Andrew Isaac Thornton on Turning Human Potential Insight into Action

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you’ll know that we have connected the Human Potential coaching work we have done at my supermarket, Thornton’s Budgens, to our results. Through the on-line survey we completed, we know we are using 8% more of our Human Potential than a ‘control’ (similar and well-run) Budgens in London and that we are 10 sales points ahead of them.

We have done this through encouraging our team to step-up and make better use of their natural potential – potential to care for customers, potential to innovate, potential to make their own decisions to name but a few. They are happier and have more energy, do a better job and serve our customers better – so it’s hardly surprising our sales have increased. And they bring these changes to their home life, having a positive impact their families, friends and everyone they come in contact with, so the ripple effects are huge – a real win, win, win situation.

We also know that we are only currently using 64% of our Human Potential – so can you imagine what we could do with, say, using 75%? One of the insights from the survey data was that a lot was achieved in the store ‘top down’ and while that has served us well, that this needs to change for us to continue to develop. For me, it meant letting go and trusting others in the team to move us forward. When we shared the survey data with the all the managers in the store a few weeks back, everyone agreed that our lower-than-average score on self-leadership gave us a great opportunity to develop. So earlier this week, we all got together again in a session facilitated by my Heart in Business Limited colleagues, Mark and Eudora.

In the past, I would have hosted and introduced the meeting, so part of me ‘stepping up’ was to ask Jim our store manager to do this.  This meant that I had to stay fairly quiet and not keep bringing ideas to the meeting. It required me to listen and ask probing questions, not to deliver solutions. After 30 odd years of being the other way in business, this required a big shift. I was surprised, that having made the commitment to do this, how easy it was and how rewarding it was to see my colleagues coming up with much better solutions than I would have.

I saw the team come to realise two major things. First off, that every situation was not a win-lose one, and that it is always possible to create a third way. Let me give you an example:  Mark asked the team to consider a decision they’d like to make but that they were afraid to raise and asked what was holding them back. One of the team suggested she would like us to have less suppliers, as very small suppliers take a huge amount of admin time for very little sales benefit.  What was holding her back was the view of the departmental managers that one of our key USP’s is depth of range, so taking out lines would upset customers. Removing the ‘I win, you lose’ mentality, we started to consider non ‘either/or’ solutions like encouraging small suppliers to get listed with wholesalers we use. Not only does that help us, but it gives them access to a much wider customer base.

The second thing was a realisation that fear stopped people making decisions, fear of getting it wrong, of making a mistake. When I asked, what is the worse that could happen if one of us made a mistake, the team quickly got to the fact that the consequences were generally pretty small; some product that didn’t sell or the need to change things back to how they were.

So, what was the tangible outcome? A new way of looking at things and four specific areas that 2-3 people took away to work up ‘win-win’ solutions by themselves. And a commitment to meet as a team every month to review these 4 areas and share other initiatives specific managers have taken and need the support of others to deliver.

I felt the energy levels in the team rise and see that the managers own this approach and see how there is so much more they can do themselves. I have no doubt this will help us better serve our customers, develop our business and help our team access more of their Human Potential. I am confident when we measure this again next year, we’ll have shifted our score!