On Walking the Talk
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Recently I was talking with a retailer in his store, and as we were walking
around the floor, we came to a rack housing sportswear. Some of the sweaters on
the rack were dangling from the hangers. He called over to ask a sales associate
to straighten the rack, and we moved on through the store.
I somehow remembered this incident as I was with another manager, this time
the general manager of an upscale hotel. We were talking at one end of the hotel
lobby, and as his eyes spotted a table with parts of a newspaper and a candy
wrapper on it, obviously left by a guest, he excused himself. He walked across
the lobby, picked up the newspapers and candy wrapper, disposed of them, and
came back to resume our conversation.
I was struck by the difference in management styles of these two executives.
The store owner must have felt that as long as the sales associate was just
standing there, she should take care of this little job. Something she is paid
to do, right? The hotel manager, though responsible on a much larger scale for
revenue, staff, and square footage than the store owner, saw it as his job to
pick up the trash in the lobby.
The message each manager sent out by his actions could not have been more
different. The store owner is comfortable operating on a rather hierachial
basis. The hotel manager sees little distinction in his job and that of his
staff. But this message should be clear: if you want your staff to instinctively
do things without being told, you need to let them see that you yourself
instinctively do these things. Your employees are more likely to learn from what
you do; not from what you say. Leadership By Example. That’s the way to ensure
there is no “my job vs. your job” mentality in your company. Just “our job.”
Today there is a lot of talk about employee performance; how people don’t
want to work, are absent a lot, won’t do their job, have no loyalty; always want
more money. It’s true, these problems definitely exist. But many of these job
performance problems could be headed off by more attention from management.
So in these two articles, let’s talk about some of the things we can do to
ensure our associates are the best they can be; perform at the highest level;
have the company’s interest at heart; are satisfied in their jobs.
Start here: HIRE FOR ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE. This is where
everything begins. You can teach your staff new skills; you can’t teach
attitude. In the hiring interview, spend enough time in subjective conversation
with people to discern their attitude, their manner, their philosophy. To find
out more about this aspect, you may want to pose hypothetical situations and ask
candidates to describe how they would handle them.
Southwest Airlines hired for Attitude in employing their current Area
Marketing Manager in New Orleans. It did not matter to Southwest that this
person had absolutely zero previous airline experience (she was in the jewelry
business), and had never even set foot in New Orleans before moving here from
Dallas to take this position. She has successfully performed this job now for
seven years, helping increase Southwest’s business and visibility in this area.
Let’s talk about a very important word: RESPECT. How your employees feel they
are valued. The Ritz Carlton hotel group has as its motto: “We are ladies and
gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” The philosophy in this simple sentence
implies a relationship of equals; that the company will treat the employees with
the same respect that it treats the guests. The Ritz Carlton understands this
simple truth: your employees will treat your customers the same way they are
MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS CLEAR.
Be clear about what an employee’s duties are; make sure they understand their
Be clear about your standards for appearance (if you have a dress code,
etc.). It is entirely reasonable to expect employees to show up for work dressed
professionally and appropriately groomed. Of course, that may differ, depending
on whether you operate an outdoor plant nursery or a designer apparel store.
Be clear about corporate culture. Part of the Nordstrom company’s training
for employees is instilling the corporate culture in all employees, letting them
know what is expected of them. Their employees learn to do whatever it takes to
make a customer happy. They are trained that Nordstrom believes people in their
store are guests and therefore deserve the best service. When employees are
trained in to this culture, they can produce the sales results they must achieve
for success. The company will trust them with a lot of operational freedom in
performing their job. However, if the employee has trouble buying in to this
culture, it is safe to say he will not be happy or successful at Nordstrom.
Be clear about the level of customer service the company expects everyone to
provide. Is this level a high degree of service (such as Nordstrom) or is
service not emphasized in your company in favor of something you are better
known for, like the lowest price, etc.
GIVE EMPLOYEES PROPER TOOLS TO WORK WITH. It is your job to provide
training to help your people in their performance, to help them constantly
improve their skills. Make sure this training reinforces your own specific
expectations. This is not just computer register training (which, unfortunately,
is what passes today as the only training). Encourage them to attend appropriate
seminars at company expense, such as those on customer service, communications
skills, sales techniques, time management. Keep a company library of magazines,
training books, tapes, & videos. Let them know that you are aware of whatever
they do to increase their knowledge. Develop some sort of reward system for
employees who take advantage of resources you offer.
Set up a regular schedule for discussing market trends or showing new
merchandise. Make sure they understand technical terms (would they know how to
correctly answer a customer’s question, such as “why is there sure a huge price
difference between this cashmere sweater and this wool sweater?”).
SHARE SOME DECISION-MAKING. As management, you have to make many
decisions every day. Share some of this decision-making with your associates.
Involve them in this process, and certainly involve them in those decisions that
affect them. Ask employees if there are any company policies or procedures that
hinder their job performance or their ability to deliver good customer service.
If so, study these policies and do whatever you can to change or eliminate them.
Then let your employees know what action you are taking (before you take it) in
response to their concerns.
There is another very important reason to involve your associates in the
decision-making process. Because those who have had a voice in making policy
will see that the policy gets implemented. It’s a surefire way to make sure the
procedure is followed and there are no complaints about it!
You can tell employees all day long about how important they are to the
company…but having them share in policy-making is a way to prove it, to show
they are valued. Of course, the responsibility of policy making is management’s,
but decisions have a better chance of being right after first getting feedback
from those on the front line. The key word here is share.
We all can become bored in our jobs if we feel there is nothing new to learn,
no new challenges to conquer, no way to expand our minds, no new contributions
to make. Yes, your employees may have to perform the same duties day in, day
out, but an enlightened management, one that “walks the talk “(like you) can
find ways to help employees become better at these same duties each day and
therefore keep them interested and growing.
Copyright 2006, Liz Tahir
About the Author
Liz Tahir is an international marketing consultant, speaker, and seminar
leader, whose mission is to help companies be more effective and profitable.
Based in New Orleans, LA, USA, she can be contacted at (504)-569-1670;
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-03-22 16:37:21 in Business Articles