many of us.  We unfortunately now live in a society that, in public arenas, does not value true listening, but stating your case at all costs.  There is no better example of ineffective communication than two people screaming at, and over, each other.

You said what you wanted to say, good for you.  No one was listening.  It’s like that question about the tree falling in the woods… it does make a sound, but no one is there to hear it, so it doesn’t matter.

If you know that listening is an issue for you, there are two major questions to ask yourself (and be honest with the answer, ‘cuz it doesn’t work any other way).

  • Are there particular situations that I find it more difficult to truly listen?
  • Are there specific people I tend not to listen to?

Notice I said nothing about the physical ability to hear. That’s because hearing and listening are two different things.  It takes ears and the mechanisms in the ear canal to “hear” it takes an open mind to “listen”.

If you identified certain situations where it’s more difficult to listen, what are the common factors?  Do you not like or understand the subject matter, does it not interest you, do you have opposing view points, is it due to distractions, either physical or mental…?  The list goes on… Whatever you have identified, is there a way for you to get over that roadblock so you CAN listen?  Even if you don’t like the subject matter, if you find that it’s important information you can use for your job, it can be easier to digest and willingly listen to.

If it’s a person, examine the level of trust and respect you have for them. We tend not to actively listen to those we don’t trust.  It’s survival thing. Work on the trust and you’ll increase your ability to listen to them.

Listening takes focus, and it’s a skill you can develop. The distractions you create for yourself, the inner story you tell yourself that may or may not be true, clouds your ability to take in information more than any external factors ever could.  The next time you feel yourself not listening, no matter the situation, try this:

  • Clear your mind of assumptions and preconceived notions from the past
  • Avoid the temptation to judge what you are hearing as its being said
  • Allow the other person to speak without interruption
  • Ask unassuming, non-threatening questions to clarify meaning and intent
  • THINK before you respond (see post 1 for a piece on being patient)
think

This works for ‘tact’, too!

 

Biggest communication struggle: Hot headed/emotions clouding communication

I’m not sure if these folks meant that other peoples’ hot headedness was clouding the communication or if it was their own. If others are getting hot headed, please refer to exhibit A & B (the previous topics in this post).  If YOU are the hot head, read on.

We are emotional creatures, and that’s not something that will change. Emotions often drive our thoughts, which drive our behaviors.  Sometimes when we think about things too much, and our multiplied thoughts actually drive our emotions, which drive our behaviors.  Either way, our emotions are in the drivers seat, or are at least riding shotgun.

That means we need to be acutely aware of the things that DO boil our blood, and how to remain tactful (again, see exhibit A) in those situations. If you already know what kinds of things get under your skin, you can brace yourself when you sense them coming and CHOOSE to take a different path.

Since everything we do is a choice, choosing how you react to a situation is up to you – even if it angers you to the point of a vein popping out of your forehead.  The key is to be ready for it… remember that a pot of water on a stove doesn’t boil (or boil over) immediately.  It takes time to reach the right temperature.  You generally have a “warming period” that you can use to examine the situation and choose a different path.  Take a deep breath.  Consider your options. Consider what blowing a gasket will do and how it probably is not the best scenario in the long run.  Take another deep breath.  Count to ten. Don’t you feel better already?

And you are probably thinking clearer, too, which can only help in the long run.

But what about those situations where you seem to go from 0 to 700 MPH in a split second?  Well, you either don’t know your triggers, or other things have been building up that you have not addressed. When we don’t address things (i.e. closure), our emotions don’t get a sense of resolve; they still feel uneasy or unsettled.  That’s like a bomb just waiting to go off… and you may never see who lit the fuse or just how short the fuse was.

The next time that happens, take a minute afterwords to replay the incident in your mind.  Was there a trigger this time, or was this a little thing that is equivalent to the straw breaking the camel’s back?  If so, what are the unresolved issues that have been ignored and that need to be dealt with?

