No, no, no, no, no, no!

Maybe I am just different, but I get REALLY annoyed when I see very smart people do, what I consider to be, very short-sighted things.

This morning I saw a well-known and highly respected leadership authority talking about how to teach leadership to young people.  (First strike was calling them millennials, but I’ll let that slide this time.) His contention: put it on their phone, give them an app and let them text each other.

This is when I shook my head and said, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no!”  Just like Lego Batman.

If you want employees to get their eyes away from the screen, you don’t give them MORE REASONS TO LOOK AT THE SCREEN!!!  This is especially true when it comes to leadership. Want to build someone’s ability to deal with conflict?  Put them in a conflict situation and coach them through it. Want to build up someone’s skill in providing real, effective and genuine feedback? Put them in that situation and coach them through it.  Want to help develop a new leaders decision making skills?  Give them decisions to make and coach them through the outcome. Are you seeing a trend here?

I get this guys desire to jump on the app bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean its right for every situation.  Got an app to track your steps?  Sure! Got an app to help keep your travel plans organized? Absolutely? But an app to teach people how to interact with another human being? I’m a little skeptical.

Why the skepticism from an optimist?  Because I have seen first hand the difference between how people act and interact in person versus online.  It’s quite literally night and day in many cases.  And leadership is about communication and relationships, which are built and sustained in person (or phone, Skype, etc. – someplace where you are interacting with another human in real time).  Just look at how many people feel alone even though they have a bazillion friends and followers on social media.

I’ve said it before… leadership is a full contact sport.  You’ve got to get in there, mess things up, make some mistakes, get humbled, have some success and LEARN from every experience.  It’s a journey that takes a long time, and is never really finished (if you are doing it right). And in my opinion, cannot be learned by looking at your phone.

Related: If you’ll be at IAAPA’s IAE18 in November, I’ll be talking about how to create a supervisor training program that fits any budget.

Whether you will be at the expo or not, if you are looking for an non-app based ready-to-go Supervisor Training Program, check out The Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program. 

Hoping to see many of you at the Expo! It’s going to be a great week!

Thanks for reading!!

Matt’s IAAPA Don’t Miss list:

Do your leadership skills need a tune-up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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

visit-me-wwa

Build up your tolerance

This post starts like many… as an interesting situation that my mind twists into a leadership lesson.  This one starts at the grocery store.

While picking out some apples, oranges and mangoes, my wife Linda noticed that I picked up 3 or 4 pieces of fruit before deciding on just the right ones.  She rightly pointed out that if all of the customers do that, I am likely picking up a lot of their germs, and then if I don’t wash the fruit before I eat it (which I don’t), I will then be ingesting all those germs, pesticides and chemicals.

She had made a pretty good case, but it was my turn for cross-examination.

My argument?  I rarely get sick.  Once, maybe twice a year, I have to stock up on orange juice and DayQuil to get me through a sniffley patch.  Whether my lack of sickness is due to ingesting (and then building up a tolerance to) those germs, or my daily intake of the fruit itself, I don’t know.  I do think there is something to that tolerance thing, and that’s what struck me as a leadership topic.

As leaders, how many things do we do that (at least at first) make us uncomfortable?  And how often to those get easier with time?

And why do they get easier?  Because we have built up a tolerance for the unsettling feeling we get just before we have to discipline someone, terminate someone, or address any situation where the stakes of the relationship and the stakes of the situation are high.

We learn that the pit in our stomach is just energy, and we can choose how to use it.  I remember in the early days of my leadership career how that energy would be used to think of ways to get out of doing something.  I gave in to the nerves, because I had no tolerance for it.  I couldn’t take it.

Later I learned to push through the initial awkwardness and use the energy to propel me forward, not backward.  As time went on, the awkward phase got shorter and shorter, and the positive energy just appeared without much effort.

