Empower Your Team

My favorite Murphy’s Law is, “Why is there never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it over?”  Good question.

Here’s a fairly common example; a “loader” takes a cart out to unload plant material and hard goods into a customer’s car and they forget to bring a trunk liner or boxes to hold the products in place.  Dirt is spilled everywhere and the clean up takes several minutes.  This inconveniences the customer who is watching the whole scene.  Doing things over costs money on many levels.  Another example is the cashier who has to get authorization to perform an even exchange when no manager is available on the property to sign.  The whole line is held up, radio paging goes rampant and the customers are staring at the cashier with disdain in their eyes.  You may have fewer customers during summer, however they expect your staff to be prepared, informed and confident.

How many of your hours are spent answering questions that the front line associates should know?  How much of your time is spent handling customer-related issues that could be handled by others if they had a bit more training or a bit more self-confidence?  How much of your day resembles “baby-sitting” rather than leadership?  During peak season how does is this impact your customers and your sales?

I recently spoke with several owners of successful garden centers who loudly proclaim their continuous success (even during the worst of times) is a result of empowering and educating their employees.  After the employees are empowered, the bonus is to be able to delegate projects and responsibilities with peace of mind.  (By the way, micromanaging is the opposite of empowering.  It implies there is a lack of trust in the employee’s skills or abilities and everything has to be inspected by management.)

Empowered employees can make their own decisions in specific work-related situations.  Empowerment does not mean giving the reins over to employees – it requires creating specific boundaries and clear guidelines.  Within step-by-step guidelines the employee has the freedom to make decisions.  The size and impact of those decisions is up to the employer.  The purpose behind employee empowerment is to increase the employee’s responsibility, to build morale and to improve the quality of their work life.  Ideally, when an employee feels engaged and trusted, they are more productive, more self-confident and more loyal.

“Delegation” is giving responsibility and authority to team members to make customer-related decisions and to complete specific tasks and projects.  The upside is that effective delegation develops people to be more confident and productive.  The more confident and productive they are the more you will be freed up to focus on improvements and business expansion.

Why am I bringing this up now?  Because NOW is the best time to grow your foundation; your backbone.

  • Now is the time to define what “good looks like,” structure the systems, clarify procedures and policies and embed them in everyone’s mind.
  • Now is the time to gain consensus and have the core team practice the behaviors until they become a habit.
  • Then when you have your Halloween festivities or your Holiday rush your team will be ready to do it “right” the first time.  They will all be on the same page.  They will be consistent with customers and working as a team.


Empower Your Team As You Create Procedures

I suggest you make it a ritual to gather the team around a flip chart for 5 minutes every morning to brainstorm the procedures and policies.  The beauty is that you are empowering everyone during the process.  They will have input on the procedures and that translates into “buy-in.”  They will be confident that they are doing it “right” the first time.  The brainstorming process will bring out more possibilities.  If you conquer one topic per day you will be miles ahead and prepared for the next season.  Then any new hires can be trained to follow the set procedures.

  1. Do one topic a day and make it an open-ended question.
  2. Have one person write down every idea that comes from the group and in 5 minutes you will have collaborated on “what good looks like.”  You will all be on the same page.
  • Get specific – step by step.  Create crystal clear expectations in behaviors so they cannot be misinterpreted.
  • Behaviors are what you can see or hear.  They are physical.  Most written procedures that companies send me are vague and unclear.  They HAVE to be interpreted and this causes conflict between managers and associates.
    • For example, you probably have a policy that reads, “greet every customer.”  How many ways can “greet” be interpreted?  What are the specific behaviors that will deliver the desired results every time?  (Here’s the specific behavior for “greeting.” Make eye contact, smile and say “Welcome” within 5 seconds or 5 feet anywhere in your area.)
  • When it is specific your team leaders can reinforce the behavior.
  • Get it all nailed down!  We recommend that you create crystal clear standards and behaviors for the key areas of your business and for each job function – cashiers, sales associates, customer support, loaders, delivery, etc.

Does that sound like a big project?  Probably.  But once you do it you will NEVER have to do it again.  You will have whittled down your “expectations” into actions that you can see from 50 feet away.  You will be able to reinforce them over and over in positive ways.  New hires (who are eager to learn) will know what you expect and will be able to fulfill your standards the FIRST time!

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” – Patrick Lencioni – The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

If you know you need to structure your business and create a step-by-step training system, we already have the templates for you to customize to fit perfectly into your business.  I will send you a list of topics that we have gathered from over 40 exceptional garden centers.

Kathryn Dager
Profitivity Inc.
Office:  (310) 477-8333
Fax:  (310) 478-7072
E-mail:  Profitivity@earthlink.net
Website:  www.ProfitivityInc.com