In any retail store, there are many activities happening out on the floor at any given time. That’s why successful store managers are constantly reading cues and making quick decisions about whether to jump in tactically or let things roll. Most importantly, if coaching is needed to strengthen an associate’s interaction with customers or others, they know that it’s best to do it in the moment rather than putting it off. By coaching immediately after something happens, these managers equip their associates to make performance changes on-the-spot. That means the associate gets the benefit of the coaching right away — and so does the next customer they interact with.

Coaching “in real-time” is vital in the retail environment, and it’s a critical part of the job of any retail store manager. When things get busy, no one has the time for long, formal discussions. Leaders have to know how to take advantage of the moment and shape behaviors quickly. It could be as simple as making a reinforcing statement that’s specific and compliments someone for their actions, or it might mean finding a two- or three-minute break in the action for a check-in about what’s going on and to get clear about what exactly needs to be done going forward.

Developing others is one of the primary roles of any store leader, and coaching in the moment is a big part of that, particularly because:

  • Coaching isn’t a one-time event but a process that takes place over a long time. These real-time conversations are integral to that overaching process.
  • Frequent, quick conversations (as opposed to one long, formal discussion) are emotionally easier to handle for both the manager and the associate.
  • In a short amount of time, a skillful manager can uncover the “why” behind an associate’s behavior and coach him or her to change the approach and get a better outcome.
  • Each conversation shapes the associate’s overall performance, providing an opportunity to both build on and reinforce positive behaviors.

There are few activities more essential to long-term development than specific, proactive coaching to build an associate’s abilities. Of course, one challenge is that associates may not always perceive the need to strengthen a particular skill or ability. Because of this, the store manager needs to be aware of the cues their associates are sending that could indicate a teaching moment has arrived. In any given day, a variety of opportunities to coach will present themselves. It could be in the form of supporting associates in the process of defining and creating more compelling goals, helping them gain insights about their communication, or strengthening specific skills or abilities. Everyone wants to do a good job; it’s the manager’s responsibility to set them up for success.

It’s important to point out that when we talk about a potential teaching moment or opportunity to coach in real-time, this is not the same as identifying a performance problem that needs to be solved. Coaching is the action of strengthening something that is already acceptable and has the potential to get better. It’s developmental, not remedial.

The most effective store leaders plan ahead by considering the unique strengths and growth opportunities of each of their associates. An easy way to manage this process is through the use of a skills inventory like this free Coaching Opportunities Worksheet. It’s designed to help store managers assess associate skill levels and determine where there might be opportunities for strengthening, encouraging, or correcting.

Find out more about how to develop your store leaders’ coaching effectiveness here.


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.