Long distance runners and long distance swimmers know that somewhere in the middle of the race is where you separate the pros from the amateurs. The amateurs have either gone out too fast and really start to feel it in those middle miles, or their minds start to wander and they lose focus on their pace and strategy.
This is that midpoint for holiday retailers. The run from mid-November to Christmas is a marathon, with many peaks and valleys. The week of Thanksgiving is the start of the race. The week before Christmas is the final sprint to the finish. It is in these middle weeks where focus tends to wander off.
You’re tired. You’re a little down because the sales, while good a couple weeks ago, have ebbed a little prior to that final push. The hours are longer while the days are shorter, and it doesn’t seem like you have enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do. Plus, you have all those seasonal staff that aren’t quite up to the level you had hoped for them. You feel like you need to work on both their Attitude and their Aptitude.
If you have to choose between Attitude and Aptitude, choose Attitude first. Focus on raising your team’s overall cheerfulness, friendliness, and joy.
A customer will overlook the lack of skill of a friendly staff person trying her best much more than they will overlook the surly attitude of a competent but frantic or unhappy staff person who acts like she doesn’t want to be there.
Plus, when you raise the the level of positive energy in the store, you make your staff better prepared for learning new skills.
How do you “raise attitudes?”
- Check your own. The staff feeds off of you. If you’re still showing a happy, cheerful, friendly demeanor, they are likely to be happy, cheerful, and friendly. If you’re showing the stress of the season, they’ll feed off that, too. You might have to fake it to make it. Go ahead and fake it. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you are the cheeriest of them all.
- Praise them. Give your staff praise every time you see them do something well. Praise them early and often, even if they make a mistake. Praise the parts they did right. Praise is right up there with food and water as being essential to their well-being. Praise them and they’ll want to learn and do more for you to get more praise.
- Ask them. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them what has been fun so far. Ask them what you can do to make it better for them. Asking shows that you care, especially when you listen to and act on the answers they give you. They will never care more than you. So the more you care, the higher the ceiling for them to meet.
- Give them some small token of your appreciation. It can be food or snacks in the break-room, an unexpected gift card to a local restaurant, a gas card, a poinsettia (especially from the stash your sales reps have been giving you.) It doesn’t have to be expensive to be impactful. The act of being generous to them helps them to pay it forward to your customers.
Not only will doing those things raise the attitude of your team, they will help you raise your own attitude so that you don’t have to fake it. A truly good attitude will help you stay focused on the strategies you’ve laid out to be successful in these last couple weeks.
You’ve got this. I know you do.
PS I have had competent and unhappy people on my team. I have had happy but not yet competent people on my team. I’ve never had a customer complain about the cheerful employee who tried but failed. I’ve had several customers complain about surly attitudes. An entrepreneur I met once, who has started several successful companies, had a simple hiring/firing philosophy … Fire the unhappy people.