Alan: Welcome back, I’m with Joan LeMahieu, currently the director at City Beach. Joan welcomed to today’s show.
Joan: Thank you Alan it's a pleasure to be here.
Alan: So Joan can you tell me about yourself?
Joan: Well that’s a wide-open question, I grew up in an immigrant family on a small farm in British Columbia and I was so fortunate- we talked a little bit about mentors before we started the show today, and I've got to say my mother was my first mentor. She had a seventh-grade education in the Netherlands and she sat my sister and I down when we were six or seven years old and said, “You know, you girls can go to college.” Well she hadn’t even been to high school and unbeknownst to me she and my dad on very very limited funds were supporting a couple of their brothers and sisters as they pursued their careers in college. So I immediately decided I was going to be a schoolteacher and my sister decided she was going to be a nurse. I mean what else are you going to do in the late 50s early 60s with role models of the women in teaching and nursing positions. So I announced to my second grade teacher the very next day that I was going to be a teacher and she was sitting in her blue dress on the piano bench and she just about fell off the piano bench I swear because I was actually getting an “X” in behavior which is somewhere below “U” for unsatisfactory. She actually thought I was heading for juvenile hall instead of to be a teacher. But that little dream actually propelled me through grade school and through high school when actually a number my friends were dropping out of high school- very very blue-collar growing up. And it propelled me through high school and propelled me to make a decision to go to a small college affiliated with our church in Iowa. I read in one of our church bulletins that they had a 98% placement rate for teachers and I thought, well that means that I'll get a job when I get out there. I went to a small college I graduated and I taught for one year, 26 darling fourth-graders and I tell my friends God blessed every child's life I have not touched in the last 35 years. So I taught for one year and then really went back to the business world. I had helped my dad with the business on the family farm. I worked a lot of hours in a local bank to help fund my way through college, and I really enjoyed the business side of life. And so I married a gentleman who lived here in California and decided just to start working temporary jobs and figure out what it was that I would enjoy doing and I landed in human resources for nine years and decided that it wasn't enough really business. I really liked the whole earning money, figuring out expenses figuring out revenue, I really liked running a business rather than just advising a business so I was working for a local government at the time and they needed someone to manage that convention center and to performing arts theaters and I jumped at the chance to do that and it really was a very fortunate because I was in a city called by Visalia which was at that point in time known as one of the most entrepreneurial cities in America and I was given full rein really to manage those businesses. And then I went on to him open a Frank Lloyd Wright designed community and convention center in Madison Wisconsin. You might say, ‘well how in the world did you open that when Mr. Wright's been dead for 40 years?’ well he had designed it in the 30’s, redesigned it eight times and Madison Wisconsin's a little bit like Berkeley at the Midwest to know we talk a lot about things, we discuss, a lot of votes went back and forth and the community finally voted to build the center in the early 90’s. Highly controversial- passed by less than 1% of the vote and I was hired fourteen months before we opened. We had programmed the building for 350 events and in the first year we had 1058 events.
Joan: So yeah, wow is right. That was a tremendous learning experience, and you know, we’re going to talk about teambuilding today, it really was an amazing group of team leaders that I had on staff that were able to your ramp-up from plans and of course the city was watching us and the community was watching this very carefully making sure we weren’t making any missteps, and that team really rallied. It was because we brought in frankly team builders, we brought in and did a lot of teambuilding amongst the group themselves and they created really magic for the city of Madison and that center still is a major economic driver for Madison and was the stimulus for re-creating their downtown. They’re now building a second, third hotel downtown third actually hotel since that and the downtown’s become completely revitalized which really is exciting when you think that you have a little bitty piece of making a community a better place to live making it more economically viable, and kind of proud of that one.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Joan LeMahieu, she is Executive Director at City Beach and we have been discussing her background, how she got in the Career of teambuilding and when we come back, I want to talk about hiring the right people for your organization and how you go about. We’ll be right back after these messages
Alan: Welcome back I’m here today with Joan LeMahieu, the director of City Beach with locations in Fremont and Santa Clara and Joan I want to come back and focus on your days and your experience in the HR world. How do you know if you're hiring the right people for your organization?
