Three Questions – George Deines

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

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

Thanks for watching!


They can smell fake

While waiting for a recent flight, I had the pleasure of speaking to a gentleman named Dustin.  He is a 6th grade teacher in Florida and I could tell that Dustin is a guy who loves his job, enjoys helping and teaching kids and truly wants to make a difference in the lives and futures of those around him.

At one point, the conversation turned to those teachers who didn’t display the same attitude, and how they seemed to complain a lot and generally blamed the kids, the administration, and the parents for their bad experience (and attitude) as teachers.

Dustin then went on to talk about how this impacts the students.

“The kids can tell.  They don’t respond well to people who don’t seem to care.  They can smell fake.”

My first thought was, “like a dog can smell fear”?

“Sort of”, Dustin said.  “They can tell when someone isn’t genuine, and they react to that with their behavior toward the teachers and fellow students, and you can even see in their grades.”

My second thought was, 6th graders aren’t the only ones who can smell fake.  Our employees are pretty good at it, too.

Which brings me to this: leaders are like teachers.  It’s a TOUGH gig to fake.  I think fewer people are successful at “faking it until they make it” than they care to admit.

But there are plenty of people in leadership roles who, for one reason or another, have no business being there.  The process that put them there is another blog for another time.  I would rather focus on identifying the fakes and finding a different path for their talents.

And by the way, I don’t necessarily fault the fakes (yet).  Again, the system that put them there might have been broken, or they may have thought it was the right move at the time.  It’s those that have identified that they are faking their way through that need a swift kick in the pants.

Here is what I have seen fake, ingenuous, I’d-rather-be-somewhere-else type of leaders do that impact their credibility, trustworthiness and ability to be respected.

  • Inconsistent behavior – The ol’ Jekyll and Hyde.  “I wonder who is showing up today?” is a common question from employees.  Employees find it hard to trust people when they don’t know what the reaction will be if they ask a question or make a suggestion.
  • Haphazard policy enforcement – probably comes from the inconsistent behavior above, but what does it say when a leader decides to enforce a policy, rule or deadline one day, but the next day completely ignores it? Hard to know where you stand.
  • Poor communication – In my experience, I attribute 99% of all leadership issues to communication… lack of, too much, or incomplete.  When your heart and mind really aren’t in the game, it’s tough to muster the energy and patience needed to listen, convey the proper message and listen some more.

If this sounds like you, please gather your belongings and head for the exit.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  You are not doing yourself or your employees any favors by being fake and inconsistent.  Should you quit without another job to go to?  That’s up to you and your bank account, but PLEASE start looking for something that will truly align with your strengths and interests.

If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your employees.  They deserve a leader who will openly communicate and LEAD them to greatness – not fake their way to mediocrity.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: In just a few weeks, Matt and his coaster nerd buddies will be embarking on their annual coaster extravaganza! This year they’ll be in California, visiting Disneyland, California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Blog, Twitter and Facebook posts to follow!

How can YOU help?

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a Myth of Employee Burnout development session with a group of young leaders. Because burnout is not something that is fixed overnight, I asked the participants what they were committed to doing after the session. To take it a step further, I offered to follow up with them on a date of their choosing to see how things were going.

When I got home and read through their responses, two things were very evident.

  1. These folks are highly committed to taking their leadership skills to the next level.
  2. As leaders of leaders, this list gives us a wonderful bit of insight into how we can help develop the leaders that report to us.

Transitioning into a leadership role is hard enough, then when you realize that you are now responsible for developing other leaders, it can be very daunting.

Here is the list of things that the young leaders I worked with said they are committed to (and we can help with):

  1. Seeking out the opinions of my employees and listen to their suggestions.
  2. Help address issues before they become problems.
  3. I would like to have knowledge about what to do when a policy is violated. I would actually like to have knowledge of my job altogether.
  4. Be a better leader (4x)
  5. Keeping my visible anger outside of work
  6. Help my team perform at a higher standard and understand why.
  7. Grow to not feel behind the 8 ball and be more confident as a leader.
  8. Being more involved in the training of employees
  9. Doing more 1-on-1 development
  10. Provide a positive environment for both my guests and employees
  11. Become a better supervisor; learn how to talk to other leaders and employees when delivering positive and negative reinforcement
  12. I would like to have a better level of teamwork amongst my employees
  13. Finding the answers – never let an employees’ question go unanswered.
  14. Learning what goes on outside of my area.

