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:

My commitments for 2017


Photo – Cedar Point during CNC16!

How many of you have committed to something new for the new year?  If you have noticed that many resolutions that start on January 1 often lack the resolve to make it to February 1, you are not alone.  That’s why I started working on improvements and commitments for 2017 back in the middle of 2016.

Of course my overall commitment was, is, and will continue to be to “Help Leaders Lead“.  Whatever you need to better lead your teams, I am here for you!

To this end, I have updated my website to include eCommerce so it’s easier to get the things you need… like bulk copies (with discounts) of the Myth of Employee Burnout or to sign up for a coaching program.

I can also now do one of those fancy auto-magic PDF download things… so I packaged up 80+ of my favorite leadership articles and made it a free downloadable PDF.

Two of the things I am MOST excited about are my new Mastermind program (currently in pilot phase) and the Myth of Employee Burnout 8-week Supervisor Training Program.

If you haven’t heard of a Mastermind group, it’s essentially peer or group coaching. There are 4 attractions professionals and me, and we get together every 2 weeks via Skype to help each other with current issues.  We also have a private Facebook group to share documents and discuss things between calls.


Some of the topics have included: group interviews, encouraging buy-in and urgency, whether or not to hire a sales manager and communication.

Early feedback for the program has been very positive, including:

“I like learning from other professionals and hearing about what they go through.  Very similar to my experiences.”

“Flexibility to discuss current issues is great.  We can talk about what’s going on and get immediate ideas to implement.”

We’ll wrap up the pilot group in a few months, at which point I will be starting another round based on their feedback.  If you would like to participate in the next round, just let me know.

If you have been looking for a cost-effective way to keep your Supervisors engaged and learning throughout the season, the Myth of Employee Burnout Supervisor Training Program may be just the ticket!  This 8-week experience will:

  • Cover the major learning points of the book, giving participants a well rounded understanding of employee motivation and engagement
  • Encourage leaders to discuss and explore their leadership strengths and areas of improvement.
  • Build necessary leadership skills like communication, problem solving and leading a diverse workforce.

The program is broken up into 8 lessons and is designed so that a department manager or trainer can meet with a small group of supervisors for about 30 minutes to build the skills needed to lead on a daily basis.

The best part is that you get everything you need… detailed lesson plans, participant workbooks and a copy of the Myth of Employee Burnout for each participant.  You only pay for the number of people going through the program – no waste, no mess!  For more pricing and samples of the included materials, click here.

I don’t know about you, but I am excited for 2017 to unfold!  Below is a list of conferences I will be at to start the year.  If you will be at any of these it would be great to connect!  Just let me know.

Happy New Year – have a safe and prosperous 2017!!


Just a few places I will be to start 2017:

AIMS Safety Seminar
Ops. Supervisor Basic & Advanced (all new content!)
Operational Leadership and Communication (all new format!)
Orlando, FL
January 12-13, 2017

Texas Public Pool Council Annual Conference
Cause and Effect of Leadership
San Antonio, TX
February 7, 2017

American Pyrotechnics Association Winter Conference
The Myth of Employee Burnout
Henderson, NV
February 16, 2017

IAAPA Webinar
The New Supervisor: Tools, Tips, and Talking Points for Today’s Workforce
Time: 1:00 pm EDT
March 1, 2017

Three Questions – George Deines

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

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

Thanks for watching!


All you have to do is…

How many times have you seen an employee (yours or at another establishment) looking bored?  Have you seen them looking at their phones, staring off into space or doing things they shouldn’t be doing?

This couldn’t be YOUR fault, could it?  Of course not. It’s the kids these days. They don’t want to work, they just want to play on their phones.

And when we view them as half-brain dead zombies, that’s how we treat them. And that’s how we train them.

When giving instructions to your employees, how many of you have ever said, “all you have to do is…”?

If this has been your training strategy, you might want to think about what you are really asking them to do.  Whether you realize it or not, what you’re saying to them is that they don’t have to think, they don’t have to act, and there’s no brainpower required for this activity.

Then what happens when the one activity they ARE supposed to do isn’t required?

They get bored. People, by our nature, need challenges and for our minds to be active. So, we’ll find ways to KEEP our minds active if the task in front of us isn’t fulfilling that need. What might this look like for your employees?  Yep.  Texting.

A few years ago I heard T. Scott Gross talking about how we have idiot-proofed so many of our jobs.  Rather than take the time to find the right people and prepare them for the role, we dumb down the responsibilities so any Joe Schmoe could do it. But as T. Scott says, the only person willing to do an idiot-proof job is an idiot.  Do you see the cycle we’ve created?

