We all know the feeling. You’re sitting there with someone, face to face. They may even be looking you right in the eye. You’ve gotten together so you can share some important information or updates. Maybe you haven’t seen them in a while, so you want to fill them in on everything that’s happened since you last met. They nod in response.
But you know they’re not hearing a word you’re saying.
It’s frustrating, but the truth is, sometimes we’re the ones on the other side of that table. We’re all busy. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that’s already on our plates and in our heads, not to mention the deluge of communications we receive every day in the form of emails, phone calls, texts, and more. For retail managers like DMs, RMs, and others with responsibility for numerous stores and multiple priorities, it’s especially challenging to be present in the moment. But that personal time spent with retail leaders in the store is critical.
Emails, conferences calls, and other communications are good tools for getting generic messages and ideas out to all the stores at once. But the follow-up that happens on individual store visits is the way to create accountability of how those ideas and initiatives that have been discussed will get implemented store by store.
The best multiunit managers know that there are few activities that hold more promise of productivity than a store visit. So when they’re there, they’re there. They make it possible not just by being present in the moment but also by doing the necessary work before and after the visit.
If you’re working with multiunit managers on their development, make sure they know how to maximize that important time they spend on store visits. Here are some key points to consider:
- Some store visits are scheduled while others are unplanned. Both have pros and cons, but having a mix of both types maximizes impact overall. Unscheduled visits are increasingly common in today’s retail environment, which is constantly changing, and therefore, regularly requiring managers to change their course of action. Intentional planning, preparation, and skill are essential for getting the most value out of both the scheduled and the unplanned visits.
- Store visits aren’t an opportunity for the multiunit manager to take over. One of the most common pitfalls we see with multiunit managers is a tendency to want to conduct the visit as if they were responsible for the store instead of allowing the store manager and their team to take the lead. “Listening to learn” opportunities abound. This is when multiunit managers have to be keenly observant and focused, asking for input and shaping performance with every interaction.
- Consistency of behavior and expectations is hard to do in retail, but that’s how you build culture. If you’ve trained your multiunit managers, but not your store leaders—or you haven’t been delivering consistent messages across the organization about what’s most important—you won’t be getting the kind of business results or return on investment that you should from your development efforts. Make sure your store leaders are getting developed and that your multiunit managers are learning similar messages and behaviors within that context. When it comes to the store visit, it’s critical that managers have the coaching and reinforcement skills to make the most of this face-to-face time with their store leaders. But everyone needs to be on the same page first.
- The real-time input multiunit managers receive on store visits provides the basis for the next round of priority actions. As a result, they’ll need to know how to debrief the information they’ve collected, reinforcing the store’s strengths and being upfront and clear about the opportunities so that they can get clear commitment from the store leader to take action. They also need an effective discussion strategy to wrap things up prior to leaving the store.
Our research shows that superior multiunit managers understand that, in order to maximize store visits, they have to pay attention to not just the visit itself but also what’s done before and after each visit as well. Are your managers prepared to get the most value from that critical time in the store?