How do you Unlock Employee Potential?

on December 5, 2016

Fun fact: the lock you used to chain up your bicycle or lock your locker in high school had 65,634 possible combinations. To try to unlock it by trial and error would be a total, utter waste of time.

And yet, that’s what your employees are doing every day in their roles. (At least the ones that care are doing it. The ones that don’t are currently doing the professional version of sleeping through Algebra). The employees who are trying their best are hurling one attempt after enough at getting those metrics up, just seeing what sticks and how long it will stick. How’s that working for ya?

If it’s working, great! Congratulations, your company is a magical unicorn and I wish you the best. You can stop reading now. If it’s not, and you aren’t sure what to do next to help your people stop spinning their wheels, let me tell you about a guy named Matt.

Matt is a Store Manager for a pretty big U.S. retailer. Over the past few years, his sales stagnated. Customers simply weren’t buying any more from him despite his best efforts. He knew something was missing, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Have you ever had that feeling? I know I have. (Hint, check the refrigerator).

Study the best to help the rest

Then this summer, my company, Root Inc. was hired by this retailer to study what happens in the stores that were growing and were selling more to their customers year over year regardless of their location, square footage and all the other stuff we usually pin success on. We walked away noting 6 distinct routines that the high-performing Store Managers were doing that the average-performing Store Managers weren’t doing. Then we gave those routines to a handful of people like Matt. You know, just to see what would happen.

Understanding the path to success unlocks potential

Over a 7-week trial, Matt was able to grow his average transaction by 7%. By leveraging just 6 routines that had succeeded elsewhere, he changed the tone of the store – specifically the way employees were engaging customers and educating them about the products. How is that possible? Because like a combination lock, unlocking the average performer’s potential requires understanding the path to success. You need to know the numbers, the sequence, when to turn right and when to turn left. If all you have is a lock with 65,634 number combinations and no knowledge of what numbers to try, you’re going to remain stuck for a very long time. In a phone call with Matt, he told me that having a set of routines was the map he’s been looking for. And while it was challenging to put them into place, once he did it, the impact it had on his team and his customers was immediate and significant.

There’s a group of people in your organization feeling stuck in their journey to great performance.  Do you just let them keep turning the dial at random, or do you act as the the locksmith, listen for the clicks and give them the combination? If Matt’s story is any indication of what’s possible, I’m going with option B.

What’s your story of unlocking employee performance?  Tell us about it in the comments.

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