How Trust in My Journey Changed Everything

"Trust is the highest form of human motivation."  -AMP Up1 Culture Values

10 years ago I made a choice.  It was a choice that would alter the trajectory of my career and my life.  

I started in the hospitality industry as a dishwasher, and at that point in my career I was General Manager of a busy sports bar in the city.  Unfortunately, I reached a point where I believed I was no longer growing. I didn’t believe I could learn any more and it was no longer challenging.  I needed a change.

The need for change was made more urgent because my family life was undergoing major changes as well.   My wife and I were expecting our first child.  I needed to do something that would put myself in the best possible situation to take care of my family.

A mentor of mine had recently interviewed for a concept, but was not willing to accept a lesser role.  After hearing what he had to say about his experience, and doing some research, I believed it was a challenge I would be open to, so I applied.

The interview process was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  It was about 6 hours and was more of getting to know Josh Rossmeisl (VP of Operations at the time) and the team (4-5 other leaders) than it was an actual interview. It was a great experience.  All the values of the company aligned with mine.  

Maybe the most memorable part of the interview was when Josh asked me what I wanted to do in the future, and I told him I wanted his job.  To my surprise, he responded to this by putting his keys on the table, and informed me that he would do everything he could to get me to that point.  My growth would mean that the business had grown and more locations would have opened.  My growth and success were viewed the same as the company’s growth and success. 

I felt a connection to the team and culture, this is where I wanted to be, so I accepted a lower position to get into the company to be part of the team.   

During the interview  process I also informed them that my wife and I were expecting our first child, my son Lucas, so I would need some time off in the near future.  They were supportive and it was understood that the time off would be unpaid as I would not have been there long enough to accrue any paid time off.

When I returned from my four week  leave, I returned to two surprises.  One was a gift from the team.  A wonderfully unexpected gesture.  The second however, was so puzzling that I even believed it to be a mistake.  It was a check for me.  I understood the leave to be unpaid, so I went to Josh, the COO, and he assured me that they do not make mistakes with checks like that.  It was an investment in me and our future together. 

This was an incredibly inspiring and motivating experience.  I found a company that didn’t only “talk” about taking care of their people, they ACTUALLY did it.  It wasn’t about the money, but the trust that made the gesture so powerful. The trust that we were partners for the long-haul.   I wanted to work harder than ever to let them know their trust in me was warranted.  

The following 6 months were the hardest I have ever experienced in my professional life.  Opening a dizzyingly busy 20,000+sq ft facility while raising a newborn was no small task.  However, it was made more rewarding by the bond I felt with my new team.  This is what I wanted.

On a Monday morning on my day off, while Lucas' mom was  grocery shopping, I was holding Lucas when I received a call from Josh.  This was unusual as he was typically very respectful of our time off.  He had an opportunity for me.  It was the opportunity I came into the company for, to be a General Manager, but it had a twist, it was in Orlando, Florida. 

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Without hesitation, with the gesture of the check 6 months prior still fresh in my mind, I told him yes.  The only condition was that I’d need to get my wife’s approval before I officially packed up our bags  and moved us across the country.  Pay, perks or benefits never crossed my mind.  The team had already demonstrated they would take care of us, I had trust that they would do the right thing.

She returned home 30 minutes later, and we had the discussion for about another 30 minutes.  I called Josh back and officially told him “YES”.  The next day we booked a flight to Orlando to find a place to live, and a week later we made the 24 hour drive down to move to  sunny Orlando.

I know that the move would have scared a lot of people, and for others it would have been a powerful negotiation ploy to leverage more money.  When the opportunity to move to Orlando presented itself, I didn’t think twice.  Our trust and relationship were already cemented.  

From Day 1, I was honest with Josh and the team, and they were honest back. They gained my trust by the way they treated me and my family and a big generous act that no other company would have done.  They listened to me and my situation, baby on the way, wife not working, and knew that I could certainly use the money.  Most companies wouldn’t have thought twice and would have been relieved to not pay me.  Instead, they didn’t want my finances to be a distraction, they wanted me to focus on learning the new company I was joining.