One last thing that helps control or reduce our hot headed outbursts is trying to understand the other point of view.  It’s not always easy, but if you have an appreciation of where they are coming from, you will see that they probably have some validity, even some things in common with what you are saying.  If you are too busy trying to yell over them and make YOUR case, you’ll never hear that.  And they won’t actually listen to you, either, no matter how loud you yell.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Okay, so that was a long one.  How about no more reading for now?  Instead, here are two nerds on a roller coaster.  Can anyone tell what coaster this is?

img_7876

 

Infographic “How To” Post 6: Appreciated

This is part 6 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.

Employees Stay6

This is supposed to be a post on “how to” appreciate your employees, as this is part of the equation that encourages them to stay with you.  However, appreciation is kind of a funny thing.

You see, we can (and will) talk about how to show your appreciation, but to have appreciation for something or someone, you have to genuinely be appreciative of that person or thing.

Here’s what I mean… the definition of appreciated is: to be grateful or thankful for.

I don’t believe you can fake those. You know the things you are grateful or thankful for in your life – in most cases you are naturally compelled to express how you feel about them.  If you don’t appreciate it, you don’t express the gratitude.  

So if you don’t truly appreciate your employees, you can’t genuinely appreciate them.

This makes me think we can take this in two different directions:

  • If you don’t appreciate your employees, how can you develop an appreciation for them?
  • If you do appreciate your employees but don’t know how to show it, how can you show it?

Let’s take the first (and more difficult one) first. You don’t appreciate your employees, meaning you are not genuinely grateful or thankful for them.  My question would be, why?

These are the folks who are literally running your business.  They have contact with your guests, they are your brand messengers, and they represent you to the masses.  Sure they can also be a bit of a pain… coming in late, goofing off and basically not taking you or the job you are providing them very seriously.  It can be hard to be thankful for those folks.

But maybe we’ve got this backwards.  Maybe we’ve got to make the first investment, rather than waiting for them to show us a reason to be thankful. For some who are caught up in the “entitlement of millenials” mindset, you might be digging in, refusing to give in to their demands.  “They think the world owes them everything, well I’m gonna teach them a lesson!”

Really?  The only lesson here (that you probably won’t learn) is that you screwed up in how you lead your employees.  Without genuine appreciation, you will continue to think that the entitled generation just jump ship when they don’t get what they want… like taking their ball and going home.

But, could it be that your lack of genuine gratefulness for their contributions to your company have created a negative environment for your employees? After all, our thoughts drive our behaviors, so whether you think so or not, your attitude is more likely what is driving people away than their flaky disposition.

We’ll let that sink in…

So now let’s look at the other side of the coin… you DO appreciate your employees, but may not know the best way to show it.

Fair enough.

I would start with what you find valuable regarding appreciation.  Of course everyone is different, but understanding what means something to you is a good start.

Do you like it when your Supervisor asks your opinion?  How about when he/she shares important company information that helps you understand where you stand and where the company is going?  How about when they just come up to you ask a little bit about how your life outside of work is going?

Or what about when they remember something you told them weeks or months before?  When I was at Universal, our dog passed away.  I told my boss and he said, “I’m so sorry, how old was Lucy?”

He and I hadn’t talked about Lucy for at least 2 or 3 months, in fact I only remember mentioning her name once or twice before. But he remembered her name, which means he was listening. I felt appreciated.

If some of those hit a chord with you, they’ll likely hit a chord with your employees. Especially being listened to.

More formally, providing meaningful feedback and recognition of accomplishments go a long way to show people how grateful you are that they are at work, doing the things that help your business succeed.

Below is an example of something that happened to me when I was 15 years old, and it has stuck with me ever since.  If you have been in any of my leadership classes, the example may sound familiar, but it’s a great example of how to show appreciation in a meaningful way.

This situation happened between myself and Dave Smalley, who was the GM of the grocery store I was working at during high school:

Dave:  Matt, I just wanted to let you know how you make my job easier.  Whenever you are here, you are so good at getting all of the carriages out of the parking lot, and that really helps us in a couple of ways.  First, we’ve had to repaint some cars that got scratched by carriages left in the parking lot, but because you clear the lot so well, we haven’t had to do that recently. Plus, when there are more carriages in the store, customers have more room for more groceries, so they tend to buy a little more.  Those two things really help us out. Thanks!

