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.

AND and/or OR makes a difference

I recently started following Julie Winkle Giulioni on Twitter. She co-authored a book that I thought sounded intriguing, even though when I first saw the title, I misread it.  The real title of the book is:

Help Them Grow OR Watch Them Go

Reading quickly, here is how I read it the first time:

Help Them Grow AND Watch Them Go

The more I thought about it, the more I came to think that both versions were actually valid.

Julie’s point, and it’s a good one, is that “career development is the single most powerful tool managers have for driving retention, engagement, productivity and results, and that if you don’t help your employees grow, they are going to go elsewhere.”  In other words, develop them or lose them.

Based on my first misread, my interpretation was a little different.  I thought she was going to say that as a leader we have to help our employees grow and then get out of their way, allowing them to take the reins and carve their own paths. Kind of like winding up a top and letting it go.

After all, isn’t a leaders’ job to develop the next generation of great people, employees and leaders? If that’s true, at some point you have to let your employees take the guidance you have given them and let them run with it.

It might be scary to some, but your employees may just surpass your achievements. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point.

If we didn’t learn and progress and surpass the previous generations’ achievements, you might be experiencing this story as cave drawings rather than reading it on a computer.

The sad part is that I’ve known leaders (and you probably have, too) whose outlook was exactly the opposite of this.  THEY were the ones with the power and information, and their employees were on a need-to-know basis – and for the most part they didn’t need to know.

Part of this comes from the leaders they learned from, but part of it also comes from the fear of not being needed or important. If you give up all of your information, then you aren’t as special anymore. If you aren’t as special, you aren’t as unique.  If you aren’t as unique, there may not be a reason to keep you around.  Again, people are afraid of not being needed.

But the good leaders I know don’t take their worth or satisfaction from the amount of knowledge THEY possess.  Their satisfaction comes from seeing others succeed, knowing they were a part of that persons growth and development.  It’s a longer journey, but they see that in fact they ARE needed because each person requires different communication, recognition and guidance, and that can only come from a skilled and caring leader.

So if you don’t want to see them go, AND you want to see them grow, give them the information and guidance they need and get out of the way.  You just might be surprised what people can do when given the chance.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt is proud to partner with Scot Carson of Amusement Advantage to provide detailed trend analysis data based on AA’s mystery shopping reports.  Matt’s insights provide additional information about a facility that leaders can use to strengthen teams, improve communication and boost the bottom line!

Are you afraid of the light?

Last night my wife and I were sitting out on our back porch (we live in Florida, so that’s possible in February). Linda had turned on the yard lights to get a better view of the critters who might be scurrying about.

Not up on typical yard critter behavior, I asked, “aren’t they going to be scared of the light and not come in the yard now?”

“They aren’t scared of the light”, she said. “They are scared of the change when the light comes on. Once they are used to the light, they’ll come in.”

And thus, a blog post was born. 

Think of something that you haven’t achieved or done yet that you are afraid of.  Could be anything… skydiving, starting a new job or taking dancing lessons.  You harbor some sort of apprehension about that action, which stands in the way of you actually doing it.

But what are you more afraid of… the action, or the change you will have to go through to make the action happen?

If we don’t change, or try new things, we get to stay safely inside of our own comfort zone.  Don’t be fooled, it’s called a comfort zone for a reason – it’s nice in there and people don’t want to give up that feeling of security.  This is why people resist change.  It’s not that they are afraid of learning to dance, they are afraid of leaving their non-dancing comfort zone.

What about your employees?  What are they afraid of?  If they are typical teenagers and young adults, two of the biggest no-no’s are looking stupid in front of your friends and not fitting in. The behaviors you see displayed because of this could lead you to think they are lazy or they don’t care, but I would imagine it’s more about social survival and not getting out of their “need to be accepted” comfort zone.

And it’s not just the “kids”.  We ALL do things that avoid us having to abandon our comfort zones (because we all need to be accepted).  The trick is to find a way to make the uncomfortable, comfortable.

