Written by Olja Kulic.
With Sears Canada bankrupt and on its way to close all of its stores, as you can imagine, associate engagement can be a challenge. After all, everyone knows that in a couple of months none of us would have jobs. People are jumping ship and going after different opportunities, but who could blame them?! The problem is not that people are leaving. The issue is that this puts a tremendous pressure on the team that stays behind. And if you add to the mix the poor customer attitudes, massive work load, large sales volume, poor communication; you have a perfect recipe for chaos. Needless to say, many stores are running with less than a full complement of management and staff.
While you may not be in retail, or in a dying company, I am sure that you could find yourself in a similar situation where you could be running with a less than perfect and disengaged team.
While this was the case in majority of stores in the company, this luckily was not the case in my store. As a matter of fact, I have a full management team, and while we are losing floor staff, we are still in a very decent shape. And what’s more, my staff is motivated and morale is high. Workload, while large, is getting completed, and everyone is smiling and having a good time in the process.
Integrity? Respect? Transparency?
But do not take me the wrong way. I have never asked anyone to stay behind and “tow the company line”! As a matter of fact I actually post different job openings in the lunchroom and organize job fairs for the staff at the store. What I did ask my staff, is that they do not jump on the first opportunity. I’ve asked them to jump on the right one. I hope that this speaks to my character and integrity. And I am proud of it.
How about that contest?
I was speaking with one of the senior leaders in the company recently and he asked me what the recipe for this was? What is the magic formula, he asked? How do we improve the engagement at times like this? Should we run a contest, he asked?
We were going back and forth while trying to come up with different ideas. Let’s buy a pizza lunch… let’s have a jeans days… let’s do a funky shoe day… But let us all be very mindful of budget! We do not have a great deal of money. After all we are bankrupt. And then it hit me. While all of these ideas are great at some better times, all these “fun” things are just a drop in the bucket. None of them will matter much if you do not have a culture that is already there as a foundation. As a matter of fact, doing these fun things can actually feel forced, and could come across completely wrong and backfire.
Here is a word for you!
So here is the word for you. CULTURE! How do you create a culture? Is there a recipe for it? Do you run a contest to get it??
Absolutely not!!! Contests and “fun” events are great, but they do not build a culture. They contribute to it, but do not build it. I have actually very rarely run contests. Rarely have I bought pizza lunches. I believe that people will appreciate much more the fact that you recognize them every day for the work they do, rather than buying them a lunch for a day and hoping that you can bribe them. Lack of human touch can never be replaced by someone winning a contest, or getting a free lunch.
Tell me honestly. Would you prefer your boss to buy you a pizza, or would you prefer that he/she actually appreciates you for what you do? I am sure that most of us would prefer the latter.
So what is a culture? It is not this big word, or this unbelievable idea. It is something you DO and live every day. As a leader, you have a massive influence on your team. Your entire team is looking up to you, so make sure you do not let them down. Many will criticize you, but this is because they do not understand. See my other post on this. If you however continue to operate with integrity and respect, and all your actions support this every day, you are building a culture. Just do not expect it to happen overnight.
Run with transparency and without secret agendas and never assume. For goodness sake, remember that you manage PEOPLE, and not numbers or commodities. Behaviors is what you need to be building, and right behaviors will help you build this elusive thing called… CULTURE.
To be honest, there is no shortcut to creating a culture. You will have to work really hard, listen to a lot of people’s stories, and stay true to your vision. A VISION… you do have one, right? Never mind… that’s a story for another time.
Before you know it, you will have an amazing team, that will go to battle for you. Your results will turn, and your staff will be happy. And at times when you need it most, your team will come through for you. Whether you are facing bankruptcy, or just a difficult quarter. What more can you want as a leader?! Surely not another contest!
Written by Olja Kulic