Watching the Olympics on TV is a completely different experience from watching it in person. For one, when you’re watching on TV, you’re entirely focused on one specific event, and one particular heat or match. But in an Olympic track and field stadium, as an example, a number of track events might be taking place at the same time. There’s no television producer forcing your focus in one area. Instead, you have to take your cues and zoom in on the activity that demands your attention. In some ways, it’s not unlike the experience of managing a retail floor.

Throughout the day in a retail store, there are a multitude of activities going on out on the floor, and that means store managers are constantly reading cues and making quick decisions about their next move.

Part of being a leader is knowing when to step in tactically during an associate interaction with a customer (or others), and when to let things roll. If coaching is needed to strengthen the interaction, though, it’s best to do it in the moment. With the benefit of coaching right after something happens, associates can make performance changes on the spot and make an immediate impact on the customer experience. It’s no different than a coach who works with an athlete to make small adjustments to strengthen their performance when they get back out on the field.

Helping associates define and create more compelling goals, gain insights about their communication, and strengthen specific skills or abilities all present opportunities to coach. And as the most successful store managers know:

  • Coaching is a process, not an event.
  • Frequent, quick conversations — as opposed to one long discussion — are emotionally easier for both parties to handle.
  • Each discussion shapes the associate’s overall performance.

But associates don’t always recognize the need to strengthen the particular skills or abilities that the manager sees. So the manager has to be aware of the cues from the associate that may indicate a teaching moment has arrived.

This isn’t the same as identifying a performance problem that needs to be solved. Coaching is about strengthening something that is already acceptable and has the potential to get better. It’s developmental, not remedial. Everyone wants to do a good job, and it’s the manager’s responsibility to set them up for success by coaching them through it.

Identifying Coaching Opportunities

Even though the coaching needs to happen in the moment based on cues you pick up on the floor, prep-work makes the process easier and more effective. A Coaching Skills Inventory can help store managers pinpoint coaching opportunities for strengthening each associate’s skills.

This downloadable worksheet is a great tool for assessing current skill levels across a range of areas and identifying how to best coach your team to refresh their use of the skills and techniques.

Especially when it’s busy, there’s little time for long, formal reviews of performance. Store managers need to shape behaviors in real time, and they need to do it quickly. Even for star players, coaching in the moment can give them the strength they need to grab the gold.

» Download Coaching Opportunities Worksheet: Skills Inventory

With practical techniques from our national retail research, Retail Store Leadership (RSL) develops the interpersonal skills your store managers, assistants, and leads need in order to connect with, coach, and retain associates who consistently deliver exceptional performance and memorable customer experiences. A blend of classroom, online, and innovative mobile-based gamification makes RSL the game-changer for your leaders and your stores. Get in touch with us for full details.



About Michael Patrick

Michael held positions in retail management, merchandising, and human resources before joining MOHR Retail’s predecessor in 1986. In 1990 he purchased the retail division of that firm to form today’s MOHR Retail. Michael holds true to his retail roots by delivering learning that changes behavior—providing both immediate and lasting business impact. In addition to facilitating MOHR Retail training programs, he offers executive-level coaching in one-on-one sessions dealing with critical strategic issues such as succession strategies and executive team development. The author of “The New Negotiation Mindset: Guarantee A Bigger Slice,” Michael is a longstanding member of NRF as well as ISA: The Association of Learning Providers. He has a B.A. from San Diego State University, completed Master’s level work at Arizona State University, and lives with his family in New Jersey.