One difference between a good leader and a great leader is his or her ability to identify and maximize teachable opportunities. A teachable opportunity is when a leader can use any given situation to develop an employee's knowledge and skills.
Here are four ways to identify and maximize specific teachable opportunities:
How to maximize. Unless the person needs an immediate answer, ask him/her to suggest some answers to the question. I like to ask for multiple answers, because that requires the employee to think it through at a deeper level. Ask the person to explain his or her answer. This gives you additional information to shape the teachable opportunity.
2. When an employee makes a mistake. This is one of the most obvious teachable opportunities.
How to maximize. Don't over-focus on what went wrong. This usually results in the employee becoming guarded or defensive. None of us like to make a mistake! Instead, focus on what the person can do differently the next time that same situation arises. As above, ask the employee to explain his or her answer. This way you're sure they know why they want to do something differently. If they can't, you can teach the "why".
3. Asking for an employee's opinion or input. This is one of my favorites. Not only is this an opportunity for the employee to learn, but you learn, too.
How to maximize. The key is to position the input as future based. Don't ask what she thinks went wrong with the last event, ask what she will do differently with the next event.
4. Debriefing after a customer interaction. After the employee has worked with a customer, ask them to answer these two questions:
i) What did you do well when working with your last customer?
You’re asking the employee to self-assess their strengths. This will give you an opportunity to praise their performance, or use the information to focus your conversation on other things they might do to improve their performance.
Example answer: "I exchanged names with the customer. I discovered what colors and styles she likes, and I also got her to try on different products."
ii) What might you do better, or differently, with your next customer?
This isn't about what the person did wrong. This is a learning opportunity to identify what they can do to improve. His/her answer gives you a lot of insight to the employee’s understanding of the engagement standards, and his/her ability to execute them.
Example answer: "I could have taken the time to show the customer one of the many new items we got in."
How to maximize. Make it a regular part of how you and your staff engage when not working with customers, and where no customers can hear you.
Teachable opportunities occur throughout your day. Make a regular habit of identifying when they arise, and then make a conscious decision to either take advantage of it or not. You'll be amazed how much faster your people will grow and develop when you take the time to maximize these teachable opportunities.
So let me ask, how well are you identifying and maximizing your teachable opportunities?
About Doug Fleener
Doug Fleener, a proven business and customer service experience expert and speaker/consultant, helps companies achieve performance that exceeds customer and employee expectations resulting in more sales, profits, and customers.
Learn more about our services at Sixth Star Consulting, or call Doug at 866-535-6331 to discuss how he can help you achieve higher levels of performance and results. Learn about Doug's keynotes and workshops at DougFleener.com.