The other thing this shows is that these leaders WANT the follow-up, they WANT to know how they are doing and they WANT someone to check up on them.  By filling out this form and turning it in, they are saying, “Please help me achieve this.” If you have read any of my other posts about feedback and thought, “they don’t really need or want that”… think again.  This isn’t ME saying it, it’s your employees.

In the spirit of full transparency, I will tell you that not every leader that was in this session turned in a commitment form.  It was a voluntary action, and some chose not to.  Doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t as committed as others, but it does prove that leaders at all levels are still individuals, and you may need to approach their development a little differently.

This also means that this list is a starting point, not the be-all, end-all. Just like your front line employees, leaders need individual attention and development, and it’s up to you to determine the best way you can help.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt is constantly asking himself, “how can I help leaders lead?”  Hopefully this blog is a good start but if you need more help, say with a development session for your team, an interactive keynote at a conference or 1-on-1 coaching, Matt does that, too. For a veritable plethora of ways to contact him, click here.

Everyone gets a trophy and the customer is always right

These concepts might seem light-years apart, but it occurred to me the other day that they actually came from the same thought process.

And while that thought process had some good intentions, it’s the execution that muddled things up.

“The customer is always right”, I believe, was intended to communicate how important it is to take care of a customer’s needs, not that they could never be wrong.  The execution, though, in many places is that the customer never IS wrong, creating an environment where the customer is coddled and catered to no matter how they act or how wrong they are.

To me, that’s wrong.  It teaches (and has taught) many people to take advantage of service providers, to scream and yell to try to get what they want, to belittle and insult those who don’t give in to their demands.

For many years I have subscribed to a different point of view: The customer may not always be right, but they DO need to be treated with respect.

This way, we take care of the customer without tipping the scales of decency, right/wrong and consistency.  It’s such a slippery slope when we bend over backwards to appease one when the only reason we are doing so is because they made lots of noise.

Now let’s look it’s not-so-distant-cousin: Everyone gets a trophy.

Again, the impetus of this was to be sure people understood how their efforts contributed to the teams’ success.  The problem, again, is in the execution.

Instead of saying to an individual, this is what you did and how it impacted others, we blindly blanket the accomplishment so everyone gets the same thing.  I’ve written before about how treating everyone the same is NOT ACTUALLY FAIR, and this is a perfect example.  We’ve over-elevated the weaker players and diminished the “outstandingness” of the great players all at the same time.  Not so well played.

So how are these two related, you ask?  Because they are blanket concepts that do not allow for individual thought or expression.  “The customer is always right” doesn’t allow us the latitude to surmise that maybe they aren’t right, and “everyone gets a trophy” prevents us from providing individual recognition to those who need it, in a way that is meaningful to them.

And the more that I think about these two concepts, the more I am convinced that they are two of the worst things to happen to modern leadership.  But the thing to keep in mind was that they started out as ideas with some merit, but wound up producing results that were less than favorable.

My question to you is… what processes or policies have YOU implemented that didn’t turn out the way you planned?  Next question… what could have done differently to ensure a better outcome?

Last question: did you recognize things were going south and have the intestinal fortitude to stop it before it became a massive quagmire?

Quagmires are hard to reverse.  Best to catch these things early.

Thanks for reading.


 About the author: When Matt was growing up, he LOVED playing football. The muddier the field, the better. One season, his team didn’t win a game.  Not one game. They tried and they practiced and they came close a couple of times, but in the end they came up short in every game. They didn’t get a trophy for showing up, they got speeches about trying harder and working hard for success. Trophies collect dust. Inspiration creates champions, even if the scoreboard doesn’t agree.











