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!

 

 

Do your leadership skills need a tune-up?

photo-640Everyone, meet Watson.  Watson, meet everyone.

Watson is what we affectionately call our Honda Element.  (Element… elementary… Watson).  It’s a great car that has served us well.  Recently we had to get the brakes redone and transmission flushed, but that’s all part of owning a piece of machinery like this.

It’s like my Dad would say… if you want something to last, you have to take care of it.  If we want Watson to be ready when we need him, we’ve got to take care of him.

See where this is going?  If we want our employees to last and be ready when we need them… I’ll let you finish that statement.

In all cases, this takes people who are qualified to perform the work. For Watson, that’s a mechanic.  For your employees, that’s YOU!

Do you FEEL qualified?  Most newly promoted leaders don’t, but they also don’t know what steps to take to remedy the situation. (Don’t feel bad, in many cases your manager doesn’t know how to fix it, either.)

Here are some things to think about (and talk to your manager about!):

  • Are you actually qualified?  Mechanics (the good ones) take classes and attend update and recurring trainings to keep their skills sharp.  What books, classes or seminars can you experience to hone your skills?  Is there someone you know that you can seek out as a mentor or coach?
  • Do you have the right tools?  A hammer won’t do you any good if you need a wrench.  What tools (skills, abilities) do you need in your tool box to effectively lead your teams?  (Look at the things you dislike to do the most – that’s a good starting point.)
  • How well do you use your time? When I first called the mechanic, they said they couldn’t get Watson in for another 3 days.  Do you have a good handle on how you spend your time, where it goes and how to maximize your efficiency within the time you have?
  • Are you a good problem solver?  When I first brought Watson in, I explained what the brakes were doing (according to me).  The mechanic then had to look at all of the surrounding factors and circumstances to determine the right solution. Are you able to identify the needs of your employees so you can provide them with what they need?  If not, what tools or skills do you need to be able to do that?

Leaders (the good ones) are constantly looking at ways to get better at their craft, and that means seeking out opportunities learn, grow, and be better at your job than you were yesterday. Some of your skills might be right where they need to be, others may need some attention, and that’s okay.

Cars keep changing, so mechanics have to continue learning just to keep up.  Your job as a leader ain’t that different.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Over the last few months, I’ve taken my desire to Help Leaders Lead to the next level.  Along with my book about employee engagement and burnout, I also now offer professional coaching services and self-directed leadership development courses.  Oh, and don’t forget the FREE eBook I’m giving away on my homepage!

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Those pesky employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we go back to why…

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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

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