Mystery Shopping with Garrett Boone

This morning I stumbled upon an article about a mystery shopping experience written by Garrett Boone, the co-founder of The Container Store.  His experiences in this article echo 98% my shopping experiences. Garrett Boone’s mystery shopping is a real window onto what’s actually happening with customer experience and customer service.

Here is the article from DallasNews.com:

http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/cheryl-hall/20100216-Container-Store-co-founder-shares-secret-9008.ece

After I read that article, I wanted to learn more about him.

Here is the link to the radio interview he gave in mid 2007.

 

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What excites me about coaching

water-ripples_smallWhat excites me about coaching is that it is a direct and simple yet powerful way to introduce people to their own life skill-set and process. It shows them how to engage those skills to bring order, effectiveness, satisfaction, and happiness to their lives.

These are skills and processes that can inform and effect every facet of ones life, both personal and professional. They are not complicated, and everybody possesses them, but often people don’t realize they have this “power.” I love introducing them and then watching the positive ripple effect.

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Paula and the case of the hot-headed boss

sculpture_gift_of_gabPaula was miserable at work. Loved her job, but felt that her boss wasn’t quite right in the head.

Paula, a middle manager, felt that she was constantly being sabotaged. She felt defeated.

So Paula found me one day when she “wasn’t willing to take it anymore.”

That was step one of a changing equation.

Her boss was a hot head. But they had been good friends prior to their working relationship, which seemed to have ruined their social one.

Paula, to her credit, wanted to learn how to communicate with her boss. Truth be told, it took us nearly three months for her to realize that she wasn’t going to change him.

So I worked with Paula, through life coaching, to change what she did have control over and find ways of working that would bring more peace into her life.

One important way that Paula changed was to stick to politically correct protocol. Instead of engaging or giving her opinions, Paula would report just the facts to her boss.

When Paula removed herself personally from the situation, she stopped giving Hot Head her energy. She stopped investing any emotional energy in him.

Once the friend equation was removed, everything became much clearer. Paula saw where she had perpetuated the conflict and, now, how and when she could stop reacting and take a step or two back.

Paula got to neutral.

Neutral was a new concept to Paula, as it would be for many of us. It took her a while to understand it. And when Paula “got it,” she really got it! And she was able to apply this incredibly powerful strategy to other areas of her life.

Paula and I worked together for just over a year. Quite an investment for a reward that will last her the rest of her life.

How does coaching work?

First and foremost, coaching is a collaboration.young_woman_on_telephone

Most coaching, life or business, takes place over the phone. And through the ether, a magical thing happens. You concentrate without distractions. You can speak freely, not bound by facial expressions. You can make notes.

Generally speaking, life, business, and sales coaching is about helping people identify what they want in their lives and business and how to get it.

In the beginning, we talk about overarching goals. What is each person’s vision for themselves and/or business? Then we look at where they are and what kind of work we’ll need to do to bridge the gap.

In the beginning, we break down steps and milestones and work on strategy.

Everyone is different and has a unique style. Some clients have one specific goal — to make a presentation, take their business to the next level or get a new job, for instance. Others want to be happier, and there many be several or even many goals under that overarching one.

The experience of coaching lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your agreement with your coach. You and your coach talk about how often you’ll meet, usually two to three times a month.

How long a commitment? It’s up to you. Depending on the task(s) you want to work on, coaching may take weeks to several months.

I typically ask for a commitment of six months. Usually, after six months you’ve reached the momentum you need to keep changing your life as you’d like. Many of the people who work with me for three to six months contract for longer, but that decision is up to you.

Also, I’ve found that it takes about six months or so for each person to begin to use their new skills (having “unlearned” those that didn’t work) and gain traction.

Recently, a client who had enjoyed a  full year of coaching few months ago, contacted me about having two follow-up sessions. He found that a “tune-up” was a great idea.

Remember, our first conversation is simply an exploration and at no charge to you.

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Why do people need coaches?

How about, “Why do I deserve a coach?”  Because we all do.
 

A life coach is someone who knows how to look out for your best interests, cheer you on, and hold your feet to the fire….all with no judgment.
 
Just like sports coaches, coaches can see what you’ve got when you can’t. And we know how to draw the best out of you.

Note that coaches aren’t called “teachers” or “drill sargeants” or anything like that. A good coach knows that people can’t be taught or forced to do their best. Coaches find that core that makes you tick, help you work past obstacles, and chart your progress.

Coaching can do many things — guiding people to listen to their own voice, honor their own processes, and redesign their own lives are just a few.

That’s a simple explanation, of course.

There are many reasons you might consult a professional coach.

