"You're Too Bubbly"
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
Let me tell you a story about the first critical piece of feedback I experienced in my leadership career.
I’ll set the stage by starting with a young, energetic, smiley 18-year-old who was fulfilling her dream of working at Disneyland. I was having the time of my life. I was making lifelong friendships. I was going to the Disney Parks almost every day after work to experience the magic myself. I had fully bought in to the Disneyland Resort vision and mission and was trying to live it each day. I was also experiencing my first year of college and feeling like a true adult. I was paying for rent, school, groceries, gas, and fun adventures. I was having the best year of my life.
Now let’s take you through a typical start to your day as a Disneyland Cast Member. When you would first clock in for your shift, you would look at the board to see who your Leads and Managers would be for that day. Depending on the name on that board, you would either feel excitement, or indifference. Some leaders kept their team’s experience a priority, while others kept themselves as number one. There were many names on that board that I would not look forward to. Rather, I was hoping they would live up to their reputation of not being in the area so I wouldn’t have to see them during my shift. However, I wasn’t getting paid to enjoy my leader’s company. I was getting paid to create the same experience for Guests that I enjoyed so much with my friends and family.
One day on that very board, there was a posting announcing the next round of Trainer and Lead interviews. I knew I wanted to apply for both positions. Following the advice of a trusted manager, I began to gather feedback from the current Lead team on what they were looking for in a teammate and what they thought about me applying for Lead. Many of the conversations were pleasant and went well. Some gave positive feedback and support, some gave helpful insights and constructive criticism, but one conversation with two particular Leads stopped me dead in my tracks. “You’re too bubbly to be a Lead.” So here I am, a happy and passionate Cast Member, yet to them that was a negative quality. To them, I was too happy to be a leader at The Happiest Place on Earth. Let that sit in for a moment…
Now, let’s continue. Being “bubbly” was a characteristic they thought would not make a good leader. I attempted to ask the follow up question of “why is that a bad quality for a leader?” however, their initial response was the end of the conversation. They quickly dismissed me and went on their way. They absolutely took the wind right out of my sails. After feeling discouraged, confused, and let down, I discussed this feedback with a trusted leader. We concluded that they possibly didn’t think I could handle challenging situations or give constructive feedback to other Cast Members. Maybe they felt I would be overly nice in situations where they needed a leader to be more direct. Truthfully, they had never seen me handle a Guest concern, so I can understand where that idea could come from. The point is their feedback came from somehow, I just unfortunately didn't know where.
Let's fast forward to one month later... I got the Lead position, and it wasn't because I changed my bubbly personality. Rather, I embraced it. I accepted who I was, but also l practiced adapting to my audience. I used that same curiosity and spent time getting to know my team and what they needed in their leader.
My intent for this story is to not for me to boast about getting my first leadership role and dismiss the shallow feedback I was given. I want you to know that there is a grain of truth in every piece of feedback that you get. So, I encourage you to ask more questions when answers aren't initially provided. My other objective is to teach leaders how to give constructive feedback. Giving honest feedback with the true intent of bringing up your peers and ultimately your team will only further your success. If however, you find a need to give constructive criticism on someone’s personality, you need to fully explain the reasons behind the criticism and give suggestions for improvement. As a leader, you have the privilege and the duty to make those around you better.
For those of you going through a similar situation, stay authentic to you. Be open to feedback, but also courageous enough to be curious about what you’re told. For the leaders that are reading along, I challenge you to use your words responsibly.
Until next time,