Are your jobs “idiot-proof”?  If so, I challenge you to put some challenge back in those roles.  Let your employees use their brains and their talents FOR you, not in spite of you.

Will this take extra time, because you now have to work with your employees to help develop the right skills and judgements?  Yes.  But wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing that than hiring and firing and hiring and firing a bunch of idiots?

That’s what I thought.

Thanks for reading!


About the author: It took Matt about 45 minutes to write this post. When asked, he tells people it took him 25 years to write his first book, The Myth of Employee Burnout, because it includes experiences and insights from his entire career to this point.  He’s really hoping the second book doesn’t take nearly that long!

Which customer do you choose?

You may have noticed that my last few posts have been about customer service (this one included). Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting out more, or because there are more situations that happen that I think we can all learn from.  My last trip to Walgreens was a perfect example.

I walked in, and like many establishments these days, the person behind the register greeted me with a “Welcome to Walgreens!”.  It wasn’t particularly enthusiastic or welcoming, but that’s a different topic.

To me, the issue is one of priority.  While I suppose I appreciate the gesture, I wondered how the person AT THE REGISTER felt when the employee’s attention was diverted from their transaction to greet a brand new person in the store. All the time in customer service we talk about engaging the guest and building a relationship.  Nothing says “I care about you” more than a self-induced interruption of your transaction so I can yell across the store to “welcome” someone else.

Somewhere along the line, management said, “we’re going to greet people as they come in.”  Was thought given to the CIRCUMSTANCES when that would be appropriate?  Or, did they just give their employees a directive to follow all the time because they didn’t trust their employees to make the judgement call of when they should provide the ‘entrance greeting’.

I can hear them now… “Well, if we tell the employees to only do it when there are no customers in front of them, they’ll take advantage and never do it.  No, better that we use the all-or-nothing approach.  You never know what employees might do if you let them THINK!

That’s right.  They could just AMAZE you!

To me, this situation also plays out when you have the same person attending to guests at the counter while they are also supposed to take incoming calls. The phone rings, and the person stops helping you to answer the phone. Like the automatic entrance greeting, management has made it clear that the phone needs to be answered in 3 rings or less, no matter what.  So you’ve just created another self-induced interruption of the service experience.

Both of these situations lead me to this question… which customer is more important? The person that’s in front of you or the person on the phone or walking through the door?

And you can’t say both, then willingly put your employees in situations like these.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

But I get it, it’s cheaper to have one person doing both those jobs than to have a dedicated person at the counter and a dedicated person on the phone.  Only you will be able to tell when the disjointed customer experience has impacted your sales.  Or maybe it already has, which is why you mandated that everyone be greeted as they walked in… to give them a sense of welcome and better customer service.  Is that working?  Hmmm….

What do you think?  How does this effect you as a consumer?  What do you think about it as an employer or a service provider?

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt Heller is a dynamic and engaging speaker, trainer, author and coach who builds confidence, courage and awareness in leaders of all experience levels.  He also likes vanilla ice cream with crunchy peanut butter mixed in.



A craftsman and his tools

It’s 6:25 am and I’m out for a ride on my bike. It’s still dark, making the fluorescent lights from the gas station that much brighter. As I pull closer, I see a figure lurking around one of the pumps. Closer still, the figure isn’t so much lurking, as he is working. In fact he appears to be cleaning the gas pump. Washing away the dirt, grime and personal residue of the previous days business. Just as I am about to wildly applaud his efforts, I see what he is using as a cleaning implement.

A squeegee. 

In fact it’s the same squeegee that his customers use to remove bugs from their windshields.

I’m no expert on cleaning tools and techniques, but I can’t imagine that this squeegee is the proper tool for this job.

I would hazard a guess that nowhere in his companies operating procedure manual does it state to use the squeegee to clean the surface of the gas pumps. It may not say ANYTHING about cleaning the gas pumps. Yet here he is, diligently doing just that.

Here is what is really ironic. This gentlemen works at a gas station/convenience store, and probably has much more appropriate cleaning materials at his disposal.

Let’s look at what possibly led to this moment.

  • This employee (we’ll call him Jake) had the gumption (or was at least bored enough) to get out and clean the gas pumps.
  • If he was doing this out of some sort of feeling of duty or it was a job responsibility, you’d have to at least applaud Jake’s efforts, but coach him on his methods.
  • If Jake was bored, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t have put a lot of thought into the execution of his plan.  Still, his efforts should be recognized and methods coached.
  • During the coaching, we may find out that in fact there is another “proper” way to do this, but that they ran out of the right supplies, the supplies they had were unusable for some reason, or that Jake wasn’t really well versed on that procedure.
  • We may also find that this enterprising young man at one point HAD taken it upon himself to utilize something from the store, but was reprimanded for either using the wrong product or for misappropriating an item that should have been sold for profit.

