How to Maximize Teachable Moments in the Retail Holiday Season (Nov week 2 companion article)

In this companion article for Week 2 of November’s theme of Countdown to Blastoff, our topic is one that both Hourly AND Supervisory employees in stores should find VERY USEFUL. As we move into the time of year where time is tight, and moments seem fleeting (or often unplanned and not impactful), our discussion today should provide some helpful advice/habits to help you make the most of the time you have, get you to leave those ‘moments’ more motivated to participate in them more often, and take more away from them regardless of the chaos that is happening around you.

Last week, Edward took us through some personal tips and habits to strengthen yourself to make it through the Holiday Season: to help you be successful, be healthy, be safe and be a good team member. If you missed it, you can click the link HERE for the podcast or head to the YouTube channel HERE to watch. It’s a great foundational episode for the start of Q4 and it’s filled with easy, basic ideas on how to get prepared, how to navigate and survive. 

This article, however is a bit more in-depth:

  • Today, we tackle one of Carrie’s favorite leadership topics: HOW TO LEARN or TEACH successfully during Holiday. We’re going to talk about how to maximize the limited time you have during the next few weeks and months to learn new skills or improve your capabilities so you can feel successful. If you are a leader, this also means being more effective at communicating skill building feedback, recognition of both opportunities and progress for your teams or co-workers, all within super short timeframes and in a chaotic environment. 
  • The TRUTH? Most companies (even outside retail) use the term ‘coaching’, but we want to re-frame this concept as teaching, instructing or guiding. Why? Well, first – all organizations have some form of this and regardless of what they CALL IT, it is really based on a mutual relationship in which two people come together with a common goal to help (or be helped) into greater success. Yes, the term “COACHING” is applicable to this action, but it doesn’t really encompass the inner core of what the relationship is about. We think it falls short. And it makes a subtle (ok not so subtle) suggestions that you are part of a game… which, doesn’t always make the outcome or goal of the coaching seem lasting or important. A quick win feels shallow sometimes, and more like using a tool (either you being the tool or you working the tool) and even if you feel it subconsciously, it doesn’t feel all that great. To anyone who has made a career, or hopes to make a career, out of working in a store-based retail environment… no, it is NOT a game, and everyone’s goal is not for a single win, but for a continually growing success rate that involves lasting change and skill improvement. Right? Right. 
  • The episode and discussion cover HOW to maximize your role in that relationship during a time of year where there is literally NO TIME to schedule, or there are quick and seemingly fleeting moments, between you and the co-workers you might be able to help, you and your supervisor, or if you are the supervisor… you and your team members. How on EARTH can you learn new things, teach new things and feel more successful in Q4? Carrie takes on 4 ideas to explore and discuss (and this companion helps give you a reference to them all):
  1. Common goals (based on long term benefits to the INDIVIDUAL, not just instant metrics)
  2. A REAL language of learning/teaching (that is understood between both parties)
  3. Showing Up (with a mutual understanding of needs, wants and PROVEN CONSISTENCY talking about them)

To start, Carrie shares a very impactful holiday story from her first retail holiday in a focal position and how a few fleeting moments changed how she approached learning in Q4. (Below is her summary, head to the podcast or YouTube video for the full story):

When I am asked what my most impactful holiday story to share is, I immediately go to this memory: my first holiday in the most focal retail footprint in America, filled with the desire to prove myself worthy to a tough and amazingly talented boss, and my utter disappointment and frustration with not being able to do it (after thinking that I could!) She tested me and I failed (in my eyes)… until I did something about it. The lessons I learned that holiday season shaped me as a leader, a teacher and a mentor 100%. I took away 4 basic principles and the knowledge that if I wanted to BE more, I needed to DO more and show up differently… that was a real game-changer for me, career wise.


Topic Discussion Summaries:

Topic #1. COMMON GOALS: All people who work in retail understand that goals are handed out like ‘hellos’… we live and breathe them every hour, every day… every season. Every role has them, every level of role… every function and pillar… and when we say common goals in the context of learning, it is not THOSE GOALS we are speaking about. The Common Goals Carrie that digs into here are your PERSONAL goals, for yourself and for your employment within the retail industry. Take a moment to really ask yourself “what is my intention with this job.”

Seems basic, but yes, WHAT is YOUR intention for taking this job that you find yourself in. Is it to start a career? To earn a little more money for yourself or your family? EVERYONE has reasons for taking a position. There is often a misconception that when you accept a job offer you no longer hold control over your employment… but truly remembering WHY you accepted the position and your intention when you entered the role is an extremely helpful mental exercise that can re-focus you on what you control. This is where we start when creating common goals. Here are the easy steps that ANYONE in retail can take, hourly to executive director or above, to help themselves create this goal, remind themselves of the goal and show up with intention to move towards that goal:

-Your personal goal/intentions with your employment (earning extra cash? forging a career that involves upward movement and greater responsibility, etc)

-the goals the company or location or team has

Overlapping goals with a Venn Diagram mentality can help show you the ‘common spaces’ or ‘common tasks’ or ‘common skills’ that both goals need to have happen… and THIS is your common goal space. THIS is where you can come to remind yourself that focusing in on THOSE drives your personal goal as well as helps the goal of your company/location/team. This is where you can shine and drive growth.