Perhaps your life isn’t where you want it to be, and you seek support and objectivity to articulate a new vision.

Perhaps you’re looking for a new career. Or you want to perform better in the one you have.

Or, perhaps you don’t want to change your life so much as prepare for a special event, meeting or presentation. No task is too small — if you’re having trouble breaking down the steps and getting it done, a coach can guide you forward and to completion.

You might need a gentle nudge.  Or a real shove. Or an accountability partner. Or something longer term and more developmental.

Many of my clients need to get to  level ground to begin to do their best work.

Getting to level ground means we detox old beliefs and thought patterns, challenge assumptions, and release the “old tapes” that work against progress. That’s where the fun of creating and designing begins.

If you’re reading this, I daresay something in your life has brought you here. And that you might benefit from working with a professional coach.

Consider me a resource, if you’d like more information or a complimentary chat.

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Empty yourself and let the universe fill you

The title of this post came from the tea bag I opened today as I was preparing my afternoon green tea.

~ Author unknown

I knew right away it was the message I needed.

I have been angst-ing over a report / article that I am writing for almost two weeks. The nagging perfectionist in me  (her name is Perpetua and she also has the title of  Inner Critic/Judge) was on the loose giving me a run for my money.  This little message is precisely what this perfectionist needed.  Perpetua is now back where she belongs…taking a break from it all, probably hob-nobbing with Cruela Deville.

I also realized that this advice of emptying oneself was exactly what I did when finally embarking on the subject of this post.

Yes, there is a subject. Here’s the story:

Living the life of a peregrinator has its challenges at times.  One challenge presented itself in the form of a class assignment for a post grad business coaching class I’m taking for my coaching credential.  The assignment itself was a joy.  I was to interview business owners who I did not know personally and include 3 specific questions in the course of the interview.   I did not know where to begin.  My S.O. and I had just landed in Idaho (our home base between his jobs) and I have no contacts here, yet.

I called a friend on the east coast and told her about my assignment.  She just so happened to be working with a business owner/landscape architect on his web presence. She said she would ask him.  I was grateful.

Soon after, it dawned on me that I might be able to get some help from one of the groups I had recently joined on LinkedIn.  If the interview my friend told me she would set up came together, I would only need one more person to interview. The teacher said to interview a couple of business owners.

I crafted my plea,without any expectation,

to the one group (out of seven groups I have joined) that I thought might be the most willing to help.

It read:

I need some willing volunteers to help me with an assignment I have for an advanced coaching class.

Those who clicked on that “headline”, read that I had a class assignment to conduct a 20-30 minute simple interview with business owners about their businesses.  The group I chose was definitely the “right” group.

Twelve women responded willing, ready and curious.

After such a great response, I realized what a shame it would be to interview only two people, so I decided to tweak the assignment ever so slightly for my own edification.  I thought if I could interview 10 people (a nice number), I might find some interesting patterns among these entrepreneurs and at the very least, meet some successful and interesting business owners.

Due to time constraints and schedules, I ended up interviewing nine people. They ranged from people who had been their own bosses from three years to twenty-five years and the businesses were: landscape architect, resume writing/career transition counselor, etiquette school, virtual assistants, video producer, a corporate coach, a personal facilitator of women in leadership roles, contractor in the finance/banking industry and a greeting card marketing company.  One of the interviewees runs two businesses simultaneously.

The interview questions I was assigned were:

1. Tell me about your business. (i.e.: How did you start? How long have you had the business?, etc.)

2. What non-financial challenges are you currently dealing with?

3. If you could hire a coach, what would you want to address?

The conversations were primarily around these three questions with some variances depending on where the conversation went and how much time each person had to give. After interviewing 2 or 3 people, it became evident to me that some business owners were the genuine article and possessed what I felt was true inner happiness …so I added this question for some of the remaining interviewees (wishing I had asked everyone).

4. On a scale of 1-10, rate your happiness.

And….after the interviews were all over I wished I had asked a 5th question:

5. What is your vision for your business and what steps are you taking to realize that vision?

So, I put this after-thought question #5 out on the same discussion board after the interviews were over.  An interesting thing happened. I realized within hours of posting question #5 that those that I sensed were the most successful (aka: happy) were the ones who were at the ready with their very clear visions within hours of the request.

The patterns that emerged:

– All interviewed were curious about the class and the purpose of the interview and was excited to be of assistance.

– Most wanted to know what I would be “doing” with this information.  Aside from reporting aloud to my class, I had not made any formal plans, until I got so many questions I thought it would only be right to write this for them. After all, they were kind enough to volunteer.

– More than half interviewed were very driven by wanting to help their clients be 100% successful.  This was evident in their volunteering to help me as well as the responses received for question #5.

