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Want More Sales? Think Carrots!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Want More Sales? Think Carrots!(GIFTBEAT)Ever forget to be civil, kind—and complimentary—to your employees in the crush of business and the need to turn profits? Organizations that nurture a culture of appreciation and recognition for employees stand to reap huge business benefits, says Chester Elton, coauthor of The New York Times best seller "The Carrot Principle." Read on, to find out to create a business-boosting and people-pleasing "Carrot Culture" in your retail environment.

Q. What does "Carrot Culture" mean?

A. It's a workplace environment where good and talented people come to work and are engaged pretty much every day. Managers who achieve enhanced business results are significantly more likely to be seen by their employees as being strong in what [coauthor Adrian Gostick and I] call the Basic Four areas of leadership: goal setting, communication, trust and accountability. When recognition is applied to the Basic Four of good management, it serves as an accelerator of employee performance and engagement. Carrot Cultures [result in increases] in productivity, engagement, retention, customer satisfaction and profits.

Q. Why do you feel that it's easier for small retailers to give recognition to their employees? A. You're not managing 300 people; you're managing [perhaps] 10. You can get to know them pretty well, and can create an atmosphere like family. It's a much more intimate relationship. Look at it as an advantage!

Q. Why do so many managers and business owners have what you call "Carrotphobia"?

A. When we ask our workshop attendees what keeps them from recognizing employees, the number one answer is "I just don't have time." What that says to me is it's not important. We can always make time for a disaster. When Joe, a top producer, walks out the door, all of a sudden we still have time to interview [for his replacement] and go see his clients. If we'd taken time, maybe Joe would have stayed.

We have unintentionally engineered the civility out of the workplace. It's the classic "do more with less." Business is so frenetic and in your face. Deadlines get faster and faster and faster as more information hits you. There's also the idea that "Aren't we professionals and shouldn't we just buckle down, do our jobs, and shut up and quit whining?"

[Let's say] you see an employee, Barbara, who goes above and beyond and helps someone buy just the right card plus buy five [extra] cards in advance of Valentine's Day. Pull Barbara aside and say, "Boy, I really like what you did there. You were really paying attention. That customer will be so grateful to you when she wakes up February 14 and has cards for her kids."

Q. Why is recognition important in a work setting?

A. The fact is that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for living. Sixty-five percent of North Americans report that they weren't recognized in the least bit the previous year. Everybody needs more recognition. They need those milestones along the way, even if it's for something they've been doing for a long time. Those little touches are more human than we believe. The real key in the workplace is "Are you focused on the right behaviors?" and "Are you being specific in your recognition?" Specificity is the difference between good managers and great managers.

As a small-business owner, results do matter. You have to be results driven and watch the day's receipts. So you have to reward results and encourage the right behaviors and the effort to get there. It's like with your children. You cheer little successes along the way. The more you encourage efforts, the more you get results. Intellectually, you've emotionally touched a chord in that employee. [He or she thinks] "She really does care!"

People ask, "What about the dark side of recognition? If I'm constantly praising Bob, how is Mary going to feel?" There is no dark side of recognition if [the recognition being given is] specific. The dark side is if I praise someone who doesn't deserve it. For example, you might tell Bob "I really appreciate you coming in and picking up Jack's shift. We couldn't have gotten through without you." If it's been awhile since Mary has [had a success,] it's time to go in and do some coaching with her. Say, "I've noticed you've been struggling. How can I help you?"

Q. Why should recognition be done on a timely basis?

A. It's all about communication. Recognition is the great communicator. It's the greatest tool in your manager's toolbox and lets you [express] the value of what someone has done. Don't put off recognition. If there's a fire in the building, you [handle it] right now! Recognition should be done that day. Don't wait until the end of the week or the end of the quarter. If you save all your employee recognition for the annual [party], my guess is that your turnovers will be pretty high. People need daily affirmations. If you have a staff of six or seven, I don't think it's unreasonable to think you would have at least one positive interaction with each employee every day.

Q. What are some ways to recognize employees?

A. [Adrian and I] always laugh and say that we don't tell anybody anything that our mothers didn't tell us when we were 10. It's more blessed to give than receive. You're always more excited on Christmas day when someone opens your gift and likes it. Jim Olsen, who runs Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in the Western states, says that, as a leader, it's a privilege to be able to give people recognition. What you say matters. When you give that praise, it makes you feel good.

Clearly, recognition can take many different forms. But whatever it is, the best reward is always personal and tailored to employee interests and lifestyle, given by a manager who cares enough to find out what motivates each individual. I'm a huge fan of handwritten thank-you notes to employees [or their families]. Take the time to mail the letters to employees' homes.

Home Depot and Wal-Mart have team huddles where they pull everybody in. They generally happen at the end of the day. [During a huddle managers might say], "Boy, did you see Jack do this, or Mary do that?"

To thank a team for a great year or achievement, invite them to your home for a meal or barbecue. Inviting someone into your home is a big step, but it will build bonds of friendship and enhance open communication. If you are uncomfortable with that, do it at a nearby restaurant.

Personally deliver your employee's next paycheck to her. Before you hand it over, spend a few moments defining exactly what she contributes to the company. Trust us: It's never the money that makes a person feel like a million bucks. It's the praise.

Give an award that keeps on giving all year long: a subscription to the person's favorite magazine. If the magazine provides a message line on the label, mention the employee's achievement there, along with your thanks. In our book, “The Carrot Principle” there is an entire chapter with more than 100 great recognition ideas.

To purchase "The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance," log on to carrots.com.

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