Three Ways to Ingite ‘A Player’ Engagement

June 23, 2013

There was once a time when “because I said so” would have sufficed.  Those times are gone – especially if you’re committed to drawing from the best talent that this world has to offer you.  These are the people with the confidence, creativity and innovative spirits to speak up and maybe even offer alternative approaches and solutions.”

 

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, Three Ways to Ignite ‘A Player’ Engagement, by Martha Finney.

 

In this April 2, 2012 article on the HR Career Success website, the author helps managers understand how to effectively lead top talent.  As DFS continues to attract and develop top talent the author’s advice becomes critical.

 

Whether a first time manager or a senior executive, or any level between, you are likely leading a group of talented individuals looking to you for inspiring leadership.  If you follow the author’s three tips, you will find you are along the path to success.

 

More from the article:

 

“As a leader of A Players, you have to be an A Player yourself.  You must bring the same passion for innovation, exploration and personal challenge to your job that you expect your people to bring to theirs.”

 

Read the short article to learn more! 

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening

April 14, 2013

Good listening—the active and disciplined activity of probing and challenging the information garnered from others to improve its quality and quantity—is the key to building a base of knowledge that generates fresh insights and ideas. Put more strongly, good listening, in my experience, can often mean the difference between success and failure in business ventures (and hence between a longer career and a shorter one).”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening, by Bernard T. Ferrari.

In this February 2012 McKinsey Quarterly article, the author describes the power of effective listening skills to engage and develop talent, drive innovation, and facilitate organizational results.  We all could use a reminder of the importance of listening and this article provides some tools to help us achieve expertise as effective listeners.  If you want to lead effectively, you need to practice listening skills.

“Throughout my career, I’ve observed that good listeners tend to make better decisions, based on better-informed judgments, than ordinary or poor listeners do—and hence tend to be better leaders. By showing respect to our conversation partners, remaining quiet so they can speak, and actively opening ourselves up to facts that undermine our beliefs, we can all better cultivate this valuable skill.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

April 14, 2013

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities.  A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, 8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees, by Jeff Haden.

In this February 21, 2012 post on Inc. Magazine’s online edition, the author provides a straightforward list of qualities which separate ‘remarkable’ employees from ‘great’ ones.

At DFS we strive to select, develop, and retain the very best talent in luxury retail.  Learn how the author defines remarkable and then reflect on how or if you are developing the remarkable among your team and decide whether ‘remarkable’ is for you!

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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You don’t need to have all the answers

October 2, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Digging out of the Answer-Person Hole 09-19-2011

There are times when a leader must refrain from giving advice and offering opinions; yet such restraint is difficult. After all, you’re paid to provide solutions….aren’t you? So you don’t pause to consider, in the moment, about whether it’s appropriate to give your opinions and advice. When asked, your mouth opens and you speak your truth without considering the consequences.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, “Digging out of the Answer-Person Hole”, by Mary Jo Asmus.

In this March 1, 2010 posting on the Aspire Collaborative Services Leadership Solutions blog, the author provides a simple message on the necessity to let your staff develop by finding their own solutions.

As you read this article, think about your skills in delegation and situational leadership and your ability to match your leadership style to the readiness of your individual team members and the total team.

More from the article:

When you support your staff in developing their own solutions and opinions, you’ve not only supported their growth, but you also free up yourself to do work that has a higher priority for you and your organization.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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The Art of Asking Questions

September 20, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The Art of Asking Questions – 09-12-2011

“..asking questions effectively is a major underlying part of a manager’s job — which suggests that it might be worth giving this skill a little more focus.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, “The Art of Asking Questions”, by Ron Ashkenas.

In this August 30, 2011 blog post on the HBR Blog Network, the author provides clear guidance on the power of using the right questions to help an individual, a group, or even an organization succeed.

As you read this article, think about your ability to ask appropriate questions to guide progress, remove obstacles, and lead effectively.

More from the article:

Most of us never think about how to frame our questions. Giving this process some explicit thought however might not only make you a better manager; it might also help others improve their inquiry skills as well.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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The State of Labor in Retailing

September 14, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The State of Labor in Retailing 09-02-2011

Labor Day is almost here and the retail industry’s focus is on sales this weekend and not the original intention of the holiday — to celebrate American labor and its historic role in making the nation great.

So what is the state of labor in the retailing business?

The industry, like others, has its problems, with a workforce largely made up of part-timers who work terrible hours for low wages and few benefits. The combination of unmotivated and sometimes poorly-trained workers and managers under extreme pressure to succeed has created issues in some stores.

Retailing also suffers from an upper management disconnect. As covered many times on RetailWire, top executives often do not have a true understanding of what workers deal with in stores. Unlike in the past, many top execs are more likely to come from MBA programs than up from the ranks.