Here are some things to think about as you build up tolerance:

  • It’s going to be okay – unless you are taming lions with a toothbrush, chances of your survival are pretty good.  Use that confidence to take the first step in turning that pit of energy into something that will help you, not hold you back.
  • It’s not an overnight process – don’t expect to go through one situation and be an old pro.  Just like I wouldn’t eat an apple that was covered in mud and axle grease, we shouldn’t try to rush this process too much.  A little here and there goes a long way.
  • Pace yourself – Seinfeld fans know that “unbridled enthusiasm” was Billy Mumphrey’s down fall. Part of the redirected positive energy will be used to move yourself forward, but part of it should also be used to keep yourself calm, so you can continue moving forward.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

 

 

 

About the author: while Matt has a tolerance for moderately dirty fruit, he very little tolerance for boring training seminars.  That was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Lessons In Fun, an interactive, immersive, more-fun-than-you-should-be-allowed-to-have-at-a-training-seminar seminar!  Click here for more information or to register. Seats are limited!

 

 

Theme park or a classroom… or both!

Many of us have heard of theme parks and amusement parks being used as a physics classroom… where students study the dynamic forces of rides and attractions to understand the real-world application of the theories they have learned in school.

Now imagine that principle, but for business and leadership!

That’s Lessons In Fun!  A brand-new kind of training seminar that uses the world’s greatest theme parks as your business classroom.  And it’s not just for people who work at theme parks and amusement parks – it’s for ANYONE who wants to be a better leader, improve customer service and gain a competitive advantage!

Scott Brown and I created the program, and it combines our love of theme parks, teaching, leadership, customer service and business improvement! We can’t wait for you to experience it!

Our goal is not to have participants adopt what other companies do (because that rarely works) but to adapt what they’ve learned and experienced to their own business or situation.

For more information and to register, check out www.lessonsinfun.com.

Thanks!

Matt

Learning IS Work!

A good friend of mine started a new job today.  I sent him a text a few minutes ago stating that I hoped his first day was going well.  I even told him I didn’t expect a reply because he should working!

A few minutes later, this text comes in:

Vince text copy

So I sent this response:

Vince text copy2

I don’t think my friend is alone in thinking that learning, or being trained, isn’t “work”.  Part of this comes down to the value, or perceived value that is placed on the training process by those who feel it gets in the way (and there are a lot of those people out there).

How many of you have heard something like this, “Okay, you gotta go to this training thing, but hurry back because we have work to do.”

Boom – the value (in that person’s mind) of learning something new has just been solidified.  It ain’t that important.  And when it doesn’t seem that important, less and less effort is exerted to make it meaningful or to seek out opportunities to learn something new.

But learning is work.  Not only in the sense that it is part of the process of being a better leader and a better person, but also in terms of the definition of the word:

Work – exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something

Learning (not just sitting and letting information pass by us) takes effort.  Sometimes we have to challenge our established ways of thinking to alter a process (even for the better).  Gaining a new skill or bit of information also helps us produce a result or accomplish something – probably something that you had never been able to accomplish before, likely because you didn’t know enough.

Looking at learning as work also helps us tie the efforts together, making them even stronger as a team.  Tearing them apart and separating them weakens them both.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Are you worried about how your front line leaders will treat your employees and guests?  Let’s chat about getting them the right development!

More leadership lessons from around the house!

A few weeks ago, I put the following update on my Facebook page:

I got a number of fun comments about this post, but it was my friend Leanna Muscato from Knoebel’s Amusement Resort that really got me thinking.  She said, “Now there is a blog topic!”  The more I thought about it, the more I thought she was right.

I began to think about how many parallels there are to leadership and business in this one act.  Here is what I came up with (feel free to add more in the comments!).

