Coaching and Training: Time and Place Matter | HR Fishbowl

Here’s why I really like Richard Sherman, today’s Guest Blogger: he’s talented, creative, funny; he writes with flare and with passion (please subscribe to his regular blog, Bus Stories); he’s in the real trenches of the Human Resources profession; and he’s really good at sharing his wisdom in ways that make it easier for those of us who are less equipped in the brains department. I love people who simply-engineer talent management. And I love Richard for this post…


I was in a local grocery store on Sunday for my weekly shopping and observed some classically bad team behavior.  It was so “in my face” that I almost had a Fierce Conversation with an employee who was scanning the white peaches, sweet gherkins, and orzo I was buying (among other stuff). But I realized that, not only was it not the right time or place for me to have that discussion with her, I was also not the person to do it.  I was a customer, after all, and just wanted to get home to put a pot roast into the crock pot and get some oatmeal cookies in the oven.  So I held my tongue and thought a quick post to my fellow HR Crusaders and other leaders of people-stuff might be a better outlet.

The situation was that I had a whole bunch of groceries.  There was a young woman scanning my items and there was no one bagging, so she was piling them up on the end of the counter. A young man was coming back from collecting shopping carts, and passed by our checkout station. She called his name and expected him to notice the need for someone to bag items.  He is new.  I go to this store every week, so I know all of the Sunday team and I had never seen him. He didn’t get the signal that she was sending.  So he paused because she called his name, but then started heading back to his assigned cart-retrieval duty.

Because he failed to catch her unspoken request, she snapped his name again, and told him to stop what he was doing and bag the groceries. He got the message, and when he got to the end of the counter, she muttered to him that she told him before that when there is a large item count, it takes precedence over everything else.  He didn’t hear her clearly; I barely heard her and I was literally inches away from her, across the scanning bar-thingee. He said, “What? I didn’t hear you.”  He had some attitude in his voice, having been snapped at and not understanding what he did wrong.  She then retreated into a dark place with lidded eyes and a scowl, she huffed, and said, “Never mind.”  He shrugged, kept bagging (I was helping put the bags in the cart at this point), and she switched on her oh-there-is-a-customer-in-front-of-me-face and said sweetly, “Thanks, you saved thirteen dollars and forty-two cents, and have a great day.”  I said thanks to both of them and went along to my car.

So many things wrong in such a short exchange.  I’ll probably turn this into some sort of training exercise in my office – pose the situation and ask managers to point out all the places where this went off the rails and what they would do differently.  Here’s my top 3…let’s see any others y’all can spot:

1. Ask for Help: Four wonderful words in the workplace vocabulary are “Could you please help me?” If Calliope Checkout had just asked Bertram Bagger to help her rather than snapping at him, the potential for actual positive training could have been there.

2. Be Heard, Be Clear, Be Positive: If you are going to give anyone feedback, at any time, in any situation, make sure you speak up, talk clearly and keep it positive. And if they don’t hear you, finish the thought. Don’t leave ‘em hanging.

3. For Pete’s sake, Don’t Scold Team Members in Front of Others, especially Customers: Do I really need to say more about this?  Really?

It seems obvious that when and where you train team members is as important as the training itself. But emotions run high and when stress hits, even experienced people can forget.  Keep reminding them. And make a pot roast when you get home.  It’s the best stress relief ever.

Image Credit: TrevenC (via Compfight)

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