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!


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!


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!


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.

Infographic “How To” Post 4: Promoted

This is part 4 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.

Employees Stay4

I look at this concept of promotion or promoting employees in two different ways.

  1. Moving into a new job at a higher level in the organization
  2. To help or encourage to exist or flourish; further (

The first one is probably what most of us think of when we think about an employee being promoted, certainly in the context why an employee would stay at a certain organization. And why not, it can encapsulate many of the other attributes in the infographic…

When you get promoted, you:

  • Get paid more (usually)
  • Are challenged in your new role
  • Are more involved with decision making
  • Feel appreciated and that you bring a higher value to the company
  • Are more closely connected to the mission
  • Are likely more empowered because of increased responsibility
  • Feel like there is a higher level of trust all around

Of course, that’s the optimist talking… there is also probably additional stress, pressure, and depending on the job and culture, fear of making the wrong move on a bigger stage.

But, for our discussion, we’ll say that most of that positive stuff happens and it makes people want to stay. Groovy.

Unfortunately, we all know what’s coming next, “I don’t have enough spots to promote everyone, and oh, by the way, not everyone is ready or qualified to move up.”

That’s good.  It’s good that you recognize that not everyone is ready to move up. I would frankly be concerned if you said EVERYONE was qualified to take the next step.  That means we aren’t taking a discerning enough look at who is truly ready, willing and able to jump into a role with more responsibility.

It’s also important to understand WHY to promote someone. Do they possess an ability to lead and are ready to move up, or are they just the best performer in their group?  Not that we should discount the best performer, but just being good at what they currently do is not reason enough to anoint them with a higher title and more responsibility.  I would dare say that in the situation of promoting someone who is not ready would actually make them want to leave… they are not set up for success nor do the people around them have much faith in their ability to step up and lead.  Bad news all around.

For the positions you do have to fill, do you have a process that helps you determine who is truly the best candidate?  Many places use a leadership application to start the process; much like applying for a job as a ride operator or security guard, a leadership application allows people to tell their story and “raise their hand” to show interest in the position.

The leadership application does a few things.  First, it evens the playing field and allows anyone who is interested to apply – that way you don’t accidentally overlook someone.  Second, it shows you who is actually interested in taking the next step. I have seen far too many people who fall into the “reluctant leader” role.  Not pretty.

This is also a great opportunity to dust off front line hiring practices like group interviews, panel interviews, games and scenario-based evaluations and put a leadership spin on them. Like a regular applicant, it’s important to see what they are going to be like when in the new role, while also giving them a realistic view of what they are getting themselves into.

And if you REALLY want to be proactive, start the season before.  Develop a list of tasks or projects that you can have people do as a trial before you put them into a leadership role or let them shadow a Lead or Supervisor for a day.  Even let them know that this opportunity is an audition or part of the interview process to be considered for a promotion the next season. This will tell you if they have the long-term stick-to-it-ive-ness and dedication that you want your leaders to have.

One of the reasons that NOT being promoted may cause people to be disgruntled or leave is that they don’t know WHY they didn’t get the promotion or don’t know what they could do in the future to be ready for one.  This is the most often missed or overlooked part of the process.  If you want to keep the people you don’t promote, take the time, make the investment to tell them WHY.  Meet with them face-to-face, give them constructive and developmental feedback about why they weren’t chosen and what they can do to develop their skills in the future. You can’t promote everyone, but you do have the responsibility to let people know why they aren’t ready for the next level. By letting them guess or fill in the blanks themselves, they will most likely create their own answer that will put themselves in the best possible light, downplaying the accomplishments and skills of those who did get promoted.  It’s human nature.  You can take that to the bank.

This leads us to the other definition of promotion, which is to support, encourage, and help your employees to flourish.  We’ve all (hopefully) had that leader who we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, had our back.  When we needed an advocate, or someone to go to bat for us, they were there.  When we needed someone to tell us honestly what we could improve in our own performance, they were there.  When we needed someone to encourage us to keep our chin up, they were there.  And, when we needed someone to sing our praises, they were there.  That kind of support and care creates loyalty, and loyalty makes people want to stay.

It’s a reality that we can’t promote everyone into a leadership role (and again, we shouldn’t be trying).  But, we can promote our employees by supporting them, encouraging them, and creating an environment where they can flourish. Communicating why someone didn’t get bumped up actually falls into this second category as well, which to me makes it as critical to your employee promotion efforts as moving people up the ladder.

Next up: Involved

Thanks for reading!


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.

To appreciate people, you have to appreciate people

After my recent epic roller coaster-palooza trip, I noted in my recap that one thing I noticed was that the places with the best guest service also had leaders who were out-and-about  and visible to guests and employees.