Epilogue

I kept the business card Josh gave me on the day of the interview.  It was a very special day for me when I was promoted, and my business card had the same title his card had on that day.  Vice President of Operations.  Trust is the highest form of human motivation.

 
 
 
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Top 5 Pitfalls of New Leaders

"CONFIDENCE YOU KNOW EVERYTHING WILL MAKE YOU AN IDIOT." -AMP Up1 Values

Did you just promote a new leader on your team? Are you newly promoted yourself?

The adjustment is challenging for all parties involved.  Learning the new responsibilities and understanding the evolving relationship dynamics alone are a lot to handle.  Even with the best of intentions and support, new leaders stumble.

The growth process for new leaders is full of potential hidden stumbling blocks that we call “pitfalls”.  

When it comes to leadership development, we always liked to lean into common pitfalls.  We knew they would come up, so why not try to prepare the new leader for them?  We found that sharing “why” they occur and practicing pre-decision allowed our new leaders to better navigate their training process. 

Here are 5 common pitfalls of new leaders and how they can be avoided and overcome:

The Illusion of Knowledge

“Avoid the “illusion of knowledge” and be very self aware. Your team looks up to you and trusts you. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”.”  -Josh Rossmeisl

To prove that they deserve the new position, the newly promoted leader believes they need to prove that they “know things”.  Being a manager means they must be an expert, obviously.

This pitfall rears its head when a team member asks them a question, and they DON’T know the correct answer.

The last thing a new leader wants is to say “I don’t know” when a team member asks them a question.  It would crush their ego.  Instead of admitting they don’t know, they lie.  They make up an answer that sounds good enough, and try to skate by on this illusion of knowledge.

All this really accomplishes is slowing the team down and ruins their credibility with the team.


The great irony is that the person asking for help often understands better than the person lying, so they know the new leader is lying.  Respect is lost instantly.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s important that you provide psychological safety to the new leader.  Remove the pressure of them believing that they “need” to know.  Nothing bad will happen to them if they don’t know, and the appropriate response to give when they don’t know is to say “I don’t know, but let’s go find out together”. 

This vulnerability is easier said than done, but their honesty will build trust with the team over time.  Losing your integrity is worse than not knowing.

“Your word is everything. Don't overpromise and under deliver. There is nothing more important than your team.”  -Leo Neves

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Fire Fighting

It feels good to solve problems.  We all want to be the hero.  Early, it is appealing to new leaders to take pride in, and seek out opportunities to “fix” things.  To “put out fires”.  It’s where they find validation for the effort they are putting in.  They are there to save the day!

They are completely unaware of the things they miss as they are constantly in crisis resolution mode.  Resolving problems gets confused with actually solving them.

The challenge is to change perspective.  The job of the leader isn’t to put out “fires”, but to prevent them from happening.   This doesn’t come with a lot of recognition early on, but over time, they will see their credibility grow.   The win isn't getting credit for the save, it’s for protecting your team from the problem occurring to begin with.

Encourage reflection when something does go wrong, challenge them to understand “why”, and take action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

Time Management

Time is finite, but we don’t properly account for it and often overcommit it.  You don’t get back sleep you miss and you don’t get more time to accomplish a task as the deadline approaches.  A week is a week, a day is a day and an hour is an hour.

New leaders love to overcommit, but are consistently behind simply because nobody has shown them how to structure their time.  They don’t feel safe enough to say “no” to an ask if they cannot properly contribute.

If a project has a 5pm deadline on Saturday, but you know that business dictates you will not have any admin time on Friday or Saturday, you need to know that your real deadline is Thursday and you must plan accordingly.

Time must be approached with intentionality.  When new leaders are given deadlines, it’s not enough to just let them walk off and hope they get it in on time.  You need to look at their week strategically and help map out when time can be blocked for that project.

There are few more important skills you can teach than helping someone audit their time.

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What got me here, will get me there.

There is a strong belief that the behaviors and actions that they exhibited are what got them promoted, and that’s true.  The fallacy is in believing that continuing those same behaviors will be good enough at the next level.

