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Doug Fleener's The Experience Difference Blog

By Doug Fleener 09 Apr, 2017

As a leader, one of your most important jobs is to develop your managers. Most of us are pretty good at doing that with newly promoted person, but we often slow down or stop developing them once they attain a certain amount of experience and competency.

Here are three ways you may or may not have put into action with your more seasoned management team.

1. Delegate improving a particular metric or category sales over a 60-90 day period. This could be a particular category or brand, increasing ADS or conversion/transactions, or any other area of performance that can be improved.

This is not about being in charge of a department. This is taking full responsibility for analyzing current performance and approach, coming up with a plan to improve, and following through and working the plan. Taking something like this on for two or three months is an incredible opportunity for your assistant to develop, and for you to coach her.

2. The phantom sabbatical. What would happen if today you decided to take a six-month sabbatical? (Besides buying that new bathing suit and/or golf clubs you'd want to take with you!) Would your leadership team be ready to step in and run the store? Would they know how to do everything?

Usually when I ask that I question the response is something like, "Yes, for the most part, but I would need to show or teach this or that." Bingo! What is your leadership team's this or that? That's a great area to focus development.

3. Coaching the coach in person. It is important to give your managers feedback on how well they coach the staff, and the only way to do this effectively is to observe them while they're coaching. 

At least once a month, if not more, tell the staff that one of your managers is in charge for the day. They should see you as just another associate. Observe the manager and give her/him feedback at a couple points during the day. Don't wait until the end of the day, or the person will miss the opportunity to immediately apply the feedback.

Other coaching the coach opportunities include having managers lead staff meetings, join in on Take Fives, and even have them lead one-on-one discussions with associates.

So let me ask, how consistently are you developing your seasoned managers? Which of these tips might you apply, or is there something else you’ve been considering that you could move forward with?

By Doug Fleener 09 Apr, 2017

When talking with employees, especially when giving them feedback, the words we use can put them on their heels or on their toes.

Sometimes managers unintentionally choose words that put their employees on the defensive, or what I call on their heels. This is usually the result of starting feedback with what is perceived by the employee as an accusatory statement.

"Why didn't you bother to tell that customer about the GWP?"

"I don't think you care about your sales results."

"How come you didn’t offer the customer desert?"

"You had plenty of time to get that order out."

Anytime a person is back on their heels they're less likely to hear the message and apply the feedback. They’re going to spend all of their energy defending themselves.

The goal is to choose words that inspire people to listen, or put them on their toes leaning in, if you will.

" I have a few ideas of ways you can engage your customers with the GWP."

"I see your sales been lagging over the past few days. Let's sit down and discuss it."

"I noticed that you didn’t offer that last table desert. Here’s why it is so important that every customer gets to experience our delicious deserts.”

"Before you go, let's spend two minutes and talk about how your day went."

It's clear which statements the employee is more likely to listen to and apply the feedback.

The same holds true with customers. The words we choose either put them on their heels or toes.

"Do you have any questions?" and "How may I help you?" can put some customers on their heels.

"Let me show you..." and "Welcome. Let me tell you about...." will put more customers on their toes.

I encourage you to listen carefully to the words you use with your staff and customers, and determine if it is putting them on their heels or on their toes.

So let me ask, are you more likely to put someone on their heels or their toes?

By Doug Fleener 21 Mar, 2017

One day I was catching up with two friends over coffee when the conversation turned to how bad the traffic had been recently.

One friend told us how it was killing his productivity. He's an outside rep and the traffic kept him from seeing all of the accounts he planned to see.

The other friend is also a rep, but in a different field. The traffic also kept him from seeing all of his clients, but in the end he had a terrific sales week.

He had decided that he would use the time sitting in traffic to phone accounts he doesn't normally get to call on. As a result, he picked up a couple of additional orders he wouldn't have gotten without sitting in traffic.

Two people. Same traffic. Different results.

