If you have been reading my blog for awhile (especially this post from 2012), or you have read The Myth of Employee Burnout, you may be familiar with a guy named Dallas Hobbs. I originally met Dallas when we both worked at Universal Orlando, and I am glad to say we have kept in touch in the years since we both left.
Dallas is now the Guest Services Manager at The Fountains Resort in Orlando. We exchanged a few emails the other day, and he mentioned how he had taken over a team at the Fountains and was able to really turn them around.
But he didn’t tell me HOW!!!
So I asked. Here is what he said. If you are leading a new team, or if you are struggling with team morale, take note. Take lots of notes.
“The how was actually simpler than I thought it would be. One of the first things I did after being trained at their jobs and spending time on all 3 shifts with them, was to start 1-on-1’s. Dedicated time that each associate could spend with me, uninterrupted, each month. Very quickly I learned the problem was trust. Not that they thought the person next to them was a liar, but trusting that they were doing their job. Common phrases from my PBX operators would be, “Front desk is out there doing X instead of Y!” Or “PBX isn’t picking up because they are playing on their phones!” Even though they are all the same team, one department. They talked as if they didn’t know each other.
So several things had to happen. First everyone went though refresher training so they all knew that everyone knew what to do and how to do it. Then they all spent 2 days shadowing other departments learning what they go through (housekeeping, activities, F&B, engineering). Then the segmented schedule became one giant schedule. Regardless of position or shift, we were going to be one team, even if only on paper.
Very slowly I started rotating people into different positions. Though some were better or more comfortable in specific roles, I needed them to occasionally experience the rest of the department. This was the rough one because no one likes their schedule messed with or going outside their comfort zone. So of course I had a few ruffled feathers. Again the 1-on-1’s were key here. Positive and individualized encouragement helped those through the process. Change management 101. As well as opening the lines of communication. Simply encouraging each other to talk!
I also began hiring differently than my predecessor. Before they hired experience and resumes. I hire people and personalities. Hiring people I know would get along with the people I already have and be a part of my team. Which meant passing over very qualified candidates.
However, trust takes time. We’ve all lost trust in someone or something and only time will win that trust back. So I could not force it over night. Which was the hardest part. Sitting back and telling my superiors and HR that it’s working, just give it time. Looking back now it didn’t take too much time at all. In 2 months my scores did a 180 and have been climbing ever since. In our score system, we celebrate single digit increases because it takes a lot to move that needle. I had increases of 15% points over previous months. In fact my summer scores are the highest in the history of the resort. And they are the highest year to date. In the middle of the 100 days of summer, my team is crushing it. (By the way, I’ve not lost a single associate all summer. #BurnoutIsAMyth)
They are no longer focused solely on their individual jobs but are helping those next to them. And even doing more work to make the next shifts job easier. I have associates seeking out MORE work to do, on their own. Simply because the shift prior to them did the same.
Now there is more to it than just trust. Empowerment, empathy, etc. are all key elements to a great team, but the major issue at the start was simply trust.”
Dallas built trust through communication and stirring things up a bit. Sometimes complacency, although comfortable, can be the biggest enemy of progress, productivity, and yes, trust. Thanks for the insight, Dallas!!
If you have a story or experience that might help others and would be willing to share it, please email it to me here.
Distinguished author, speaker, and industry veteran Matt Heller can sum up what he does in three simple words: Helping Leaders Lead. Matt’s firm, Performance Optimist Consulting, has worked with some of the largest attraction operators in the United States, including Six Flags, Cedar Fair, Universal Studios, Apex Parks Group, and Herschend Family Entertainment, along with countless other parks, zoos, museums, and aquariums. Matt focuses on leadership development, guest service training, eliminating employee burnout, and reducing turnover.