This Episode: Managing Your Retail Staff – 4 Reasons They Don’t Do What You Want Them To Do


In this episode, I’m going to share with you exactly why people don’t do what you want them to do and what you can do about it.

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As a guy who owned a retail business for 19 years, I know the frustration that people experience when their employees, when their team members, when their sales associates, whatever you want to call them, don’t do what you want them to do.

In this episode, I’m going to share with you exactly why don’t people do what you want them to do and what you can do about it.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, in the mid-80s, I had what I thought was going to be my best team ever. I had hired a group of young, good-looking, articulate, accomplished, friendly college kids, and I thought, this is going to be great. And it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever hired somebody and go, man, this person is going to be a superstar, and they didn’t turn out that way? Well, I had an entire team of that.

And so at the time, I was living in Grand Haven, Michigan. I had a house right across the street from the beach, one of the most popular beaches in the state of Michigan. This was supposed to be an awesome summer. But my customers weren’t getting the service they deserved. I knew it and it was driving me crazy.

Well, one day, on a rare day off, I went to the beach. And I was sitting there and I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I was thinking about them. I was thinking about my store. I was thinking about what I knew that they weren’t doing in my store.

So finally I got so frustrated I packed up my stuff, I brought it home, I drove down to Chinook Pier where my store was located and I parked far away. And I snuck up to Chinook Pier. Now Chinook Pier was two buildings with a big boardwalk in between the buildings. And here are the windows on my store, the Mackinaw Kite Company. And here were the windows on the store that faced my store, The Surf Shop.

So I snuck into The Surf Shop to spy on my team. Have you ever wanted to spy on your team? Well, the window that faced my window was covered with a rack of women’s bikinis. So my head is sticking out of this rack of women’s bikinis. I must have looked like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, right?

And all of a sudden, the manager from The Surf Shop taps me on the shoulder and says, Bob, what in the world are you doing? But she knew what I was doing. I was spying on my staff.

But here’s what is important and what’s germane to this conversation here today. At that moment, I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing. And I thought to myself, how can Nordstrom have hundreds of stores and thousands of sales associates give legendary customer service, and I have two stores and a couple of dozen employees, and I can’t get them to do what I want them to do? So I set out to find out, and that’s what I’m sharing with you now.

Why don’t people do what you want them to do? The first reason is they don’t know what to do. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I came to work for you and you owned a garden center. And you decided to go away for a weekend, and you say, Bob, take care of things. And I’d go, yes, boss, I’ll do a good job for you. It’s hot, middle of summer, boss goes away for the weekend. He comes back, all the plants are dead. And he goes, Bob, why didn’t you water the plants? And I said, boss, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know I needed to water the plants, you know? I’ve never grown a plant before.

So it’s the boss’s fault because he didn’t tell me what to do. Your people are not mind readers. You have to tell them what to do. The second reason is they don’t know how to do it. So going back to the analogy or the story of the garden center, so my new boss, it’s week two, and he’s going to go away for the weekend again.

And so he says, Bob, you know, I really like you, you’re a friendly guy, my customers like you. But this week, water the plants while I’m gone. Yes, boss, I will absolutely water the plants when you’re gone. And so he leaves, and in my enthusiasm to water the plants, I water them, water them, water them. I kill them. I over water them.

Boss comes back and he says, Bob, you killed all the plants. How did you do it? I said I don’t know, boss. I watered them. I watered them like crazy. You see, he did not tell me how to do it. He showed me what to do, but not how to do it.

The third reason is they’re more comfortable not doing it than they are doing it. I’ll give you an example of this. This is where sales training– sales training is a perfect example of this. You can train people how to sell. You can give people the six steps to the perfect purchase. But unless you’re constantly helping them feel more comfortable being skillful salespeople, they’re going to revert back to their old habits, the old “May I help you?” or “Hi.”

You need to make them comfortable doing it, and you also have to make them uncomfortable not doing it. So it’s two things at the same time. One is give them skills, make them comfortable. And the other is have accountability in place and make them uncomfortable if they’re not doing what you want them to do.

The fourth reason is they don’t have the tools to do it. So going back to our garden center story, boss leaves again, and he goes, Bob, I’m leaving again for the weekend. Now you know how to do things. Good luck. I’ll see you on Monday. And then he took the hose with him because he needed to do something wherever it was that he was going. So I didn’t have a hose to water the plants. I didn’t have the tools to do the job.

Again, I’m going to go back to sales training here. This happens all the time. Owners, managers expect their team members to be skilled salespeople, but they don’t train them how to sell. They don’t give them the tools, the skills to do it.

So these are the four reasons that people don’t do what you want them to do. And here’s what I want you to think about. The next time you become frustrated with one of your team members, stop what you’re doing, look yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself, do they know what to do? Do they know how to do it? Are they comfortable do it? And do they have the tools to do it? And almost always, the answer is no to one of these four questions.

And then that takes the emotion out of the process. And it allows you to get your people to do what you want them to do.

So your action item today, should you choose to accept it, is to write out three instances where you were frustrated with an employee because they weren’t doing what you want them to do, and then evaluate what was missing. Think about what happened there. Make this process part of your managerial thinking.

Well, there it is. Four reasons people don’t do what you want them to do. This, what I just shared with you, was a real game changer for me. When I learned this, it really, really helped me because it took the responsibility away from my employees and put it right back on me.

If you liked what you heard, liked what you learned in this episode of Real Retail TV, I would encourage you to go to whizbangtraining.com and sign up for our free weekly tip of the week.

And if you want to go even deeper, if you want to learn more, I would strongly, strongly consider investing in the Retail Mastery System. The Retail Mastery system is the most comprehensive training program ever assembled for independent retailers like you. You can learn about it at www.retailmasterysystem.com.

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