There is a humility necessary to step back and realize that leadership has very little in common with your previous position.  It’s great to want to build on the traits and virtues that made you successful, but the aim of the job is different.  

Being in an hourly position, you’re worried about your success.  When you become a leader, it becomes about the team’s success.  You need to be the team’s needs before your needs.

There are countless skills to refine and develop, and until you are humble enough to understand that your growth is just beginning, you will find yourself at a frustrating plateau where you struggle to find fulfillment.

“Shut up and listen. There may be an instinct to prove yourself and justify the faith the team has put in you through your promotion. That said, you are in this position because that's already been recognized! Now it's time for growth. Focus on learning mode, understanding processes and adopting best practices before trying to shake things up.”            -Doug Warner

Respect your training process.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  A beginner’s mind and a commitment to personal growth while putting the team’s needs first are the secret sauce for overcoming this complacency.

Someone Else Will Do it

There is a natural inclination to be passive in situations that seem to be “above my paygrade” and an assumption that someone else will take care of the problem.  Things slip by as surely somebody else will notice.

Safety is once again important, in that the new leader needs to know that if they make a mistake, that you will help them calibrate.  If they fear for their jobs if they make a wrong decision, you will find them in a perpetual state of indecision. 

They are going to make mistakes and it is okay as long as your decisions were guided by our values and lessons were learned from them.  Trust their instincts and make a decision.  Ask for help.  It’s part of the growth process.

This impacts the team as well.  Each time a leader assumes that someone else will address a coaching situation, so they don’t, their silence is approval.  What we permit, we promote.  They are viewed as a leader and as “somebody”.  Their actions are as meaningful as their inactions.

 

Leadership growth and development is a process and must be approached by all parties with vulnerability and candor.  Remove the fear by providing psychological safety, promote constant communication and guided reflection.  Embrace these learning opportunities and give the pitfalls a positive value on your leader’s growth and development.

 

 
 
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The $100,000 Salt & Pepper Shaker

Empowerment is an oft-used buzzword.  Everyone wants to believe they empower their teams, but the proof is in the behaviors of their team members.  

The enemy of empowerment is the mentality of “just doing my job”.  Team members walking a tightrope of compliance, just trying to stay out of trouble.  Those team members are memorable to guests for the wrong reasons.

The alternative, genuinely empowered team members, are the ones that make our experiences memorable.

Here is an unforgettable story about the results of empowerment:

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The $100,000 Salt and Pepper Shaker (Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture)

Over 35 years ago, when Randy was 12 and his sister 14, their parents took them on a vacation to Disney World.

Towards the end of the vacation, their parents allowed Randy and his sister 90 minutes to explore the park by themselves without being monitored. They all agreed on a spot to meet.

Randy and his sister wanted to show their appreciation to their parents for the trip and especially allowing them 90 minutes to explore by themselves.

They pooled their allowance money and headed for the nearest Disney gift shop.

They soon found the perfect gift, a ten-dollar ceramic Disney salt and pepper shaker featuring two bears hanging off a tree, each one holding a shaker.

Randy and his sister were giddy when they left the store, excited to see their parent's faces when they opened the gift.

Minutes later, tragedy struck when Randy accidentally dropped the shaker and it broke on impact.

Randy and his sister were in tears. An adult guest in the park saw what happened and suggested they should take it back to the store. 

Randy knew it was his fault but he decided to go back to the store not expecting a positive outcome. After Randy had told the clerk what happened, both Randy and his sister were surprised and delighted when they were told they could get a new shaker. 

The Disney employee even apologized to them for not wrapping the shaker appropriately and gave them a new one…no questions asked.

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So Why is the Salt & Pepper Shaker worth $100,000?

When Randy’s parents learned of the incident, it really increased their appreciation of Disney World. 

In fact, that one customer service decision over a ten-dollar salt and pepper shaker would end up earning Disney more than $100,000.  That small act of kindness made an indelible mark on Randy’s parents that they would take to a whole other level.

Randy’s parents made visits to Disney World an integral part of their volunteer work. They had a twenty-two passenger bus they would drive English-as-a-second-language students from Maryland down to see the park. 