So how can you set common goals as an hourly employee? As a leader? Honestly, you set common goals the same way. And once you’ve done this for yourself, you start seeing common goals EVERYWHERE. It not only helps you as an hourly, to see the positive impact the lesson or task can give you long term… but as a leader, you start to see that when you frame your goals and include the common goal as well, the engagement of your team and the impact of your lessons grow exponentially!

Topic #2. LANGUAGE OF LEARNING. Understanding the language of learning is tough sometimes… especially during the most chaotic time of the year. Taking a few moments, as both the student and the teacher, to see if your language of learning is actually WORKING is well worth the few minutes of introspection. Think of what might work better for a moment and what is standing in the way of changing your ‘language of learning’ to have that happen…

  • Do you just nod and agree when you don’t understand something and hope you’ll get it right?
  • Do you dismiss these moments because they don’t seem genuine due to tone? Do you reflect that tone in your answers?
  • Are you too blunt?
  • Do you use terminology that the other person might be unfamiliar with?
  • Do you check for understanding?
  • Do you keep using the same approach, even when it’s been proven not to work?

The mantra of “try try again” is SO relevant to checking in on your impact as a teacher and your ability to be impacted as a student. If you don’t actively make adjustments in these moments… they often are LOST. WASTED. And if you continue to keep the same ‘language’ each subsequent time? Well, then the pattern of wasted time is just continued and the teacher/student relationship can become truly broken.

Take the few moments to find a mutual language that works. It can make a huge difference to both sides and ultimately can benefit ALL when you do.

Topic #3 MUTUAL NEEDS. First off, this is not the same as common goals at all. This is about SHOWING UP. As a supervisor, you NEED to give feedback, drive results and teach skills that will benefit the whole team. As an hourly in any role, you NEED to be able to learn these new skills to drive results to benefit the whole team, as a core responsibility of the position you took (and ultimately to keep driving you towards that personal goal, whatever it may be.) In short, both positions NEED TO SHOW UP.

Also, both parties need to understand that just because it’s the busiest and most chaotic time of the year for the industry… it does NOT remove the responsibility you have to show up for these moments. And they need to be valuable. They cannot just be something you check off a list. They need to be purposeful and impactful for BOTH parties.

Reminding yourself WHY you need to show up is a quick way to get back on track or approach a ‘teaching moment’ with a fresh set of eyes and a newfound purpose to get something out of it!

Topic #4: ASKING CLARIFYING QUESTIONS. As a student, do you know how to ask questions so you understand? How to ask questions, without seeming dismissive? As a leader, how can you prepare to explain things differently and more effectively in the middle of chaos? How do you own your role as student or teacher in the middle of CHAOS??

This might be another seemingly simple habit to remind you about, but honestly? When the pace at work is frenetic and you literally have 60 seconds to respond to a question or an ‘ask’ from a supervisor… most of us default to YESSING. Even when we don’t fully understand what is being asked of us, or why it is being asked of us or even HOW IT IS POSSIBLY RELEVANT TO US.

Asking a few quick questions, like the suggestions below, might just help you better complete that task, absorb that lesson or even understand your impact should you ROCK the TASK when you’re asked:

  • Can you give me an example? (when someone comes to you and asks for an immediate result you are struggling with, ask for examples of how to accomplish it.)
  • Can you quickly show me? (when asked to do something you’ve never done before, ask if someone knowledgable can quickly show you how.)
  • Does that make sense? (as a leader, checking for understanding is HUGE.. make sure they really heard and understand. Be prepared to explain it differently!)

Another easy and fast way (for both sides) to get clarification is to repeat back the ‘lesson’ or task being asked to make sure you have it right. Often, the person teaching or asking may have gotten it wrong themselves… this gives them the chance to correct it (and YOU the ability to get it right the first time!)

Teachable moments come at us ALL THE TIME. Taking these 4 quick habits to heart as a student will equip you with what you need to make sure you never miss an opportunity to become more skilled, more impactful AND further along the path to your personal or career goals. Taking them to heart as a teacher nearly always guarantees more impactful moments, more committed and engaged students AND greater success for both YOUR goals and your students.

Learn more at our YouTube Channel, or at our Podcast Hub!

New content weekly from Edward and Carrie on how to be more engaged, more successful and more supported in your retail employment… you are NOT alone. Let us help keep you on track – whatever your role, your goals or your tenure in the industry!

Don’t forget to LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and FOLLOW us across our channels to help grow our audience. And as always, please SHARE our articles, videos and podcasts with anyone who might need them and find value in our content!

Next week: How to Create Structures for Success and Planning.

Until then, walk with a purpose, friends!

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