How could you NOT feel appreciated after that? It was specific to me and the situation and delivered sincerely. And of course, that drove me to head back out into the lot because I didn’t want to be thanked for something I wasn’t doing.

And as great as the words were, what you don’t get from reading the transcript was that Dave came down to my area to thank me, he didn’t call me up to the office. He also shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and smiled while he said it. It was genuine.

And I think that’s the most important part of the appreciation topic – being genuine.  Like I said above, I don’t think you can fake this.  If you don’t get it quite right the first time, if you really mean it, people will notice.  They won’t get caught up in the mechanics of what you say, but rather the emotion and sincerity of how you say it.

If there was ever a time for a quote from Maya Angelou to wrap up a topic, this is it.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And that’s the thing about appreciation. We FEEL appreciated or we don’t. Hopefully your employees do.

Next up: Valued

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 has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

Befriend the curmudgeon

I love the conversations that occurulate at the IAAPA Attractions Expo! This one in particular was with a client who was having trouble communicating with another employee.

A little background…

The client (we’ll call her Lisa) was having trouble getting through to an employee (we’ll call him Al) who was tasked with fixing things around the facility as they broke or became unusable or unsafe.

According to Lisa, Al has been at the facility for 40 years, and has gotten a little curmudgeony.

In one particular case, Lisa had been asking Al for a printout of all of the work he had completed. Lisa is not Al’s boss, but she wanted that information because these tasks had been called in by her staff, and she wanted to be able to show that management was listening and taking care of their concerns.

Unfortunately, Al was less than forthcoming about providing that information.  He had all sorts of excuses why he couldn’t, or why Lisa wouldn’t actually want it.  In the end, it became a source of contention between the two, and now Lisa admits to not even talking to Al unless something needs to be fixed, and it’s usually an urgent (and tense) situation.

In fact, this all came about because Lisa was wondering what to tell her employees about the work being done. She was really at a loss.

But that’s not the real issue.  The issue is the relationship between Al and Lisa.

I asked if there were any situations where they actually did get along or that Al was cooperative.  “Yes”, Lisa said. “When talking about the safety and security of the facility, Al is all on board.”

Ah ha! So, he does CARE!  That’s important.

We then went on to talk about the fact that Al had been there for a while, probably had his share of “baggage”, and (as anyone would) was possibly burned out on ONLY being spoken to or approached when things were broken, or he was being asked to jump through hoops to fix something right away that didn’t line up with his priorities.

Lisa concurred this was likely.

So, since we can’t MAKE Al just be more productive and cooperative, we have to change the story around this situation.  That challenge falls squarely on Lisa’s shoulders.  Here is what I challenged Lisa to do to “befriend the curmudgeon”:

  • Talk to Al when there wasn’t an emergency.  It might be tough at first, but just starting a conversation with someone about non-work stuff, or complimenting something they’ve done can open them up to being more cooperative.  Al is protecting his turf that gets bombarded on a daily and hourly basis.  Conversing outside of those situations shows you also care about Al – not just his ability to fix things.
  • Find the “crack”.  Through conversations, you can find the way “in”, behind their natural defenses so you can actually be productive when the time comes.  Al seems to be all about safety and security, but what else is going on there? What other common bonds can you find to help carry on conversations that show Al he is valued as a person, as much as an employee?
  • Act on something Al suggests.  In a show of good faith, is there something that YOU (Lisa) can do to implement one of Al’s ideas so that he sees that you are listening to him, as much as you want him to listen to you?

If you have a curmudgeon, or someone you avoid, or one of those “well, that’s just the way they are” employees, you may… no you WILL need to take the first step to fix the relationship so that you can both move forward.