Like other industries, compensation of upper tier executives has grown at an exponentially faster rate than front line workers. A few businesses — Whole Foods comes to mind — have taken steps to tie executive compensation to what workers within the chain make, although even here the c-suite is growing at a faster rate than store employees.

In 2006, Whole Foods increased its the salary cap from 14 times the average pay of all full-time employees to 19. That number was nearly twice the cap (10x) Whole Foods had in place in 1999. The average hourly wage for full-timers at the chain between 1999 and 2006 grew from $12.36 to $15.38.

The debate over benefits and how to control health care costs remains contentious within the industry. Major grocery chains in Southern California and the United Food and Commercial Workers seem, almost unbelievably to outsiders, on the brink of another work stoppage. An employer lockout followed by a strike in 2003/2004 was extremely damaging to Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway with the chains estimated to have lost $2 billion, not to mention the hardship faced by workers not pulling in their regular paychecks.

Not all labor relationships within retailing suffer from animosity or, perhaps worse, apathy. There are many broad exceptions: Costco, Container Store, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Zappos and others are often given high marks for employer/employee relationships.

Ultimately, however, many retail businesses see and treat workers as expenses to be contained and not assets to be exploited. They do this even as they proclaim, almost in unison, that their front-line workers are most important to performance.

Discussion questions:  What do you think is the state of labor in the retailing industry today? How would you fix it, assuming you believe there is something that needs to be fixed?

My post:

As a career-long retail leader, this subject never fails to frustrate me.  The easy excuse of the poor state of labor in retailing is the dominance of short term financial metrics driving bad leadership at the shop floor level.  The constant demand of immediate results that beat market expectations forces leaders to cut investment in long-term success strategies:  training and development, benefits that drive employee loyalty and performance, and time spent in efforts to intentionally engage line workers.

However, any leader in any retail organization can decide today to focus on loving their teams and provide simple development opportunities and engagement activities.  I’ve seen it personally over and over again.  Having said this, those retailers who continue to push their leaders to not focus on positive efforts to engage their staff will continue to decline into irrelevance.  Why?  Most operational leaders do not have the character strength to counter poor senior leadership.

How to fix this?  Support those retailers who get it – Container Store, Zappos, Costco and others.  Their financial results will continue to strengthen their market share and eventually kill off lesser contenders.  The evolution of retail, happening in front of us.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  The State of Labor in Retailing

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The Retail Power of Suggestion

April 4, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Retail Customer Experience: The Retail Power of Suggestion 4/3/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

Just down the road from my house is a great, locally owned, independent comic book shop that used to be one of my frequent haunts. Recently I’ve gone back in to reconnect with a hobby that I once loved.

The owner, an unassuming and quiet fellow named Doug, is there virtually all of the time. He has a deep love for and knowledge of his product, and is always happy to make suggestions about what to read next, based on what you’ve previously enjoyed.

Doug does something else that I didn’t notice at first, a powerful little trick of language: When he’s handing you your purchase and change, he leaves you with a phrase that, for lack of a better term, is a command to come back.

He doesn’t say, “Come see us again!” or “Thanks, please come again!” or any of the common parting shots. No, he says, confidently, “You’ll be back” or “You’ll enjoy” or “You’ll come back for more soon!”

It’s a tiny semantic difference, but a major psychological one. Like I said, I didn’t notice this at first – but when I bought the first volume of “Queen and Country” and Doug said “You’ll enjoy that, and be back soon for number two,” I immediately formed a mental picture of myself doing exactly that. About a week later, that’s precisely what I did.

Notice the level of specificity in his parting shot. He planted the seed for my next purchase by spelling it out for me. It’s not some nebulous idea of future business; it’s a description of a specific product that I’m going to buy in the coming days.

Visualization is one of the cornerstones of any flavor of self-improvement; it works because the human brain is so incredibly good at taking the things it sees and carrying out the next steps needed to make them real. This is precisely why Doug’s method is so powerful – it paints the brain a picture of the customer’s next visit, the next purchase, the next satisfying experience.

Fortune favors the brave, and business goes to the bold. A timid plea of “please, come back and see us” reaches out for pity, and sometimes that works. Much more effective is a simple and direct statement of what value the customer received, why they will want to receive it again, and what they will come back for.

Discussion questions:  What do you think about the “power of suggestion” at retail, especially around product endorsements and goodbyes? Have you experienced any similar winning suggestive practices by sales associates at retail? Is there a downside to suggestive selling strategies?

