Essential dialogue and dealing with difficult conversations are critical if you want your operation to remain focused, competitive and productive, and here’s why you can’t achieve success without them:
(Published by Infinity Gaming Magazine September 2020)
In part one of Essential Dialogue we concentrated on conversations with the GM, but with casinos operators all over the planet still facing a lot of uncertainty, essential dialogue is going to be necessary on every organizational level if casinos want to successfully adapt, thrive and maintain a high level of operational consistency. Each department will need to re-define their strategy in order to remain competitive, which might include: staff taking on more than one role in the department (or casino), reducing staff levels and even reducing the number of slots on the casino floor. In part 2 of essential dialogue we’re going to start a conversation with the marketing manager as some say that the last thing the slots manager needs is a marketing debacle courtesy of the ever-illustrious marketing department.
No matter how uncomfortable you might feel about essential dialogue, you need to step out of your comfort zone and engage in sometimes controversial conversations in order to address the fundamental issues that impede progress, put the brakes on productivity and inhibit success. Why? Because if you don’t, you could end your day, and your career, by being directly responsible for the failure of your slots department and possibly the entire casino. And how good would that look on your list of accomplishments as you queue up to be interviewed for your next job?
Even when knowing the dire consequences of inaction, many people still choose to remain silent during essential dialogue and avoid giving an opinion for fear of retribution. Others often resort to verbal violence to protect their power at any cost and may even resort to sneaky Machiavellian tactics such as encouraging negative feedback, hiding the truth, and throwing the slots manager under the proverbial marketing bus! However, those who understand the need for essential dialogue recognize its value and use it as an integral part of their improvement strategy.
Some say that part of essential dialogue is knowing and understanding the answers you seek before asking the big questions, and if the marketing manager doesn’t listen and take note while you’re engaging them in a difficult conversation, then success will remain an illusion and failure imminent. But, if you’re like me, you will want to work as a team, you might find the following examples of essential dialogue useful the next time you have to confront the marketing manager about yet another poorly planned, poorly executed and poorly measured, slots marketing blunder.
COMMUNICATION – “My staff and I don’t know anything about the slots promotion you started yesterday. How do you expect to make it successful without making the slots department aware of its existence?” This has to be one of the most classic examples of a total communication breakdown that I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and as hard as it may be to believe, it continues to happen on a frequent basis costing casino’s potentially millions in lost revenues, and all due to a lack of basic communication skills which, come to think about it, should be one of the strongest attributes of the marketing department. Effective marketing requires effective communications and a competent marketing executive will use communication at every opportunity to increase employee buy-in, improve promotional success rates and promote teamwork as a way of strengthening the image of the brand and adding extra value to the customer experience. Essential dialogue will help maintain focus, keep ego’s in check and help us avoid doing our worst when it matters the most.
PRODUCTIVITY – “Slot machine revenues have been negatively impacted by the marketing departments failure to plan sufficiently ahead of time.” Success does not come from ideas alone. Success also depends on planning, managing and execution of those ideas so that they produce the expected benefits. I’m no marketing expert but for a promotion to produce the expected results, I’m pretty sure that they should be advertised to the staff and customers a little sooner than the day before the event. Learning from past disasters is part of effective project management and practicing essential dialogue at the right time will help substantially decrease the risk of failure and increase productivity where it matters the most. The next time you notice that slots productivity falling due to lack of planning, use essential dialogue to first identify which behaviors are causing the decline in productivity, clarify expectations and work together with the marketing department to plan the kind of change that will be beneficial for all involved and produce the expected benefits.
ACCOUNTABILITY – “You claim that your promotions fail because I don’t have the right slots mix on the floor yet 95% of my game changes are successful, while only 15% of marketing efforts have increased coin in by expected margins. Are you trying to avoid being held accountable?” Sadly, tying to pass the blame for a failed promotion is one of the most widely used tactics in any business. And, depending on the state of internal politics and how well the marketing department are “in favor” with the GM, you could well be blamed for that “failed” promotion, regardless of the facts, so it’s important to enter into essential dialogue as early as possible in the marketing process to ensure that the right kind of decisions are being made at the right time, that actions are being taken as planned and that accountability is used as a tool to improve results as opposed to being used as a devious tactic to make you, the slots manager, look that you couldn’t run a bath!
TRUST – “It was agreed 4 months before last weekend’s major event that we would have a specific slots promotion to maximize revenue over the event weekend. We came up with a plan, but you failed to execute. How can I trust you if you fail to meet your commitments?” With any major event to plan it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lose focus. A competent leader knows that making a commitment, and taking action, is part of an unspoken bond of mutual trust between an employee and an employer. Betraying this trust and not expecting consequences is a slippery slope that will only end up stimulating angry exchanges, poor results, poor relationships and possibly loss of employment. Essential dialogue should be used to lower the risks of potential trust issues and help improve understanding, increase trust, strengthen credibility and create the kind of transparency that right’s wrongs, shows loyalty and achieves the results that you always knew were possible.
SUCCESS – “Your lack of cooperation, integrity and professionalism is directly contributing towards poor slots results and our competitors are using this to steel our customers. How can we work together to deliver the kind of success that reaches beyond expectations?” Anyone who has been part of success knows that the meaning of the phrase: “the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” yet so many managers still choose to be lock up their knowledge like a bank vault and are readily avaialble to accuse others for their own failures in order to hang on to their illusion of power. But don’t despair, there’s good news because even the most paranoid marketing managers can be encouraged to open up, share their knowledge, and work effectively as part of a team when essential dialogue is used correctly to safely share ideas, accept that opinions vary and identify a common purpose that will lead to building successful relationships and successful results.
CONCLUSION – The slots and the marketing department need to work together if success is to remain a consistent part of your slots operation, and by using essential dialogue it’s possible to improve your relationships, increase your potential and use different opinions to your advantage by making the best possible marketing choices when the stakes are high and before your competitors start calling you up to congratulate you for their success.