Using your Staff

The role of manager feels so under appreciated, and believe it is.  Though sometimes as managers we pusher ourselves beyond our means, feeling that by pulling more than our fair share of weight we are doing right by our team or our company.  But what if I told you it’s okay to step back, not only is it okay but it is more beneficial for all parties involved.

This is going to be hardest employee need for the control freak managers that can’t trust your staff to delegate, but hear me out.  When I was a first officially promoted to manager, a training manager was sent to my store to train me in store management and company policy.  Instead, being a merchandiser, he spent all of his time tweaking displays, and bringing the appearance of the store up to his amazing standards.  I thought in effort to train me he was offering me a long list of tasks that should normally be done.  I naturally felt these were my responsibility since it was now officially my store.  For two days he had me climbing ladders to replace lightbulbs and dust fixtures hanging from the ceiling.  He had me on hands and knees crawling into tiny spaces in the back room to dig out long lost product from managers past.  He had me dusting displays and reworking merchandise alignment.  Finally he asked me to climb up above the cash register to move an item hanging from the ceiling that was just out of my reach on a ladder and too heavy for me to truly lift.  I nodded and headed to the back room, “Where are you going,” he called after me.

“To get a ladder,” my answer was short, I did not want to reveal my annoyance or exhaustion.

“Why don’t you let one of your employees that have been standing around for the past two days doing nothing do it?  You are the highest paid custodian I have ever met.” That is when it dawned on me, that I was doing no favors for my staff or my company by overworking and doing everything myself.

Later when I referred back to the essay, A Lesson For Skateboarders I saw the detrimental damage I may be doing to my staff’s drive by not utilizing their help and skills.  If I do not allow them opportunities to feel useful how can they feel motivated?

Usefulness breeds responsibility.

That next morning I divided my store into enough parts (“departments”) for the number of employees I had on hand.  As they arrived I assigned them their departments that I thought would both excite them and match their skill level.  In these sections they were responsible for their department section in the back room as well as their department’s displays on the floor.  They were to design the organization, the cleaning schedules, and to make sure all displays were to company policy or were set up for highest earning potential.  They were responsible to check their inventory levels, to check in product from the weekly shipments and report any product shortage or outages to me.  Once a week I gave them their departments sales statistics for the past four weeks and a worksheet that had four simple questions:

  1. What 3 areas did your department do best in?
  2. What is working?
  3. What 3 areas did your department do worst in?
  4. What is your game plan to improve numbers this week?

The answers to the last question were always so inspiring as my employees grew so excited to really play an integral and measurable part of our store’s success.  I would receive answers that would suggest rearranging the display, offering to give employee led product knowledge training at the next team meeting, or even great marketing techniques.  With my approval their opportunities to make a difference were limitless.

Other Ways to Encourage Usefulness:

  • Team Training
  • Allow them to play part of the hiring process by having them complete the preinterviews over the phone.
  • Give the staff responsibility of a particular, aisle, department, or product type in the store.
  • Give staff small managerial responsibilities
  • Maintain a list of weekly tasks for specific individuals
  • Delegate effectively with tons of constructive feedback

What ways to you utilize your staff to keep them feeling useful?  What’s your game plan this week to improve usefulness amongst your staff?


Here we tread down slippery ground, one of the most difficult aspects of management to juggle, particularly in retail. We must get to know our employees on a personal level without befriending them.  But we must understand who they are to inspire them and to motivate them.  We must know what they need us to communicate to them.  One of the most eye opening articles I read in college was from the wise words of WSU professor Richard Sagor, A Lesson From Skateboarders.  As individuals we have innate desires within us:

15 thoughts on “Using your Staff

  1. I’m reading this and thinking “too bad a lot of retail managers don’t do this anymore”. Two years ago I came back to retail as a part-time associate. Boy had it changed. From standards, to training, to productivity, service, etc… They don’t seem to trust associates to do anything, or expect the assistants to do everything. Most store managers felt they were “above” doing things and pushed it onto the associates, staff no longer felt appreciated, no motivation (an any that the managers tried to do, it was clear that they really didn’t care), and this wasn’t just from store level managers, but upper management and corporate as well. My first corporate visit was a little eye opening. When I was a manager (years ago) our district manager knew the name of most of our staff, she spoke to them, showed them respect, they felt appreciated. Even the VP wanted to talk to associates, the HR manager spoke to associates and even knew some by name. Now, (at least with the company I worked for) I was told not to say anything to any of the higher managers unless they said something to me first. Don’t even say hello. They don’t want to talk to us. Sure enough, not a single one of them said hello to anyone except the store manager. The second visit, I said hello to one of them and was told, “don’t talk to us, talk to your customers”. There was one customer in the store, whom I had just helped. I’m hoping the next company I work for will be better. I know there have been a lot of changes, but I also know there are still a lot of managers who actually care about their staff and know how to get the best out of them while still doing whats best for the business. Associates need to feel appreciated, supported, and important. When I was an assistant manager we did what you talk about in this post. We utilized the staff’s individual strengths and areas of development, got them excited, made them feel important (because they were), and it really made us a stronger more productive team. Everyone worked together. Too bad more managers don’t do this anymore. Sorry, just had to vent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So funny, I was just telling my grandmother about my second manager ever, who told me never to talk to the upper management, don’t communicate with them what is going on, make them figure it out. I’m actually working on a blog post right now saying what a managers lack in delegations (really) says about them. Thank you for the feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was in the Navy, I was always training my potential replacement. As a manager in the real world, I’ve kept that mentality. One day I may not be here for one reason or another. Or, if my assistant goes somewhere else, it’s good to know that they take something with them that you may have had a part in…hopefully, it was something good. I do not run a democracy with my assistants, but their input is often helpful in my decisionmaking process. If you want a gopher or a monkey, you’ll get a gopher or a monkey. If you want a viable team member, train them well, give them responsibility and hold them accountable. Delegate. Teams are made up of individuals…individuals have something to enhance each project or work site. If you do it all, they’ll let you.

    Liked by 1 person

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