Retail Observer

January 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM JANUARY 2020 42 R ecently I was conducting a cultural assessment with a new team working on a Team Tune-Up. This part of a project may include one-on-one interviews, focus groups, or surveys to identify people's perceptions on what's currently going well and what's not working on the team, in the company itself, or with the leader. We also use this process to establish initial trust with our clients so that when we embark on the journey of a stronger, more resilient, more respectful team and workplace, we let everyone know all voices will be heard and valued. I typically tell prospective clients that about 60% of these groups are suffering in some way from symptoms of organizational drag: turnover, loss of talent, interpersonal strife, lower or inconsistent performance, loss of market share or lowered sales, mediocre morale, etc. The other groups have some understanding that they are facing great change (or need to) and want to be ready for it in a different way. So, sometimes, especially with the first kind of group, people don't always want to talk to us. Or, if they do, they are wary, suspicious and hesitant. Other times, they are so grateful and relieved at encountering a real listener, someone demonstrating care, concern and empathy, that all of the ideas, issues and concerns come rushing out. Often, there's venting. Sometimes, exhaustion. More often than you might think, tears. Often I am struck by a simple idea, a crazy-simple solution. At times I've pushed it to the side of my mind, imagining that the answer to so many of these groups that want to get better, feel better, or even just feel less stressed, frustrated and tired, must be complicated — with the complexity of global, multi-dimensional organizations facing unprecedented changes, there must be an answer that requires months and months of expensive big-name consultants arriving in jackboots, cluttering up the walls with sticky notes and printing out fancy Gantt charts? What if these teams, these companies, could not only feel better, but could transcend whatever's come before and find happiness, satisfaction in their work, success in their endeavors, a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day? After completing my interviews with this group, I wanted to bring them all together and say, "Just play nice," but nice isn't selling these days, and nice has gotten a bad rap. Nice, they say, finishes last and has no place in business and market economies that have been slashed and burned these past, tough years. Nice might belong in the HR department (where they sometimes talk to people), but it definitely doesn't belong in sales or the CEO's office. Here's the thing: mean doesn't particularly work. Even if it did for a short period of time, i.e. you're motivating them with the stick of fear or threat of losing their job, it's not sustainable. Wielding the heavy hand, or allowing a culture of he-said-she-said to perpetuate is distracting, demotivating, demoralizing and loses you money. WHAT ABOUT A LITTLE KINDNESS? 1. First, it's good to be kind to yourself. This isn't about being selfish or self-centered, but rather to let go of our need, our drive for illusive perfectionism. It doesn't exist, frankly, and when we try to measure up to an impossible standard, we lose not only our humanity for our own self but also for others. Also, it's nearly impossible for a self-imposed perfectionist to have a sense of humor, which involves wit, perspective and vulnerability. Be kind to you. Laugh at yourself. 2. Second, be kind to your co-workers. They are perfectly imperfect, just like you. They are trying their best, even when you can't see it, and in our humanity, we often get off-track, distracted or lost. If you were thus, how would you like your co-workers to see you? Learn to forgive, and especially to balance accountability and respect. Being kind to others isn't about never getting results or asking for what you want. It means we let patience and perseverance be complementary. 3. Third, be kind to your customers, clients and community. Think beyond the business and the immediate task at hand. Be a good neighbor, a thoughtful merchant or advisor. Practice the golden rule and select actions and words you can be proud of, that you'd want other people to know about you in the world. Know, when you see that face staring back in the morning that each day, each interaction, has the potential to be "for better or for worse." There are no neutral interactions. It seems too simple? Not tough enough for good business practice? Give it a try and see what happens. You might be surprised. CULTURE COACH CLASSIC: TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS Libby Wagner Culture Coach RO Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain profit cultures.

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