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Confronting The Challenge Of Management

Furniture World Magazine


Get rid of poor performers? Solve those problems yourself? Hold monthly sales meetings? Honor the top performer?

Once you arrive in the world of retail furniture management, you realize that the "F" in furniture has to stand for flexible! Webster agrees. You not only need to be many things to many people; you actually have to become many people! Managers mentioned by Webster are Vince Lombardi, & Norman Vincent Peale, Hitler and Atilla the Hun! The definition of a manager is "one who directs a team. One who succeeds in accomplishing one's purpose. To direct or control. To make submissive." As a manager, you must fine-tune all of your skills, and develop talents you never even knew you had before!

Patience was not one of my strongest attributes until I entered the world of managing "humans!" I soon learned the four "people skills," which are: patience, psychology, perseverance, and priorities - in that order. I thought I was supposed to be a coach. I wondered, where did all these "P" words come from, and how was I supposed to be all these things to all these people?

How about you, how are you doing? You are the coach, the support system, head cheerleader and arbitrator all wrapped up into one!

So, if you are the coach, where are you hanging out? Are you in the locker room or are you on the field with your team? Silly question, don't you think? Yet how many of you managers are "huddled" in your office right now firing off "signals" on your computer, phone, or fax! Get out of there ~ quick! My people always called me "E.F. Hutton." I was always slinking around on the sales floor. It was not to catch them doing something wrong, it was to help them, because, if you can't hear them you can't help them!

You must remember ~ This is not Oz! You are not the Wizard! There is no curtain behind which you can hide! You have to share your vision and your mission with your people. To do this they must see you, hear you, and know what the goals are for everyone!

Okay, I take back what I said. You are a wizard! Just, get out from behind that curtain, um, office! You can't help your team go forward until they know where they've been and where they are now. Only then can both you and they find out where they're going.

Don't expect them to guess what you want. Your people are good. They are very good but they are not clairvoyant! They know that you are the wizard. You are their coach. They know, you know. It's just that they don't. If what you just read feels like you just fell down "the looking glass," guess what? That's how they must feel. So let's get up, dust ourselves off, and give them what I call my formula for leadership success. Let them know what you expect. What you will inspect and what you will accept! No surprises for you and no surprises for them! All you have to do is tell them the rules (just like we do for the consumer).

You are the coach. You need to use, the most powerful word in management and in life. As coach this word (communication) should be the mantra that you employ every hour of everyday with everybody. Not communicating causes misunderstandings, hurt feelings, bad attitudes, wrong signals, and divorces (personally & professionally). If I were to name one factor that is the most consistent and persistent detrimental factor in most companies, that would be a lack of communication. We train our sales consultants to tell the consumer, "Talk to me, Ethel" Yet, we don't talk to our team, enough! You can't talk to them if you haven't listened to them. That's why you're moving out of your office and onto the sales floor ~ where the action is!

I often ask retail managers, "How often during the month do you meet with your people? How often do you touch base with them? What about your coaching sessions?

A common response is, "All the time. I'm always talking to them about what they're working on." What does that mean? These managers grab salespeople on the run. Basically, what they are asking, "How's it going?" Another response is, "I meet with them once a month." Once a month! Once a month? Once a month is too little and too late. It's over all ready!
These sessions should be conducted once a week! Okay, at least twice a month. They should be scheduled the same day of the week at the same time. Make a definite appointment to touch base and discuss strategy. The number of sessions may differ for each consultant based on their performance and stage of training in your organization. They need to come prepared to the meeting with what they're working on, who they're working with, where they're at month to date, and where they feel they will finish in their quest for goal. You need to know how much traffic is coming in, and when these potential customers will become clients. Let them know where they are. Help them get to where they want to go, and where you "expect" them to be. That is one of your main jobs as coach.

They're pro's. They're accountable. Keep raising the bar. Get them to reach higher and higher. Even eagles need a push! Most owners leave salespeople alone long enough to fail and then come in (swoop down) and zap them! Ken Blanchard calls this Leave Alone - Zap Management!

Make this statement your motto, Perfection is our goal - Excellence will be tolerated!

Your team's performance has a direct relationship to your expectations. Don't ever lower your standards to come down to their level.

In addition to these individual-coaching sessions, quarterly evaluations should be conducted for everyone in your organization. Let them know where they're at, how they're doing.