Joan: Well that is a very complex question. One needs to look at what the current team is comprised of, the skills and needs of the current team think you look at a combination of a person's technical skills as well as the fit within the organization. Their management philosophy, their leadership philosophy, whether there’s a fit- I mean you can certainly have people that are fantastically technically inclined but can’t fit into the organization. Of course I'm speaking about hospitality organizations, that could be very different in high tech or an engineering firm or an R&D firm. But when one is looking in the hospitality industry it's all about being able to connect with people to welcome people into your venue and to create the systems and products are very people oriented.
Alan: So do you go through process, a screening process, a checklist or scoring system? How do you had he go about it? You get 50 resumes today over the Internet- email today is so convenient for people to just kick their resumes in. how do you score these resumes or do you?
Joan: Well at City Beach, because we are a small business we basically do it by hand. We review each of the resumes and we literally put them in the three stacks. One of the most promising. Medium mission ones that just do not have the qualifications and I'd like to say that we do some sophisticated testing that we do not at city beach as most small businesses do not. Those kinds of tests need to be well vetted and you also need to have a great nexus between what the job is and what the test is, and often that takes a lot more sophisticated measurement tools than what is available to a small business. I’ve been involved in larger businesses where absolutely we did personality assessment instruments and again it was more scientifically geared to the position.
Alan: Do you end up hiring the right person for the wrong position sometimes?
Joan: That's been done yes, and if you can shift the person around in the business that's a good thing to do and sometimes you just need to say you know what I made the wrong decision let's be really really clear let's be humane let's be kind. Whenever you have to let someone go you know they have to go home to their family and talk with her family about it and you want to make sure that they leave with their ego intact and with hope that there's a something better for them in the future and so I think that out outbound counseling is huge when you make a mistake owning up to the mistake is important rather than blaming the person who you brought in.
Alan: So what do you recommend that a company do when looking to fill a position and organization with the right individual?
Joan: I think you have to have a clear set of skills a clear set of what it is that your expectations are. What is the job description? What are the skills knowledge and abilities that you're looking for? Have that very clearly set and then work with the rest of the team when you're doing your interviewing process. Different people on the team will see different aspects of a person and then pulling that together and making a group decision is hugely important and don't ever, in my opinion, forget what the front desk person's opinion is of the candidate. As they walk in the door, how do they treat that front desk person? How do they react in the environment when they think they're not on stage? Some powerful observations have been made and I think made the right decision by not hiring someone because of the way they treated the front desk.
Alan: I'm here with today with Joan LeMahieu, she’s the Executive Director at City Beach and Joan we need to take a quick break, but when we come back I want to talk about team building. We’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back and visit here today with John LeMahieu, the Executive Director at City Beach with locations in Fremont and Santa Clara. You know Joan, I understand that City Beach at City Beach you offer team building skills to organizations, how did that come about?
Joan: Well organizations- in order to be most effective the people really need to work together. And so we have a fantastic sports entertainment venue at city beach we really focus on person-to-person interaction in all of our games and activities and so it was naturally to create teambuilding experiences for corporations. We do over 350 teambuilding events every year for corporations in the Bay Area.
Alan: Why are teambuilding activities important for a company?
Joan: Well I go back to the days when I was asked to head up the opening of Ford Field, home for the Detroit Lions hired 14 months before we opened and had to build a team right from scratch. If you don't spend time together outside of the work environment either in and facilitated activities or more fun and play, I think it makes a team less effective, and so we did a lot of that at Ford Field- bringing people together in small groups and doing some teambuilding working with the facilitator working on our communication skills, change management skills, then, when the time gets tough- because you go through stressful times as a team, you can always come back to what it was like when you were more relaxed and having the a good time with that person and I think you then give your teammates a little bit more leeway as you work through to get the job done.
Alan: You know at City Beach when you talk about 350 activities, its quite a number, but give me some idea of what are some of these activities that you refer to.
Joan: Well it can be anything as fun as doing an extreme chef exercise together, we take a group and we break them into three or four a small groups, we give them chef hats and chef aprons and a lot of food and a stove to work on and they get to create a meal for each other and they get to judge each other's meals and we’ll do it for creativity, for taste, for innovation and it's another way of just getting together and having some fun. Or we have some more technical teambuilding training, we have a high ropes course a low ropes course and you actually spend time talking about communication, teamwork trust, depending on each other as you need to climb up 30 feet above the floor and help each other across a thin steel cable. It sounds almost impossible but really it's about trust, it's about teamwork, it's about communication and to make amazing things happen.
Alan: Sounds like you have a lot of fun in that facility.