For leaders, we have to do this twice.  Once for us and our fears, and once for our employees.  Our job is to remove the fears our employees have about not coming out of their comfort zone.  In other words, we need to help them expand their comfort zone to include the things they were hired to do, to make all these new and unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) tasks, comfortable.

Repetition and success are two of the best ways I know to help people get “used to” a new situation.  It works for the critters in our back yard, it can work for you and your employees, too.

Thanks for reading!


Are you afraid of your employees burning out this season?  Get out of your comfort zone and do something about it NOW!  Click here to see how mid season burnout can be a thing of the past, not part of your future!

Will the green arrow save you?

No, the green arrow I am talking about is not a super hero, the green arrow is literally, a green arrow.

And it can’t save you. But I have a feeling a lot of people are waiting for it to.

The other day I was sitting at a traffic light, waiting to make a left-hand turn across a large, usually busy intersection. I was the first car in line, so moving forward was dependent on my actions. In front of me was a green light, but NOT the green left-hand turn signal. What was also in front me, was open road. Not a car to be seen coming the other way to impede my progress.

Yet, I sat there. Partly because I was lost in the song that was playing, partly because I had been conditioned to wait for the green arrow when turning left.

In this case, it was perfectly legal and safe to make the left turn, but it took a while for that message to make it to my brain. I guess I was waiting for it to be ultra-super safe.

That made me wonder how many times in our lives are we poised to move forward, yet we wait for some sort of condition, or in this case a signal, to tell us that it’s ultra-super safe to move forward and that there will be no risk in doing so?

Me thinks, a lot.

I know I’ve done it. When Linda and I were discussing whether or not to rebuild our website, there were many unknown factors. We had a green light in terms of having a business model that had been successful for four years, but could we sustain it? Could we make it work as a full-time business? At some point it would have been great to get the “green arrow” in terms of removing the risk from such a move, but that wasn’t going to happen. With any new venture, there is risk.

What green arrows are you waiting for? In what areas of your life or career are you waiting for the ultra-super safe signal to move ahead, when current conditions are potentially as favorable as they are ever going to be?

If you are struggling with a decision, don’t be afraid to try the old pro/con list. It may not be fancy, but it is effective in helping clarify your thoughts while putting the real benefits and challenges into a workable format.

What I really like about the con list, is that it gives you a to do list.  If done properly, it lays out the obstacles you need to overcome to avoid some of the risk. The pro column also shows the real and tangible benefits of the action. You may find the risk isn’t worth the potential outcome.

Or is it?

Thanks for reading!

About the author:  Matt Heller was listening to Rush’s Clockwork Angels when sitting at the light, being inspired to write this post.  Matt also produces a monthly newsletter with additional insight and articles.  To sign-up for email delivery, click here.

Got a leadership dilemma? Ask me!

Say YES! Well… not so fast

I’ve recently discovered a new internet series starring Jerry Seinfeld called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee which is truly, and equivocally, a show about nothing.  And it’s also hilarious – especially this outtake, or “spare part”, with fellow comedian Brian Regan.

Click the picture to watch the video, then come right back.  You’ll come back, right?  Okay, go watch the clip…

Of course this was a goofy premise about the fact that just about anything is fair game at a Cirque du Soleil show.  How many leaders fall into this same trap by saying yes too often? Especially when they don’t know it.

Think about the last time you walked by an employee, saw them out of dress code but didn’t say anything.  You actually just said, “YES, it’s okay to not be in dress code.”

How about the time you saw an employee leaning on a pole staring off into space?  You’ve been short staffed lately, so you were just happy to have someone in that position.  When you walk by and say nothing, you say “YES, it’s okay to lean against the pole and stare off into space.”

What about the employee who refuses to go do a certain job (that is well within their job description)? They huff and they puff and you don’t want to make waves, so to appease them you allow them do a job they find more acceptable.  You just said “YES, the inmates are running the asylum and I have no authority what-so-ever.”

Unfortunately, your job is NOT to say YES all the time.  You have to know when to say no.