One person had better results because he had a different perspective. Instead of seeing the traffic only as an impediment, he took advantage of the challenge.

Here are three traffic perspectives store leaders will do well to remember.

1. Maximize every customer opportunity. I once had a store outside of Chicago that had to deal with terrible traffic but still produced amazing results. Their center simply didn't attract much attention, so the store leadership and staff quickly learned that every customer mattered. You don't have to be a slow store to apply that lesson.

2. No labeling customers. One word I never allowed my staff to use was "looker." The minute we label a customer a looker, we're really saying they aren't going to buy anything. It's funny how that is proven over and over.

One manager who recently took my coaching class had her staff stop using the word. Guess what? Yep, conversion went up. Our perspective has a huge impact on our results.

3. Own it. If you’ve heard me speak you’ve heard me say that when you own something, you have the power to change it. One of my coffee friends owned the bad traffic last week. He didn't sit in his car and fume or complain. He took action. 

Traffic is a real challenge for most stores. No way to sugarcoat it. At the same time we have no alternative but to own it. We have to take responsibility for driving existing clients and new customers into the store.

Make sure the entire staff is using downtime to reach out to customers. Plan small events. Set appointments for your top customers to come in and see the newest products. Refuse to let lack of traffic keep you from obtaining your goals. Own it!

Got too much traffic? First, thank your lucky stars. Then, have the staff practice working with multiple customers and group selling. Whatever your traffic... own it!

So let me ask, how is your traffic perspective?

How to use this article

Discuss your leadership group's traffic perspective with your managers. Which perspectives could benefit from a change?  Identify three actions they’ll take to get an even better perspective.

By Doug Fleener 09 Mar, 2017

  I used to assume that if someone was struggling to do something, it was because they needed more training. Sometimes that was the case, but sometimes what she/he really needed was to successfully apply the skills and knowledge the person had already learned. 

How do you know the difference? Here’s a simple but effective way to look at it.

1. People first need to know WHY we do, or need to know, something. If people don't know why you're asking them to do it, they rarely do it. Or at the least they're much less likely to do it especially well.

Why should I learn three things about my customer?

Why should I show an additional item without asking? I

It is also important that your team know if these actions are required or optional. 

2. Next, each person needs to learn HOW and/or WHAT.

How do I engage customers in a conversation to ask questions in an authentic way?

How do I show an additional item without being perceived as pushy?

How is this product made?

What makes these products unique and different?

Never assume your staff know the HOW or WHAT. You’d be surprised how often leaders assume the staff knows this but they don’t. They know it’s supposed to be done, but nobody has worked closely with them to learn and practice the skill.

3. Now, people need to DO it. If something is an expectation of the position, people need to meet that expectation. This is where the biggest breakdown happens.

People don't do what's expected of them and the manager/owner assumes the person can't do it and needs more training.

In fact, most often the person doesn't need more training. What he/she needs is observation and coaching so they can do whatever it is they need to do, and do it well. 

After that, they need to do it or be held accountable for drifting from it. That’s why accountability is such a key element to leading and coaching a team.

If your staff is struggling in a particular area, walk though these three steps.

1. Do they know WHY?  

2. Do they how know HOW or WHAT?

3. Are you requiring them to DO it, and to keep doing it?

So let me ask, does your staff need more training, coaching and accountability, or a combination of them?

How to use this article

Think about two particular service/selling actions you'd like to see your staff do better. Then apply the three questions. This will help you determine if they need additional training, or you need to be working with them to do it.

By Doug Fleener 03 Mar, 2017

I like to think that as leaders we only have one priority: Our customers, and their service and purchase experience. Everything else we do supports that priority.

Some of what we do to support that priority is more important than other parts of our job. First, being an OutFront frontline leader. Making sure the customer priority stays the priority.

Second, coaching and developing the staff to deliver the best possible service and sales experience. The more we help our employees be even better, the better the customer’s experience. Perfect since that’s our priority!

