Amusement parkTrue confession time:  I have a real soft spot in my heart for amusement parks.  You see, I met my then-future-wife when we worked at a park for a summer in Denver.  We’ve reflected on that experience for nearly 40 years now.

So I was really interested to hear today’s episode of This American Life which was dedicated to the topic.

But this isn’t about the experience you get as a customer; what strikes me is the experience as an employee and supervisor.  Which is quite unique, let me tell you!

Please take a few moments to listen to the prologue and Act I of that episode.  It may just blow you away, especially if you’re struggling to keep your employees engaged in your own business.

The interviewee, Cole Lindbergh, does an amazing job of putting his employees – teenagers – in a space where they enjoy their work and pull in customers.  Remember that these kids are working long, long hours, in jobs that really can get boring quite quickly.  Basically every minute of every day can look the same, for an entire summer.

When I supervised a crew for that summer, I saw lots of turnover.  Parking cars in the hot sun for months on end just isn’t glamorous, believe me.  So it was challenging to create a positive environment for my team.  Especially when I was only 21 and had no idea what I was doing.

You’re perfectly right to object that engaging employees in craziness and fun games isn’t compatible with the culture in your business.  Totally get that.

But it’s important to notice some of the principles that Cole uses to energize his folks:

  • He’s “all in” and loves his work – to the point where it’s infectious.
  • He has create a whole bunch of team spirit and camaraderie.
  • He supports his employees in being creative and taking initiative.
  • At the same time, he steers them toward delivering business results, not just having fun.

So what does it look like when you apply these principles to YOUR business?

Go listen to the episode now or read the transcript.