For more the 20 years, Randy’s dad bought tickets for dozens of kids to see Disney World. All in all, since that day, Randy’s family has spent more than $100,000 at Disney World on tickets, food, and souvenirs! That’s a pretty large return on investment…wouldn’t you say!

Later in his career as a consultant for Disney, Randy would often ask Disney executives this question:

“If I sent a child into one of your stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker today, would your policies allow your workers to be kind enough to replace it?”

Randy stated that “the executives squirm at the question. They know the answer: Probably not.”

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Every day, our teams are faced with similar opportunities.  How would your team handle a similar situation? 

What leads a team member to feel empowered enough to act as this Disney team member acted?  

There are two pillars to empowerment:  Psychological safety and defined values.

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“Trust is the highest form of human motivation.”  AMP Up1 Culture Values

It all starts with safety, and safety comes from trust.  Trust your team.  If a team member believes there will be negative consequences if they make a bad decision, they will err on the side of indecision.  When a team member makes a mistake, but acted within your company’s values, how did you respond?  Treat mistakes as an opportunity to calibrate and learn.  This safety will allow them to make good choices without fearing for their job. 

What set of values or principles guides your team’s decision making process?  What is their “north star” to consult when the situation in front of them is not covered in training?  Having clear expectations on how to behave gives the team member direction and confidence that their decision will be the right one.

If you’re a customer-centric company, your values should clearly state that your team’s actions should be customer-centric.  If you want your team to go “above and beyond”, reflect this within your values.  Which rules are okay to bend to make a guest happy, and which are non-negotiable?  If you have rigid policies, your team will act rigidly.

To empower your team, give them values and expectations, then trust them to do their job.  You never know which guest can be the next $100,000 salt and pepper shakers.  

Brand affinity is usually built when the guests experience is customized.  There is no cookie cutter guest and there is no cookie cutter experience.  Stay agile and break the rules (not law), more often!

“It’s okay to break the rules; just not the law.”  AMP Up1 Culture Values 
 
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The Two Rooms (Which do you choose?)

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away two brothers (Brother 1, Brother 2) were given land by their wise grandfather (King of the North).  The wise King was going to choose his successor based on how they handled their newly gifted land and subjects. 

Word soon spread of these two competing brothers, and dozens of young families looking for a new home ventured to this new land to become part of the Brothers’ new kingdom. 

The arriving subjects were tired and hungry. The two brothers informed them that they would be feeding them in two separate dining halls each had constructed.  The subjects could choose which Brother’s dining hall to dine in.

On the first night, as they were all hungry and as an opportunity to meet the two Brothers, the subjects would dine in each.

Room 1:  Brother 1 invited them to his room and displayed an amazing feast the likes of which most had never seen before. It was massive and plentiful spread with every meat imaginable, the finest cheeses, beautiful bread, and delicious wine.  They couldn’t believe their eyes when they walked into the room and saw the spread before them. “This brother MUST be our King. Look at how he treats us”, the subjects proclaimed as they looked over the sumptuous meal prepared. 

Brother 1 looked on proudly, soaking in their admiration, proud of his great feat.

Room 2:  Brother 2 had a very small, modest offering of a sandwich and some vegetables.  His “feast” was no feast at all. He had a small ration for each family member that attended which would barely satisfy the subject’s healthy appetites. “This guy can never be our King. He offers us each a small plate of food while his brother offers us a feast”. 

“I will provide a meal two times a day.  At sunup and sundown.  Nothing fancy and a limited supply for those who wanted to join me.” said Brother 2. 

The subjects all laughed at Brother 2 and ran back to Brother 1’s dining hall where they ate until they couldn’t eat anymore.  They applauded the first brother and chanted his name while he gleaned from ear to ear with pride for what he had done.  They all told him how much better his feast was compared to his brother’s meager rations and said they cannot wait to see what he does next.  

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The next night at sunset, after a hard day’s work they all lined up outside Brother 1’s dining hall and eagerly awaited their feast. They were excited for a repeat of the amazing spread they were treated to the previous night.  They pulled on the door handle and knocked on the door with no answer.  

