If you think of the sporting world, all the top sportspeople have coaches to help them to perform at their highest level and win at their chosen sport.
But it’s a common misconception that only elite athletes benefit from coaching – any athlete can improve their performance through the proper guidance a coach can provide.
Does coaching work?
Some managers do not coach and do not want to. Some think they coach, but do not. Others do coach, but it is hard to see the commercial benefit their coaching brings. Few managers coach in a way that delivers commercial impact and builds strong teams. To deliver consistent performance improvement, you need a system, and the skills to coach.
Good coaches know how to recognise the 90% that their team is doing which is already good, and how to find the 10% that makes them great. Part of finding that 10% improvement is engaging their team to the process.
When you visit any retail store, how engaged do the team look? 65% or 95%? The answer is probably "it depends" - and frankly, it shouldn’t depend. It is the coach's job to create a performance environment where everyone is engaged and energised.
How does coaching work for retail?
In the retail world we are dealing with good people, but they are probably not as engaged as professional athletes – prepared to sit in an ice bath for an hour, or get up at 4am to reach new heights.
However, everyone can do better than yesterday. Everyone can take on a challenge, agree what to do and be coached on how to do it better than before. Even if your retail team are not in it for a long-term career, when people feel successful, they feel better about themselves and perform to a higher level. When we unlock their talent, they achieve 90% – not the 65-75% that most retail teams deliver.
If your business is typical for the furniture industry, your top people are writing £1m of business a year while your bottom are at around £400,000 a year, and your conversion rate is static. Why?
What difference will coaching make?
The difference is simple – around a 10-30% increase in sales, without eroding margin. Aside from the financial uplift, it will also deliver a happier team, with managers and area managers who make a measurable commercial difference and improve customer service.
Interestingly, typical new recruits today want instant gratification. They do not respect expertise or experience – if they do not feel their job is rewarding intrinsically and well as extrinsically, they will leave. To add to this challenge, some older ones won’t leave.
The difference between management and coaching
Management is mostly about telling people what to do and then tracking how compliant they are with your instructions.
Coaching is focused on helping the person or team perform at their best, and therefore is mostly asking questions to unearth opportunities and then focusing on skills development.
Focusing on what is important to the person being coached, then guiding and supporting them, creates more traction more quickly, and delivers better results in both operations and sales.
Benefits for your customer
Creating a culture of development, guidance and support always transfers into what your customers experience. Leading your team in an autocratic manner results in a similar approach with customers, and creates a coaching culture which results in your team coaching customers to make better decisions to buy from you.
Business always benefits when your customers feel cared for. In fact, recent research found that the top reason customers do not buy from you or come back is because they think you don't care enough about them individually.
Coaching your team, and coaching your customers to make better decisions, will ring tills.
What’s the benefit for you?
Isn’t it nicer to work in an environment where everyone is looking for the opportunity to do better rather than fixing what is wrong? Change a blame culture to a performance culture. Standards are important as the basis for performance, but performance comes from looking for opportunity and new ways to do better, which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves and delivers commercial rewards.
A simple test for your business …
How much time do your team leaders spend telling people what to do, versus asking them how to help? How willing are your teams to tell you what they really think? How clear are your customer-facing teams about what is expected of them? How easy is it for you to identify why your great people are great? How big is the spread from your top- to your bottom-performing salespeople? And what would be the commercial benefit if all those below average could simply be average?
Barry Martin is the general manager at Retail Performance Specialists (RPS), a world-leading performance improvement organisation. To find out about upcoming workshops, call 01344 849397 or visit www.rps-global.com, and quote reference 'Furniture News PCW' for a special discount.