Keeping the Line Moving
Last month I had the opportunity to talk with the “Guru” of the Houston Galleria Mall Parking. We were having a nice chat about his parking operation when he said something that felt like a well-placed one-liner delivered just for me.
The comment wasn’t necessarily profound or life-changing, but it seemed to be a wise guiding principal, not just in parking, but in life. Jeff said, “It doesn’t matter how long the line is at the exit, as long as it’s moving, the customers are happy.” Hmm.
I didn’t know at the time why it resonated so strongly, but it left me with the determination to unwrap that single sentence. I wanted to more fully appreciate how this simple insight touches many, or nearly all, of our psyches as living beings. Note: I didn’t say human beings but living beings!
Before I go any further, I can feel the eyerolls from all of you, my parking experts. I can hear you saying “DUH!” right now, but that’s because you’re an expert in parking. Not to mention, you’ve been battered and bruised by a line that wasn’t moving, and you’ve learned that the key to survival in the parking business is to keep the line moving. Much like a shark.
As a parking survivalist, you’ve learned to adapt to your environment and survive, just like the apex predator of the ocean. It’s well-known that some sharks must stay in continuous motion to breathe, and therefore survive. Great White Sharks are pelagic sharks that rely on ram ventilation, i.e., the movement of water over their gills, to oxygenate their lungs. But I digress.
Keeping a line moving, or showing forward momentum, in an exit line in a parking garage isn’t the only way this simple, yet powerful, axiom impacts our lives. It affects teams, organizations, relationships and nearly every facet of that magical elixir called “mojo.”
If you’ve watched a basketball game during March Madness you’ve come to instinctively recognize a momentum swing, where a single key bucket, or a single bad turnover, can cause the mojo of a game to shift and create a tidal wave of positive energy that carries a team to victory. It’s forward momentum; it’s positive energy; it’s infectious and critical to creating confidence and victory.
Most of us have never had the opportunity to do anything except watch a basketball game, to benefit from, or be doomed by, that shift in momentum, but we all work for organizations where the same dynamic exists every day. An organization moving forward, making positive strides toward, and achieving its goals, makes organizations fun to work with and in.
I’ve been fortunate to have worked in large and small companies where forward momentum, or the lack thereof, either made or broke the organization. When I co-founded a cloud computing company in 2006, we actually took a step back to offer a well-established service called co-location for a short time - to do what? To create forward momentum and bridge the gap between the past and the future. As leaders, we knew we had to get the organization moving – we were stuck on “zero” and it was hurting morale – we needed to get some quick wins to get the mojo going and to boost the morale and confidence of our employees. We needed to keep the line moving! That forward momentum carried us to new heights and set the organization on its way toward success.
However, this dynamic isn’t reserved just for a team or organization, it goes deeper.
We all know the heart of a great business is its people. As individuals, we all want to feel like we’re advancing our careers and moving forward. Last year, 33 million people left their jobs in what now is being called “the Great Resignation.” Experts believe the two large forces at play, creating the turnover, were: 1) a vast number of openings and 2) a lack of fulfillment in a job. I’m willing to bet a big chunk of those individuals felt like they were working for an organization that wasn’t moving forward or offered them no opportunity for forward movement in their careers. Of course, we know the pandemic had a lot to do with that – businesses weren’t moving forward, they were simply hanging on for survival.
As leaders of organizations, we need to help our employees see their future as one where they can advance their knowledge, their careers and continue to move forward. We need to help our teammates see the value they bring to an organization, and we need to help them see how they can continue to grow personally. Our industry does a great job of delivering seminars and programs to help individuals learn more about their trade and improve their skills. This is one way we can help them stay engaged and retain our best and brightest. Invest in their future and they’ll feel forward momentum and show up every day ready to work!
Speaking of going to work, another big part of our people and our organizations thriving is to measure the tide of the industry. We all know that rising tides raise all boats and that industries are not immune to getting stuck and risking deterioration due to a lack of forward movement.
From my perspective, the parking industry is showing strong signs of positive momentum on several fronts. The pandemic appears to be winding down, and while we’re not completely out of the woods, there are strong signs that our lives are returning to normal. The first being that drivers are going back to our parking facilities in larger numbers than we’ve seen since 2019. The other way our industry is moving forward is through the digital transformation.
The principle states that even small progress toward a meaningful goal can be transformative to a team’s morale and motivation. As leaders, we need to set our people and organizations on a path toward slow and steady progress concurrently with this digital transformation.
It can be overwhelming to think about all the work that needs to be done to transform the parking world, so don’t focus on “all” the work, but focus on the next small thing or next small breakthrough that everyone is achieving to keep the forward momentum and mojo going! Sure, we have to show our teammates where it’s all leading with a clear vision, but the longest journey begins with a small step. We know from science, and our own instinct, that a small step forward means that the line is moving, and when the line moves, our customers and our people are happiest.
So, there you have it. Surviving and thriving in the parking business (and life) depends on our ability to keep the line moving for our customers and for our organizations. Creating and recognizing small wins and forward momentum are fundamental to keeping our people and our industry engaged and motivated to create a great parking experience for our customers and a fulfilling career in parking. Now, let’s get out there and “keep the line moving!”