Retail Clichés And Choosing To Be Better
If you have read any of my articles you may recognize I have very specific areas that I am super passionate about:
- Team Development Through Learning & Guidance;
- Not Tolerating “Good Enough” Performance Results But Everyone Contributing to Excellence;
- Customer Experience Delivery;
- Making Retail A Forward-Thinking Industry [getting rid of moldy and crusty processes/policies that are accepted as the status quo or [gasp] because “we have always done it this way“].
…the list actually goes on and on. One thing that makes me a little crazy is when I hear phrases like “they acknowledged they’d ‘checked out’ a couple of years ago” or “they’ve been on auto-pilot the last couple years“. These are very politically correct ways of saying and employee’s performance has been lousy. Then – 9 out of 10 times – I hear this person has turned in their resignation. The organization didn’t separate with the employee, the employee decided they could no longer benefit from their role so they decided to end the employer/employee relationship.
I have never delivered, nor have I aspired to deliver, mediocre results so I don’t understand the “checked-out” or “auto-pilot” mentality. I think moments where you get into a funk are just opportunities for remarkable leaders to reinvent their style and approach to their business and their team. There is always a way to win. Innovative, driven, and smart retail leaders can find that way when they involve their team and don’t allow [or make] excuses for their performance.
How We Need To Handle “Auto-Pilot” & “Checked-Out”
Having the ability to identify the people who are falling into unhealthy patterns is key to catching these issues before they turn into business obstacles. Sometimes, when someone is overwhelmed – which is, frequently, a preamble for giving up, usually – they will have an obvious, frantic, or panicked response to change and/or shifting priorities, some will make up exaggerated excuses about “why” they can’t produce results; whereas other retail employees will withdraw and direct their stress inward – which is a huge sign of “checking out”. The key is to seeing – and then addressing – deviations from an employee’s normal behavior to find out what the issue is and how you can support their improvement.
- Shorten Your Feedback Loop: It’s incredibly easy to fall into a “status quo” situation when you feel overwhelmed. It is also easy to find and use excuses when you think no one is watching. So as soon as the leader sees that someone has fallen into a “good enough” pattern – that was once a fabulous leader, this is the moment to start performance guidance and dialog. Perhaps it is conducting a weekly one-on-one lunch or having daily morning positive dialogs. If the employee is worth salvaging – you need to invest in their success. If they aren’t – it’s time to start the exiting process.
- Make It Specific: Don’t speak in generalities when you are dealing with someone who has changed their work pattern. They are making a deliberate decision to “check-out” or to go on “auto-pilot”. Address the specific behaviors that are impacting the business both positive and negative. Get the employee’s perspective on what the issues are and, together, determine and memorialize a course of action with quantifiable results that you, then, follow up on.
- Connect Behaviors & Results To Something Bigger: Sometimes, even in a leadership role, the employee hasn’t made the link between how they perform and the organization’s ability to achieve something critical. For example – you see that your team produced the softest results but what would have happened to the collective organization’s metrics had they pulled their weight? If they are unable/unwilling to do it on their own – put it into perspective by showing them how a stronger performance would have supported the organization’s objectives and goals.
- Support & Deliver A Natural Negative Consequence For Poor Performance: More often than not I am shocked at how long soft – and even downright crumby – performance is allowed to continue. It’s crazy and it hurts the morale of your top performers. You are essentially saying to your best employees that their effort doesn’t matter. That the criteria for your role is showing up and turning in the antiquated, crusty deliverables, hopefully on time. As we see occur with lots of new leaders – they are so invested in the performance of the team that they’re willing to pick up the slack from poor performance to avoid a bad outcome [like Store Visits – I have seen DM’s going into stores and spend entire days cleaning and prepping for a regional or corporate visit – why would they do that – if they hire correctly, develop their team, and hold them to specific standards – they should be able to prepare for a visit on their own]. That only reinforces the employees’ perceptions that they don’t need to change. Instead, allow poor performance to lead to a natural consequence. We all know what happens when we don’t produce results. So why do we put off dealing with the issue(s)?
According to a McKinsey study, 59% of employees would be “delighted” if managers dealt with problem employees, but only 7% of those responding to employee surveys believed their companies were actually doing it.
I have never been a proponent of delivering documentation to my team unless results and/or behaviors really get out of control but I am committed to delivering consistently great results in every single area of the business and guiding my team to understand the benefits and sense of satisfaction that comes from that. When we choose to deal with issues as they first arise we are saying that we are committed to our team’s health and the organization’s health and growth as well. When we choose to allow sub-par or mediocre results impede our team’s progress – as retail leaders we become equally culpable for the abysmal performance of our team. Great retail leaders would never choose to do anything less than find a way to inspire and motivate their team to success. It’s really that simple.