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.
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.
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.
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?
When most managers think they are coaching in the moment, they are really doing one of three things with an employee.
Yelling - Okay, most leaders aren't usually yellers (at least I hope not), but the leader's focus on what the employee did wrong is often interpreted as being yelled at.
Telling - Telling is much better than yelling. In this approach, the leader tells the employee why he/she is being coached.
Teaching - Teaching is far superior to telling. When leaders teach, they take time to connect someone's behaviors and actions to customers, colleagues, and results. Teaching drives behavior changing much faster.
Here's an example
While working the floor with Courtney, you observe that she was so focused on putting out an order out she didn't notice a customer walking into the store.
Here are three ways you can address it:
Yell - "Courtney, you missed greeting that customer who came in." Remember, it is often a perceived yell whether you raise your voice or not.
Tell - "Courtney, I saw you miss greeting that customer. You’re expected to welcome every customer within five seconds."
Teach - "Courtney, I noticed you were so busy with the order that you missed welcoming the customer. It's important that we welcome within five seconds so our customers see that they are our priority. They also know we know they're here, and that we're ready to assist them."
Yes, teaching takes more time than telling and yelling. Imagine, though, what Courtney may think or say after each approach:
Yell: "Okay okay. I was just trying hard to get the order out as soon as possible like you asked."
Tell: "I know. She slipped in so quietly."
Teaching: "That makes sense. I'll try to be more aware."
It's obvious which approach is going to have the most impact.
Successful coaching recognizes what the employee is doing well so they continue to do so, and teaches what they can do to be even better. Something we emphasis and practice in my EveryDay Coaching and Leadership class.
So let me ask, are you more likely to yell, tell, or teach your staff?
How to use this article
Talk with your management team about the three different approaches, and what each person can do to increase the amount of teaching they do with the staff.
If you want to make a great big leap forward in your business, you have to make a great big leap forward in what you believe you and your team can accomplish. You must believe there's more opportunity and growth out there just waiting to be tapped.
Think of it like taking a high performance car for a test drive. You're flying down the highway very, very fast. Faster than you've ever gone before. The car salesman tells you you're only going half as fast as the car can go. You push down on the accelerator, the car leaps forward, and you speed off down the highway.
What if you and your team are like that high performance car? What if you can push the accelerator down and speed towards your goals faster? I believe you can!
Here are three ways to find and make a huge leap forward in your business.
1. Constantly champion, "We can. Let's figure out how." Some of the most successful leaders I see live the saying, "Where there is a will, there is a way." The way may not be easy, and it may not always be easily defined, but the way is there as long as you own the obstacles and results.
When you believe and champion that you and your team can do just about anything you set out to do, it's amazing what can be accomplished. It requires the right attitude, drive, and focus on figuring out how. We achieve what we believe.
2. Identify and address any governor . A governor is a device used to regulate speed. They are sometimes used in high performance cars to keep the speed down.
In most stores and service teams, a governor is someone or something that drags down the overall performance of the team. This can be someone whose attitude is negatively impacting the team, or whose performance is pulling down the group's overall results. I estimate that probably half of the leaders I talk with struggle with some sort of governor. Most of the time, they're looking for an easier fix than addressing the governor.
3. Expect a giant leap forward from yourself. Change and growth starts with you. Identify three things you believe hold you back. Choose one of them to work on, and resolve to make a great big leap forward by March 1 at the latest. Remember, you can. Just figure out how.
Into action: Even though Leap Day only comes around once every four years, any day can be the day you lead your team in a great big leap forward. What better day than today?
So let me ask, what is your huge performance leap forward?