All of this adds up to a craftsman working with improper tools.  While the old adage, “a poor craftsman blames his tools” may come to mind, I think there are other places that fault could be placed in this situation.  A leaders’ job is to provide guidance, support, and resources so their employees can do the job they were hired to do.  Does it sound like that was the case here?

What would you do if you were Jake’s boss?

Thanks for reading!


About the author: Matt couldn’t be more proud to have released his first book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” last week.  So far the reviews have been very positive… and Matt doesn’t even mind that most of those reviews are from his friends.

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!


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

OMG – I can’t believe he missed that!!

During a recent dinner out with friends, I couldn’t believe the service opportunity that was missed by the restaurant manager.  It was right there, set up for him beautifully, and he missed it. If he were playing wiffle ball, people would have said that he “whiffed”.

Especially in this day and age when companies and brands are FIGHTING for customer loyalty, it’s hard to imagine that he would let this opportunity slip right down the drain.

But he did.

Let me set the stage: We were eating at an establishment that had an advertized promotion/policy that if a Manager did not stop by your table to check on things, then you get $10 off your next visit.  (To me this sounds like a strange attempt to motivate the Managers to do what they should already be doing, but that’s another topic for another time).

As it turned out, our friends had been to a different location in this restaurant chain, and had NOT received a visit from the Manager.  Nor had there been any follow-up on the $10 offer when they mentioned it.

So, when the Manager of this restaurant stopped by our table, my friend jokingly said something about the $10 off.  It was all very lighthearted, and I don’t REALLY think my friend was expecting the $10 – he just wanted to have some fun with the guy.  The managers reaction at first was okay, saying, “I’m so sorry that happened, my name is Kevin and please let me know if I can do anything for you tonight.”

To which my friend says, “Okay, how about $5 off the bill for tonight?”.  Again, this was said in a joking, lighthearted manner.  And here comes the whiff…

The Manager says, “Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to do that.” Then he smiled and walked away.

Did that just happen?  Did a guest just deliver a loyalty building experience to you on a sliver platter and you turned it down?  I was a little dumbfounded.

I thought about the “not at liberty” statement for a while.  That could have been code for many things, such as:

  • I don’t want to
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know how
  • I don’t think you deserve it
  • I can’t fix something here that didn’t happen here
  • I’m not allowed to
  • I’ll get in trouble

I’ll bet if we didn’t like our food or the service was lousy, or we made a big stink, that he would have jumped at the chance to knock $5 off our bill.  That would have been the easy way out. Yet he still chose not to, even though he has the power and the capability to do so.  Why?

I would imagine there is something broken or underdeveloped in his skills as a manager, or more likely in the edict and communication from the corporate office about what managers are truly empowered to do and what they are not empowered to do.  There was no latitude for out-of-the-box thinking here, which could have made a huge difference.

What if he said, “great idea, sir, I am going to take $5 off your bill tonight”?  I think we would have been pleasantly surprised, if not stunned. Maybe he would have gotten in trouble from “corporate”, but he would have created a memorable situation that we would want to talk about (in a good way).  The question is: what is a bunch of free promotion and positive word of mouth advertising worth to your business?  More than 5 bucks?  Then you better let your managers make the call that would create those kind of situations.

It’s hard enough in business today to try to anticipate or guess what our guests want.  So when it’s delivered to you all wrapped up and tied with a bow, you gotta take it.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller has a passion for helping leaders in the attractions industry get the most out of themselves and their teams.  One of his specialties is coaching leaders one-on-one to get through their specific roadblocks.  If you are hitting a wall, give Matt a call (rhymes optional).

You can’t tell me service is dead!

The people who claim that customer service is dead and weep for the future of our society have not met Josh Patterson.  Josh was our Sales Consultant at Carmax this weekend when we went looking for some new wheels.

Let me tell you about Josh. He’s a youngster… just 22 years old and has been with Carmax for 2-1/2 years.  He just started working in sales in January and before that he worked in inventory. He was knowledgeable, friendly, open, concerned about our needs, patient and accommodating.  Is there anything else you would want from a service experience?

After all was said and done, I think we spent 5 hours with Josh.  Walking the lot, kicking tires, taking test drives, asking about this and that, and sometimes confusing ourselves with all the details. Josh kept it all straight, answered our questions and made the whole process smooth and easy.