– At least half of those I had interviewed had been in the “corporate world” and each one said, unsolicited:

“I don’t miss the corporate world at all“.

I will make the assumption, however, that the corporate world may have given them the foundation and wherewithal to go solo.

Soloists are a special breed,

in my humble opinion.

– Many of them said they like variety in their career and flexibility with their schedules. This did not come as a surprise to me. Many entrepreneurs have these traits/preferences in common.  I remember one business owner  saying that it took 18 months of working  24/7, but she has finally tailored her work life to suit her whole life and, to top it off, is happy, no thrilled, with her income.  I could feel her beaming through the telephone.  She is also the one who, when asked question #3: If you could hire a coach, what would you want coaching on?, responded with:

“I always hire coaches who scare me to death!”

– Two were already moving their businesses into a new phase of offering the teaching of others to do what they do….teaching their methodology….passing the torch to future generations

– One was getting an MBA to broaden his/her skills base and put new systems into place so that he/she could be more of a manager/overseer vs. exclusive “doer”.

The responses to the question “what would you hire a coach for?” varied the most.  After my first interview, I felt it necessary to let everyone know I was not soliciting for my coaching business.  This was very important to me as I honestly was just completing an assignment and wanted the most truthful answer without anyone feeling they were being “sold” to.   Here are the responses:

– Develop and implement systems for the next phase of business.

– Learn more about marketing using the latest social media to enhance the business and reach goals

– Challenge his/her assumptions

– Guide them to set milestones and keep focused

– Hold him/her accountable to the least enjoyable tasks

– Coach him/her to become more at ease with net-working  and being visible, followed up with getting the jobs they want.

– The response: Build self-confidence with some “atta girl” reinforcement coaching was heart-felt and I remember thinking to myself: “atta girl” for being so honest!

– A couple of these business owners said they would not hire a coach because they are comfortable coaching themselves, have good support (peers) in place and/or utilize good reading material.  If they were to hire anyone it would be an administrative assistant.  Business is good!

If it isn’t obvious, the whole experience for me was positive all the way around.  Per my teacher’s suggestion, I DID have fun.  I was able to identify where everyone was in their stage of business, I met some wonderful people (which is a bonus in and of itself) and learned some valuable lessons.

The biggest lesson I learned is the importance of being a happy person…especially if you are going to own your own business.

If genuine happiness is emanated, attraction is assured.

I cannot end this post without bringing up the tea bag quote one more time. This zen advice was just what I needed to get my thoughts flowing.  Maybe this would be helpful advice for anyone who feels “stuck”.  Sounds like common sense to me.

I have more thoughts about this experience/assignment and will post them here. I invite all of those whom I interviewed to comment, ask more questions or contact me if you would like to expand on our interview (either in private or on this blog site as a guest).  And if there is anyone out there who just wants to comment, feel free.  Also, if you would like to be a part of any future class assignments, I have a list started.

Thanks for dropping by…

…time for another cup of tea while I take my next class.

OPEN….by chance

I wasn’t going to write about my errand day last week.  The thoughts that went through my mind were:

No one will find this interesting.

Big Deal.

But I can’t get it out of my head because I realized

what I experienced is most likely happening everywhere.

And this experience is not a one time only situation.  It has occurred a few times in the last 3 months.

If you are a retail business that is in a mall or shopping center, your landlord has rules for you.

Rule #1:  Open for business on time.

If, however you are an independent business owner who leases a space in a quaint small town, there are really no “rules” so to speak, so if you open a half hour late, it’s no big deal.  Some might even find it reminds them of a boutique in Europe where the customers are always “wrong” and  the hours of operation vary on a daily basis.  It’s just their way.

Charming.

I bring all of this up because I woke up the other morning knowing I had many errands.  I had a lot on my “To Do” list and needed to get as early a start as possible.  I timed everything out based on what time the stores opened.  Most retail establishments open at 10:00 a.m.  so I left the house at 5 minutes before 10:00 and was happy that I would be able to get in and out early.  The two stores I wanted to shop in were not open at a little after 10:00.   As I walked to the cafe around the corner to get a cup of coffee while I waited for the 2 shops to open, I noticed there were other stores not open.  Had my watch stopped?  I got to the coffee shop and verified the time.  It was 10:20 a.m.

On my way back, I stopped to look in a different shop window at something that caught my eye….something that MIGHT be perfect  as a gift for someone who was on my “To Do” list.   I looked at my newly synchronized watch….It was 10:30 a.m. I looked further into the shop and saw some great gift ideas.  I saw a woman arranging some items in the store.  I feel certain she saw me looking in the window because she looked up from what she was doing when I appeared.   I went for the doorknob and just before my hand touched it, I noticed the “CLOSED” sign.  I saw the store hours posted on the door.