For Al and Lisa, this is a work in progress and I am very excited to hear how things go when Lisa gets back to her facility.  This will not be a quick fix, and Lisa knows that it will take some patience and persistence to make this work. Hopefully I can share a positive progress report with all of you in the near future.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

Available at the IAAPA bookstore (or Amazon if you want the Kindle version)!!

Book cover with amazon

 

No one told me

“No one told me”

At a recent event that my wife organized, an employee from the host hotel repeated this phrase a few times, and it got me thinking about where it came from.

First, a little context.

At the hotel where the event was held, there was a mix up with when the ballroom was supposed to be unlocked on the second day. (It was unlocked too early). We went to the front desk to ask that it be relocked, and the desk agent called over the radio to someone to take care of it.

In a frustrated tone, we heard, “No one told me that” coming from the radio speaker.

Barring the obvious frustration, the doors were relocked as requested, and we went about our business. When it was time to unlock them for the day, the person who apparently answered the radio call showed up and unlocked them. “No one told me” again was uttered to us as the doors were unlocked.

That was pleasant.

At first glance, this seems like an annoyed employee shirking their responsibility and protecting their turf. But the more I thought about this, the more I realized what a quagmire it really is. Is this a communication issue, an employee issue, a culture issue or a leadership issue? Hmmm…

Of course you could argue that it’s all of these, or at least a combination.

Let’s explore a little deeper:

Communication issue: it seems at a minimum that the request of the client was not relayed to the person who could carry out the request. Why? Was it not understood by the event manager? Was it communicated to another person in the door unlocking department, but not to the person on duty that day? Is there no process for communicating these requests (beyond word of mouth) to the right people? If there is a system, is everyone using it (or are they proficient in using it?) Was it not communicated from the client? (In this case, I can confidently say this is not the care, because I was there. Still, it’s an option that should be explored.) Ultimately, where did the communication break down?

Employee issue: Hearing something like this we probably think that this employee doesn’t care, they are burned out, frustrated, overwhelmed, not accepting responsibility, etc. All of those may be true, but I heard something else, too. I heard a desire to help. “No one told me” could be saying “don’t blame me, it’s not my fault”, but behind that could be “I want to help, I’d love to help, I want to make this right for you, I want you to have a GREAT experience, but that’s really tough if I don’t have the information to do my job.” Which leads back to our communication issue, but also nods to a culture issue.

Culture issue: Like ANY action or behavior, there is more to it than what we see on the surface. This employee could be reacting to an unsettling trend of being repeatedly blindsided with these types of requests. Have the employees’ requests for additional information or clearer direction gone unheard? Are they tired of getting the brunt of aggravation from guests when things don’t go right? Are they the one that gets blamed by management when these shortfalls in service occur? THAT can be frustrating.

Of course all of these issues point to one thing…

Leadership issue: who has the greatest impact on communication? Who defines the culture of a company through their words and actions? Who is responsible for making sure that employees are heard and supported?

If you are a leader, that would be you.

Also as a leader, you often can’t take things a face value. This post contains more questions than specific answers, and that’s the point. When you see something go wrong, it’s important to ask enough questions to get you to the true root cause of the problem so you can find the right solution.

Yes, that is your responsibility as a leader. There, now you can’t say “no one told me.”

Thanks for reading.

Matt

 

 

About the author: Matt wants to help open doors to your leadership potential. He’s been educating and entertaining audiences for years, offering customized leadership and team training courses, one-on-one coaching and development, and recently co-created Lessons in Fun – a totally new kind of learning adventure!  Contact Matt today to find out how to maximize your leadership potential!!

Are you like an encyclopedia?

You may think I am asking if you have a lot of knowledge.

Nope.

I’m asking if the information you have (or delivery of information) is like an encyclopedia?

Why?  Because while encyclopedias were once the bees knees, they are now information dinosaurs.  And if you are like an encyclopedia, you could be a dinosaur, too.

Having not thought about encyclopedias for years and years, I thought about them the other day when looking for a store that had recently opened near my house.  I pulled up the trusty-dusty Google Maps, and there is was.  The store had only been open a few months, and my go-to map was already updated with the information.

