Bad Day Good Management GM Diaries #7

Posted in GM Diaries by Bill Parslow on Tue 8 August 2017

The Bad Day

This is a genuine GM diary post in the sense that I had one of those days the other day. A day when I didn’t much fancy going out and introducing and guiding and generally encouraging five groups an hour apart.We all get those days, whatever place you work I’m sure.

I’d stocked up with the flask of green tea, chocolate raisins, gourmet sandwich - comfort food. I had something to read (I find I listen for cues as to what is going on rather than watch on the CCTV).

Now given how much I have banged on about customer care it would be a bit rich if I suddenly threw it all in the air and was less than the perfect host for our players. So even if it is grudgingly, unwillingly, bad temperedly you have to keep going and give them the best possible experience. Well that’s what I said to myself.

So I girded my loins and put that extra bit of effort in to pick up my mood. Some of that involved making my character a little bit more abrasive and combative than before “Really!? Really you are asking in me in now? Have you no self respect or shame?”. For those that could take it obviously, but they loved it.

Softening the blow

It made me think however about what people do with GMs working for them. Given that you’ve done the best you can to select the right people (I might write a piece - well several I think, on interviewing, which is often best defined as the meeting of two people (or more) who really don’t know what to say to one another), what can you do to keep their energy and commitment up on those days when they are not in tip top condition? Teamwork doesn't stop when you're on your own. One of the saving graces of my GM role is a What's App connection with colleagues where I can bitch, moan and comment in complete safety

This does come down to the management skills of the Escape Room owner. I think it’s essential that you have strongly motivated happy employees who are satisfied in what they are doing and happy to work for you.

A Management Meditation

So, Escape Room employers, take a step back and think carefully about each employee, call them up in your mind’s eye, remember the last conversation you had with them. Do the same if you are the employee not the owner.

If thinking of your boss/ GM brings a slight smile to your face, if you can easily envisage them, if your last conversation with them was either fun or had depth and meaning (without going too deep here - we’re talking about functional staff relationships here not therapy!) then, probably, things are going to go well almost every time. It’s the quality of your relationship that, even above the money and the conditions, are what people are likely to value, and are likely to make them feel valued too.

Management Skills

So how do you foster those kinds of relations? It’s one of those things that is made up of many different aspects - fairness, making sure rotas are well planned, making sure the fabric of the tools they have are maintained. Every so often it is worth taking a kind of audit of how you relate to all your employees in areas like this - how well are they supported?, how quickly are problems like broken props resolved. For larger companies you can use simple tools like surveys and keeping communication lines open so that someone at the lowers levels feels they can contact the owners.

This will benefit your business no end( and let’s not forget that Escape Rooms, while they maybe fun to run are businesses)- we can see that happy GMs contribute hugely to how your Room is received. And also, when you need to ask that little bit extra (“Can you fill in for this Saturday night?”) they will, or when your GM is just a little bit under the weather, they still perform.

It also a huge benefit to the GM - whenever you as GM put yourself out, pick yourself up off the floor on a bad day and just get in there and do it, because these are great people you work with and for, it will boost you no end.

Keeping in touch

Small companies can be great places to work, full of strong and positive relationships, but that does take work and attention and above all it means building and maintaining relationships - actually communicating with people as much as you can. I’ve had a long mix of jobs, been part of teams, been responsible for from five to a hundred and fifty staff and I’ve made my share of mistakes.

Where I’ve been successful though is where I always remembered to “walk the floor”, to keep in touch with people. Even when I had sixty staff, when they were all in one place I think I said good morning, at some time, to every person there. When it got above fifty, with staff spread over the city I worked it was obviously more difficult, but it was crucial that I made the effort to see everyone at least once every few weeks. Contact is all!

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Bill Parslow

Author photo for Bill Parslow

Bill Parslow is an escape room GM, writer and storyteller. Being a game master/game show host ticked a number of his boxes and he still rather enjoys it.

Bill is Tom's dad (the Founder of Buzzshot) and it was his experience working in a local Escape Room that led to Tom developing the Buzzshot software.