Hours later, the room was still closed with no sign of the brother. “He must be hard at work preparing our feast” they all rationalized.  Another hour went by and there was no sign of the brother.  Another hour went by, then another.  Eventually, they gave up. Tired and hungry, they went to bed without any food.  

The next day, starving, they again lined up at Brother 1’s dining hall, believing that there would surely be a feast awaiting them.  Watching all of this happen from his own dining hall, Brother 2 greeted them and told them they were all welcome to join him for a small modest meal.  “My room will have two modest meals a day”, reminded the second brother. “They will not be fancy or large, but they will always be here for those who want them at sunup and sundown every day.”  

Begrudgingly, tired and hungry, the subjects went to Brother 2’s dining and took their rations without even a thank you to their “chef”. They left underwhelmed but fed.  

The subjects continued to line up outside of Brother 1’s dining hall.  Holding onto hope that the feast would reappear. again. Finally, on the 4th night, the doors to Brother 1’s opened as he apologized.  He was exhausted from the first feast and needed to source and prepare amazing food for his next feast to make his subjects proud and to receive their applause again.  

Once again, they cheered and chanted Brother 1’s name as he took his bow. They laughed and ate so much food they could barely walk home that night as they all fell in love with Brother 1 again and forgave him for disappearing on them for the previous three nights.  

Over the course of the next week, Brother 1’s dining hall didn’t open up again.  The subjects kept lining up and the door wouldn’t open. Eventually, as the families grew hungry, they started going to Brother 2, who ALWAYS provided modest meals twice per day. 

The pattern persisted.  Sporadically, and without warning, Brother 1 would unveil the most incredible feast.  To Brother 1’s disappointment, the number of families partaking dwindled each time.

After weeks of the same pattern, the subjects stopped lining up outside Brother 1’s dining hall at all as they never knew when they would be let into the room.  

They did know that Brother 2 was true to his word and did what he said he would do and fed them twice a day without fail.  “It has never been fancy, but it’s always there when we need it” they all agreed. 

The next time Brother 1 opened the door to unveil his feast,  there were no more subjects standing outside waiting to get in.  The subjects realized that Brother 1 was more focused on getting applause than simply feeding his people.  He’d exhaust himself in bursts while producing the feast, then he’d have to wait until he was inspired and motivated to do it again.

They knew where they could get two meals a day and as much as it wasn’t a feast, it was consistent.  They trusted the second brother more to take care of them as providing for them was what mattered to him.  The second brother was loyal to the subjects and they became loyal to him.  

“TRUST IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF HUMAN MOTIVATION.”  -AMP Up1 Culture Values

Brother 2 was eventually crowned the King of the land as his subjects came to trust and rely on him as their leader.  His grandfather, watching this from afar, gave him the land instead of his brother.  The newly crowned King remained true to his word and nourished his loyal subjects every day while they built a great kingdom together.  His subjects came to rely on him as their leader and respect him as their King.  


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When you rely on food for survival and you never know when you’re going to get that next feast, you will eventually stop relying on it. Knowing you’re going to get a few consistent “meals” each day gives us confidence, safety and builds trust. It removes what would otherwise be a constant stressor, allows you to plan your day, and avoids wasted time.  

The intensity of an inconsistent feast will leave you full for the moment but always wondering when you’ll get it again. In business, as in life in general, focus on delivering modest “consistent meals” every day instead of delivering a sporadic “feast”. 

Inconsistent bursts of energy and needing to constantly feel motivated to do the big task eventually lead to burnout. Your “subjects” will eventually stop trying to get into the room and follow the leader they know will be there when they need them most. 

If you are seeking applause and admiration, you're doing it for the wrong reason. Be persistent and consistent and focus on the process and not the “goal”. It’s more sustainable.  Be true to your word. Always do what you say you will do.  That is leadership.  


Who are you drafting onto your team for the long term?

  • The server who rings record sales but shows up late and calls out of work often... OR The server whose sales are consistently solid, but shows up every shift reliably and wants to learn?  
  • The outstanding talented football player who shows up to games but acts wildly and inconsistently...OR the rookie who shows up all the time and commits to learning and growing themselves?  

