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Giving Back Good People

Whether you agree with yesterday’s post about giving good people back to society or not, you will likely agree with this statement …

You want the best staff your payroll and training budget will allow.

(Surprisingly, many chain retailers at the mall don’t act like they agree with that statement. Not surprisingly, many chain retailers at the mall are closing stores.)

The two limiting factors to having an amazing staff filled with good people are Time and Money. As always, you can spend one to save the other. You can pay more than everyone else in your industry and hopefully attract the best and brightest candidates. Or you can spend the time to make them  the best and brightest.

I give you three things today that will help you get the most out of your payroll and training budget. The first is something you have to do no matter what. The second costs you time. The third costs you money. All three together, however, will help you give good people back to society.


My team with plaques I hand-picked for them as appreciation gifts.

It starts with the quality of your hiring. In my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel I outline the nine steps a potter takes to create a work of art that is considered beautiful, useful, strong, and long-lasting. I then show you how those nine steps relate to the hiring and training process to create a staff that is beautiful, useful, strong, and long-lasting.

One of the first steps is to hire someone who already has the right character traits to be successful on the job.

Along with the other traits you might need, you should hire people who are already Caring and who are Problem Solvers by nature. Those people will try harder to take care of your customers in the first place.


We started each staff meeting with “Smile Stories”, stories from the previous month where we made the customer’s day. Our mission was summed up by the phrase, “We’re here to make you smile.” By starting each meeting with those Smile Stories, we not only reinforced our mission, we put everyone into a positive mood. People were laughing (and sometimes even crying tears of joy) at the stories. This opened people up and made them more receptive to any training offered.

If you start by criticizing (as I have seen many managers do), you put people on the defensive. They close up and make it difficult for you to get anything across to them.

Start with your successes and build on them.


For several years I offered a $150 bonus toward some form of continued learning. It could be used for a computer class, a conference fee, or even a dance class. The idea behind it is that a person who makes continued learning a goal in his or her life will be more open to learning new skills in general. By encouraging my team to continue to pursue their dreams and grow their skills in their personal life, I kept them in a frame of mind for growing their skills in general. This made my staff trainings more effective right from the start. Learning new skills is a mindset that you need to foster.

In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he states there are three things needed to motivate your staff. One of those is Mastery, the idea that they are learning new skills to become better at what they do. When you foster continued learning, you lead your team to Mastery. When you lead your team to Mastery, they find the intrinsic motivation they need to do their best.

Too many retailers look at their staff as a plastic bottle of syrup to be squeezed until every last drop is out, only to be discarded for a new bottle down the road. Instead look at your staff as the ceramic pitcher that holds the syrup in a much more classy way, gets refilled as necessary, and lasts through many years of service.

That’s how you get the best staff your payroll and training budget will allow.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I cannot emphasize enough the importance of starting off meetings on a positive note. I did a presentation to kick off a staff meeting once. We were having a rocking good time. Then the meeting began and the manager started off with a laundry list of every mistake the team had made since the last meeting. The energy drained from the room faster than if a tornado had swung through. I could tell by the body language in the room that everyone had shutdown. No one was listening intently after that. If you have to criticize, do so in private and sandwich it between two pieces of praise. If you have to bring up a problem in a meeting, do it by saying, “Here is an area where we can improve.” Much more positive that way.