We all have a tendency to hang on to non-performers too long. This happens for many reasons in retail. Your thought process runs the gamut:

"First, I have to find a replacement! Who has time to do that! That means, running an ad. What do I say? What if no one qualified responds. Then what! What if they do? Then, I have to interview, and interview. Who do I hire? Then I have to train them. this is giving me a headache. They'll be okay. They're doing well enough. They're not that bad!"

Wake up. Don't settle for this level of performance or jump into mother/mister mode to save the world! You cannot save everyone. Not everyone wants to be saved. I repeat, get out of mother mode and go directly into coach mode!

You cannot afford to keep poor performers because they cost you a fortune. It is never easy to fire anyone and it never gets any easier. These are people's lives we're talking about. However, if you trained them, helped them, and supported them you have to let them go. You can train, support, and coach, but they have to want to be great salespeople. They have to have the passion. If they don't, you need to bite the bullet. Everyone loses when you delay this management responsibility. The rest of your team has to pick up the slack and become responsible for the store hitting its goal. They will soon start to resent the poor performer and you.

Customers lose because they are not being serviced properly. Each disappointed customer is telling 250 of their closest friends and relatives not to visit your establishment. You can't even put a price tag on this loss.

It's also very unfair to the person in question here. They know that they are not performing. How happy can they be? This is a lose-lose for everyone.

Remember, your business is only as good as your worst employee!

The most effective motivational item in the manager's toolbox is praise. Everyone wears a little invisible sign that says, make me feel important!

We all have different hot buttons. What motivates one person may not inspire another. Your job is one of psychologist, therapist, and soothsayer. Keep that crystal ball polished! Figuring out and evaluating each person's hot-button is truly a skill that has to be developed and fine-tuned. It is the fine art of management. It takes lots of patience and hard work on your part. Hey, I never said this job was easy! How are you at evaluating your people? What makes them tick? What makes them a team? Are they a team?

The two main types of rewards that we humans respond to are recognition and praise. Give them "atta boys" & "atta girls!" We all need them. If someone tells you they don't need to be recognized, check them for a pulse!

Be careful here. Praise must be specific. Don't just go around saying "nice job, nice job." This is where the jellybeans come in. It's like you're just handing them out. If the recognition is not for a specific accomplishment, how will your people know what they did right, so that they can do it again? It also sounds like your compliments aren't really genuine if they are randomly dispensed.

Thank them and mean it. In one study, 50% of personnel polled said that "thank you's" were seldom if ever given! By the way, recognize them all. Many companies only recognize the top performers. The ones that sold the most. This is great if everyone has been there forever, but the new kids don't stand a chance. I always recommend that both the top writer and the person who wrote the most over goal be recognized. The new hire's goal should be set lower so that it is attainable and realistic. By recognizing highest percentage over goal, everyone has a chance to win. I would select a different category for recognition each month in addition to the sales figures. One month a prize would go to the person who has the highest closing percentage, the highest average sale, or whoever made and closed the most housecalls. This way each month your staff continues to hone their skills, and add to the professional tools in their toolbox! Thanking them in this way can be fun and it gets everyone to play!

You've asked your people to raise the bar and go the extra mile. You must congratulate them when they cross the finish line. We all need to be recognized for our efforts.

Your main responsibility as a manager is to help people. Why is it then when you got into management one of the first things you did was adopt everyone's "monkeys!" They come to you with a question or a problem and how do you handle it? What do you say? "Let me look into it and I'll let you know." You adopt the problem. It becomes your monkey. By the end of the day, all those little primates are hanging all over you. No wonder you're always in your office. You can't get out of there because of the zoo that has moved in.

This adoption takes place for several reasons:

  • You think, it's easier if you do it yourself.
  • I call it holiday or sandbox managing. You don't have to think about how to delegate the problem or teach the other person to perform the task. You know how to easily handle the mechanics of the situation yourself.
  • You look like a hero. You solved the problem. You are valuable. You are good! They need you. Hey, get over it!

It's time to clean out, clear out, and move out. Instead of adopting monkeys, adopt these seven words. They are the Seven Magic Words of Management.

Help them own their own challenges. That's how they learn. That's how they grow!

The "M" in management stands for meet with them on a consistent basis. This is job #1. This is so you can coach, train, support, strategize, evaluate, congratulate, monitor, and help them reach their goals. Help them soar to new heights!

The "M" in management does not stand for Mother, Monkeys or Martyr. You do not have to be sacrificed for them to succeed! Be their coach and their mentor.

Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at finney@furninfo.com.