“Remember, of all the elements that compromise a human being, the most important, the most essential, the one that will transcend, overcome and vanquish obstacles is – SPIRIT!” – Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003)
Uncle Jed, truer words have never been spoken! Think of how refreshing it is when we are the customer and we encounter a service provider with a pleasant can do attitude. Somehow our perception of an entire business is elevated since most positive people won’t tolerate either shopping, or working, in a negative environment for long.
Sadly, such examples are far too rare in most retail settings. Many salespeople act as if they had just been reprimanded for making a mistake, or are afraid of what will happen if they do. When the majority of feedback that they receive is negative, the next mindset for most service providers becomes indifference – the cancer that afflicts too many retailers. Since very few things in life are truly accidents, let’s look at a few coaching steps that management can take to produce a positive attitude among the troops:
- Catch people doing something “approximately correct.” Express and confirm raw talent that you see. When we were young, our parents encouraged us to walk across the room, get potty trained or use a spoon. When we seemed to be catching on, they complimented us and encouraged us to do it again – only better. In many ways, learning new skills as adults isn’t really that much different. Encourage a few mistakes. Positive reinforcement worked when we were toddlers – it still works as adults.
- Clearly express your expectations and the timetable to achieve them. This may sound simple. It’s not. When we embark on any journey, we all need to know where we are headed and how long it will take to get there. You wouldn’t head down the highway toward an unfamiliar destination without a GPS map and a clock. Make sure that your staff has their directions and timepiece handy at all times.
- Emphasize that, as coach, it is your contribution to remove road blocks and solve problems that they can’t figure out alone. Stress, however, that it is their responsibility to achieve results. Just as in athletics, coaches coach and players play. Don’t do the work for them. If you do, they’ll never learn.
- Teach staff members an appreciation for, and a working knowledge of, the tasks that others members of your staff perform on a routine basis. Retail is a team sport, not an individual accomplishment. The greater the understanding that each staff member possesses of the roles of others in the organization, the better that they will be able to positively convey information to customers.
- Make sure that staff understands that they can always contact you for help. Make this clear, so they truly feel your availability. Yet, set some parameters so that such meetings are both necessary and productive. You not only want to be accessible – you want to be welcoming. Just make sure that they see this as a business relationship. Remember coaches coach and players play. Salespeople need a mentor – not a buddy.
There is a saying in sports that “players win games – but management wins championships.” I believe that the same is true in business. Rededicate yourself to lifting the spirits of your staff and the trophy can be yours!