But here’s the interesting thing… I think you KNOW that you need to say no. I think you even know WHEN you need to say no. In fact, I’ll bet that each person reading this right now agrees that in the above scenarios, a more appropriate “no” response was needed (we can say YES to that!).  So why didn’t it happen?

On some level, it comes down to fear.  Fear that you’ll hurt their feelings, fear that they’ll point out your inconsistencies (because they did the exact same thing the day before, and you didn’t say anything then, either) or fear that they’ll tell you what they really think, walk out, and leave you short staffed.

Is the perceived fear worse than reality?  Perhaps, but that doesn’t stop us from being paralyzed by it.  If you have ever gotten over any other sort of fear in your life, you know that the best way to get over it, is to face it head on.

Here are a few things to help you get over the fears that might be driving the behaviors above:

  • Know the facts – There is nothing better than having the cold hard facts on your side.  If you approach someone about dress code without really knowing the policy yourself, you can’t really defend your position.  Knowing the facts gives you the confidence to say no, that’s not acceptable.
  • Plan for all the arguments – What do you think an employee will say when you approach them to discuss their posture and appearance?  “It’s hot”, “No one cares if I smile”, “Ryan’s leaning too, why don’t you talk to him?”  These types of comments can really catch you off guard, and that is not a comfortable position to be in.  Practice your responses with another leader before you have to have the conversation for real.
  • Remember that you have to start sometime – If you fear doing something, you have likely avoided it until now.  But, just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done.  If that were the case, we wouldn’t have airplanes or iPhones. It may be painful and awkward at first, but it WILL get easier with practice and success.

Getting over these fears is all about having the confidence to take the first step, so you can take all of the other steps needed to be proficient.

And if that doesn’t work, you can always run away and join the circus… YES!

About the author: Matt Heller has a simple goal: Help the leaders of the attractions industry get the most out of themselves and their teams. Whether through large group training sessions, individual coaching or leadership effective audits, Matt dedicates himself to find the right solutions for each client.

Is all fear bad?

Recently I heard Tony Robbins talking about fear… about eliminating fear to achieve a breakthrough that would change your life.  This hit home with me as a few years ago I realized that so much of what we do (or don’t do) as human beings is based on fear.

What also occurred to me is that there are really two types of fears: fears that motivate you and fears that hold you back.

Under the right circumstances, fear is a useful emotion.  It’s instinctual, and it’s entire purpose is to keep us out of harms way.  If we were not afraid of a lion in the jungle, we’d get eaten.  Fear drives us to survive… in some cases.

As we’ve also stated, fear can hold us back.  It’s still protecting us from harm, but is the harm REALLY that bad?  Are we in danger of losing a limb (or our life) or being embarrassed?  Some would say that being embarrassed is much worse, probably because they have never had their arm ripped from its socket by a hungry 500lb kitty cat.

Fear the motivates could be called a “healthy” fear.  If you have a fear of failure that drives you to work hard and be the best you can be, that’s a healthy outcome of the fear.  If that fear causes you to never try anything because you can’t stand making a mistake, then it’s not so healthy.

The worst fear of all is the fear of the unknown, and we play into that fear A LOT.  This happens when we don’t rationally know what an outcome might be, so our mind fills in the blanks for us.  And guess what?  We’re really good at making things MUCH worse than they really are to justify an action (or inaction).

So here is where you get to think about yourself… what are your healthy and unhealthy fears?  What motives you to move forward and what holds you back?  Once you figure out what’s holding you back, ask yourself a few questions.

  • What’s the worst that could happen?  If death or dismemberment is off the table, you should be able to handle it.  Taming the fear of the unknown is all about perspective.  Once you see that you aren’t going to die as a result, the rest of the consequences don’t seem so bad.
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  You probably already know what SHOULD be done, but your fear is driving you to choose not to do it.  This allows you to remove your self-imposed rationale.
  • (As a follow-up to the above question) Why aren’t you doing it?  If you know what to do, why aren’t you doing it?

