Even new hires at TSA want to do their best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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

What can Michelle Forbes teach us about giving credit?

Michelle Forbes? The actress? Yes.

Ms. Forbes appeared in two productions that contained themes about giving credit where credit is due.

As pictured above, Michelle appeared in a Seinfeld episode where she played Julie, George Costanza’s love interest.  She was accused of taking credit for the purchase of Elaine’s big salad.

In the 1994 movie “Swimming with Sharks” she played alongside Frank Whaley, and was there to help pick up the pieces when Kevin Spacey (playing Frank’s boss) takes the credit for work that Frank’s character had done.

Both stories remind us how important it is to give credit where it’s due, as well as what can happen if you don’t (even if those outcomes are enhanced by Hollywood storytelling).

In the Seinfeld episode, George paid for Elaine’s big salad, but Julie handed it to Elaine. Elaine thanked Julie, leaving George feeling under-appreciated for his efforts.  George later tells Elaine that he paid for the big salad, and then Elaine makes an off-handed remark to Julie in a later scene.  Julie then confronts George, and all sitcom hell breaks loose.  Julie and George argue and break up.

The Swimming with Sharks example is a little more extreme.  Guy (Frank Wahley) is Buddy’s (Kevin Spacey) assistant.  To say that Buddy would win worst boss of the millennium is an understatement.  The last straw is when Buddy promises to tell his boss about Guy’s contribution on a current project, but instead takes 100% of the credit, right in front of Guy.

Guy’s reaction?  He breaks into Buddy’s house, ties him up and tortures him. It’s not pretty.

Not giving credit for other peoples’ ideas or contributions can be way too easy at times.  We already know that most people feel they don’t get enough thanks and recognition, so when a sincere thank you comes their way, it can be hard to deflect it to its rightful owner.

But we need to make a conscience effort to do so, especially if we don’t want to end up tied to a chair with Frank Whaley waving a gun at us.

Even though it may seem that giving away credit is the same as giving away credibility, it’s not.  Here are some ways that sharing the credit can help you:

  • Builds trust – employees see that you believe in them and are willing to go out on a limb to help them.  They also see you putting their needs ahead of your own. That shows that you care about them as a person, not just an employee.
  • Increases input – nothing can survive in a vacuum and no leader can succeed without input and suggestions from their team.  Giving credit encourages more ideas to flow. Taking the credit yourself will stop those ideas in their tracks.
  • Shows you are a good leader – people who take the ideas as their own sometimes are doing so to make themselves look good.  As a leader, your job is to develop those around you and sharing great ideas (and the credit for where they came from) shows that you foster greatness in your team, not just yourself.  Ultimately you are judged by your teams performance and accomplishments.  Why wouldn’t you want to show those off?

In true “giving credit” fashion, I must acknowledge Ms. Forbes and the cast, writers and crews of Seinfeld and Swimming with Sharks. This post would not have been possible without them.

Thanks for reading!


Not giving credit causes employees to burnout and not perform up to their potential.  To learn more about my research about employee burnout what it takes to overcome it in your business, click here.

Join me on BlogTalk Radio

This Sunday, June 2, I am excited to be a guest on the Peter LaPorta Show, hosted by BlogTalk Radio.  Festivities begin at noon eastern!

Laporta Show

I originally met Peter when we both worked at Universal, and now he is a successful and accomplished speaker, author and radio show host!  For more information on Peter, click here.

We’ll be talking about employee burnout (and my new book on the subject), and anything else we can fit into our 30 minutes on the air.  To tune in and/or call in, click the pic below for more details!

BlogtalkradioThanks in advance for tuning in!