Customer Service – The Next Level

At the recent Florida Attractions Association conference in St. Augustine, I got to have some great conversations with many of the association members and vendors in attendance. One of those conversations centered around taking customer service to the “next level”, and while this person stated that he wasn’t actually sure what the next level looked like, he knew there was room for improvement.

As it happened, I had an experience at the Starbucks in the hotel that might help us figure this out.

I was at the hotel for three nights, and each morning I got up early, went to the Starbucks to get a hot tea, then took a walk around the beautiful grounds of the hotel. It’s a great way to do some early-morning thinking, get some fresh air, and get the blood pumping (especially since I knew I’d be sitting down most of the rest of the day).

The first two mornings I would say that my experience at Starbucks was good. They took my order, instructed me where to get the tea bag, and provided an efficient transaction.

The third morning, however, was different. From a consistency standpoint, it was above and beyond the first two days, however some may argue that it may have just been what Starbucks is looking for as the standard.

When I ordered my tea the third day, the Barista let me know that it actually included two tea bags, and if I wanted to use them now fine, or I could take one of them and use it later. This is something that the Baristas did not mention the mornings before. He then asked if I had any exciting plans for the day, to which I answered that I was simply driving home to Orlando. This led to the inevitable conversation of backed up traffic on I-4, which is an all too common occurrence in Central Florida.

Ultimately, this transaction was much more personal, while just as efficient as the other two. Guess who got a bigger tip in the tip jar?

To me there were really two things that set this interaction apart from the two previous mornings. First, he offered additional information, in the form of letting me know that my order actually included two tea bags.

Second, he asked a question that allowed me to give him some bait. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how important it was for service providers to “take the bait” that customers provide them in order to make a more personal experience. When I mentioned driving to Orlando, he definitely took the bait to make the conversation much more personal.

In terms of taking customer service to the next level, it probably didn’t take that much more effort for this gentleman to ask me those questions and to provide the information. But something was different about how he did his job and why he did it the way he did compared to the other Baristas.

So to me, two lessons about taking customer service to the next level come out of this:

  • Paying attention to the details
  • Consistency

Paying attention to the small details of the conversation allowed the third Barista to engage in a person interaction. On the other hand, this was actually INCONSISTENT with the other two Baristas, making me question how often I would get this level of service. “Sporadic” is not how you want people to describe your excellent service.  The goal should be to CONSISTENTLY provide GREAT service ALL THE TIME!  That means every encounter, every employee, every interaction.

Is that easy? No. Is it ‘next level’?  Yes!

Are all of your employees providing knowledgeable and personal experiences for your guests on a consistent basis, or is the service experience hit or miss?

Had I not experienced this Barista on the third day, I probably wouldn’t have thought that the first two did anything wrong. And while they probably didn’t do anything wrong, they also didn’t do enough things right to take their service to the next level.

What does next level service mean to you, what does it look like for your customers? If you can’t explain in specific terms what this will look like to your employees, it will be very difficult for them to deliver that to your guests.

Leave a comment about what “next level” looks like to you – would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading.


About the author: Matt has added “conference exhibitor” to his resume. The FAA conference in St. Augustine was his debut.  The P.O.C. pens were a hot item!


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!!


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.

Is it the instrument or the implementation?

First, I must apologize.  The other day I activated a post WELL before it’s time, in fact it was just an idea.  You may have seen a blog post from me that only said this:

Don’t blame the instrument when your implementation failed.

While I didn’t know it at the time, this flub actually proved the point of my message. Let me set the scene…

It’s about 5 am on Saturday.  I am at Beagle’s Bed and Breakfast in Pennsylvania, and it’s the day after some fun sessions with the staff and owners of Knoebel’s Amusement Resort. Even though I am tired, I am awake before my alarm.  I decided to check email, etc. on my phone, so I plopped down on a super comfy chair out in the common room of the B’n’B.  It was at that moment that the idea for the blog post hit me.

I launched the WordPress app on my phone and began typing out the idea.  When I went to save the draft, I published it instead. Oops.