10 – 6

I looked at the woman, who by this time had turned her back.   I left with my coffee feeling very perplexed.

If you were the owner of this store, what would you have liked to have seen happen? I know I would have been happy if I had been greeted by this woman opening up the door and inviting me in.

I most likely would have purchased a gift for my friend and not bothered to have even entered the other stores that were not open before going to get coffee.

I know what some of you may be thinking….

Why doesn’t she just go to the mall or chain store that opens on time?

I have an aversion to the homogenized McShopping Centers and Malls.  I like supporting the Mom and Pop businesses whenever possible.   Only it wasn’t possible on this day.

What are the messages here?

Are business owners in such a funk that they can’t see that making an effort CAN make a difference in their sales?

Are they feeling like there is no hope?

Is the shop just a hobby?

Albeit more discerning of their spending, consumers ARE still out there.

This is especially the time to shine

and

be open on time,

not

by chance.

The “gift” of gab

When I was a sales coach for This End Up Furniture Company, I was working with a store manager one-on-one during a two day visit to her store. She was a very bubbly, enthusiastic manager who loved the company, the product, the people, the customers….everything. As a matter of fact, she had been a very enthusiastic customer who was recruited.  Her name was Diane.

Much of the first half of our day was spent in observation mode….meaning I observed Diane with with her customers. What I saw/heard was non stop bubbly and up-beat talking….90% from Diane.  Every encounter ended with the customer walking out with a brochure and price list and ALL of the information about the company, the furniture they were standing near, the fabric,  the accessories, etc. that Diane graciously shared like a hostess with a tray of appetizers.

To put it mildly,

she had “the gift of gab”

which needed a bit of tweaking.

As a coach, it is my job to keep the learning atmosphere as open and positive as possible.

Integrity is a value I honor.

What might have happened if I said to Diane: “You talk too much!…That customer couldn’t get a word in edgewise!” Most likely it would shut her down which would  essentially slow or stop the learning process.

To keep the learning atmosphere healthy,

a good coach keeps the conversation in

a place of discovery.

What I didn’t mention at the top of this post is that Diane and I began our day talking about what we both wanted out of our two days together.  From the beginning, expectations were in place….from all parties involved.

This vital step is what set us up for success.

One of the ten Shared Values at This End Up was Individual Growth.  We attracted people who appreciated this unique value in a retail setting.  That doesn’t mean it’s always easy….this stretching and growing business, however, everyone was in it together, by choice.  We all coached each other…up the line and down the line.  What a great culture!

Diane asked me to let her know what I observed and pick

one thing

to help her grow that would impact increasing her personal sales.

My coaching began:

Me: Tell me about that customer.

Diane’s responses were all based on everything she told the customers about the product and services.

Me: What did the customer tell you about their home?      or    What room were they working on?

Diane: They didn’t.  I think they were just looking.

Me: What do you know about them as a person?

Diane: They had on a real cute dress and they were on their way to the movies in the mall.

Me: What do they know about us? (the company, furniture, etc…)

Diane: A lot!  I told them how we started as a company, how the furniture is constructed, what fabrics are available, how long it takes to receive from the date the order is placed, what our hours are….

Diane stopped mid sentence and looked up at me with that unmistakable look in her eyes that indicated the  A-HA!  moment!

Diane:  I talked too much.  I didn’t give anyone a chance to talk.  I don’t really know anything about the people who came in to the store this morning.

Continuing to keep the learning atmosphere open during this very important moment, I asked:

What would  you have liked to have known about them?

Diane was able to list a number of productive responses.  I followed up with:

What questions will lead you to all of those wonderful responses?

Again, Diane came up with some stellar questions.

It was all making sense.

A shift had begun.

Before we continued with the second part of our day, we took a break for lunch and I gently and causally asked:

What percentage of the time do you think the customers talked this morning?

She smiled and said:  Hardly at all.  I must have talked 100% of the time., just like I do at home.  My husband and daughter can’t get a word in edgewise.

Diane looked at me again with that “A-Ha” look in her eyes and said….

“Oh my gosh.  My poor family!”   She laughed.  I laughed.  And then I asked:

Would you be up for a little assignment tonight?  She agreed.  I asked Diane to practice the 80/20 ratio of  listening to talking with her family over dinner that evening and come back to our second day with a full report.

That means allowing her family to talk 80% while she listens.  Her 20% of talking was to include as many open ended questions as was logical while she commented on whatever her family was talking about over dinner.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon practicing open ended questions to allow the customers to do a bit more of the talking.  It worked and she went home energized and exhausted all at once.