One more roller coaster picture because... why not!

One more roller coaster picture because… why not??

While I’ll expound on that in the future, it also occurred to me that just being visible isn’t always a good thing.  If you are a jerk, maybe it’s best that people DON’T see you.

What got me thinking about this was looking back at some of the blogs and articles I’ve read about leadership best practices.  Many of them contain very good advice about recognizing the positive in people and showing appreciation for their contributions.  They may even say, “be visible to your employees!”  But if you are a jerky-jerk, that might back-fire.

What these articles fail to include (and I am probably guilty of this as well) is not mentioning one of the most important, foundational, critical and experience-influencing characteristics of all.

In order to show appreciation for people, you have to genuinely appreciate them and the work they do.

And sadly, that’s not always the case.

We can all tell the difference between sincere recognition and somewhat positive words being thrown at us by someone who thinks that’s what they are supposed to do.  The delivery is different, the tone is different, and the impact is different.

To appreciate simply means: to be grateful or thankful for, or to value or regard highly. 

Let’s see which of these sound more like you… how you view employees:

Leader A

  • Glad they are part of the team
  • Welcome their ideas and contributions
  • Interested in their development and growth

Leader B

  • A drain on your energy and time
  • Necessary evil
  • No-good slackers

I would love it if my Leader B descriptions were a little far-fetched, but experience tells me otherwise.  If that sounds like you, call me.  Seriously.  407-435-8084.  It’s very possible that you are the leader employees DON’T want to see.

If you related more with Leader A – WONDERFUL!  You probably already appreciate, recognize and value your employees. If you aren’t doing it, but you THINK it, it’s time to put those thoughts into action!

Like so many things, our actions are nothing more than the physical manifestations of our thoughts. You want to show GENUINE appreciation?  You’ve got to be genuinely appreciative.

Thanks for reading!


About the author:  Matt founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one goal in mind: to help leaders get the most out of themselves and their teams.  He does this through speaking engagements, training workshops and one-on-one coaching.  His book, the Myth of Employee Burnout outlines why some employees start off strong but eventually fizzle out. It has been called a “great resource” and “an eye-opener”.



Right message, wrong people

How many of you saw the video with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake making fun of the rampant use of hashtags? If you didn’t, it’s hilarious – here it is.

At the time of this posting, this video had been viewed 17,572,521 times (I’m at least 3 of those) and it has 6,731 comments.

The message is pretty clear, and A LOT of people have seen it. Hashtags are overused. Stop it.

Yet people are still using hashtags at an alarming (and comical) rate! Some of you might be wondering what a hashtag is and what the big deal is?

A hashtag (#) has been used (primarily) on Twitter to group tweets together to make it easier to follow a conversation. For example, if we were talking about roller coasters, I might put #rollercoasters at the end of my tweet. You could search for that and all things “tagged” that way would appear.

The trend of hashtagging, however, has turned into a way to convey a thought very quickly without much context. And, it’s now being used everywhere, not just on Twitter. Here is an example.

“Work was horrible today! #wanttogobacktobed #whycantifindabetterjob #iwanticecream”

I thought the Fallon/Timberlake video was a funny but poignant call for an end to all this hashtag foolishness. Yet it still persists.

This reminds me of leaders who identify an issue with one or two employees and set out to fix it by gathering their staff for a meeting and addressing it with everyone.

“This way, everyone is aware and is on the same page”, is the rationale.

Really? Let’s take a look at how this plays out… #forreals.

  • The people who had the issue may not realize you are talking about them. They may assume you are talking about someone else… Wrong message gets to the right person.
  • The people that have no stake in this issue wonder why you are talking to them about this, since they know it’s not their issue. Once they realize it’s not about them, they tune out. Wrong message, wrong people.
  • For those with a guilty conscience or a small inkling that it could be them, ultimately figure it’s not since you haven’t addressed them privately. If it is them, they’ll just wait for you to bring it up again before they worry about it. Wrong message, wrong people.

None of these scenarios accomplish getting the right message to the right people. The best way to do that is to address these issues individually. If someone is overusing hashtags, for example, talking to that person about their specific issue is the only way to ensure that that individual gets the message. This gives them the chance to ask questions and to clarify what you mean. Even your best efforts to “open a meeting to questions and concerns” will fall short of achieving the kind of clarity a one-on-one meeting can produce.

Next time you have the impulse to address everyone, STOP. Is this REALLY an issue that involves everyone?  If not, address it with the individual, unless you want the behavior or issue to continue. 17.5 million people have seen this message about hashtags, yet the trend continues.