What really struck me was the way that Josh talked about Carmax.  He genuinely enjoys working there, feels like he is supported by the company and sees opportunity for growth.  The funny thing is that he didn’t really say these things as much as he implied these things.  And of course, I was watching and listening for clues!

The naysayers may say that Josh is the exception to the rule.  Okay, but what about Eli, the gentleman from the Carmax service department who was kind enough to speed my car to the front of the line without an appointment for a small buffing issue that was missed during the initial inspection?  Then, he politely explained about making an appointment next time – he didn’t make me feel stupid or punish me for not knowing any better.

Or then there is Rene, the cashier at CVS around the corner from Carmax.  I saw him interacting with two customers before me, both who spoke Spanish (as did Rene) and he treated them both as if they were friends, family members, or at the very least, repeat customers.  When I walked up, it was clear and cheery English that came out of his mouth and he was equally warm and friendly with me.

Last but not least was a young lady at Home Depot, just down the road from CVS.  I was heading to the self check out, and she greeted me with a smile, scanned my items for me and put them in a bag.  She did the same thing for another customer just after me.  Granted, self checkout is supposed to reduce the amount of cashiers, but the assistance was greatly appreciated.

My point to all this?  Customer service is not dead!  Let the naysayers wallow in their negativity and doom and gloom.  They aren’t looking for good service, so they’ll never find it.

But maybe they have done us a favor… Maybe companies have started to wake up and take heed of those who say that service is dead, and they are doing something about it.

Are you doing anything about it, or are you one of the companies the naysayers are talking about?  Leave us a comment about what you are doing to improve service.

About the author: Matt Heller’s nickname in his band is Mattissimo (which is also his WordPress username).  This is a combination of his name, Matt, and the musical term for loud, which is Fortissimo.  As a drummer, Matt has been described as “better than a metronome and more powerful than a garden gnome.”

Know what you do well

The very first time I presented at the IAAPA Attractions Expo was in 2006. I flew to Atlanta for the opportunity, and will never forget how it went.

It stunk. At least in my mind.

I remember talking really fast and having no life in my presentation at all. I tried to be funny, but it jut wasn’t working. I realized (too late, I am afraid) what my problem was.

I was trapped on the podium behind a long table and a lectern. I was trapped by my nervousness as much as my short microphone cable. I was separated and cut off from the most important people in the room. The audience.

I didn’t realize how much I really fed off of their energy and emotion until that presentation. The next year I decided to get off the podium and work the crowd from a closer proximity. I was much more comfortable, and I could tell that the audience was having a better time, too.

The lesson?  My presentations generally go much better when I can interact with the crowd.  Since realizing this, I have never let myself get trapped on the podium again.

Recently, I had another, similar lesson.  It seems as though just about every independent speaker or trainer out there has some sort of video, either of them presenting or talking directly to the camera. Since I am working on building a business of my own, I figured I should have one, too.  So, I’ve spent a good amount of time talking to my computer, setting up a decent shot, thinking of what to say, and trudging through footage of a recent class I taught.

I was über unsuccessful. I wasn’t getting my point across and even I got tired of watching after a few seconds. I just couldn’t see how anyone was going to be compelled enough to keep watching and hear my message.  (The video I shared last week is in direct response to my lack of success in this other medium).

Then it hit me. This is not what I do. It’s like being stuck on that podium at IAAPA. I realized my strength was in the live performance, so I should concentrate on that. Luckily, I’ve also had good response to my writing, so that’s worth pursuing as well.

I found this to be extremely motivating, because my efforts to do the same thing that everyone else was doing was not going well. I’ve never been one to blindly follow the pack, and maybe this was my wake-up call that I was trying to do just that.

If you have ever felt the same way, here are some questions for you to consider.

  • What are you good at?
  • Do you currently get to use your greatest talents in your job/career?
  • What do you do that may seem effortless to you, but is a struggle for others?
  • Have other people said, “You know, you would be great at X”… but X is something you’ve never considered?
  • Are you trying (and not being successful) at something right now that isn’t really “you”?

As you move through your career, these are good questions to keep in mind.  Over the years, the answers can change, and that’s okay.  In fact, trying new things and working at additional skills is how we grow and get better at what we do.  I am certainly not saying we shouldn’t try new stuff.

I am suggesting that while we are trying new stuff (and maybe struggling with it), don’t forget about what it is that you do well.  For me, I’ll keep writing and performing live until I can master talking to my computer.

Thanks for reading.