Joan: We do! We do, and you know, sometimes teams just need to sort of just kick back and enjoy each other and so there are a lot of games that they can they can do either facilitated by our professional facilitators, they can just come on in and hang out and play pool, play ping-pong, badminton, dodgeball, volleyball, basketball, there's just a bocce, there's just a great great variety of things to do, or if they it just want to come out and hang out and had a beer on the patio that's another option…
Alan: Now what’s the typical size of the group that you have there?
Joan: We really do a wide variety groups anywhere from 12 to I’m going to say 300 or 400 and we've actually had actually 1200 but you asked for a typical size. It’s about 12 to 300 although we can certainly do larger groups and have.
Alan: When people come to you, do you notice a change in before and after when they do these activities?
Joan: Well people keep coming back to us. We have many many companies that return sometimes every month with different groups that tells us that indeed are team building is effective. We don't have the luxury of being in the workplace before the teambuilding happens in the workplace afterwards certainly the anecdotal stories tell us that it is effective, it makes a difference and the repeat- the fact that we have so many people that come back over and over again year after year tells us that it's it makes a difference.
Alan: So for company coming down, how much time should they schedule?
Joan: Umm, you could schedule anywhere from 2 to 6 hours and some people come for an entire day, some people do two or three days. It depends on how much diagnostic work they want to do on site and how much how deep they want to get and we can do a wide variety- I would say the average is probably a for a five-hour event.
Alan: When we look at the habit of the organizations, obviously every organization is made up of different people, different personalities and trying to get people unified is not always easy, but how do you encourage cooperation and collaboration among employees in an organization?
Joan: Well at City Beach we spend time with our clients before the event, we ask them questions about what it is that they would like to accomplish and if the issue is and ‘were just exhausted it were getting at each other's throats as well just so tired we have the time spent together to enjoy each other,’ they will do a real lighthearted fun activity. If it's more like ‘you know were heading into this R&D project and we really have to get to know each other and trust each other and learn how to work together or we’re going to be doing a massive project together’ then we’ll design a different exercise for them. We’ll design maybe a series of three or four series exercises. One might be to encourage trust. One might be to encourage different ways of communication. It's a well known fact that communication amongst teams is the number one criteria for success. You can have teams with an enormous amount of individual talent but if there isn’t great communication amongst the group, the team is not as effective as they can be.
Alan: Now Joan, individuals that are interested in bringing their companies down to City Beach have a contact you, what’s the process?
Joan: People may reach us either by going onto our website at citybeach.com or calling us at 510-651-2500
Alan: That’s 510-651-2500 at City Beach.
Joan: We have events every Saturday for the family called family fun night and we are open seven days a week for lunch and for dinner, a great great opportunity to hang out on a Thursday Friday or Saturday play little bocce out on our courtyard, it's just really a lovely lovely space.
Alan: I’ve been visiting here today Joan LeMahieu, Executive Director of City Beats. Joan thank you for being a today’s show.
Joan: Thank you Alan.
Alan: We’ll be right back after these messages
About Joan LeMahieu:
With over 20 years of leadership experience in venue management, event development, hospitality, and the sports and entertainment industries; Joan has specialized in the planning and opening of new venues including stadiums, conventions centers, and multipurpose centers.
A former manager of Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, she has managed several other tourism and event destinations including Monona Terrace Convention and Community Center (Madison, WI), Visalia (CA) Convention Center, The Parade Company Studio (Detroit, MI), LJ Williams Theatre (Visalia, CA), The Rotary Theatre (Visalia, CA), and The Mountain Winery (Saratoga, CA). Joan has also provided marketing, budgeting, and staffing consultation for the pre-opening planning of a 300,000 square foot addition at Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers), as well as contract management for the owners of the Visalia (CA) Radisson Hotel.
Joan’s facility management leadership and overall expertise has contributed to her recognition and demonstrated success in such diverse areas as event development, sports marketing, new facility development, strategic planning, sports tourism, finance, emergency preparedness, and human resources.
As an SFA Management Advisor, Joan serves as the full-time General Manager of City Beach. This SFA-managed facility includes two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. City Beach offers sports, entertainment, and teambuilding experiences. The centers encompass multiple basketball and volleyball courts, a full-service restaurant, bocce ball courts, a ropes course, and a 16,000 square foot rock climbing gym.
Joan is an avid baseball fan and enjoys hiking, kayaking, and sailing.