Matt’s new book, The Myth of Employee Burnout has not been read by 17.5 million people… yet. #youshouldbuyacopy

What “the holidays” can teach us about leadership

Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Be nice to your sister, it’s Christmas!

It never fails.  When we get to “the holidays” time year, there is palpable feeling in the air of hope, good will, family togetherness and kindness for those less fortunate.  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, states one classic song, and most everyone buys into it.

But why?  Why at this time of year do we all of a sudden turn on the compassion and caring and treat our neighbors (and even foes) with the respect and dignity they deserve?

It could be tradition, a time of celebration, or the desire to not end up on Santa’s naughty list… to me it doesn’t matter why we do it for a month in December, so much as it matters why we don’t do it the rest of the year.  Whatever the reason, we choose to act differently.  In many cases, we choose to give.

From a leadership point of view, this is a huge opportunity.  If you notice that people are a little more kind and cooperative around the holidays because more people are in a giving mood (including you), then why wouldn’t they react that way the rest of the year?

So what are we giving (beyond the obvious tangible “things”) that people are responding to?

  • Our time – the holidays are about slowing down and appreciating the people around you.  Why wait?  This is not the only time of year that people need attention and appreciation.  And it doesn’t have to be a lot… a little of your time and sincere attention will go a long way.
  • Our patience – Unless it’s 4 am on Black Friday, there is usually a little more patience granted during the holidays.  People learn, understand and develop at very different paces.  Allowing someone the opportunity to learn and grow on their own timetable makes them much more comfortable with the task or concept you are trying to teach them.
  • Our understanding – Employees are people.  Leaders and managers are people.  And people need encouragement, guidance and support.  Sometimes that just means listening to them about what they are going through.  Maybe a little compassion or a little empathy to show that you really care about them as individuals.

Walt Disney said it best, “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

And it takes time, patience and understanding to keep the people around you feeling like they want to give you their best effort.

Happy Holidays!

Nothing happens without confidence

A funny thing happened when I was out for a bike ride the other day. I was riding on a trail near our house when I saw what appeared to be a woman and her daughter walking toward me from the other direction. They were both walking dogs, so they had their hands full.  The woman was walking in front and her daughter, who I am guessing to be 11 or 12 years old.

As we got closer, the mother and I made polite eye contact, exchanged a quick head nod and a smile. Since I was looking in that direction anyway, I figured I would extend the same courtesy to her daughter. What I got in return was not what I expected.

The young girl glared at me, with all the defensiveness she could muster. There was no smile, no nod, just a squinty-eyed stare and a quick look away.

So what was the difference? To me I think this came down to confidence. The woman knew that merely saying hello to a passing stranger was nothing to worry about. In fact, she probably thought it was the polite thing to do. The young girl, on the other hand, didn’t have that experience. In fact, she may have been thinking of something the woman walking four feet in front of her told her many times – don’t talk to strangers. Because of this, she didn’t know what would happen in this situation.  She lacked the confidence to say hello.

We see this in little kids all the time. Put them around someone they don’t know very well, and mom or dad become their shield. Does this happen to us at work? You bet.

Think about your service or hospitality expectations. When you get down to it, we are really asking our employees to treat perfect strangers as if they are old friends. Smile, ask them how they are doing, see what you can do to help. Especially for inexperienced and less confident employees, this behavior is usually reserved for people they know, and know well.

So what do we do?  I think a good overarching approach is to think about how to not only train your employees on how to do their tasks, but also figure out how to build their confidence at the same time.

And what builds confidence?  Think of the things you do well or have a particular aptitude for. You have probably been doing them for awhile, you may have even made some mistakes along the way, and I would bet dollars to donuts that someone along the way gave you feedback or guidance. Is that what we are doing for our employees, or do we simply give them a once over of the procedures and call it good? (I’m being dramatic about that last point, but you get the idea). Building confidence is so important that it should be built into your training and onboarding process.

I’ll just leave you with a confidence coincidence. I got an email from a friend the other day who was talking about some challenging experiences she had recently, and how she now felt more confident for having gone through them. This is someone who is established in her career, not a twelve-year-old walking her dog.

Experience gives us all the confidence to face challenges and know that we’ll be alright on the other side. What are you doing to ensure your employees have the right experience to build their confidence?

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?

Karen may have found the “one thing”

How many times have we said to ourselves, “if I could just find that “one thing” that motivates my employees, that engages my customers or guarantees financial success, I would be good to go.”?  Notice I didn’t ask IF we said it, because I know we all have. Often times we think we are missing out on the one golden nugget, one secret, one magic pill that will make all of our leadership troubles go away.