And honestly, this is what I expected.  With the frequency that software, computers, and phones update, there is no reason for it not to be there.

Would I find this sort of updated information in an encyclopedia? Again, nope.

For the information that we used to have to gather, encyclopedias were the “technology” of the day.  They contained as accurate of information as they could about things that happened in the past, but were not very good for doing research about more recent events. And, the only way to “digest” the information was to read it.

So I’ll ask you again… are you like an encyclopedia?  Is your information out-of-date and do you rely on only when method to deliver it?

Before you answer, think about these few questions:

  • Do you frequently use one of these phrases – “When I was young”, or “Back in my day”?  (By the way, these phrases are not reserved for old fuddy-duddies. I recently overheard a pair of 20-somethings lamenting the fact that their late teens counterparts didn’t possess the life experience that they did.)
  • Have you changed the way you communicate information in the last year, or ever?
  • Are you having a hard time getting through to your employees?

The last question is really a bi-product of the first two.  Getting stuck in the past and refusing to alter our communication methods with the changing times and technology, you will be viewed as a dinosaur.  And unfortunately, unless you are a 6 year-old having a birthday party or paleontologist, dinosaurs just aren’t as relevant as they used to be.

And here’s the kicker… when asked what employees need and want from their supervisor in order to do their jobs, one of the most common answers is information.

And not just any ol’ information.  Timely, accurate and relevant are pretty important pieces of that puzzle.  They WANT that information to feel part of the team, and they NEED that information to do the job you’ve hired them to do!

I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked for where the marketing team put out a great promotion, but the operations team didn’t know anything about it, or it wasn’t communicated to the people on the front lines.  Then, when a guest shows up wanting to take advantage of that promotion, the employee looks clueless.  That look of cluelessness turns into a hassle for the guest and frustration for the employee.  We all know what that frustration can lead to… #noburnout

If only they would have had the information…

As a leader, you probably have the information (if you aren’t a dinosaur) and you likely have the ability to disseminate it to the people who really need it (again, barring the dinosaur designation).  There could be a legitimate concern of information overload, if it’s the wrong information.  I would be much more concerned with information UNDERLOAD with the right information.

And for a little information inspiration… Newman.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author:  One of the first pieces of feedback Matt got on his book, The Myth of Employee Burnout was, “there is too much information”.  After rewriting it, the second bit of feedback was that there was “something missing”.  After a third crack at it, it seems to be just right. Just like that third bowl of porridge.

It’s the 4th of July, exercise your independence!

Happy 4th of July!

Today marks the celebration of our independence as a nation, punctuated by cookouts, parades, fireworks, and apple pie. And while it’s extremely important to remember the freedoms we have as a nation, it’s also important to realize the independence that you have as a human being and a leader.

Our forefathers knew that independence and freedom did not come easy, and today as I think about what it took to create a free nation, I also think about a phrase that is been running through my mind the past couple of years, and has really been guiding many of my professional decisions.

“It takes a bold move to make a bold move.”

It was certainly a bold move to come to this land and create a new country, and it also takes a bold move for you to exercise your independence as a leader.

One of the most important characteristics for a leader to develop is confidence. Confidence in your abilities, confidence in your decisions, and confidence that even if something feels difficult or uneasy, it’s still the right thing to do.

And sometimes, that means saying no.

I got the chance recently to work with Jody Kneupper, GM of Wet ‘n’ Wild SplashTown in Houston, Texas. It was great getting to know Jody and his employees, and helping them focus on outstanding customer service. But what led me to this post where the conversations I had with Jody over the few days that I got to spend in Houston.

We exchanged stories about growing up in the attractions industry, and I got to hear more about Jody’s experience and the path of his career. There were a number of decisions that Jody made that led him to where he is now that are probably diametrically opposed to conventional wisdom. They would certainly be considered bold, and ultimately they led to Jody being very happy in the position that he is in.

