May 3, 2011 1 Comment
I absolutely loved my job at Laser Quest. At LQ, we got a chance to have fun with our customers. Even during stressful shifts where everything was running behind and pizza deliveries were late and birthday moms were demanding, we found a way to have fun with it. It was one of those jobs where I hung out with my friends all day, entertained some kids, and then got a check at the end of the week and thought “I get paid for this?!” I really cared about my job and doing it well, and eventually my passion earned me a job as an Assistant Manager.
Even though I owe Tracey a lot of credit for taking an interest in my potential, it was our next General Manager, Nancy, who promoted me. In 2002, shortly after my 18th birthday, I became an to Assistant Manager. I had been at Laser Quest for about a year and I was still in my senior year of high school – that becomes important later.
I thought that being promoted to Assistant Manager meant 3 things:
- More money
- More money!!!!!!!!!!! (This one was exciting)
- Only having to do things I wanted to do, and delegating things I didn’t want to do
I quickly found out it meant a lot more than that. First of all, I found out that the reason they had waited until I was 18 to promote me was that this was the youngest age at which I could be held legally responsible for anything that happened on my watch – money missing from the safe, negligence injuries, etc. Holy responsibility, Batman! That three $3/hour raise wasn’t going to cut it if I got sued, so I figured I should probably start caring about what happened on my shifts.
The delegating thing didn’t work out so well either. I was managing people on nights and weekends, and seeing them in Spanish class in my high school during the week. When I first started, my former peers held a lot of resentment for me. The resentment was not because of my position. In fact, one of the reasons I was promoted in the first place was because I had a lot of influence among the rest of the crew members. I quickly lost any influence I had when they realized I wasn’t willing to do the things I asked them to do. I made the rookie mistake of using my position to influence, rather than continuing to lead by example which had earned me their respect in the first place. I had totally lost their respect and earned resentment in its place.
I didn’t immediately recognize what the issue was. I got frustrated during my shifts when crew would disappear just when I needed a birthday room cleaned or codenames entered into the computer. Even though we were good friends outside of work, it was getting difficult to run a smooth shift. One day, I figured out why. I arrived to work early in the middle of a busy Saturday. I put on the headset we used to communicate with the crew member managing the game in the back, and overheard two crew members who didn’t know I had come to work yet, and who were also my friends outside of work, groaning about the fact that I would be the manager on duty for the night.
I. was. pissed. For the rest of that night I steamed and gave them plenty of reasons to hate working for me – I was a high school girl so it was only natural for me to react very passive aggressively! Then I realized how miserable I was. I had made my job tougher because people hated working for me. Worst of all, I had made my life tougher because I had made my friends hate working for me, and I resented them for it. It definitely hurt our friendships. It didn’t come immediately, but once I realized I should stop ignoring that feedback and realize that for once, “it’s not you, it’s me,” might have been true, I repaired our friendships and became a better leader and manager. I’m not sure if I ever fully restored the respect I started with, but once I started cleaning the bathrooms and emptying the trash cans myself, my life (and hopefully theirs) got a lot easier.
John C. Maxwell, author of The 360° Leader, says: “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” I would add that it’s equally important for a passionate leader who ends up in a position of power not to allow that position to overshadow their passion. It’s easy to be given a position on the basis of your passion and think “Whew, this will sure make my influence a lot easier.” In fact, it will make it a lot harder. Because you have been elevated to a title you will have to constantly prove that you earned it. Always remember to lead by example, be willing to do anything you ask others to do (and show it!), and never take the respect of others for granted.
(PS – the picture is from Halloween 2002, Laser Quest was not ordinarily full of cobwebs…)