Answering these three questions tells you some very important things: The outcome won’t be so bad, you already know what to do, and there really isn’t anyone standing in the way except you.

Once you realize that YOU are the only one standing your way, guess who can fix this problem… Yep.  You.

About the author: Matt Heller admits to having a healthy fear of large wild animals that he can’t out run (which is most of them).

It’s all about what you believe

I’ll admit it, the first time I saw the DaVinci Code, I fell asleep. It was late, I had been at the beach all day, there were subtitles… you get the idea. Anyway, I never really understood the hype around this movie until recently when I watched it again, stayed awake, and was able to follow the story.

Religious implications aside, I was especially intrigued by the last scene between Robert Langdon and Sophie, as Sophie was struggling with the news that she could be a descendant of Jesus. Asking what she should do now, Professor Langdon simply said, “it all depends on what you believe”.

I think that is an important life and leadership lesson, no matter your potential blood line.

If Sophie really believes that she is the last living descendant, she will certainly act differently than if she feels like this is all a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo.

Don’t believe me? Look no further than the things human beings have done through the ages in the name of religion, politics, or even sports. People often have deep seated beliefs in these areas that ultimately guide their thoughts and behaviors.

So what do you believe?

Do you believe that you are a good leader, or that your teams run amok no matter what you try? Do you believe that young people coming into the workforce are lazy and worthless?

Guess what?  Whatever you believe shows up in your actions.

If you believe the young folks are lazy, then you treat them that way and go figure… They act that way. If you believe they deserve respect and compassion, they’ll respond to that, too.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who can’t understand why their employees are lackluster, yet when you talk to them about how they treat them, it’s typically reactionary to their belief that they are lazy and worthless.

Do you see the cycle that is created here?

Here is one of the problems. Beliefs don’t change easily or quickly. Many people look for undeniable evidence to alter their perception, but often their beliefs are so strong that they are not open minded enough to see it, even when it’s right in front of them.

As a leader, this is where you need to LEAD! If you are waiting for someone to change who they are, get ready to wait for a long time. Instead, if you are willing to make the first investment of trust, respect, compassion and dignity, you will find that your story has a much different outcome.

That’s why we are called leaders, not waiters.

So I ask you again… what do you believe?

Rare and unique = special and memorable

When Linda and I went to Alaska earlier this year we wanted to see bald eagles. Alaska is supposed to have one of the highest concentration of bald eagles anywhere, so we figured this would be a lock.

And we saw bald eagles. Not throngs of them sitting on a river bank, but more like one here and one there. The ones we did see were amazing, and it meant even more to us when we would happen to see one because it was special. We lingered, we watched, we took pictures… We remember.I’m not saying that seeing a whole gaggle of eagles wouldn’t have been cool, but the limited nature of our sightings make each sighting unique and memorable.

Unfortunately, I think too many people are afraid to share their own uniqueness, especially in the business world, for fear of being left out or left behind.

Maybe it’s a lesson we learned on the playground. Kids who are different get picked last for kickball, or just plain picked on.

So we conform. “Conform or be cast out” is a lyric by Rush from their song Subdivisions, which is about how tough is to be different growing up. The problem with that lesson is that it doesn’t really work later in life. I think the more we conform and follow a path just because everyone else does, the more we lose who we really are.

Now, if that path is really what you want to do – go for it – full steam ahead. Make the best of it!  If you recognize that it’s not, stop.

Here’s how this can play out. I had a gentleman in my class the other day who has only been with his current company for about 1 month. He has a boatload of experience in the industry, and was asking about how to move up. In class we were exploring various communication and behavioral styles with the DiSC profile, and he asked if he should change his style to be more like the current leadership.

If you have read this entire post, I’ll bet you know what my answer was.

I said I understood his desire to fit in and be accepted, but I said it’s more important for you to be honest with yourself and true to who you are. Show you can get results, show that you have your own valid voice and be someone who can make a positive difference. In my opinion, that will make more of an impression than being a clone of the current establishment.

