• Amanda Vuicich has been working to promote the aquatics industry in Northeastern Minnesota for the past few years. She enjoys training new lifeguards and developing new programs for the areas she serves.
    Amanda Vuicich has been working to promote the aquatics industry in Northeastern Minnesota for the past few years. She enjoys training new lifeguards and developing new programs for the areas she serves.

Shadow shift days can be tough on new hires: meeting new people, learning tons of rules and policies, standing and walking for eight hours — it’s exhausting. But when 17-year-old Andy arrived excited and ready to learn, I found myself ready to tap out after four hours. He was a baby lifeguard, fresh out of class, and incredibly eager. Throughout the morning, he drilled me with questions about everything. From the amount of water in the dumping bucket (“In case guests ask!”) to the precise pace to walk around the lazy river (“Should it take me approximately one minute and ten seconds?”), I felt myself questioning every facet of knowledge that had become routine and natural over the past few years.

As tiring as that first day was, I have to say, I was impressed. For a new guard, he asked some hard-hitting questions about things seasoned guards become immune to over the course of time. However, it was not just the first day that I was bombarded with questions; nearly every shift turned into a Q&A session. So much so that it began to negatively affect Eager Andy’s performance. He would whistle me over to ask about something that had happened yesterday, or things going on in the next pool, or guests that he spotted with water wings across the deck. Nearly everything he encountered was warranting a whistle, and it was beginning to detract from the necessary ones, causing a ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ effect. At that point, it became necessary to intervene, reminding him to whistle for immediate concerns and to save other queries to ask on break. He took the news hard, apologizing profusely, which made me feel as guilty as a parent who accidentally spoils the Santa Claus secret. I reassured him he was doing an excellent job guarding and that he was a valued member of the team, which seemed to ease the pain a little.

Over the course of the next few months, I noticed the questions were quelling, but the enthusiasm still emanated from our Eager Andy. He always shows up on time, ready to go, with an infectious smile and attitude that keeps the other guards on their game. He takes critiques to heart, and makes a conscious effort to not repeat mistakes. What seemed like a potential regrettable hire has turned out to be an all-star guard — no question about it.

The Lessons

1 Handle questions strategically. I can never fault a guard who genuinely wants to continue to improve his performance. Yes, an Eager Andy can be overbearing at times, but as a manager, I would never deny my employees a chance to better themselves. The trick is to redirect some questions back to allow them the chance to figure out problems on their own. This strategy gives you some breathing room and gives them an opportunity to develop those critical thinking skills necessary for effective guarding.

2 Criticism is necessary. Although you may feel like you’re kicking a puppy when you have to remind an Eager Andy of a rule he missed or that a task was done incorrectly, criticism is necessary for him to succeed. By gentle critiques, you can hone his enthusiasm into producing near perfect results for the rest of time.

3 Compliments go a long way. The best part of having an Eager Andy on staff lies in their genuine work ethic. They give you 100 percent, no questions asked, no complaints or talk-back. In addition to complimenting their tangible work, compliment their attitude. How often is it that you can find a person who will go above and beyond without batting an eye?