How do you know when you are meeting or exceeding expectations at work? Rarely does the boss say “good job”. But most of us can pick up subtle cues from our manager.
Our trainees don’t. They have autism, and subtle cues elude them. And besides, for most of their lives they’re been told what they do is wrong, so they are not familiar with successes.
The young women in our program expect to be disappointing someone. In fact, our trainees’ most frequent expression is “I’m sorry” no matter what they do. Sadly, they have no confidence, and poor self-esteem.
We are changing that. In our program our coaches specifically teach trainees what the manager expects, when the trainee has achieved it, and how she knows she did. Girl AGain manager, Chandra Russell, hands out “Good Job” notes to trainees when she sees that they have exceeded her expectations.
Responding to shifting priorities:
Vicky received her note from Chandra for achieving several goals:
- shifting from one task to another as the manager’s priorities changed unexpectedly;
- volunteering to take photos of merchandise to share on Instagram; and
- working on the register to process customer transactions.
All trainees have a written to do list for their session. The coaches prepare it in advance of the trainee arriving and is based on Chandra’s priorities for the store that she sets out at for the week. But by the time the trainee comes in, something may have changed – for example, an extra-large donation of merchandise is crowding the work space and needs to be documented and put away. Or, a customer purchase leaves a shelf empty.
Most of us feel compelled to complete our to do list. It is a good attribute. But the to-do list is not the priorities of the trainee, but those of the business. Being able to shift from one task that is expected to another that is unexpected is a challenge, but necessary to function at most workplaces. This requires intellectual and emotional flexibility.
Communicating by phone, being prepared:
Mara received a good job note from Chandra for answering the Girl AGain store phone multiple times, responding to the callers’ inquiries appropriately.
Answering the phone is especially anxiety-provoking for our young women for several reasons: they can’t anticipate why someone would call and worry they are not prepared to respond; they are concerned they won’t understand what the caller is saying – they may speak too fast, or use jargon. And, there are no visual cues.
Until recently, Mara has refused to answer the phone at the store.
All trainees are taught how to answer the phone: “Hello, this is Mara at Girl AGain, How may I help you?”
We have created a guide on what a caller might be calling about – there are about 5 or 6 typical questions such as what are the store hours, where do customers park, do you accept donations, and so on. This helps trainees feel prepared and confident.
After training, we expect all trainees to be able to answer these standard questions. When there is a question they cannot answer, they have a script of how to hand the call off to the manager. This takes practice because the natural reaction is to just escape and drop the phone in the manager’s hand.
All of our trainees worry that the caller won’t be nice to them. After the call ends trainees are frequently heard to say “Thank goodness that customer was nice!”
Understanding your work mission:
Baneesha received a good job note for writing a blog post that promotes Girl AGain’s March sale.
Our March sales theme at Girl AGain is celebrating Title IX, the law that requires that girls and women have equal sports funding at school. This was featured in the stories about American Girl Julie Albright, who was 9 in 1974 and loved to play basketball.
Many of our trainees like to write but it is hard for them to understand that the purpose of their writing it to generate revenue for the store, not for their own pleasure. That means they need to incorporate the merchandise in the store and why a reader would want to come and make a purchase at Girl AGain.
Perspective-taking is challenging. Knowing how much to write to make your point is challenging. Accepting critical feedback is especially challenging. These are all skills that will help someone be successful at work.
Three trainees demonstrated that, Yes She Can!