The IAAPA Expo is over. Now what?

You made it. You walked a bajillion miles on the trade show floor, attended enlightening education sessions, saw all (or most) of your industry friends, collected a stack of business cards and wrote your “That’s a wrap” post highlighting all of your adventures at this year’s amazing expo.

Now what do you do?

There is no doubt you learned something while at the expo. Maybe you learned about your own strengths and struggles, or a new social media hack, or how to engage your team or better ways to organize your training manuals… no matter what you learned, if you want your trip to be truly WORTH IT, you now have to apply it.

But now you’re back to your non-IAAPA life and you’re wondering how to keep that IAAPA feeling alive for 51 weeks until IAAPA Expo 2020!  Here are some suggestions:

People you met:

  • Organize your business cards based on contact types (vendor, potential employer/employee, client, etc) and get them entered into your contact system.
  • Write a quick note about how much you enjoyed meeting them (if you did) and a little bit that will remind them of who you are and the time you spent together.
  • DO NOT ask for anything at this point (unless that is a natural follow-up to your initial discussion). Build the relationship first.

Ideas to better yourself:

  • Get a list going of all the things you thought of or learned throughout the week that YOU could do to be a better leader, salesperson, employee or human being.
  • Prioritize that list based on need and importance to you and your business.
  • Take the top 3 things and assign tactical action steps.
  • Work the steps!!
  • When you complete one, move on to the next.

Ideas to improve your business:

  • Get a list going of all the things you thought of or learned throughout the week that could improve a critical area of your business.
  • Involve your team to determine priorities.
  • Assign top 3 items to smaller teams and ask them to come up with specific tactical action steps.
  • Follow-up with them with support and guidance until complete.
  • Repeat.

By the way, if delegating was one of the things you wanted to improve about yourself, please re-read the ideas to improve your business section.

In my session on revealing your superhero powers, we talked a lot about choices. Specifically, the choices you made that lead you to that moment in time, but also the choices you could make in the future.  If there is something you don’t like about where you are, examine the choices that got you there.  If you want to change your path, it might take making some different (and difficult) choices in the future.

As you venture off to put all of your ideas into action, I will leave you with this: don’t look for external solutions to internal problems. If your choices or attitudes are holding your team or business back, don’t look for your team, company or guests to fix it – that’s up to you. Accepting responsibility for where you are is the only way to put yourself in a position to determine where you are going to go.

If you need help with that last part, give me a call.  It’s what I do.

Thanks for reading!

407-435-8084

Matt@performanceoptimist.com

Check out AttractionPros LIVE – a special edition of the AttractionPros podcast, recorded LIVE at the #IAAPAExpo! http://attractionpros.com/

 

 

Why you absolutely, positively do NOT need a leadership coach in 2018

In 2018, business is slowing down.  We’ve got more resources at our fingertips than ever, and we have the time to use all of them to their fullest.  You just got out of a meeting where your boss said your budget was increasing and was reversing the “we’ve got to do more with less” directive.

Your applicant pool is deep and wide, and you get to pick from the best of the best.  Your current staff is 100% on board and all working together to reach your company goals.  There is no in-fighting, no dissension in the ranks, no drama, no insubordination.  Everyone works as hard as they say they do, and appreciates the uncompromising efforts of their co-workers.

No one is thinking of leaving for a different job, especially you. You’re ensconced.  Your boss listens to you, your ideas are met with open arms and you know exactly what it takes to communicate effectively with everyone you work with.

Oh, and everyone has a Unicorn as a pet and lives forever.

How nice would all that be? Maybe a little boring if it were ALL true, but that seems to be the utopian image we get when we think about the perfect workplace.

Of course it’s not real.  But you already knew that.

There IS drama, in-fighting and people who don’t listen. We DO have challenges with budgets, staffing and keeping everyone on the same page… and it’s never ending.

Because you are a leader, a problem solver and person who by-golly gets things done, you have found ways to make the best of those situations.

But what about the stuff that slips through the cracks?  Doing “more with less” is a popular mantra that doesn’t seem to be going away. And who has to do more?  That would be you.

But that doesn’t have to mean failure, pain and heartache.  Quite the opposite, it can present untold and unthought of opportunities that could take your leadership performance and your business to the next level.  But only if you are willing to ask for some help.

One of my favorite quotes about coaching comes from my friend Mike Auman.  We worked together at Universal Orlando Resort, and he used to say: “how many professional sports teams have coaches?  All of them.”  Of course highly paid athletes should have their stuff together, but even they need guidance, encouragement and course corrections.  What makes us think we are any different?

In just the last few weeks, I have gotten a number of calls from people who needed a little help. Maybe not enough to sign up for a full 6 or 12-month coaching program, but just a little push to get them over the cliff, as it were.

