Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied: Four Commensurate Measures
Agreement on Approach: Openly communicate with the team to ensure everyone agrees on the the manner and means of your approach to gain commitment.
Metrics for Assurance: Use metrics to track the efforts and performance of the team in order to validate your feedback, effect change, and improve.
Training & Coaching: Harness your role as a leader to train your team with new skillsets and coach them through the refinement of existing ones, guaranteeing they know how to do the work well.
Culture of Accountability: Foster a culture of accountability by setting expectations and following up in order to cultivate an environment that demands and breeds results.
As a manager, you’re a coach—but you’re also a player. The balance of these two simultaneous roles is the key role of all effective leaders, but it’s not an easy one. It requires you lead by example (none of that “Do as I say, not as I do” hogwash), oversee and evaluate the actions of your staff, and develop their skills and competency through coaching and training.
It’s that final role—coaching and training—that’s the kicker. Your employees may support the approach and believe in the goals, they might be receptive to measurements and feedback, but unless they know how to do the job…well, then those are just sweet words and promises. If you know you have agreement from your team but you’re still not seeing results, it’s almost certainly a training problem: Your employees know why they should do the job, but they don’t know how.
Often it’s that dangerous beast, assumption, that once again gets in the way of our success. It’s tempting to assume that our staff know how to perform all the different aspects of their job, especially since they may seem mundane or obvious to us as managers. But unless we demonstrate and coach them through the specific elements of their approach, there’s no guarantee they understand and will execute their roles precisely.
Another common mistake is the one-and-done approach to training. Training is not something a team finishes; it’s a continual, adaptive process. It’s your responsibility as a leader to evaluate when and how training should be revived or revisited; carefully analyze the performance of your employees (hello again, metrics!) in order to track the effectiveness of training and what aspects of their position need some coaching. Even our best employees lose momentum sometimes, and it’s our job to reinvigorate their approach with fresh training.
Although coaching and training are perpetual, training is most effective when it’s executed offline. Football coaches don’t train new skills in the middle of the Super Bowl; they practice before the game is live. The same should be true of your training approach. Training, especially of new employees, should take place immediately after hiring, before the store opens, on days off, after closing—anytime when the employee doesn’t also feel the pressure of the role itself. They’ll have their attention wholly dedicated to learning so that they can practice successfully implementing their new skills and be receptive to feedback. If you train on the floor, you’ll find your employees distracted and dictated by the pressure to perform; instead provide a safe space for them to learn and improve.
Training and coaching—preparing your team before they hit the floor, and guiding them or resolving their snafus once they’re out there—will dramatically increase their skillsets and competency. Regardless of how you prioritize your other roles as a manager, even in your relationships and influence with your employees, you must be training. Train with intentionality and an eye for your objectives; train with your own actions as well as your words; and train as both a player and a coach. It is your priority to affect and improve the performance of the team, and you can only do so through coaching and training.