Of course I’m not saying this is easy.  If you have been through this same thing, leave a comment below and let us know what you did to succeed!

Thanks for reading!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

There were many disturbing images and themes in Stephen King’s The Shining. The one that stuck with me most was the concept of becoming dull and irrelevant if you allow yourself to focus on one area of your life too much.

And what is the area we all tend to over emphasize? Work. That’s the one that pays the bills, offers advancement (sometimes) and grants fulfillment (again, sometimes). But if Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shining) reveals anything, its truly that balance in our lives is needed to stay out of the loony bin.

Personally, I used to have a pretty good (and easily maintained) work/life balance. My job was fun and challenging, but rarely was there a time when I had to take work home. Part of that was through conscience effort, part of it was just the nature of the role.

Today, my idea and ability to maintain a balance between work and personal life has gotten a little skewed. As many of you know, a few months ago I reduced my responsibilities at my full time job to pursue two independent endeavors: a website business my wife and I started a few years ago ( as well as my own independent training and consulting business. So now, unless I am out with a client (or happen to be writing a blog post on my iPhone sitting next to a lake – like now) most of my work occurs at home.

What this transition has really shown me is the true need for balance in ones life. Now that I don’t have a commute or any of the distractions of an away-from-home job, I am now free to work 24 hours a day – and no one is going to stop me… except me (and occasionally my wife!)

I now have to actively seek out opportunities and make deliberate decisions to change scenery, to get a new perspective or to just stop working. I’ve gotten in the habit of getting up early and going for a long ride on my bike, usually stopping for a few minutes at a local park or lake for a little breather. Since I will likely be inside on a computer for a good portion of the rest of the day, this gives me my nature and activity fix, as well as a change of scenery. Then the rest of the day I am not going stir crazy wondering when I can go outside for a few minutes.

So how does my personal story of finding balance impact you?  That’s partly for you to decide. What I will say is that when it comes to leadership, balance is a topic that comes up A LOT.  Over the last few years, I would say that it has come up in just about every class I’ve taught or discussion I’ve had with other leaders.

Leaders need to balance your employees need for information with your need to keep certain things confidential.  You need to balance the amount of time you spend on administrative tasks vs. interacting with and guiding your teams.  You need to balance outgoing expenses vs. incoming revenue.  And the list goes on…

The first step is to recognize the need for balance, then figure out if you have it.  If you have ever felt like breaking through a door with an axe, you may not have the balance you seek.

Thanks for reading!

Picking rotten apples

The other day I had lunch with a good friend who was telling me about her new job. To say that she had a rocky start would be an understatement. What was inspiring, but not surprising knowing her, was how after only 7 months on the job, she transformed a toxic team into one that is cohesive, respectful and productive.

I was thinking of all of you when I asked this question, “how did you do it?”

Out of the 25 people she inherited, 2 of them were the most challenging. And one of them in particular was enough to make most people quit.

We all, unfortunately, know the type of person my friend had to deal with. Long term with the company, very vocal when things don’t go their way, and have seen other managers come and go. They rarely get the feedback and coaching they deserve for their negative behavior, which tells them it’s okay. Left unchecked, you get an employee no one wants to deal with.

Which could have been my friends approach, but it wasn’t. She stuck to that employee, got to know her, gave honest feedback and didn’t let her get away with her usual shenanigans. A few months in, the employee went to my friends boss and essentially said, “this isn’t working out, it’s either me or her!” Luckily for my friend, her boss wasn’t playing that game, and the employee ended up resigning.

The other bad apple ended up leaving shortly thereafter.

It wasn’t too long until the other 23 people realized how much more pleasant work had become, so much less negativity. So much less hostility.

I often ask people if they would rather run their operation with a full staff including the bad apples, or a little short staffed with with everyone giving 100%. Overwhelmingly the answer is short staffed with an engaged and productive crew.

It’s a tough call to make, but sometimes the tough answers are also the right answers.

In fact, most of the time that’s that case.

Have you had situations like this?  How did you handle it?