Ask, don’t Tell

Last night I watched the final episode of this series of Mary Queen of Shops. I greatly admire Mary Portas and she clearly knows EXACTLY what needs to be done to turn a failing retail business into a thriving one. She obviously has drive, enthusiasm and experience by the bucketload, but for me there’s one crucial thing missing from her arsenal, and that’s a desire to listen and understand.

Now obviously I’m aware that she might do it by the bucketload and we don’t get to see it. Programme makers seem to believe thatwe won’t watch anything unless there’s an element of conflict, which certainly chimes with how the news is reported (don’t get me started…) But the epsode I watched last night dismayed me because things could have been so much easier and happier for everyone involved if only she had taken the time to listen and understand the owner of the business in question.

Here was a man who used to have a multi-million pound business and was now running a failing DIY store. His first (televised) encounter with Mary was when she’d already spoken to his staff and gone round the store picking up items she thought were awful – and in her direct style, the first input he got from her was, basically, “this is a pile of cr*p why on earht are being so stupid as to sell it?” One look at his face (and a basic understanding of human nature) could have told her that this wasn’t going to be a helpful approach.

As the programme went on it was very clear tho see that this poor chap was completely lacking in confidence and very fearful – but we saw very little of Mary making any attempt to understand him or where he was coming from. Instead, we had lots of her trying to impose her will, undermining him with his staff and pulling faces when he wouldn’t do what she wanted.

It’s no wonder he was soon back to some of his old ways the minute she’d gone – she had done nothing to try to understand him or help him to feel safe and confident.

I would so love to see a programme of this sort that’s NOT defned by how much conflict there is – I think it would be really inspirational AND I think there’s a market for it.

So: Mary Portas, Gordon Ramsay, Alan Sugar – get me on board as part of your team for your next series and let me show you how much more successful your business turn-arounds can be when you take a coaching approach – I dare you!!

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3 responses to “Ask, don’t Tell

  1. I second that. I hope they are listening and reading this. I dont watch it because I think I would find it too cringe worthy but understandably people need to be reassured, confident and have their hand help through new processes and change. Change can be very scary for some.

    • Thanks ladies – Justine I’ll bear your kind offer in mind! There is SO MUCH opportunity for television to lead the way in helping people to face their fears and come out stronger, but so few occasions on which it’s taken up. One of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of Gok Wan is that he seems to instinctively take a coaching approach – he listens, he’s non-judgemental and he always seems to me to be coming from a place of love. His advice is always spot on and although he makes people face their fears he does it in such a supportive way that he makes it safe for people to step outside their comfort zone.

      I’m running a workshop next week, where I’m aiming to provide business owners with an approach that takes the best bits of the Mary Portas approach and the best bits of the Gok Wan approach (all doen in my own, inimitable, colourful style) that will leave them with a renewed passion for their business and a clear strategy for how to take it forward. Once I’ve proven that it works, I’ll be touting the format around the TV stations – you heard it hear first!!

  2. Love it! If Mary, Gordon and Alan start fighting over you, give me a shout and I’ll come and help you out!

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