Facets Magazine: Putting People First

Tim English Leadership

Original source: Facets Magazine

What does it take to keep staff happy, engaged and loyal? How can you withstand the stresses and strains of the festive sales period? Tim English, founder of GBB Coaching & Consultancy, shares his advice after more than 10 years of professional experience in the retail sector.

What are you really good at? For the 60-strong team of associates at GBB Coaching & Consultancy, this is the most important question asked of managers and sales associates working in the retail environment.

Founder Tim English explains: “So often people approach coaching companies to fix problems, but the reality is that in a two-day training programme you can’t gain somebody’s trust, build your own credibility,
break down a person’s natural defensive barriers until they are comfortable enough to say ‘I’m no good at this’ and then start to build those skills back up. It is much better to ask, what are you already good at?”

GBB (Good, Better, Best) Coaching & Consultancy was established in 2008 to offer retail sales training, communication skills training and leadership development. The business has carved itself a niche in the luxury
automotive sector, supporting the likes of Mercedes Benz and Jaguar Land Rover by training staff in their high-end retail environments.

When describing his approach to training, English says: “I largely ignore the flaws, in all honesty. If there is something that is really badly wrong, you need to address it – eliminate the fatal flaws – but otherwise play to the strengths so that people work hard. What are they comfortable and confident with? We use this as our leveller to improve performance.”

With this positive approach in mind, we asked English to share some of his advice on staff training, staff retention, successful management and how to build a contented and driven sales team. Here’s what he had to say…

Jeweler and client at store.

“People leave bad managers far more than they leave bad jobs.”
Research suggests that people leave bad managers far more easily than they leave bad jobs. Usually, if there is a job to do and the salary is right, there would be no reason for a person to leave unless they are not enjoying
the way they are being managed. Everything comes back to how people are motivated, how they are receiving feedback and how much attention they are getting.

“If somebody is unhappy and you offer them more money, you won’t keep them long term.”
It is very tempting to think that money will really make the difference. You may notice that you are losing staff to similar roles in other retail stores. They might go to a competitor for an extra 25p or 50p per hour, but they won’t stay for that increase in money. You won’t keep staff in a poor working environment where they don’t enjoy every day, just so they can earn an extra 50p an hour.

“You should know what training you are sending your staff on.”
It can be useful to send someone on a specific training course, perhaps one day in a classroom or a two-day course, but you need to pick that up and support it every day as a manager. Check in with them, ask them how they got on, ask them to demonstrate what they’ve learned and encourage and praise them for using new techniques they’ve learned. You need to do that consistently over a number of months when someone comes back.

This means that, as a base principle, managers should do the same training as their staff. This is something we really advocate but recognise is not always realistic from a budget or time point of view. If you are sending a member of staff on a new piece of training that you’ve never experienced, how will you know what to support? At the very least you should have a summary document – a onepager from the training company that clearly explains what they will learn and what they will do differently. A training company should be happy to have a phone call with you and answer questions in more detail.

Friendly shop assistant helping a customer.

“Development feedback gets staff back on track, while motivational feedback tells staff to keep doing more of the good things.”

“You could become a rescuer… and this isn’t what people want.”
Perhaps you are trying too hard to be a good manager. You are attentive, you help people with all their problems and you’ve always got the answers for them. This can make the job really boring! You don’t want to take away the ability of staff to decide, make a mistake and deal with a complete situation from end to end because you always swoop in and help them out. This can be quite demotivating for staff.

“Are we about to lose our best salesperson and gain our worst sales manager?”
We see this a lot in the retail sector: a top salesperson gets promoted and they become an awful sales manager. This can become a cycle in a business that has never had a good sales manager, so evenif an individual was a top seller, they still weren’t being managed well and had no role model to learn from. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For any business, really consider if you are about to lose your best salesperson and gain your worst sales manager. If a salesperson has lost their motivation because they are looking
for the next move up and they want to manage people, what support are you going to offer them? Is there training, coaching or support in place to help their transition from sales into management?

“You need a stable quality of people who are quite happy to keep doing what they’re doing every day.”
If you are a small, independent store you may need to accept that you won’t be able to fulfil all the needs of very ambitious people. It could serve you well to keep a long-term relationship with those people, even if for a few years they go off and work for another business. They might end up coming back to you in a more senior position in a few years’ time and bring all that experience with the. Don’t burn bridges when people leave and never take it as a personal affront.

