Spoiler alert – it takes a culture built around respect, consistent practice and accountability

Managing others is a tricky business. They differ in strengths, weaknesses, personalities, generational biases and experience—and that’s before they even get in the car to come to work! So how can you develop a management system that will allow you to get the kind of performance that creates magic for your guests and brings more to your bottom line? The secret is a systematic approach to training and accountability. Here’s what it takes.

No. 1: Care about your team members.

At the risk of repeating myself, I believe that if you don’t like your team members, it’s unlikely that you’ll get top performance from them. When thinking about training front-line team members, particularly the young ones, I always go back to Rita Pierson’s mantra that “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Find common ground, unleash your inner empath and celebrate their uniqueness. They’ll thrive under your leadership when you show that you care, and naturally want to be more engaged in the work you do together.

No. 2: Develop clear onboarding processes.

Proper training is a critical component of a good onboarding program but is often conducted haphazardly. Has your facility’s new hire training ever looked like, “Ok Michaela, you’re going to shadow Tyler for the next few days or so, and then, um, you’ll be able to go out on your own?” It’s happened to most of us.

On the job training is great, it provides context to your systems and shows real-life scenarios, but does not always ensure team members receive the same messaging. Make a list of key competencies that new team members should learn in new hire orientation, classroom learning, shadowing, or any blend of the three. If you have specific phrases you would like team members to use with guests, give them ample practice opportunities through games and activities, role-play scenarios and quizzes. Don’t let new hires onto the floor until they have demonstrated they’ve mastered the key competencies.

Been to a Chick-Fil-A recently? Notice how everyone who works there has the same manners and uses the same type of language? That doesn’t happen by accident. They’ve been trained to display the company’s core values, to use your name at the drive-through window, ask “may I refresh your beverage?” in the café and respond to your thanks with “my pleasure.” This is accomplished through team members watching corporate videos, job shadowing, scenario-based classroom training, the use of targeted flash cards, etc.

The key is that training must happen immediately and consistently until the correct habits are formed, and the critical behaviors become automatic.

No. 3: Don’t leave it up to chance.

So many expectations for a role are left up to chance. But if you want something done right, teach staff the right way to do it. This means teaching what needs to be done, and if there’s a specific way it needs to be done and how. Don’t teach them how to smile, but assume they know how to sweep the floor. Your standards and expectations should be crystal clear.

Distribute lists of items you want to upsell, scenarios that will help them know what to offer based on what guests say, scripts to use when taking inbound calls, and what they have in their arsenal to create wow experiences, or in service recovery situations. If it feels like your team members run to you for every service issue, or guests always have to talk to you for every little thing, there’s a good chance your team members are not empowered, and even more importantly equipped, to handle those scenarios.

No. 4: Track performance.

It’s easy to become desensitized to the sights and sounds around you on a busy day. But you must inspect what you expect. If you’re trying to achieve a certain standard for how inbound calls are handled, consider recording them and spot checking weekly for targeted messages and actions. If you want guest service staff to focus on upselling, consider monthly contests for upselling certain items each month and use your cashier reports to reward winners. Or if you simply want team members to stop responding to your guests with “what?” when they don’t understand, make sure you’re actively tuned in to interactions happening throughout your facility so you’re ready for those coaching opportunities.

No. 5: Be willing to have difficult conversations.

Finally, you must be willing to have those difficult conversations and take coaching opportunities as they arise. Just like when you are trying to correct your posture, you must catch yourself slouching and adjust the behavior in the moment. Sometimes we wait until a situation with someone has become urgent and we hate the way a person breathes. Don’t let it get that far. Remember the phrase to “nip something in the bud?” Catch unproductive behaviors early before they become habits, or worse, catch on with other team members. (Remember dabbing? We could have avoided that whole phenomenon with some well-timed nipping—think about it.) Team members need, and want, real time feedback and coaching about the right behaviors and actions. And of course, be sure you’re dolling out lots of praise to go with that constructive criticism. They want the feedback, and they especially want to know what they’re doing well.

It’s not difficult to get started in any one of these areas, but what separates the good from the great is the consistency applied day in and day out to ensure everyone in your facility is on the same side and working towards the same goal. Where does your team stand today?

Have other ideas for managing performance? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter!

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