  • Be flexible – My Dad always said, “you have to be flexible, so you don’t get bent out of shape.”  I was halfway through mowing the lawn when the mower just quit.  I couldn’t get it restarted no matter how hard I tried.  So, while a trip to Lowes wasn’t in the plan, I had to adjust my strategy for the day.  The lawn wasn’t going to magically finish mowing itself.
  • Finding the right problem to fix – I’ve mowed my yard enough times to know that if I fill the gas tank before I start, I will have plenty to finish the entire yard.  However, when the engine died, I still checked the tank just to be sure I wasn’t dealing with a lack of fuel, which I wasn’t.  I also checked the oil (mostly because I actually know how to do that) but it was fine.  Okay, so I had exhausted the things I knew how to check, it was time to look elsewhere. Hello, spark plug!
  • Learn new things – In my Facebook post, I mentioned that I learned how to clean a spark plug – which is true.  I also learned that Lowes has about a bazillion different kinds of small engine spark plugs EXCEPT that kind that matched the one I had in my hand. What made that excursion valuable was that I got to see a whole bunch of bright, shiny, new spark plugs.  And comparing those to the one I had, it looked like mine was in fairly good shape mechanically… it was just super dirty. Hmmm….so I went home, grabbed a wire brush and removed all of the grime I could get to.  Put it back in the mower and it started on the first pull.  Music to my ears!
  • Maintain what you have (so you don’t have to replace them) – It is certainly more cost effective, convenient and efficient to keep the current spark plug working than buying a new one – especially as I was right in the middle of the lawn mowing process. Had I spent a little time on preventative maintenance, I wouldn’t have been in that predicament.
  • Doing “whatever it takes” – We have a car dealership here in Central Florida whose marketing slogan is to do “whatever it takes” to keep the customer happy.  I realized I was in a situation where I had to do whatever it took to get the lawn mower running so I could finish the task.  That could have meant going to other stores, asking my neighbor to borrow his mower or finishing the lawn with the weed-whacker.  One way or another, that grass was getting cut THAT DAY!

I think each one of these has a direct corollary to what we do as leaders.

  • If we are not flexible, we burn out and likely create a very unhealthy work environment for those around us.
  • If we try to fix the wrong problem, not only do we get frustrated, but we also never really fix what was happening in the first place, so it continues to be a problem.
  • If we stop learning, we’re done.
  • If we don’t nurture and maintain relationships with our employees, they will leave.  Then we’ll have to get new ones.
  • If we let things slide or go unfinished because things get tough or inconvenient, then we become known for dropping the ball, and people lose trust in us.

What else can we take from this?

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller and his friend Chris spent a few summers in junior high school cutting lawns in the neighborhood.  Their favorite client, Mrs. Leezak, paid them $7 each, and always threw in a can of ice-cold 7-UP.

The quote with the most…

“The minute you decide to stop learning is simultaneous with the moment you become ineffective.”

Whoa.

This quote comes from Ashley Adams from Dollywood who includes this as part of her email signature line.  As a trainer, this of course was especially interesting and inspiring to me.

More than going to a class or studying a particular topic, to me this quote is about having an open mind.  There are SO many opportunities to take in new information in 2009 that we really have no excuse BUT to keep learning – if we are open to it.

The other day, my wife Linda and I were talking about fingernails.  Exciting stuff, I know.  The subject of strengthening them came up, and I suggested ping pong balls.  After she nearly spit out her coffee from laughing, she asked what the heck I was talking about??

I have a friend who plays classical guitar, and to pluck the strings, they use their fingernails, not a guitar pick.  To make sure their nails don’t break and to get a good sound, some people will cut up little pieces of ping pong balls and glue them under their nails on the picking hand (typically the right for right-handed people).  A reticent “ah-ha” was uttered, followed by a question about the difference between classical guitar and acoustic guitar.

I explained the nylon vs. steel strings and the type of music played on both.  I could tell I wasn’t explaining it well, so I tapped into a brand new educational resource: YouTube.  I showed her the video below, and it clicked.

Okay, so YouTube isn’t exactly new, but it does change the way we think about expressing ideas, and yes, training and learning.  What I was having trouble getting across in words was now perfectly clear, thanks to an ambitious musician who learned the Mario Bros. theme on classical guitar.

Of course this would have been a flop of an experiment if Linda wasn’t open to learning something new.  I’ll bet if you aren’t a guitar player, you just learned something, too.  Well done.

Learning = effectiveness.  I like that.

Thanks for sharing, Ashley!