My post: 

A couple points here:  First, the key for all retailers is to keep trying various techniques for effective customer communication.  Will suggestive statements psychologically impact future customer behaviors?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  To dismiss this as a “trick” is shortsighted.  To rely upon the technique to be the solution is naïve.  The sales associate must be able to determine appropriate ways to greet, interact with, and end each interaction, based on the experience with each customer.  Which brings me to my second point.  Retailers must, even in difficult economic times, invest in leadership development and effective staff hiring and development efforts – including the psychology of communication and human interaction.  None of this is easy either for the managers or for the associates.  It must be hired for, developed, encouraged and rewarded.  And then, watch the magic happen.  You will go try it now, won’t you?  (How was that for the power of suggestion?)

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13654

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The Brilliance of The Container Store

March 20, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The Container Store: The Employee as an ‘Extension of the Brand’ 3/20/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

In the retail industry, a 100 percent plus annual employee turnover is not uncommon. And, in these tough economic times, that statistic doesn’t tend to be of greatest concern to operators. More likely, they’re preoccupied with determining if they can get away with one less person on the floor; cutting back on training; or increasing the commission portion of the compensation.

There is one retailer, with 46 stores and 3,500 employees, which seems to have a very different philosophy. The Container Store experiences just 10-to-15 percent annual turnover. How does the retailer achieve a number virtually unheard of in the industry?

Perhaps the most eye-opening place to start is on the interview process for a “transition team.” The transition team at The Container Store is a group of associates hired for a five-day or so tenure to transition a store between themed selling seasons. There would typically be transition teams before and after Christmas, Spring Cleaning, Back-to-School, etc. At The Container Store, the selection process for this short-term associate is more involved than what most retailers would have their full-timers go through. It consists of two interviews: one in a group setting; and one face-to-face lasting an hour and a half. If there is a next step, the candidate is taken for a walk around the store with a group of other candidates and asked “what if” questions largely oriented to customer interaction. (Note: This is for associates who are being hired to change displays, fixtures and move merchandise – not to sell product.)

Karyn Maynard is The Container Store’s director of recruiting. When asked about this process, she said this type of attention to detail is not unusual for The Container Store. “We believe each employee is an extension of our brand. The staff in the office can write all day long about how great we are, but it is our associates on the floor who communicate it by action with the shopper.”

The evaluation process is very deep regardless of the position. “We want to hire great people and we want to retain great people,” said Ms. Maynard. “We have part-timers who have been with us over 15 years.”

The evaluation process also goes both ways. As with any screening process, The Container Store wants to be sure the future employee is the right fit. But, The Container Store also wants to be sure the company is the right fit for the employee. The company considers it symbolic that their very first hire was a customer.

“This process has been an evolution,” recalls Ms. Maynard. “When the founders started the company in 1978 they wanted to have ‘the best retail organization in the country.’ We are certainly more sophisticated now than they were then, but even our first hire started us in the right direction.”

Today, in fact, most employees are former customers. Many are approached on the sales floor when they are shopping. (“Have you ever considered…?”) The other source of talent is online through The Container Store website, where every application is reviewed and replied to.

When asked what mistakes other retailers make, Ms. Maynard quickly answered, “They are not making a commitment to time.”

(By the way, Karyn Maynard did not come up through the Human Resource department. She came up through the stores, like everyone else at The Container Store.)

Discussion questions:  The Container Store seems to be an outlier when it comes to hiring in the retail industry. Do you know of other retailers with unique hiring processes? Why do you think many (if not most) retailers accept an annual turnover rate of 100 percent? What does The Container Store gain from such an extraordinarily low turnover rate?

My post: 

I’ve watched the Container Store for years and have always been impressed that they have never wavered from their “commitment to time” in talent acquisition, education, and ongoing improvement of these processes.  They are simply maniacal about this.  We all know that having extraordinary people outweighs any temporary lack of extraordinary products, services, or strategies.  But few companies focus on the people side with the same level of intensity that The Container Store executes daily.  Why?  It started at the beginning with the founders’ personal focus on hiring and educating the best workforce anywhere.  For any company wishing to emulate The Container Store’s success, it must start at the very top.  The leader must ensure their lieutenants share their maniacal focus and stay on this literally forever.  Any relaxation in this focus will allow slippage.  There is no shortage of information on developing excellent hiring, education, and retention processes.  There is, however, a terrible shortage of leaders willing to make this the company’s #1 priority.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13624

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It is time to celebrate the craft of the front-line worker

March 16, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Secrets of a French Checkout Operative 3/16/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

There are some people that many of us take for granted and never even notice. We either ignore them or use them as a target on which we can vent the frustrations of the day. Amongst these, frequently, are checkout staff. Checkout staff who many of us only greet, let alone thank, on the rarest of occasions.