Exhibit A: A guest experience director at a museum called because she had been assigned the task of improving the culture in her facility, and didn’t know the best way to propose her plan to her boss.  We talked about the best ways to connect the dots and actually work the process backwards for him.  She did it, and told me it worked like a charm.

Exhibit B: A guest services manager at a theme park wasn’t feeling the passion anymore.  He was afraid to start looking in other departments because he was afraid his bosses would take that as a lack of loyalty and try to block his move. Turned out the fear was on him… he was afraid to rock the boat.  Once he realized that he knew what he had to do. He is now seeking another position in a different department.

So now you can probably see that I don’t really believe the title of this post.  I do think everyone can use a little help now and then, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.  The number of CEO’s seeking the council of an executive coach is growing everyday.  Why should a lead, supervisor, manager or director be even different?  A case can be made that people on their way to a CEO position need it even more.

If you need some help and are willing to ask, here are some options;

  • Ask your manager – either ask them to coach you (more strategically than they may be right now) or ask them to financially support your desire to seek a coach from outside the company.
  • Seek out a mentor – generally someone in a different department or even from a different company, they should be a leader you know and respect
  • Enroll in a specific coaching programlike the options I offer, a more formal coaching program can bring you incredible insight from a trained and experienced coach who knows how to get to the heart of the matter to find the best solutions. The best coach for you will be able to understand what you are going through while being able to offer viewpoints that you wouldn’t be able to see on your own. I like to tell people that I (or any good coach) will provide an outsiders perspective with an insiders insight.”

If you agree with me but not with the title of this post, give me a call and we’ll see if we’re a good coaching fit.  One-off, 90 minute sessions are available, along with more in-depth 6 and 12 month programs.

Related: The Power of A Trusted Network (group coaching program)

Related: NEW Facebook Group: ALL CLEAR – Private Learning Community for Attractions Leaders

Thanks for reading!

Just like you DON’T NEED COACHING, you don’t need this book on SUPERVISOR DEVELOPMENT, either!!

 

The right tools build confidence

It snowed the other day.  Not a snowmageddon that has impacted other parts of the country, but even a little snow (with the accompanying ice) can have a crippling effect on transportation here in Western North Carolina.  Exhibit A: our driveway.

Top of the driveway, looking down

Bottom of the driveway, looking up. Yes, that is Irving the Gnome to the right! #irventures

The next day, I went out to clear the snow off the pavement so the sun could do it’s job and melt the ice underneath.  It may be hard to tell just how steep the driveway is from the pictures, but remember this is what our neighbors call “The Beast”!

As I was shoveling, I was also slipping and sliding down the driveway because of the ice.  Then it hit me.  We have clamp-on spikes for our shoes!!  We hadn’t needed them yet since we got them 2 years ago, but now by golly I was going to put them to use!

I went back up to the garage, slipped on the spikes and walked back down the driveway… confident that I wasn’t going to fall. I was still careful, but every step I took was solid and stable, even on the steepest, iciest patches.  I finished off the driveway with relative ease, and thought about how this experience relates to leadership.

Having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes us more confident.  With the spikes, I could concentrate more on my shoveling, instead of trying to avoid toppling down the hill.

Think about a leader who is unsure of how to handle a situation.  Maybe there is bad news to deliver to the team, and they are ill-equipped to convey the right message in the right way.  The leader fumbles, stammers, and conveys little assurance that they know what’s going on, or that they have the teams’ back.

Their team gets confused, upset, rebels or shuts down, and the leader is left picking up the pieces and wondering what went wrong.  All because they didn’t have the right tools.

In this case, a tool might be information… maybe the leader didn’t truly understand the message, so they weren’t sure what to say.

Another tool could be a communication technique… as things spiraled out of control in this meeting, you can almost hear the inexperienced leader say, “I know, I agree with you. I don’t know why we have to do this, either.”  Knowing, from experience or though guidance, mentoring or coaching, that this is not the right approach, could have driven this leader to more diligently prepare, which would have built up their confidence so that the out-of-control spiral would have never started.

One last tool in this situation that could have bolstered confidence could have been meeting management techniques.  Setting the right mood and expectation through pre-work, your agenda and overall demeanor before and during the meeting can go a long way in preventing the above derailment.

So the questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • What tools do I need?
    • For example: Communication strategies, delegation, managing up, time management, admin/tech skills, planning, etc.
  • How can I learn to use these tools?
    • For example: Talk to your boss or peers, a coach/mentor, books, articles, videos, online courses, in-person courses, podcasts, etc.

Related: Nothing Happens Without Confidence

A few weeks ago, a Guest Services Manager from a museum called me.  She had been put in charge of turning around the guest service culture in her museum, but she needed to communicate her plan to her Executive Director who was a big picture thinker.  We talked through a possible approach (the tool), and that discussion gave her the confidence to go in and explain her approach and what she would need.

