Don't underestimate the power or the value of intention. Don't assume you know what your team thinks they are doing. Direct their focus and orient their targeting.
I was struck this morning by the AM New York hawker at the subway station vocally calling attention to the ads in the free paper. She obviously was attempting to optimize the impact of rthe freebie paper to its clients. Though I wondered if she really knew what she was doing or if her bosses had tasked her to do this.
Then I thought about the CSRs at a client call center where I discovered that the management thinks the job is to sell incremental services but the workers think their job is to protect customers from the company and to issue refunds. People get an idea of what they are supposed to do and form a mental image of who the customer is. These mental models drive behavior. Assuming you want to apply the labor and energy of your team for maximum effect you need to know what they are thinking and shape the mental images that govern behavior.
In working with colleagues I am continuously surprised by the unexpected interpretations, unforseen mutations in meaning and the unexplainable individual riffs that emerge from what I thought were simple concepts and direct instructions. I've learned the hard way to routinely double-check to see that the message you think you transmitted was received and understood and that your intention, target and direction is being followed.
In calibrating expectations, there are several recurring themes:
1. Helping People. Most humans want to help others. Nobody wants to be the bad guy. Few want to sell things nobody wants. Fewer still like to collect money. Frame the task in terms of how it helps consumers though don't get too cute about it. Nobody believes that tryimng to collect money from a deadbeat customer to save them from a sherrif's lien is truly helping.
2. Flesh Out Customer Archectypes. At Ann Taylor everyobody understands who "Ann" is. They know her size, her taste, her favorite colors, her income, her habits, how she shops and what she thinks about. They design goods to please her and shape the store and online experience to delight her. Creating a sense of the customer and setting the expectation that you want to engage customers and build sustaining, long term, relationships with them is a crucial first step.
3. Set and Reinforce Clear Goals. If the job is selling more you have an affirmative obligation to explain what you want them to sell and how much more. Remember few people can do more than 2 things well at the same time. Set clesar goals. Specify the order in which you want things done. Show how you will measure progress and results. Naturally if you can train them how to do it, provide appropriate coaching and support tools and overlay an incentive, you've got a dramatically better shot at meeting your numbers. But the baseline is defining, quantifying and clearly articulating exactly what you want.
The more I learn about communicating the harder it is. But understanding how people process information and the mental map they draw for themselves is a necessary first step toward gewtting what you want.