Expectations. To me it’s almost as bad as the four-letter words we’re always told not to say, yet they slip out anyway. Those twelve letters can set my anxiety on high alert and devastate me when I’ve been told they haven’t been met. As business owners, managers and employees, we set them for others and become exasperated when we must come along and clean up the messes left behind.
When we have these expectations, we assume the end result or the intervals along the way will be mastered or happen in a certain way…our way. But what if we’ve failed to follow through? What if we didn’t play on a level playing field? What if we never even told the other person what we wanted – clearly what we wanted or hoped the outcome would be? No one can win except disappointment.
Having worked Absolutely Her by myself for several years, the processes all just kind of happened. I tried something and if it didn’t work, I’d try it another way. I learned on the fly how to do intake, ring someone up, hang up clothes, fix the dressing room curtains and every other detail needed. Everything made sense to me because I made the rules as I went along, and I had the understanding of the “why” behind them.
Adding employees into the mix was a crazy process in the beginning because at the time, I didn’t have any kind of manual written on what to do. I had a few things I’d written out for myself to remember, but no formal plan. And that’s how I trained – nothing real specific until it came up. Can you see the foundation for disaster? It just kept going and my expectations were there for my employees, but so many times they weren’t met. How could they? They didn’t know and when someone else stepped in to train, it was all about assuming and figuring they should just know it.
The switch was flipped in a moment that I hated to admit back then and still do today, a few years later. I was asked to walk through the store with two of my team. I couldn’t touch anything as we went along, but I had to tell them what I saw. When it was all done, I was humiliated and embarrassed because all I pointed out were the negative things I could see. Nothing was said about the displays they created or the work they’d done for me. It was about the clothes being hung in the wrong color order, a designer bag hanging on a mannequin near the door, or the height of the displays on top of a rounder. Just one thing after another I complained about.
Even though I was ashamed about how I was, I noticed a difference in the way the store looked as we went forward. I wasn’t frustrated by the little things because they weren’t there anymore. For the first time, they were able to see all 6,000 sq feet through my eyes and it made sense. They were told the WHY of it: the color order going from black to white on a rounder flows better when the prints are darker to lighter in just that section, a designer bag near the door has a greater chance for it walking right out the door if you get distracted, or the height of the displays on certain rounders blocks the view from the counter along with the angle on the security cameras. Here’s the deal - they didn’t know. They didn’t know I had reasons and had carefully thought out angles and blind-spots. They didn’t know I’d tried so many other avenues before settling on a policy. They didn’t know I’d researched my whys. How could they? I NEVER TOLD THEM.
In the end I had a great manual and those training could explain the policies using how we’d gotten to that point or the science behind it. It lessened the mistakes and increased the understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I did expect my team to handle their job responsibilities in the best way possible to meet the needs of the customers and the store. If they weren’t able to, it shouldn’t have been because I failed to give them the tools they needed to succeed.
And if you ask one of the employees that I did that walk-through with what her take was on that process? She’ll tell you it was the best thing ever because she could finally learn what I was thinking to stop second-guessing as she did her job. And I’ll tell you to do it with them so you can see your shop through their lens – it will open your eyes right back. So maybe now is the time we threw expectations to the clearance rack and start this new season with a fresh focus.