One of the biggest challenges facing all retailers is their people. The biggest complaint I hear is “they don’t do what I want them to do” and “how many times do I have to tell them.” Therein lies the problem – as managers/leaders we think we have to tell our people what to do and we have to have all the answers. When we just rely on telling our team members what to do, we cause many long-term problems.
We always receive amazing feedback from clients during our on job follow up process as they were introduced to the simple process of asking instead of telling. Most store managers and a number of Area Managers had slipped into the habit of problem solving (telling the answers) because they think it’s the right thing to do.
I know the reason why we resort to telling people what to do – it’s quicker! However out team members never have to use their brains, they simply respond to what they are told to do. If we rely on this technique we often get compliance, they will do what we want them to do but only if we keep telling them. Now this might work well in the army, but it does nothing to grow your team and it’s really exhausting. I ask managers who are faced with this frustrating challenge – “does the team member know the answer?” and they respond with “yes”. So I ask “why do they keep asking you then?” The answers usually include “it’s quicker for them, they don’t get blamed if it goes wrong and they don’t have to think”.
How do you turn the question back on them? Well it’s pretty easy, you could use any of the following phrases:
• “Before I tell you what I think, what are your thoughts?”
• “I’m not sure, what do you think would be a better way?”
• “What do you think we should do?”
Asking questions is so powerful as it unlocks so many answers. Here are four great reasons for asking instead of telling:
• Before the team member can answer they have to think
• You know if they know the answer – and if they don’t you can then explain
• They are much more likely to remember if they tell you rather than just get told – research tells us, after one month, people remember 20 % of what they are told yet 70% of what they have to say
• They are also much more likely to take more ownership as they have come up with the answer
• Because of the above 4 points your team members will be more challenged to think and grow. Plus they may come up with some innovative answers you hadn’t even thought of!!
Next time you are having a conversation with a team member, just check who is doing most of the talking and who is providing the answers – if it’s you feel free to push back on the team member and step aside as they grow.
Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.