I’ll take someone who shows up on time (consistently) and is coachable versus the unreliable rockstar every time. Consistency vs. Intensity.  

 

 
 
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A Beginner's Guide to Mentoring

A boy stands on the beach, where hundreds of starfish have been swept up by the waves and stranded there to die. He’s throwing the starfish back in the water, one by one, so they can survive.

A grownup watches him for a minute from up on the boardwalk, and then yells down, “You can’t possibly throw all those starfish back in the water.

You could stand there all night throwing starfish — it won’t matter.”

The boy looks around, throws another starfish into the water, and says, “It matters to this one.”

Wouldn't the world be a better place, if we were all that boy, helping who we could?

Having a mentor is an important part of your professional career.  Having that person to provide guidance, answer questions and learn from really gives you an advantage and extra confidence.  The hard part is finding a mentor and both parties able to give the appropriate time to making it work.  

We love mentoring because it’s driven by the philosophy of Servant Leadership.  Servant leadership is a commitment to helping others be their best selves and that is a huge cornerstone of our organization’s philosophy.

When coaching and developing leaders, we found that simply showing them the job wasn’t enough in terms of giving them the time and tools to be great at their job.  The in-store coaching, while fantastic, wasn’t able to provide the outside perspective and attention needed to fully develop our new leaders.  The team in the store, rightly so, was focused on the store and had a business to run.  They were giving their trainees all their finite time that could spare.  

In order to combat this and give our new leaders more support, we decided to develop our own mentoring program.  

We carefully selected a mentor based on department, background and availability.  With more experienced new leaders, we wanted a mentor from another department and field.  For newer leaders, we wanted to cultivate a relationship with a leader in their department.  We also wanted mentors who would be able to dedicate consistent time to their mentees.

The key to the effectiveness of this relationship was the mentor/mentee connection.  Over time, we found some behaviors that were consistent among the most effective mentoring experiences.

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Be Persistent

You will not “connect” after one conversation or one act.  Small individual actions alone don’t help, but constantly repeating them over time has a tremendous impact. Schedule set times to talk and connect and ensure it happens. 

Send follow-up emails after your conversations to recap and so you can build on them.  Drive setting up the next call or meeting, take the pressure off them.

Build Confidence

Ensure a successful start to their process. Their first few goals set for the new leader should be home runs.  Assist in the goal setting process (goal setting can be difficult) and protect them from overly ambitious goals.

Remove Distractions

When you’re speaking with your mentee, be present.  Take a walk, go for coffee, be in a non-work setting if possible and BE PRESENT.   

Listen

People will talk more when they know they are being heard. Actively listen and engage, don’t just talk at them.  After the conversation, act upon what you learn to give your conversations value and display that you value what you’re hearing.


Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability is a loop.  To be on the receiving end, you need to put yourself out there first.  Mirror the vulnerability you want to see.  Being new is hard and there is pressure on the new leader to be “perfect” and “okay”.  Share mistakes you’ve made and insecurities you’ve had.  The more you’re able to humanize yourself, the more comfortable they will be sharing similar feelings.

Provide Safety & Support

Support them through their first mistakes (if they aren’t making mistakes, they aren’t trying hard enough).  Mistakes are part of learning.  It’s like falling when you’re learning to walk.  Allow them to see that they are okay and can get up again.

“Tell me more…”

They should be doing most of the talking and you won’t get the whole story with superficial questions.   Ask questions that allow them to elaborate and dig into their process as to why they did what they did.

 Share 

Share videos, articles or books that have helped you. This will give you great material to talk and give you insight as to how they view the world.

Value Time

Time is finite.  Help them understand the scale and scope of their time commitments.  Show them how to block their time and approach their week so they can be successful.

 

There is no secret sauce or "easy button" for effective mentoring.  It's not even a process that yields immediate results.  The process itself is an excercise in delayed gratification.  What we do know is that commiting to these mentor behaviors is a great start towards creating a productive mentor relationship and building a bond that lasts beyond the training process.

 

 

 
 
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