And smart marketers know this is what we are looking for, even if it doesn’t exist. That’s why you see so many books, training seminars and consultants who promise to uncover the “secrets” you need to know.

What I have found is that when people say they are looking for that “one thing”, what they are really looking for is a short cut. They (and you) know deep down that to be a successful leader it takes time, effort, hard work, a willingness to fail, the ability to build relationships… essentially what my friend Chris calls “stick-to-it-ive-ness”. One blog post, inspiring speech or insightful quote will not magically make your leadership life better. Time with your teams in the trenches will.

With all that said, you may be wondering about the title of this post, about a leader named Karen actually finding that “one thing”.  I’ll explain.

While attending the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, I happened to run into Karen, a friend and leader I had worked with in the past who is smack dab in the middle of her leadership journey. After a few of the speakers, Karen mentioned that she was really enjoying the topics, but shared that she was hoping to glean that “one thing” that would help her motivate her employees.

As we were talking about some of her recent experiences with her team, she shared with me the story of one of her team members who was not comfortable interacting with customers. Karen said, “I asked her to just say hello, how are you the first time. Then when she got comfortable with that, I asked her to say hello, how are you and where are you from?” Karen told me that over about a years time, she got this team member to come out of her shell and really make a difference with the customers.  Hearing this, I told her I thought she found the “one thing” without even knowing it.

She looked at me as if I had three eyes, but here is what I heard her say that made this situation successful:

  • She got to know the strengths and weaknesses of this team member.
  • She spent time experimenting with techniques getting this person to respond.
  • She provided constant guidance and encouragement.

Karen thought about this for a moment, and stated, “But I have over 200 employees, I don’t have time to do that for each one.”

Then THAT is the problem. Not that fact that you don’t know HOW to lead or motivate, but you don’t have the time to dedicate to each employee.  That is a much different problem to solve.

So the next time you venture out on your quest for the that one golden nugget, stop.  Dig a little deeper.  Ask yourself if you really know what it would take to be successful.  You probably do, and you are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.  Your job then is to figure out what is getting in the way of doing what it takes be successful, and remove those obstacles.  Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s “one thing” you can do be a better leader.

Thanks for reading!

In the weeds: long-term vs. short-term

The other day I visited my favorite Einstein Bagels in Casselberry, FL to get a little breakfast. When I walked in, I was very surprised to see the crew behind the counter “in the weeds”. (If you are not familiar with this restaurant term, it means overwhelmed.)

The reason I was surprised is because this is normally a very well run establishment. I attribute most of this to their leader, Laura, who I have written about in the past. While she was not there when I first
arrived (which could explain the “weeds” scenario) she did arrive about half way through my experience, and provided some great insight about long-term vs. short-term thinking.

From what I could tell, someone had not shown up for their shift, they were out of eggs (among other things), and it was all the two employees behind the counter could do to keep up with the current orders they were filling and the rush hour drive-thru onslaught.  I knew they could see the person at the order station (me), but I was clearly not their priority.

Having been in the mid or closing managers role in the past, I can tell you how frustrating it is to walk into work only to find the sky is falling and everyone is looking to you to stop it.  (I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean!). Well, this is the exact type firestorm that Laura walked into.

I was impressed how calm Laura stayed under the circumstances. She  listened, observed, and seemed to internally prioritize her next moves. I was thankful that her first order of business was to direct an employee from the back to the order station. Problem #1 solved.

A few moments later, Laura returned from the back and I could sort of make out the exchange between her and one of the “weeded” employees. What I did hear the employee say was, “we didn’t have time.” Laura responded with, “Had you done that, you wouldn’t be in the mess you are in right now.” The employee rebutted that there wasn’t time, to which Laura calmly and assertively restated her position.

This is when the line was drawn between long-term and short-term thinking. The employee was clearly thinking about the people and challenges sitting right in front of his face. So, he did what he knew. To get the line down on the drive-thru, take and fill orders. To get the line down inside the restaurant, take and fill orders.

Laura had a different approach. She thought ahead. She, too, knew that to get the lines down, you need to take and fill orders. The difference is that she also knew that doing so without a plan would likely only make things worse (hello weeds!). She saw that a 2 minute phone call to see if an extra person could come in would have elevated the weeds situation – maybe not right away – but eventually, rather than sweating through a bad situation with no end because you didn’t have a plan.

How often do we stumble through a tough situation without a plan?  Our  desire to fix things immediately overrides our better judgement to address the long-term issue. Through experience, many of probably think like Laura, but do we ACT like her?

What do you think?