Don’t Forget — Learning is a messy business
It’s a strange life when a stint in retail teaches you more about growth and progress that a 4-year university degree.
For a short time, mid-way through my education career, I took a hiatus and ended up working in retail. My, albeit short, retail path began as a casual Christmas position until, a week into my job, I managed to sell an $11K diamond ring. From there, I was on a speedy pathway to promotion; casual became part-time, part-time became full-time, and full-time became assistant manager. Throughout this time, I continued to sell well and I was consistently in the Top 10 sellers in the country. Before I knew it, I was managing my own store. My journey in retail to this point looked like the first chart above. I always followed the company’s sales process to the letter and, most of the time, it worked.
The disruption occurred when I began to manage my own store and I had store targets to meet. The store had not performed well in the past and I was brought in to fix it up. But, to be honest, there wasn’t that much to fix. All of the staff who worked in our store were well trained and always followed the sales process. They were also great people and we had a lot of fun together. Sometimes, rarely, we’d make our store sales target but most of the time, we didn’t. My boss would phone me at the end of each day and debrief the day with me and, at the end of this conversation, I would always hang up the phone with a feeling of defeat and dejection. What could be done when, on most days, we’d only get 2 or 3 customers into the store?
That’s what a focus on deficits does. Perhaps that’s what a focus on targets does. It constantly makes us think about the things that we’ve done wrong or poorly or… not well enough. Here’s more of my thinking in an interview from 2020:
The store continued to ebb and flow. Many years later, years after I’d moved on, further research and study showed that the location of the store was affecting foot traffic and, once the store was better positioned, it performed better. There were still ebbs and flows, but one principle remained, no targets or training would change the fundamental flaw in the system… the thought that any team who didn’t make their target needed fixing.
Actually, in this case, the system needed fixing.
The system needed to be nimble and responsive — to appreciate the nuances of humans.
What are we doing today to be more nimble in response to appreciating human nuances?