On the other hand, don’t be disappointed if you’ve got people working for you who aren’t that ambitious. You need a stable quality of people who are quite happy to keep doing what they are doing every day. You need people who will come in and do a good job for you… just don’t ignore them. Don’t forget to encourage them, but don’t expect them to keep looking for a promotion, a pay rise or a next step, because then you’ll be more likely to lose them.

“You shouldn’t build a job role around an individual.”
I quite often have conversations with small and medium-sized business owners about never building a job role around one individual because you don’t know what’s going on for them. You might think to yourself “I really want to keep Jane, she’s absolutely great so I’ll create this weird part-time role that fits around her childcare issues” just because you want to keep her in the business. You end up with a job role that doesn’t really work for anyone except Jane and two months later she wins the lottery and disappears. This is out of your control and you’ve now made all sorts of changes and concessions in the business, and maybe upset some other people as a result. You shouldn’t build a job role around an individual, you should see what the business needs, and then you should go and recruit for that role.

Choosing the perfect earrings at a jeweler.

“Development feedback gets staff back on track, while motivational feedback tells staff to keep doing more of the good things.”

“You are a part of the show; you’re on stage.”
We can look to big organisations for inspiration. Disney is great at making sure all its customer-facing people deliver a fantastic experience. One of the simple ways that Disney underlines this is by the way it describes its people. They are all considered “cast members” – making it very clear to everyone, even those who empty the rubbish bins and sweep the floors, that they are still counted as a cast member and are part of the show. They’re on stage.

This is actually a very clear strategy as a manager. If I see you being grumpy, with the wrong look on your face or going out “on stage” with the wrong attitude, I take you off stage. We then have a conversation and you
can go back to deliver the show. There are a few things I advise businesses to take from this: do you have an off-stage area? Do you offer regular opportunities to go back there? And do you have something that advises
staff “beyond this door, you’re on stage” with a chance to check their uniform? Put a mirror on the back of a door, so they can see themselves as the customer is about to see them before they step out onto the “show floor”.

“It’s a constant commentary about what’s happening on the shop floor.”
The main elements of motivation are praise and reward (and that’s not monetary reward, but the feeling of doing rewarding work). What feedback are staff getting about what they do well and the things they don’t do well? Development feedback gets staff back on track, while motivational feedback tells staff to keep doing more of the good things.

Management is a constant commentary about what’s happening on the shop floor. As a real shop floor manager, you should be walking round and commenting out loud all the time: “I really like the way you did that”, “I heard what you said to that customer, it sounded great!”, “That sounded like an interesting phone call, what were they asking about?”, “They looked really happy, what have they been doing today?”. Let people know that you’re noticing and like what you’re seeing.

“Be careful of buddying-up new, temporary people with your existing long-term people.”
This can seem like a good way of getting new staff up to speed, but what tends to happen is you buddy them up with your poorer performers rather than your top performers because you look across the shop floor and think “Okay, who’s got time to train the new person up?”. It’s not going to be the best performers, because they’re busy working with customers, and you think “Well, I don’t want to disturb them, but this person’s got time because they’re the one who’s always stood about at the back, not quite engaging”.
The new person just learns bad habits and it’s an easy trap to fall into.

Second, you’re also asking your long-term staff to do an extra job by training the new person, rather than rewarding them. Unless this is something an individual has an absolute passion for, and you are going to give it to them as a reward, I would avoid doing it. Make sure you have a proper plan in place as to how you will get new people up to speed, how you will support them and share that plan with your staff so they feel valued.

“If they can’t do it when the owner of the store walks through the door, they’re not the right people to serve your customers.”
As a business owner, when you go into your store, it should be exactly as you want your customers to see it and your staff should be behaving and greeting you in exactly the way that you would want them to greet the customer. If you are a small business owner wondering how many times per month you should visit your stores, consider Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, who reportedly visited 25 different Starbucks stores every week during his tenure. He went in, the staff saw him, he saw the stores and he did that consistently every week.

“I would want staff in my store who love it when it is absolutely rammed.”
The last thing you want is, when it goes quieter after Christmas, for your staff to say, “Thank goodness for that… we’re back to normal”. I would want staff in my store who love it when it is absolutely rammed. They should think Saturdays at Christmas are the best times, and they will be trying to
make Tuesday mornings that busy and that energetic. I don’t really want people who revel in the quiet periods, because that’s not when we’re being successful. As a manager, you should be role-modelling this attitude for other people. This is what business would be like all day, every day if we had a perfect world, so I wouldn’t encourage any moaning about it being busy.

Want to find out more? Take a look at our Customer Experience courses here.