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  • Writer's pictureJohn Swallow

One step at a time...

The only thing I can promise you, is that if you don’t start your task or project, you will never achieve it!

Sometimes, just taking that small step towards your goal and accepting that there may be a long journey ahead, can get you there, in a really good and perhaps easier way.

Many times over the years, I have come across people that have a task ahead of them that feels almost insurmountable. It feels so big that they find it difficult to make any kind of a start. They see the problem clearly enough but have written off the likely success of a solution before they even begin. That is normally where coaching comes in...but it doesn't necessarily work with everyone.

Let me give you an example from my own past. I was an Area Manager and had just gained a new store within my region. It was a high volume optical store which at that time had one of the highest sales in the UK. I was aware that the store had some challenges but had not quite expected what I found there. Some of this experience is for another blog, but what I did have was an interesting conversation with the store manager, which I guess summed up why the store had been having so many problems. It was about something so mundane as the filing system. For those of you who know the optical business, you will know the importance of re-purchase the database. In those days, much of the store database was still on paper.

In the store’s basement, were tens of thousands of records which were piling up by the hour and although customer communication was handled by the external office, the day to day reference of optometric and sales data required was still hard-copy. Unfortunately, the filing system had not been kept updated, files were out of alphabetical order, deceased records had not been removed from the main file, many duplicate records existed and much more. This was wasting huge amounts of time for this busy store. The racks and racks of files were a really visual representation of a challenge to be resolved.

So, I asked the Manager to tell me about the issue, the problems it was causing and the plan to resolve it.

The Store Manager said, “Oh this, yes, well we are so busy that we have no time to do anything about it, they just keep piling up and it’s really hard to find the old records, so we usually just make a new one. We could only do a few records per day and there are so many it would just be a waste of time”

So, after a conversation about the current and longer-term impact of this issue, I asked something like, “How do you think that you could solve this challenge?” But I hit a brick wall with my questions, every time. Now, perhaps my coaching skills were not particularly well-honed at that time (in fact I am pretty sure they were not), so it may not surprise you that later on, after seeing countless problems throughout the store, I found myself hiring a new Manager.

During the interviews, to challenge the prospective candidates, I asked the same questions around the filing. The successful candidate (among other qualities) immediately offered a sensible solution. Whereas I had not been promised a miracle, I had been provided with a cost-effective plan that would not affect the volume negatively, nor would it take experienced team members away from the sales floor. The proposed solution was to take on a part-time student to gradually go through the records, probably at a rate of an alphabetical letter per week and resolve the challenge over a period of 6 months. Of course, there was an express route that would have cost more money but as the P&L was a challenge, I was happy with a solution that would gradually put the records straight, saving much time for the store team, improving their ability to handle more customers and provide better service and sales too.

And the moral of my story is?

Of course, there are many...but with reference to the subject in hand…whatever the size of the task, it can usually be achieved step by step…provided of course that the challenge is a worthwhile one in the first place. It is usually a good idea to just get started and get it done and achieve more, or...ask a Coach for a helping hand.

I love coaching!

John Swallow



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