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Posts Tagged ‘Coaching

Making Everyone Successful…

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Retail has been growing as the fastest sector in India. In last ten years or so, this industry has grown manifolds, both in size of business and employment opportunities. Largely this sector hires people at the workmen level – those who operate as customer-service/front-end employees managing the sales floor. Since value-retail is the largest sub-sector in the industry, maximum number of people are employed herein. The sector looks for only two abilities in its front-end employees – basic education level and willingness & aptitude to serve customers. This stratum of employees is generally the minimum-wage earner and is either graduate/undergraduate or lesser educated. They span across ages, from 18 years to 40 years of age, even higher in some companies. Men and women alike are employed in this sector, and they are all from diverse work-backgrounds. In a nutshell, we are talking of a Mini-India on the sales floor!

The Human Resource managers in this industry have a crucial role to play in managing this talent pool. Making these employees successful is a challenging task, given the quantum of diversity of this workforce.

Now, what does it mean when I say ‘making everyone successful’?

To my mind, being a successful retail front-end/customer-service employee denotes very simple things. They are:

  1. Earning one’s livelihood by working with the organization: We are referring to the set of people who run their households earning the minimum wages – ranging between Rs.4000 pm to Rs.8000 pm. The livelihood of the wage-earners’ family depends upon this salary. The added sales-incentives, often a part of the remuneration, are also a substantial amount for these employees. Hence, by employing them and remunerating fairly without any bias towards education, experience, age and gender, HR Managers enable them to successfully earn their livelihood.
  2. Having sufficient role-clarity about one’s job: Howsoever simple this job appears prima facie; it is replete with processes and procedures across roles. Ignorance of the realities and expectations of this role can lead to dismal performance later. Thus, clarity about the job-description and demands thereof is a key determinant of success for any employee.
  3. Learning one’s job: No one can be successful without mastering one’s work-area. Inducting and training the employees in their job-domain, processes and bringing about the customer service orientation is a key imperative. Sourcing and hiring this workforce is easy – they are available all over. However, training them successfully & enabling them learn their job is the role of the L&D Managers and the supervisors. Lack of knowledge of one’s job can easily demotivate an associate and lead to her failure.
  4. Performing one’s job with commitment and as per expectations of the organization: This is a key determinant of success at work. Success is outcome of the ownership displayed at work and adherence to the processes and policies. Moreover, working on the retail sales-floor requires tremendous patience and perseverance. HR Managers have a significant role of building a culture of opportunity, fairness and recognition for all employees, wherein they feel belonged to the organization and its vision.
  5. Striving to be continuously better at one’s work and be a team player: Retail is a team game and success of an individual and that of the whole team is mutually interdependent. HR Managers not only need to promote teamwork, they also need to identify and build leadership talent, which acts as mentor and coach for an individual and the teams. A team where each individual has a clearly outlined role to perform and is recognized & rewarded for the same is the key for creating zealous employees. Moreover, coaching for improvement is a quintessential factor in making employees successful in their role. It is important for HR managers to build a culture of risk-taking and allowing mistakes & failures, which in turn enables an employee to strive towards betterment and not fear the penal action when she fails while attempting to do so. 
  6. Improving one’s skills, knowledge and competencies, so as to become eligible to grow further: While the above-mentioned five factors relate to one’s success in the current role, one need to keep improving upon the skills and competencies, which will help her become better at her work and add value to her job and organization. HR Managers and supervisors monitor performance and potential of an employee and look for areas of improvement and skill-development. Once the developmental areas are identified, Training team has an important role to offer in building the competencies of an individual – both functional and soft skills. Simple skills I can refer to here is learning English – verbal and spoken, and the computer-skills.
  7. Enhance one’s potential by learning newer skills: Learning newer skills help one grow further. To be able to grow further, one needs to learn skills pertaining to the next/higher work level. This would also mean learning cross-functional skills and managerial capabilities. HR Managers, in their avatar of Talent and L&D managers have a very important role to play in identifying and realizing the potential of the employees and grooming them for higher roles. This is specially a key factor for retail front-end employees, where individual contributors need to be trained upon cross-functional skills and people-management capabilities, in order to build upon their potential for a people-manager/leader’s role.
  8. Grow further: This is a most distinguishable determinant of one’s success. When an employee grows further up and does not succumb to the famous Peter’s Principle, she is surely being successful. HR Managers need to very granularly observe & assess managerial talent and potential and promote ONLY those who are ready to grow. Poor assessment of the readiness-quotient of an employee may lead to subsequent failure – not only of the employee in question, but also of the team and organization she is part of. Creating well-defined career frameworks, assessment tools and communicating the same to the employees help establish a culture of performance and merit and provides opportunities of growth and success.

Each of the above eight factors is mutually inclusive determinant of success and all of them together when achieved as a whole, make an employee successful. HR partners have a pivotal role to perform in each of these domains. However, that is not an easy task, as given the workforce diversity, no one employee would ever behave & perform as the other! Out of the lot, the toughest ones to manage would be those, who at the start show a lot of promise & capability while being inducted into the job, but if not managed well, they may run the risk of skidding off the route somewhere, leading to poor performance and results.

Making everyone successful…are you ready for this challenge?


Photo-credit: Coachville.com

Written by RRGwrites

November 12, 2011 at 1:27 AM

Coaching: the real meaning

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As an HR leader, I have always been intrigued by the concept of Coaching, as it is practiced in the corporate world. All through my work-life, I have been advising the business partners as to how they can be a better leader and coach. To my mind, skill of coaching is an integral skill for any business leader and it is an imperative for leaders at all work-levels.  However, I have often observed that it is in this very skill leaders do not do as well as they ought to.

