Staying Connected Through Stories

October 10, 2011 2 Comments

Allen F. Weitzel has spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and is safety and traning manager at a California amusement park.

By Allen F. Weitzel

People ask me how I collect so many business and personal stories. Well, our family has been blessed with good memories and the ability to gather events from daily life; applying them to lessons learned.

Why Are They Needed

Social network organizations identified that we were becoming a socially fractured society. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, and the like are bringing people together. Businesses are retooling to make social networks functional inside the work place. However, companies like Facebook and Twitter only provide tidbits of dialog. What is missing are the meaty discussions that help employees learn and grow.

Then and Now

We need to look forward, but we can still learn from the past. Before the technology boon, I worked at two successful entertainment facilities: Frontier Village Amusement Park (www.frontiervillage.net) and Winchester Mystery House® (http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com).

It was before the time when each employee had an electronic pass card to enter the property. Management met the workers at the entrance and let them into the facility. Those moments lead to pre-work conversations about the previous day’s activities, stories about how tasks were completed and customer service incidents. These episodes being collected by management were re-told as training tools. Some stories were humorous and some not.

In operations today, facilities are automated and departmentalized. There are just as many stories, tales and work-related experiences out there, but there is no central place where the stories are collected and shared.

Why Stories Are Important

If trainers can collect stories and incorporate them into training programs, not only will they customize training to be specific to the operation, but also the employees will relate better to the message. Training is more effective when it is fun. For a half-day leadership class, I insert 12 to 14 stories with each one being a two-to-three-minute tale. Each story relates directly to the message being relayed. I insert new stories now and then. If I uncover a new example, I will use it to see how well it will be received. If a particular story does not work for most audiences, I remove it for a better one. Some stories, though well accepted, may become inappropriate as the times change. The more stories I can collect that are specific to our facility, the better. When workers remember the stories you tell in class, it helps them remember the principles they also learned.

Freshening stories on a regular basis helps employees enjoy the class the next time, when they go through your 24-month retraining of veteran workers.

An Example

Here is a story I tell about planning ahead. When I was a rookie supervisor, I discovered that on a busy Saturday, my two relief employees were wasting time and not all our employees received their allotted breaks. I was furious! The next day when the relief guys came in to work, I fired both of them. Then it hit me! There was no one left to do relief except me! I had failed to plan ahead!

Story Collection

When using a story obtained from a co-worker, be careful not to insult anyone when retelling it. You should even ask permission to use their story. You might poke a little fun at nameless guests you have encountered years before, but never poke fun at or insult an employee. If you do, employees will stop providing you with material, the fun of attending your classes will disappear, and your reputation will be tarnished. Mostly, use stories that are original to you and poke fun only at you. Sharing your personal stories will impress your trainees and show that you, too, are human.

Communication

Once the word gets out that your training sessions are fun, personalized and educational, employees will communicate with you more often. They will share stories, and this synergy will bring you closer to your staff. Training classes send a message that you value the employees and you want them to learn and improve the work that they do. If you offer all the elements of a world-class learning experience, employees will give their best efforts when handling the daily task of serving your guests.

Links:

There are many training resources available to our industry. Always research and select outside trainers that fit your style and philosophy of training.

Practical Productivity Solutions

http://www.pracprosol.com/

Creative Operational Concepts

http://www.creativeoperationalconcepts.com/index.htm

International Theme Park Services

http://www.interthemepark.com/

Back
2 Comments to “Staying Connected Through Stories”
  1. Paul Warren says:

    Dear Allen: I can relate to your article and comments. I have the
    nice situation where many of my employees drop into my office from
    time to time to grab a piece of candy from the candy jar and we chit
    chat on an informal basis. They tell me what’s happening in their
    area, and we share stories. I usually learn more from the them, but
    once in awhile I’ll share a story from my past which helps them in
    solving a problem or learning something new about life, business,
    people, or themselves. I applaud your approach of keeping the
    lines of communication open by encouraging one-on-one dialogs.
    It is important for good business communication. Great article.