Of course this triggers a number of actions, some that I cannot stop.  A Facebook post, a Tweet, and a ping email are all set in motion with only one sentence of content.  Double oops.

So why did this happen?  I can’t blame my phone or the app, they only did what I told them to do.  I can only point the finger back to a blurry-eyed operator who hit the wrong button.  That would be me.

Taking a step back, the REAL reason this topic came up was because I was talking to someone recently about performance evaluations, and how this person felt sometimes they could do more harm than good.  This led me to think, is it the evaluation itself, or the way we administer it that caused the failure?

There are so many examples of this… we launch a new initiative on any topic (service, productivity, cleanliness, etc.) and find that 6 weeks down the road it’s not working, so we change the initiative.  But was that really the problem, or was it that we didn’t support and follow through well enough to make the initiative work?

If you have ever referred to some new program as a “flavor of the month”, then you know exactly what I am taking about.

Taking this a step further, could there also be a conclusion drawn about the success of our front line leaders and employees?  If they fail or under perform, is it them, or is it because we didn’t prepare, guide and lead them well enough?  I’ll let that one simmer for a bit.

So while no one likes to take blame, we do have to realize when it’s us and our implementation, and not the instrument that is at fault.

Thanks for reading!


Related post: Take The Blame, It’s Okay

About the author: Speaking of placing blame where it doesn’t belong, Matt has uncovered the REAL reasons that employees lose motivation throughout the season. Here’s a hint, it ain’t the heat and long hours.  Check out The Myth of Employee Burnout book and live program for more details!

The power of the fortune cookie

As I was on my way to Las Vegas for the iROC 2014 conference, I had a layover in Phoenix. I was surprised to find a Pei Wei restaurant in the terminal, and further surprised to find that they served bacon and egg fried rice for breakfast. It was actually quite good.

And of course what do you also get with Chinese food? A fortune cookie. Here was my fortune:

Fortune CookieBeing that I was headed to speak at a conference of amusement park professionals, I immediately thought the opportunity could be business related. But what if it wasn’t? What if some other opportunity was headed my way? My attention was heightened in every interaction and circumstance. And why? Because my fortune cookie told me to keep my eyes open.

What if I hadn’t stopped at Pei Wei? What if I had gotten a bagel or a smoothie from another vendor? I wouldn’t have gotten that fortune cookie, and I wouldn’t have been looking at everything that happened as a potential clue to a possible opportunity.

I know there are people that do this already, and it’s certainly an attitude and outlook that I want to develop.

Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” We probably also miss 100% of the opportunities we aren’t looking for.

What was interesting to me is that I wasn’t just looking for the opportunity, the fact that it might be out there influenced me to behave a little differently. I actively put myself in situations that might reveal the opportunity.

Here’s the thing. I have no idea if I have already seen the opportunity and seized it, or if it’s still “soon to arise”. Maybe just the chance to reevaluate my opportunity outlook WAS the opportunity… Or maybe it was more pedestrian than that. Maybe the opportunity was just to be nice and offer my seat at Pei Wei to a large group that couldn’t find seats together (which happened, by the way).

Maybe the opportunity was encapsulated in the inquires I got while in Vegas for two more possible speaking engagements.

Quite honestly, I think the beauty of this is that I just don’t know. If I knew the opportunity had arrived and I took it, I might be more inclined to stop looking.

But I’m not. Believing that there are infinite possibilities out there keeps me searching, alert, and wondering what the next great adventure is going to be.

Thank you, fortune cookie. You gave me more than a tasty end to a surprising meal.

Thanks for reading.


About the author: Matt knows you have an opportunity to help your seasonal supervisors succeed, but that doesn’t mean you have the time or the resources.  Take the opportunity to contact Matt and see what sort of development opportunities he can provide for you and your staff.

Who would write you a blank check?

In addition to teaching people how to make really cool rubber stamping and paper crafting projects, my wife also sells the materials and supplies needed for such creations. The other day, after a class here at the house, a customer left a blank check for Linda.

