Consumer expectations are high, as is staff turnaround – so it pays to ensure every member of the team is pulling together. Here, US bed industry consultant Gordon Hecht reflects on how retailers can get the best from their staff – at every level  …

Earlier this year I read a quote from my favourite Canadian retail blogger, Donald Cooper. He stated that in business, “We all get the team that we deserve” – but what does that team look like?

Leaders

The players on your retail team will reflect how you act, react, and proact to the environment around you. Forward-thinking leaders sharing a dream and a plan create a visionary team and the future leaders for the business. Those leaders build their business and build their players at the same time. 

Angry leaders who flare up at every bump in the road will either create angry players, or worse, frightened players who are unwilling to challenge their leader with new solutions. 

Leaders who listen create a team that is willing to share the ground-level issues that prevent the organisation from market domination. 

Absent leaders who just aren’t on site at the retail store create players who are also willing to check out early, or loathe the boss while they toil the retail schedule. 

Communicative leaders share information about how the business is progressing. Some even share the financial knowledge of how to run a business. They create players who are entrepreneurs. 

Egotistical leaders who hog the credit for every victory and spread the blame for every failure create players who stop delivering the legendary customer service that makes the business remarkable and creates raving fans. 

You can choose the players on your team, and you can change those players as often as you like. Their actions, and the way they treat your paid-for-in-advance buying public, and each other, will depend on the style of your leadership.

Managers

Several years ago, I asked my everlovin’ bride if she knew the difference between leaders and managers. Her explanation was simple and brilliant: “Leaders lead, and managers manage.”

It seems that in many businesses crisis management is the job du jour. I’ll agree that the last two years has thrown every kind of roadblock our way, and we’ve had to dig out of a lot of holes – the problem is that while we’re managing the digging out of yesterday’s problems, we are ignoring tomorrow’s opportunities. 

Back in the day, IBM had a one-word poster in their offices. The word was THINK.In these days of eating a Grubhub lunch in front of a laptop, and where a coffee break is a lost ritual, many leaders are not providing their managers time to THINK – that would be thinking about how we could do things better, less expensively, attract more shoppers and team players, and exceed customer expectations. 

In fact, if you saw a store or department manager sitting in a chair staring at the ceiling and asked them what they were doing, and they answered, “I’m thinking,” you’d probably consider that your manager was losing her grip. 

There’s probably no better time to schedule time out of the four walls of your store. Not work at home, but time to take lunch in a restaurant (no mobile phones please) or shop a competitor, or just walk in the mall or a park to see how people are acting.  

Team players

Chances are good that every team member that has worked in your business since 2019 is a loyal employee. They’ve had 730 reasons to quit in the last two years, equal to one a day. Be sure to thank them – many of them enjoy certificates of appreciation, especially the little green ones with pictures of presidents on them. 

But you also may have some bad players, or others that just got too comfortable in the 24-month pity party. A key rule of leadership is “poor performance that is not addressed becomes company policy”. That can include tardiness, substandard work appearance, poor telephone etiquette, or a sloppy sales presentation. On the operational side, it can include trash in the truck cabs or boxes, or unsafe behaviour in the distribution center. And any department can have employees who are miserable and make everyone miserable around them.  

Sure, it’s difficult to hire these days, but your bad player will land up driving your good players to another team. Be bold and address the situation as non-negotiable on the spot. Correct it or clean it out – that’s leadership your team will respect and appreciate. 

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. He can be reached at Gordon.hecht@aol.com.