She later told me that the approach worked like a charm, and things are moving forward.  I would say it was her approach in addition to the confidence she showed when she explained her approach.  It’s all connected.

The tools you need will vary by situation and your role within your organization.  Wherever you are, be diligent about getting the tools you need so you can confidently move forward, lead your teams and make a positive impact.

If you need help figuring out what tools you need or how to use them, I’m happy to help. Feel free to give me a call!

Thanks for reading!

matt@performanceoptimist.com

407-435-8084

“Hey Matt! I wanted to let you know I loved your book (ALL CLEAR!)!! There are a few things in there I have experienced myself, and others I haven’t even thought about! Very good read! You’ve given me my goal for this next season of helping to develop more leadership skills and mindsets in my team!”

Adam Woodall – Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, IAAPA Show Ambassador

Purchase your copy here!

 

 

Infographic “How To” Post 1: Paid Well

This is part 1 of a 10 part “how to” series covering the points in the infographic below.

Employees Stay1As I said in my post introducing this series, this infogrpahic probably brings up as many questions as it does answers, and this first one is a doozy.

What if I can’t pay my employees very well?

Well, it’s the first one on the list so if you can’t do that one, I guess you’re sunk.

Not so fast.  Notice that there are 10 things on this infographic, and pay is just one of them.  Also, there is no assumed weighting to the various topics… if you take this at face value, pay is of the same importance as being involved, just like being trusted is on par with being appreciated.  Looking at it that way, pay is one equal part of a 10-piece pie.

However, pay is often one of the ONLY things we consider when someone quits or under performs. If we can’t pay more, we think we can’t compete for top talent or motivate our employees.  But what we are also not taking into consideration the other 9/10ths of the pie.  Pay is easy to quantify because it’s a number and we all get it.

Pay, on it’s own, is also an easy scapegoat for assigning value… namely our value to the organization.  When that number on my check at the end of the week is my ONLY measure of how valuable I am to the organization, it’s unfortunately easy to say it’s not enough. But then again it’s only 1/10th of the pie… how could it be enough?

If you are paying a wage that is fair to you, your employees, and makes sense in your local marketplace, then good for you.  If you can afford to up the ante and pay a little more than your competitors to get people into the fold, even better.

But, putting all of your employee retention eggs in the “they want more money basket” is not only frustrating, it’s short-sighted.

Let’s go back to the pie analogy. Currently, I would imagine, that most of us only see 1/10th of that pie as required compensation of the services our employees provide to us.  In other words, the only thing we HAVE to do, by law, is give them money in exchange for them showing up to work.  So the law dictates it, so it will be done.

But what if…. and go with me on this one… WHAT IF you saw the entire PIE as the compensation package for your team? What if you were AS COMMITTED to providing the other 9/10ths of the pie on a regular and ongoing basis?  WHAT IF there was as much energy and effort dedicated to those other pieces as there are to getting your employees paid?  Now, the overall compensation package – or “what they get for working here” – is much more robust, and pay may not rise to the top of discussions as quickly as the only reason someone would leave or stay.

As an employee, wouldn’t it be better to have all 10 pieces of the pie, rather than one little sliver?

So here’s the “how to” on the pay issue.

  • Start with this: are you paying a fair wage? If so, stop worrying about how to pay more.  If it’s all you can afford, it’s all you can afford.  Money is not always the answer.
  • With a fair wage in place, concentrate on the other pieces of the pie (which will be covered in subsequent posts).  Provide an employee experience that goes beyond the paycheck, and serves their needs as much as they are serving the needs of your guests.  Since your current employees are some of your best recruiters, if you are treating them well and are showing them genuine care and concern, that word will spread.  Top talent will be drawn to you not because of the wage, but because there is a compelling reason to work for you.
  • Remember your own motivations… it’s no secret that many of us who have made a career in the attractions industry have done so because we love what we do, not because we are going to get rich and retire early.  Some of your employees might just feel the same way, but you will never know it if you ONLY think that money is the ultimate motivator.

The bottom line is: pay is important.  No doubt about it.  However if that is your ONLY bargaining chip when it comes to keeping your best players, you will soon find yourself with an empty dugout.

Next up: Mentoring

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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

Okay, but HOW do you do all that?

If you are like me, you’ve seen this infographic making it’s way around social media:

Employees StayBut it wasn’t until it was shared again recently that I had a thought.  While I think it’s true, employees DO stay when these things happen, what I also find is that this information also leads to other thoughts and questions, such as:

  • What if I can’t pay them very well?
  • How do you mentor an employee?
  • What do I do to challenge my employees?
  • What if I have no open positions to promote them to?
  • How do I involve them?
  • They’re paid, isn’t that appreciation enough?
  • I value them when they show up!
  • On a mission to do what?
  • I’ve told them they are empowered 100 times.
  • What if I don’t trust them?