    • Paul, Thanks for the compliment It looks like you have the management/employee communication situation dialed in. Managers can learn more from workers when there is no planned agenda for conversation, rather than a pre-set, pre-scheduled meeting. I used the snacks for employees system for years. It only backfired once, when I had my office door open one night after closing and a big, fat raccoon from the park came in looking for a handout. I had to re-think my treat storage location, and “who gets handouts” policy. Mama raccoon was not about to take “no” for an answer. Thanks for your support. Best, Allen

Sponsors

Tokens Direct

A wide variety of tokens.

Broaster Co., The

Food programs and food service equipment.

Knight Equipment

Drive cables for ferris wheels, Tilt-A-Whirls, Rock-O-Planes and many others.

International Special Events (ISERA)

Risk purchasing group, a better way to purchase liability insurance, specializing in inflatables and much more.

Empex Water Toys

Aquatons Water Toys

Rio Syrup

Over 250 flavors, syrups and concentrates for shaved ice, sno cones, shushes, food colors. Now featuring Hawaiian Flower Cups.

Poly Products

Tables, benches and related products. Green products for a green world.

Look Solutions

Fog machines.

Penny Press

Penny souvenir machine, great for parks, FECs, bowling and skating centers, museums and tourist attractions.

CFX Composite & Effects

Special effects make-up and prosthetics

Lakeshore Merchandise (Smart Vending)

Premier vending supply for all of your vending equipment and supply needs.

Chestnut Identity Apparel

Uniform supply, embroidered apparel and flag manufacturing.

Precision Dynamics (PDC)

Wristbands with no hidden costs, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Wristband System.

Subway

Fresh food and sandwich options.

Comstock - Castle Stove

Commercial cooking equipment.

See Coast Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Coin-operated binoculars and telescopes.

Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM)

Premier entertainment consultants.

Jane Farrell Turf and Carpets, Inc.

Commercial carpet, printed and decorative patterns, loop and cut-pile construction. Wall coverings in fluorescents, Class A fire rated. Colored turf, both traditional and neon colors.

Perfect Fry

Innovative and simple-to-operate countertop deep fryer Perfect Fryers.

Klopp International, Inc. (Playmeter)

Quality coin counters and sorters.

Art Attack

Theming, miniature golf, parade floats, 3D props, air-brushed murals, signage and art panels.

Zebec Water Sports

Large variety of waterpark needs

R&R Creative Amusement Design

Designers of unique themed parks, attractions and environments for the entertainment business.

Wisdom Industries, Ltd.

Amusement ride manufacturer, new and used rides.

Adventure Glass

Unique paddleboats.

Castle Golf, Inc.

Planning, design and construction of miniature golf courses and family fun parks.

Flagship Carpet

Custom carpets and rugs.

Northeast Insurance (NIC)

Insurance programs.

Playsmart

Patented soft play design, soft playgrounds.

Kay Park Recreations Corp.

Picnic tables, grills, park benches, planters, trash containers and more.

Birthday University

Concept development, training and birthday party touring seminars.

Tube Pro

Waterpark tubes.

Weldon, Williams & Lick

Admission systems and wristband ticketing.

Richie's Italian Ice

Italian Ice Kiosks and Carts

Mahoning Valley Mfg.

A complete line of Imperial strollers, wagons and safari utility vehicles.

West Coast Netting, Inc.

Experienced netting manufacturer on the leading edge of innovation.

Barron Games

Redemption air hockey games.

Safari Ltd.

Leading manufacturer of innovative educational toys.

Action Lighting Co.

Lighting supplies.

Omega Carpets

Printed carpeting for all your facility needs.

Davis & Davis, Inc.

Planning consultants for wet/dry attractions, mini-golf, go-kart tracks and laser arenas.

Funovation

Laser maze challenge

Coast to Coast

Coin-operated entertainment, crane machines.

Ride Development Corp.

Electric floor, gas and battery-powered bumper cars.

Gold Medal Products Co.

Concession equipment, foods and beverages, popcorn, pretzels and snack foods.

Beckman Insurance Agency

Amusement attractions insurance.

U.S. Bowling

Award-winning independent company brings bowling to your venue.

Gerber Manufacturing, Ltd.

Outdoor furniture, benches, picnic tables and grills.

Stoelting
LMap Powered by Silvercrest
Premier Polysteel
Spectrum Sports
Cannonball Blaster
Funovation
Empex Water Toys