Jim McCarthy was frustrated. He worked hard to hide the fact that his employees at Goldstar Events Inc. were one of the biggest reasons for his frustration. They just didn’t get it.
They were worried that a sudden surge in the number of competitors offering half-price tickets to live events was going to be too much for Goldstar to handle.
“Our employees and other people started thinking, ‘Are we going to be overwhelmed? Are we going to be ignored because of this massive wave of discounting everywhere?’” says McCarthy, co-founder and CEO at the 50-employee company. “I’ll confess it was mildly annoying to me that my employees just didn’t get it.”
What they didn’t seem to understand is that Goldstar had gotten pretty good at what it did and was well-positioned to deal with some competition.
“I realized I wasn’t doing enough to help them understand the picture,” McCarthy says. “My approach to that and the approach of our management team as a whole was to really center people back on a couple of things.”
McCarthy reminded his employees of the attributes that made Goldstar great and encouraged them to quit worrying about what other companies were doing.
“What I made very clear to people is, ‘Don’t be focused on the success or failure of other companies,’” McCarthy says. “It doesn’t help us for other companies to fail and it doesn’t hurt us if they succeed, unless we don’t do a good job. … You hear about the seven deadly sins. When you see a company growing like crazy and getting popular overnight and that kind of thing, one tends to be a little envious of that. But there is a reason why envy is one of the seven deadly sins. It’s not good, and it’s not helpful.”
McCarthy decided he needed to step up his game and unleash a barrage of communication through multiple mediums to convince his employees that as long as they continued to work hard, there was no reason to fear the competition.
“If you feel your communication is adequate or sufficient, you’re almost certainly undercommunicating,” McCarthy says. “I felt like if I was being a nuisance, it was probably just enough. Here’s what we represent, here’s why it’s good, here’s why it’s unique in the marketplace, and here’s why the success of others doesn’t necessarily make a difference to us one way or the other.”
Overcommunicating doesn’t just mean repeating the same message over and over again. Then you’re a nuisance that serves no purpose but to annoy your people.
“You have to show, not tell,” McCarthy says. “Don’t tell me we need to be distinct and stand on our own values. Show me an example of something we do that nobody else does. Show me that the feedback system we have on our events is unique. Show me that nobody has the ability to get as many venues on one site. If your strategy is coherent, you should be able to tie it all back to the same core ideas.”
Alignment is critical to getting employees to buy in to your message.
“If we’re saying our venue relationships are a critical part of our strategic success, but the group is understaffed and undertrained, the message is really hollow,” McCarthy says. “The objectives of the organization and the work that people are doing on a daily basis, it has to line up with what you’re telling them is important. If the things they’re being asked to do in their work don’t match up with it, it doesn’t work.”
Two years later, McCarthy’s strategic overcommunication onslaught has paid off and helped employees get their mojo back.
“Our growth has sped up and the organization is stronger than it’s ever been,” McCarthy says. “Now they get it.”
How to reach: Goldstar Events Inc., www.goldstar.com
Find your greatness
When an employee brings you a genuine concern, you need to resist the urge to blame that person or anyone else for the problem. It’s a lesson Jim McCarthy learned as he fielded employee worries about how competition might hurt business at Goldstar Events Inc.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a me problem and not a them problem,” says McCarthy, the 50-employee company’s co-founder and CEO.
“It’s like when you take your kid to the ice cream place and they sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ The employees have probably sung ‘Happy Birthday’ 50 times that day. But to your kid, it’s the one and only time. It’s very important if you’re in the ‘Happy Birthday’ chorus, that you sing it like it’s the first time. I try very hard that if someone asks me a question, I’m giving the information as though it were the first time I’m delivering it with that kind of thoroughness.”
As much as you may embrace the glory when you make a wise decision, you also need to embrace and respond to your own imperfections when you make a mistake.
“I wasn’t frustrated from the sense that I was annoyed that they were asking questions,” McCarthy says. “It just took me a little while to recognize that what I had was a management problem of my own.”