Because this infographic is long on, “yeah, that’s right” type of share-ability and short on HOW to do any of these things, I thought I would address them.  Starting with the “Paid Well” conundrum, I will do a series of posts providing insights and techniques for each of these areas.  If you have suggestions that you think other leaders would benefit from, feel free to email them to me or put it in a comment below.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

Matt

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

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!

Matt

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.

The guests don’t care

Some of you may have seen an incomplete post that was activated too soon.  My apologies.  Full post is below.


How many times have we heard or said this:

“The guests don’t care if you are having a bad day.  They just want to be served, accommodated, helped or entertained, no matter how you feel.”

I know I’ve said it many times in the past, but I’m starting to rethink it. Deep down, does that attitude make us actually care less about our guests?  Take this out of the service environment, don’t you generally care when another human being is suffering in some way?  What makes the service context so different?  Aren’t we just humans helping humans? Does this mindset breed animosity instead of motivate people to smile no matter what? Along with “the customer is always right”, I am starting to believe it might be time to retire this type of thinking.

By essentially saying, “smile no matter what”, we are encouraging people to be fake. Have you ever seen someone smile who didn’t mean it?  Sure you have, and it’s not pretty.

For those who have been reading this blog for a while, you hopefully know that by saying all this I am not suggesting that we allow sour-puss faces on our employees.  Nay, nay.  What I AM saying is that we may have to look differently at what it takes to make our employees smile.

Communication, support, feedback, a sense of value, purpose, training, communication, innovation, autonomy, communication…

All that takes MUCH longer to master than a blind adherence to: leave your problems at the door.

The Leader

There is a fascinating contradiction to be explored here… because while I believe and stand behind everything I just wrote, I also believe this:

As a leader, you give up your right to have a bad day.

But that’s not fair! An employee gets to have a bad day but a leader doesn’t?

Yes.  By taking a leadership role, you agree to give up certain things and you agree to take on certain things.

  • You agree to be a role model, a teacher, a guide, a coach, and a listener.
  • You give up your old peer group for a new one.
  • You take on the responsibility for the productivity of your area to support the company goals.
  • You give up the right to complain about problems because…
  • You are now responsible for the solutions.
  • And yes, you give up the right to have a bad day.

Remember that a leader goes first.  A leader sets the tone.  A leader is the one that other people are watching.  THAT’S why things are different for you.  And that’s why you need to care about your employees so they will care about the guests – no matter what we think they may be thinking about us.

Think about that! :o)

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: Matt has been thinking a lot about guest service and leadership, especially as the IAAPA Attractions Expo draws near!  If you will be at the Expo, be sure to check out all of the education sessions! If you want to hear more about Matt’s philosophies and strategies around leadership, check out these sessions at the Expo:

Learning How To Drive

As I was driving around town the other day, I noticed a car trying to make a left-hand turn across oncoming traffic. It struck me (the idea, not the car) that the driver had to develop good judgement in order to time the turn just right to avoid a collision.

Not sure where the synapse collision happened in my head, but it made me think of the judgement a leader must develop, and just how long it takes to develop “good judgement”.

Think about when you learned to drive… there was some classroom or online instruction, practical application behind the wheel, and probably more than one very stressful episode with a parent or older sibling trying to enlighten you on the finer points to vehicle manipulation.  You then took a test and got your license.  Even with this certification, it doesn’t mean that you learned everything there was to know about driving, or that you would consistently apply what you do know (turn signals, anyone?).

In many ways, the judgement you need to be successful as a leader is similar to that of driving a car – and it takes just as long (if not longer) to develop even a remedial level of “good judgement”.  You need to know the hazards, the capabilities of your resources, and what your overall role is in the process.

Also like driving, good judgement in leadership comes from experience.  And experience takes time.  No matter where you are on your leadership journey, it is your previous experiences that determine how you judge future situations.  When it comes to developing other leaders, we have to remember that teaching the tasks of what to do is only part of the equation… we also have to give them the opportunity to gain experience, make some mistakes, and develop good judgement.

Here are some lessons we can take from drivers ed…

  • Vary the teaching method: give some theory, allow time for practical application, and provide feedback the progress
  • Allow mistakes (to a point): In the special drivers ed car, the instructor has an emergency brake, but other than that the student is in control.  Allow your leaders to take the wheel, so-to-speak, but be there to assist if they really get into a jam.
  • Give it time: drivers need to practice parallel parking, much like leaders need practice providing feedback to their teams.
  • There will be tears: learning to drive and developing leadership skills are life-changing processes, both with their share of bumps along the way. Know that these will make you stronger.

Please lead, and drive, carefully.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Matt’s first car was a 1977 Buick LaSabre.  Her name was “Bessie”.