Okay, it wasn’t entirely blank, it had Linda’s name on it and the date, and the customer had signed it, but she hadn’t filled in the amount. Apparently they were waiting on a price to complete the order, so her customer just left the check on the counter for Linda to fill in whenever she got the total.

It occurred to me that she had to have A LOT of trust in Linda to leave her with a blank check. Then I thought about this as a leader.

Who would write you a blank check?

Who would trust you so implicitly that they would trust you with some of their most valuable assets? In this case, we are talking about money, but your employees entrust you with their time, their ideas, and their effort.  Do they do so willingly, or hesitantly?

As I write this, I am realizing that I have probably written an inordinate amount of posts about trust.  Doing a quick search of just my posts, there are at least 10 that are tagged with trust.  Do a Google search on the word trust, and you get about 243,000,000 results.  Now, that includes entries for living trusts, etc., but you get the idea.

Trust is a big deal.

And it’s not just with your employees… it’s with your co-workers, your boss, your vendors, your spouse, your kids, your friends…. holy leadership, Batman! That’s a lot of people who need to trust you.

Let’s turn the tables – how many people in your circle (friends, employees, co-workers) would YOU write a blank check for?  How many people do YOU trust implicitly?

Is that a short list of close friends, family, and some people you know through work?  What is it about those relationships that you would put 100% trust in that person not to hurt you?

I think that’s what struck me about the blank check.  Had Linda been a MUCH, MUCH different person, she could have taken that check (and the routing and account numbers) and done massive harm to the person who left it with her.  But she didn’t.  And there is a good chance her customer will trust her with a blank check again.

If you want to know what you need to do to get people to trust you that much, think about the people YOU trust.  What have they done to earn your trust?  What do they continue to do on a daily or weekly basis that shows you that you can be confident that no matter what you share or do, they will not hurt you?

Want people to trust you?  Do what the people do that you trust.  It’s a two way street.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt knows that you need to trust that your seasonal supervisors have your back and will work diligently for the good of your employees and the company.  The skill and commitment needed for that doesn’t appear overnight, but with some targeted training and development, you can certainly speed up the process.

Don’t be afraid of the answer

How many times do you hear (even from me) that as leaders we have to be able to ask the right (and tough) questions?

We have to ask our applicants the right questions to see if they would be a good fit for the company.

We have to ask our employees the right questions to see if they are satisfied with their work experience.

We have to ask our customers the right questions to be sure they like our products.

We have to ask the right questions about our organization to make sure we are as efficient and productive as possible.

So we are asking lots of questions, but do we really want to hear the answer?
If not, what are we afraid of?

Recently I got the chance to hear a good friend do a presentation.  He had great content and developed an immediate rapport with his audience.  He also asked some really insightful and thought-provoking questions during the session.  And then HE answered them.

We spoke after the session, and I asked about the questions he asked and the fact that the audience didn’t have a chance to respond.  Here’s what he said, “I’m not really a fan of asking questions during a session like that.  You never know what people are going to say.”  He said he didn’t want someone grandstanding or taking the conversation off course.  He was afraid of the impact that would have on his presentation.

On the other hand, what if allowing the audience to answer gives you more information, provides additional insight to the other audience members and further engages them because they got to participate?  That would be good, right?

So what are we afraid of? Usually it’s the unknown, and whether or not we’ll be able to handle it.

If we ask our employees about their experience, are we afraid they’ll actually tell us – and that we could be the problem?  If that’s the case, we probably already know that there is something else we could be doing to make their experience better so they could further help us achieve the company mission.  We just may not know what it is.

But what if this happened… what if your employees pointed out a potential short-coming in your abilities or the employment experience you created?  Isn’t there a possibility that that information could lead to you improving your performance, which could lead to higher morale, less turnover and higher profits?

If you agree that yes, that is a possibility, then go ahead and ask the question AND be ready to listen to the answer.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt asks questions all the time about what organizations need to be successful. The answer he hears? “We need our front-line and seasonal supervisors to have the skills needed to actually LEAD.  Matt listened. Click here to learn how to prepare and motivate your leaders for the upcoming season.