In 2008 I had the opportunity to move to Santa Fe New Mexico. I headed out there as the opening training manager for a resort that was slated to open up in early fall. I headed out in May and it was still hard hats, construction dust, and construction zone. For any of you who have opened up a resort, restaurant, or any business that involves contractors or employees…you could imagine that early fall soon became late fall. The other thing I’d like you to imagine is my mantra that I said constantly. That mantra was learning how to roll with the punches because the punches came at us daily. One after the other. By the time we had opened, it was about two months past schedule. The team was exhausted. We were frustrated. The associates who were hoped to start work two months previously were also frustrated and exhausted.
One of my main responsibilities was to have everyone go through an eight-hour new hire orientation. I was thinking about my situation and attitude at the moment and for the most part, I really saw this as an opportunity for all of us to be a part of this great opening. I also thought it was harder and harder to get to work and put a smile on my face though. I was realizing that the only moments that I actually was enjoying myself at that point were my 20-minute car ride from my house to the resort where I would blast music as loudly as possible and have a full-on dance party in my car. As I was designing this orientation I thought, “If this singing and dancing is working for me and putting a smile on my face, maybe it can work for the team!”
Here’s the tool I want to share with you today. The old happy song tool! Now some of you might be rolling your eyes and thinking “Oh my god, seriously so cheesy.” While it might be cheesy, I have to tell you it’s one of the most effective tools that I’ve ever shared with 500 people.
At the end of the orientation, I had everyone stand up in a circle. I told them, “You know no trust falls, no awkward touching.” What you do is think of the one song, no matter how bad a day you’re having, no matter how stressed out you are…the one song that when you hear those first few beats puts a smile on your face. We went around and we heard everyone’s happy songs. And, never failed, there were always multiple songs that made us all die of laughter just hearing the title.
Now besides that sharing, I also showed them how to use it as a tool to help choose their attitudes. At that point in time, it was super stressful and everyone was really frustrated and there were a lot of not so fun things happening. It was easy to sit there and say, “Just make the choice! Choose your attitude!” But what I realized was that we all needed to rely on each other, and to help each other when we were in that funk, to pull each other out and help make that choice towards the positive. I encouraged them, as they saw one of their teammates walking down the hallway looking glum, looking blue, looking mad, looking angry, to go up to them (knowing their happy song now) and say, “Hey you know what? Let’s go down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Take, take me home.” And soon both people would be smiling.
I have to tell you, throughout those first months when it was hard and tough, walking down the hallways and seeing the team poking each other, elbowing each other, and reminding each other of their happy songs was an amazing experience. And it works! Because in that second, when you think of that song that makes you tap your toes or put a smile on your face, you can’t help but think, “Huh this is going to pass,” or “Huh, there’s perspective around this.” So I encourage you, to think of your happy song. I encourage you to ask your team their happy song. When someone’s having a moment…having a day… give them a quick reminder that life is a highway and they really can ride it all night long.