The next day, I got the full report on dinner.  As you might imagine, her family thought something must have been wrong with her.  Was she okay?  Did she feel well?  Was she coming down with something? Honestly, she said her husband was delighted and asked her to thank me. While he didn’t want Diane to change from who she was, he was grateful for the shift.

And Diane was grateful for the shift in her sales.

She increased her sales that month by 40%.

blabber  –  blabber –  blabber

chatter – chatter – chatter

yadda-yadda-yadda

me-me-me

~::  ::~

Ponder this:

If you substituted the customer in this scenario for one of the people you manage, would the same philosophy apply? (80/20?)

Inclusivity: management made simple

I was doing a little information requesting one day to get feedback from a group about THIS blog site.  I asked what they (women in business) would want to see on this site  that would enhance the coaching and training they are currently offering their teams.

The first request I received:

I would like core competencies building modules

such as:

  • dealing with conflict
  • delivering a difficult message
  • how to write an effective individual development plan
  • how to leverage your strengths

Great requests!

I have found the most effective way to manage is by way of inclusion. So you will be involved in this process.

The two key words being:

YOU and PROCESS

You might be thinking, “Just give me the information” and if you are, this post may not be for you.   However, if you agree with and have experienced the concept that people don’t take advice you give 98% of the time, this post may be of interest to you.

So, I will start this process by asking you questions.  There is a method to this, so post your responses and we’ll get this show started!

Imagine what a day would look like with the basics of these competencies  in place

and running like a well oiled machine.

Really!

Take a moment and allow the vision to reveal itself.

What do you see?

How does it feel?

Next, I want you to try this on for size.

What would it look like to  include your team or team member in the process of developing a good  way to, for example,  manage conflict?

Screeeeeeeech!!!

Did I just say include your team in the process?

Yes I did.  And this is where things get interesting.

This model is under utilized and yet, the most effective.  What’s up with that?

I have some theories however, I’ll keep them to myself for now.

Is this just so simple you’re having a “Duh” moment?  Or is it just so difficult, it hurts your brain just reading about it?

The fact is:

The more you include your team in the process the more positive results you and your team will enjoy.

The #1 fear my clients have is that of losing control of their business because their perception of involving their team equates to losing their voice.  Let me assure you, this is not what happens.

So….

How does one begin?

 

 

 


The good stuff

Linked In has proven itself to be wonderful forum to connect and share with other people in business.   I asked for feedback from one of the groups about THIS blog site.  I asked what they would want to see on this site  that would enhance the coaching and training they are currently offering their team.

One especially thorough request was:

I would like core competencies building modules such as:

  • dealing with conflict
  • delivering a difficult message
  • how to write an effective individual development plan
  • how to leverage your strengths

I consider these topics “the good stuff”.  These are the topics, when managed well, move individuals, teams and whole companies forward.

I have found the most effective way to “get to the good stuff” is by way of including YOU in the process.

The two key words being:

YOU and PROCESS

You might be thinking, “Just give me the information” and if you are, this post may not be for you.   However, if you agree with and have experienced the concept that people don’t take advice you give 98% of the time, this post may be of interest to you.

So, I will start this process by asking you questions.  There is a method to this, so post your responses and we’ll get this show started!

Imagine what a day would look like with the basics of these skills  in place

and running like a well oiled machine.

Really!

Take a moment and allow the vision to reveal itself.

What do you see?

How does it feel?

Next, I want you to try this on for size.

What would it look like to  include your team or team member in the process of developing a good  way to, for example,  manage conflict?

I’d love your thoughts.

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"My husband and I started a full-time photography business eight years ago and as we were getting it going we found we have some very different ideas about how to run a business based on our two very different backgrounds in business. We also found that we were talking business with each other 24/7. We hired Lee Beaven to coach us once a week during our weekly planning meetings. Lee not only helped guide us into more effective (non-emotional) communication so that we could move forward, she also helped us compartmentalize our time for better efficiency and to make sure we had personal time together and separately. She always kept the tone upbeat and positive, while making sure we each got our time to present ideas. The ideas she helped us put in place at the beginning are still serving us well, and we have included her many times in our annual planning meetings to help us organize our thoughts into a workable plan. We highly recommend Lee Beaven as a coach for new business owners, and any that find themselves at a stall, or getting ready to move to a new level. We are at that point again and will definitely call on her for a bit of coaching as we redefine one line of our business." ~ Beth & Wolfgang Jasper, Wolfgang Jasper/Howldog Photography, Richmond, VA
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