Retail Observer

July 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 JULY 2020 42 I was a teacher and college professor for years. Somewhere along the way, I got a little hand-painted sign with block letters, curlicues around the edges, and a satin ribbon that hung from the back so I could hang it from a nail or pushpin on my cork bulletin board. It said, "Be Nice, Or Leave." At the time, I thought it was kind of funny, and it felt true to me: if you can't come in to have a civil, respectful conversation, then it's probably not going to happen in my office. In truth, I don't think I was talking to the students who would come in for office hours; I think I was talking to my colleagues. I've shared before here about a group process I lead that results in creating a Team Agreement. The Team Agreement is deceptively simple: it's a co-created commitment to specific behaviors in our team. How will we share information? Resolve conflict? Be innovative and creative? Create great working relationships? A team generates an Agreement about what they need and can envision, and over time it becomes an organic document of guiding principles that is incredibly powerful. I've also shared, in "Try a Little Kindness," about how, often, if we would practice small bits of kindness and willingness to presume good intent before making up a story about someone, we'd have a better chance at resolving issues and removing obstacles to our success. But there's one thing that I think is really important to consider as a leader of a team: you are responsible for the environment in which people work. It is not only you who set the tone for what's acceptable behavior – how we give instruction and assign tasks, how we communicate and recognize good work, how we provide correction and re-direction. It is you who'll say what's okay and what's not okay in terms of interpersonal interactions. You can actually say, "Be Nice, Or Leave." We often wrongly assume that we cannot be both direct and specific and also be respectful and caring. This is not true at all, and in the Influencing Options model for communicating, we teach that it is the balancing of Accountability and Respect, by telling the truth about what we need and want, that helps us be clear and stay on track. For example, if you need to give feedback about a performance that's not up to par, you don't have to be brutal. You can pay attention to your language, be clear, and respect the human being. The other extreme doesn't work, either. If you're not clear and direct, and instead sugar coat what needs to be said, it's likely you will not be fully understood. This is not the proverbial s&%@t sandwich: give a compliment– tell them the bad news – give a compliment. Nobody likes that sandwich, and it actually encourages people to devalue your feedback. Instead, be balanced. What's going well? What needs to be better? How can you acknowledge the context of the situation with empathy, and still ask for the changes you need? It's possible. As important as modeling the behaviors you want in others (you need to lead from the front) is holding firm on what's acceptable (or not). If you allow some members of your team to behave in disrespectful, inconsistent or under-performing ways, you're enabling the things you don't want, and that deteriorates your team and the trust you've built or are trying to build. Be clear about what you want, and let people know the potential consequences of their actions. Your behavioral commitment to your Team Agreement sets the tone for every- one else! BE NICE, OR LEAVE 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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