But one of that category has decided to vent her own frustrations. Anna Sam, who worked in a French supermarket for almost a decade, has written a book about her experiences with customers and employers alike. Since its appearance in France last year, Les Tribulations d’une Caissière (The Tribulations of a Checkout Girl) has been reprinted 19 times and sold 100,000 copies, according to a report in The Times. The film rights have also been acquired, a musical comedy based on it is planned and a comic-strip version is to appear this year. English is not one of the ten languages into which it has been translated.

Ms. Sam claims that despite smiling at shoppers, she received “little besides insults and disdain in return. She witnessed behavior ranging from the loathsome to the lustful – queue-jumping, cheating, thieving, moaning and sometimes a quick fondle between the meat and the cheese counter.” Self-important managers watched from behind a one-way mirror.

Described by the paper as “the voice of the voiceless, and the witty observer of a place that seems to bring out the worst in us all,” Ms. Sam often said “bonjour” 250 times a day but received few responses. She needed authorization to go to the toilet from managers who kept her waiting. When greeting families at the cash register, parents warned their children, “If you don’t work hard at school, you’ll end up like that lady.”

A blog to let off steam eventually led to the book. Her advice is now sought by politicians, retailers and even a cash register manufacturer developing a training course for his products’ use. But her main advice to retailers is that both managers and checkout staff would benefit from training in how to deal with people as well as products. “You can’t educate shoppers to behave better but you can train employees to handle them,” she said.

Discussion questions:  How would you rate working conditions for retail cashiers and sales associates? Are retailers doing enough to teach managers and checkout staff how to deal with people?

My post: 

The key reason for apathetic front-line workers and the resultant poor service is the poor level of leadership skills in front-line managers – usually due to poor leadership skills of the senior management.  Please read the full article in the Times to understand the experience the author writes about.  

This passage is a great example:  At a retail trade conference in Luxembourg, Sam suggested to executives that they should greet checkout staff every day. “It was as though they had never thought of it. Oh yes, that’s a good idea, they said. They all made a note – ‘say hello in the morning’ – to remind themselves.”  Pathetic, but unfortunately common. 

The message:  Retailers must invest in understanding and hiring for the talent that make effective front line workers and leaders:  empathy, customer focus, high energy, etc.  Provide significant training on people management:  personality types, conflict management, etc.  Then, ensure that senior management consistently models people-centric behaviors:  saying hello to front-line staff, asking their opinions of product, procedures, store design, customer service initiatives, etc.  Treat front-line staff as professionals engaged in an important craft and see how quickly they begin to behave as such.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13614

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5 “easy” steps to a winning corporate culture

March 12, 2008

DISCUSSION TOPIC:  Five Steps to Build a Winning Corporate Culture

TOPIC SUMMARY:

In a recent article in Convenience Store Decisions magazine (http://www.csdecisions.com/article/3218/five-steps-to-build-a-winning-corporate-culture.html), Gary Bradt discusses his views on creating a winning company culture:

Some leadership teams attempt to create culture by acting as wordsmiths, spending untold hours carefully crafting vision, mission and values statements. That’s unfortunate, because in the end culture is not created by words plastered on the wall or carried around on laminated cards, but rather culture is defined by actions on the ground.

A winning company culture is simple and emphasizes three areas: serving the customer, growing the business, and developing employees. A losing culture is confusing and complex, places customer needs behind those of the company, and emphasizes personal gain over team achievement.

The author goes on to describe a “simple” 5 step process for creating a winning culture.

Discussion questions: Do you agree with the premise that creating a winning culture is simple? Do you think most company leaders are able to define what their organization is all about without outside help?

My post:

This is an incredibly critical topic and I am not surprised by the outpouring of opinions.  Culture building is never easy, although the process the author describes is certainly straight-forward.  The visioning process is necessary, in that it forces leaders to pause long enough to articulate the company story and their own stories; a process which uncovers core values that eventually turn into vision/mission statements and the rest.  Until the leaders go through this process, many stumble through their interactions with each other and subordinates never realizing the impact their actions have on the culture.

The visioning process must involve all leadership levels and as many key front line employees as possible so everyone feels a part of the process.  Understanding the story of the company, the values represented by that story, and how each employee’s actions impact the story are all critical elements.  Once complete, the success of the process long term depends on how leaders’ behaviors do or do not link to the vision/mission, and how people who violate the values are handled.

Finally, the visioning process is never truly finished, as our retail world is ever-changing and companies must constantly evaluate how their story fits in with the changing individual customer and employee stories.

It’s a hard process, but energizing and exciting!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

http://www.osoriogroup.com/

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GO TO THE FULL DISCUSSION AT RETAILWIRE.COM:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12815  

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