Jody told me that as he moved around the industry he had one major criteria that he would consider if a new opportunity presented itself, such as moving to a different part of the country and working at a different park. That criteria was, “if I got stuck here, would this be a position I would like to be in long-term?”

There were a few times in his career that the answer was actually no. This allowed him to NOT take positions that ultimately would not have made him happy.

Would these positions have been possible career builders and opportunities to climb the corporate ladder? Absolutely! But for Jody, he knew that these positions just where not right for him at the time, and he had the criteria to back up his decision. This led to him having the confidence to know that it was okay to say no to these opportunities.

So, was it bold to say no to these opportunities? Yes!

Did it take confidence to know that this independent thought was going to lead to better things in the end? Yes!

So thinking about your life or your role as a leader, what sort of bold move or independent thinking have you been considering lately? And by independent thinking I don’t mean starting a new nation, however, doing the things that great leaders do can sometimes feel like that kind of burden.

If there are things that you’re holding back from doing, ask yourself the question why?

  • Do you think you’re going to get in trouble?
  • Do you think someone is not going to like your decision?
  • Do you think that ultimately it will hurt you down the road?

While these are all valid feelings, they can often create a level of fear that stops us from making a bold move which stops us from being the independent leader that we know we can be.

So today, on Independence Day, think not only about the independence of our great nation, but think about the independence that you have as an individual and as a leader, and what you can do exercise that independence, ultimately to make your life, family, or job better.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: In addition to being a highly sought after speaker, Matt is also a drummer.  Drummers practice independence by trying to get their arms and legs to do vastly different things, all at the same time.  Might explain why drummers are a little “different”.  :o)

Stop the generational madness!!

I’ve seen many of these article in the past, but for some reason this one REALLY got under my skin.

58 Extremely Disappointing Facts About The Class of 2018

“Extremely disappointing?”  “Heartbreaking”.  Please.

My first reaction is AAAAARRRGGGH!!  Not because I want to be a pirate and wear a puffy shirt, but because it is things like this (and the mentality they promote) that DIVIDES us. This is part of the problem, not the solution.

First of all, WHO CARES if people graduating in 2018 don’t know who Destiny’s Child is?  I graduated in 1988 and I am SURE there are things that were important pop culturally to previous generations that I had no idea about.  Yet, I survived.

WHO CARES if these folks have to view a Motorola Razr in a museum?  That’s where I get to see the tools that early cave-people used to survive.  Nobody weeped that I was missing out on actually using them.

All these types of articles do is widen the divide between generations.  Boomers and Xers laugh and feel superior because they know about this stuff while younger generations just get more ammo for not trusting the older generations.

What we should be doing, is focusing on what brings us together, not what separates us.  It’s team building 101… find what you have in COMMON and explore that.

I think part of the reason these types of comparisons are so popular is that A. it’s easier to find differences than similarities, and B. We don’t have to admit that the world has passed us by and if the things on this list are still relevant, then we must still be relevant.

No doubt, there is a fear factor working with (especially) younger generations.  They do things differently, they talk differently, they work differently… and somehow being efficient and using technology to accomplish something (and then having more time to spend with friends and family) is less attractive than toiling away for hours on end with no social life.

It’s because the toil is what is known.  Don’t get caught up in being stagnant because of the fear of the unknown.  As fast as things move, you could become irrelevant in the blink of an eye.

Seriously, stop the “generations-are-different-and-different-is-bad” madness and mentality!  We all want to succeed and be part of something great!  That just looks different in 2014 than it did in 1984… and that’s a good thing!

If you need more help in figuring out how to bridge the generational gap, check out my friend Ken Whiting and all he and his company WAVES for Success has to offer.  Ken gets it, and he can help you get it, too.

Okay, I feel better now.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

About the author: This is not the first time Matt has written about looking for the similarities, rather than the differences between the various generations.  The Kids Are Alright is a blog post about just that. The Kids Are Alright is also a movie about The Who. Some readers might not know who The Who is, and that’s okay. That’s why there’s Google.

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