Here are three leadership tips/reminders to help you accomplish this goal.

1. See YOUR day as a series of choices. As a young manager I often felt like my day ran me, as though I had no control over what was going on. At the end of the day I was exhausted and had accomplished hardly anything I planned to do.

Nothing changed until I realized that I always had a choice about what I did. I could delegate. I could put something off. I could knock something off my list quickly. Most important, I learned to challenge myself by asking, "Is this the best use of my time at this moment?"

When a leader has a choice, they’re able to keep the customer and his/her experience as the priority.

2. See your actions as words. It was Gandhi who said that action expresses priorities. Your staff won't always follow what you say, but they'll do what you do. Your actions tell your staff what is most important each and every day.

It's not the memo. It's not the training video. It's what you, as a leader, do day in and day out that communicates what's important. Many leaders do not communicate a customer priority in what they’re doing. 

Of course you have many other things to get done in addition to working with customers. Leadership is choosing the right time to do them. Frequently reminding your staff to interrupt you when they get busy.

Making sure your staff knows that customers come before any other tasks and activities you've asked them to do.

3. Make time every day to coach and lead on the floor. Again, when we develop our people, we improve the experience. Following through on our priority.

Most people work from a to-do list. I believe leaders should start that list by blocking out the time they're going to be coaching and leading their team. Everything else works around that. This isn't when you're "working the floor" or “hanging out in a cube” but when you're coaching and leading. There's a big difference.   

So let me ask, how well are you leading a customer priority?

How to use this article

Discuss with your leadership team how well they communicate and act a customer priority, and in which of these areas they can improve. Take a moment also to brainstorm two or three more things they might do to improve their prioritization.

By Doug Fleener 03 Mar, 2017

Staff enthusiasm is a key element of a great customer experience. Enthusiasm creates a more energetic, engaging location, and thus more interest and excitement for the customer. That leads to higher sales, and customer loyalty and pro-active advocacy.

A colleague of mine once said that enthusiasm can make a bologna sandwich seem like filet mignon. That may be a bit of a stretch, but enthusiasm will definitely make one store's bologna sandwich more appealing than another's.

Enthusiasm doesn't just happen. It is the result of leadership. Charles Schwab, the well-known businessman, once said that his ability to arouse enthusiasm was his greatest asset.

Here are three ways to create an even more enthusiastic staff and customer experience:

1. Demonstrate your appreciation. People are more enthusiastic about their work and their customers when they feel appreciated by their employer. As a leader, you need to make sure you're truly demonstrating your appreciation, not just thinking it.

Challenge yourself to do one or more things each day to demonstrate your appreciation. Consider writing them down at the end of day for an entire month. You might be pleasantly surprised how much you do, or you might learn you’re thinking it more than showing it.

2. Purposeful cheering. Encouraging your team is important to developing enthusiasm. Focusing your encouragement makes sure your team is enthusiastic about what matters to customers, and helps create the desired results. You can never go wrong when you cheer an employee's actions as they relate to the customer's experience.

3. Keep the employee experience fresh. Imagine if every time a customer came into the store nothing had changed from the previous visit. Same products. Same offers. Same everything. It wouldn't be long before that customer got bored and started doing business elsewhere.

The same thing can happen to your staff. Sure, products and offers change, but what is new and different for the people? Do you create new and exciting ways to grow and develop? Do you change up your Take Fives (staff huddles) and meetings to make them fun and different? (Or worse, have you drifted away from doing them?)

Norman Vincent Peale said, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment." Ultimately, a staff's enthusiasm level and accomplishments are a measurement of the leadership team's effectiveness.

So let me ask, how would you score yours?

How to use this article

Discuss with your management how the enthusiasm level is in your company/location. What do you see and hear associates do that demonstrates their enthusiasm? Where do you see opportunities for them to be even more enthusiastic?

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