While there is no dearth of literature on this subject, I observe there exists a huge disconnect when it comes to actual practice. Coaching means two different things altogether to the supervisor/person coaching and to the person being coached. To the supervisor – it often means giving feedback & correcting. On the other hand, to the recipient, it largely means criticism. This issue of inadequate or poor understanding of the real meaning, purpose and necessity of coaching and our own perceptions of the same cause all the chaos in organizations and leads to a baffled, ineffective coach-supervisor and a disgruntled subordinate.

In this blog, I shall be touching upon the subject of coaching and my experiences with front-end managers and young and aspiring leaders, and their understanding of meaning of the word ‘Coaching.’

In a retail organization, where we try to build leadership talent at all levels, roles of front-end managers like Store Managers and Team Leaders are very crucial. These are the key leadership roles; represent the first line of leadership of the company. They are responsible for managing more than twenty employees, who are extremely diverse – demographically, culturally, educationally and intellectually and largely belong to lower-income/education strata of the society, thereby requiring all the more support and guidance from their leaders. Thus, the store managers and team leaders need to train, guide and coach their subordinates towards running a highly process-oriented business unit. Keeping in view the low learning agility of this sect of employees, coaching & mentoring is one of the key skills a frontline manager must develop. Thus, company’s investment in their learning and building their leadership skills is an imperative.

Over a period of several years, I have been involved in imparting the skill of coaching to the newly inducted as well as to the experienced front-end managers, who join us in batches of 25 trainees or so. These are young women and men, with an average age of 27 years, an average work-experience of 5 years and less – largely as individual contributor, and are just starting to learn the leadership skills. Since their role is highly dependent on people management skills, it becomes very critical for them to appreciate the basics and fundamentals of coaching. I have spoken with close to a thousand such managers and team-leaders on this subject.

Easier said than done…

When I was confronted with this challenge years ago, I thought of making them revisit the very core of the word ‘coaching.’ To do so, I have been using an extremely basic example. However, it has proven highly effective, as far as my purpose of making them appreciate the real intent and purpose of coaching and their role of a coach.

To every set of trainees, I ask two simple questions:

  1. During your school education, did you attend any coaching classes or tuitions?
  2. If yes, please share what is your perception of the word ‘Coaching’, as you experienced during your school years.

Batch after batch, (I must have spoken with more than 50 such batches by now), more than 75% of the trainees share that they attended coaching classes or tuitions during their school education years. They go on to share ‘their own perceptions & thoughts’ of the word ‘Coaching’. All this while, I have come across several words & phrases, which trainees shared as answer to the Question 2 above. To these managers, coaching meant:

  • Guidance
  • Support
  • Training
  • Mentoring
  • Improving skill(s)
  • Learning new skill(s)
  • Learning to pass, at least!
  • Learning to top the charts
  • Improving upon the weaker subject
  • Getting additional help
  • Learning tips and tricks
  • Getting feedback

During this part of the discussion, I purposely avoid adding my thoughts and encourage each trainee to share their own individual experiences and perceptions. However, batch after batch, I observed that these young leaders echoed very similar words to describe coaching, as mentioned above.

We also discuss the need for coaching classes during school years – the need of every student appeared different from the other. Those who scored marks less than 50 attended coaching/tuitions to at least keep passing! Those scoring 50 plus aspired to secure a first division – 60%. The one’s who scored above 60 aspired to obtain a distinction – 75 and above. Those securing 80 plus, aimed to top the charts. All desired coaching, albeit for different reasons!

All of a sudden, better appreciation of the word gets build…

Then comes my third question: “During your school years, in coaching classes or tuitions, how many of your were subjected to corporal punishments, taunts and even derogatory remarks about your abilities as a learner?” Please raise your hands, those who did.

Initially, no one responds. Slowly and gradually, some trainees start raising hands. Some were beaten up by their coaches/teachers, some were subjected to taunts and unflattering remarks and some were even abused with derogatory language. Batches after batches, I have observed that more than 70% of trainees share these sentiments.

However, when I ask as to why they didn’t share above views while they were describing their experiences with the word ‘Coaching’, there falls a dead silence. Largely, I could see trainees amused. Their reasons come out gradually – they shared only positive things, they shared what they thought was right; they shared what they felt good about.

They say, “We didn’t like what happened and hence, we stayed away from sharing the same. While we did experience negative behaviors, we only shared what we believe is real meaning of coaching for us.”

Meaning of the word couldn’t have been clearer!

You may think – what’s the big deal in me doing this whole exercise? What am I trying to say through such a simple example? Well, there IS a big deal. My purpose as an HR leader is to create leaders at every level; to establish connect between the coach and the subordinate, a skill that may not be well-ingrained by preaching via a power-point presentation on coaching and mentoring. By making these young leaders re-live their own experiences, I only make them reflect upon their own coaching styles. They get to respect the whole purpose of coaching for success, in a real and humane way.

Over a period of all these years with all these batches, I have started to see a pattern of thought-process and introspection. These managers look back and review their thoughts about their role of a coach. Subsequently, when they reach their stores, they remember most of this exercise and the learning. Often, I’ve noticed that the well-intentioned managers become better aligned to the key principles of coaching. They relate to the relevance and purpose of coaching, in the similar simple manner as it was in school days. They learn to exercise caution in words and tone, while coaching. They respect their subordinates’ feelings and expectations during the whole process of coaching. They learn to view each individual’s need for coaching differently and guide accordingly. They turn into more empathetic mentors; and coach just the way they themselves like to be mentored.

Above all, I observe they start becoming kind, gentle and generous to faults…this has helped me create first generation retail leaders at this pivotal work-level of frontline managers.

How do you prepare young leaders to be a successful coach? Do share your views.


Photo-credit 1: CNN.com

Photo-credit 2: how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com

Written by RRGwrites

October 22, 2011 at 11:07 PM

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