Bringing Out The Best In Our Retail Teams

Bringing Out The Best In Our Retail Teams

When it comes to hiring talent, there are two elemental strategies that work. The first is to hire the very best talent on the market; the second is to hire decent talent and help support them by bringing out the best in them. Since most retail organization are unwilling to make the investment in recruiting and retaining the top tier of talent, most of us have to go with door number two.

As retail leaders we enjoy taking control of the room and leading our team. However, that doesn’t help support the growth and development of the talent that we work with. As a retail leader you’re intelligent. But your job is not to be the smartest person in the room. It’s to bring out the best in your team. This has been a mission of mine this year and will continue to be – To empower my team so that they can build their career capital. If I am answering all of their questions and guiding them step-by-step – they are unlikely to feel truly autonomous and empowered. Being able to support them through challenging obstacles and help direct them to resources to learn – will allow them to take some risk, safely fail [on occasion], and learn. However, this is only one small piece of bringing out the best in my team and helping them to identify their dormant talents. Here are some other ways, as retail leaders, we can focus on this great initiative:

Tips To Bring Out The Talent Of Our Team


  • Believe In Them: The thoughts in your brain are much more powerful than you can imagine. If you believe in an employee’s potential, it will impact your body language, communication style, eye contact, and decisions. But if you harbor doubts or don’t care about their success you likely but, unwittingly, ensure their lack of growth. If you manage a team, you better believe in each member and understand the good they bring to the team. Knowing the range of someone’s strengths and abilities and having the ability to believe in them comes from having a deep understanding of them as individuals. Being able to leverage their strengths and support their development in any opportunity areas. And that understanding can only be achieved through sincere curiosity about what drives them, what they are interested in, and what they believe they can do [and then showing them what they are actually capable of].  Being an actively involved, genuinely empathetic, and an engaging leader will help your team understand that you believe in them and are there to help them deliver greatness.
  • Truly Listen To Them: Nothing creates trust and open communication quite like being a truly great listener. Sometimes people want to share their thoughts and ideas without anyone poking holes in their statements or giving them the answer. They talk it through as a means to come to a solution. Not being judgemental, supporting risk-taking, and encouraging innovation will help your team build confidence needed to make decisions and learn valuable lessons. By taking the time to set aside your own thoughts and agenda, you silently communicate to your colleague, “You are very important to me.” One other reason why listening works so well: very few people do it anymore especially in retail where most people want compliant robots as employees.
  • Share Your Story: There is always a time and place for this. Share both your weaknesses and strengths. When a leader is honest about their capabilities, both good and bad,  it encourages team members to adopt the same attitude. The biggest strength is knowing your own weaknesses, because it allows you to partner effectively with people whose expertise is a good complement to your own skills – gaps and all. As all good retail leaders know – we want to hire people who are smarter and better than us to create an incredibly well-rounded team and the ability to leverage strengths of talent to help mentor others who may need support and development. Having a sense of humor about your challenges and your mistakes makes your leadership human and attainable for even the newest members of your team.


  • Create Context: This is, at times, a time consuming process but one that is important to guiding your team to make decisions without feeding them the solution to a challenge. It is our job to frame, invite, and equip our team members to take on challenges, make decisions, and create action around achieving results. It is necessary for us to:
    • Consistently communicate: Who we are as an organization. Who are customers are. What the standards of excellence are for our team [which is always higher than the company’s expectations]. Our Mission Statement & Values. The obstacles that are holding us back from delivering the greatest results possible.
    • Invite the team’s involvement: Are you willing to help overcome this obstacle? Who would be willing to help? How can I support you?
    • Equip them with resources needed: Our job then becomes delivering resources to them – information, decision-making authority, empowerment, automony, accessibility, or whatever else they may require to do a great job.
    • Recognize: Then we celebrate the heck out of their accomplishment.
  • You Are An Editor, Not A Reporter: I love this advice from Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and Square CEO. An editor doesn’t write the stories published in a magazine, but rather puts together the vision and direction for the publication, encourages it’s writers to pursue certain stories and holds all stories to standards of excellence that are in-line with their brand and subscriber/reader expectation. In the past, I have, happily, taken on the role as a “lead reporter”.  When the team encountered a problem, I saw it as my responsibility to solve it first then delegate the execution of my solution to others. Clearly, that is not an effective process as it doesn’t allow people to grow or consider creative actions to solve the issue at hand. Which is critical to professional development. Giving your team the answer – always – make them masters of compliance. Not of innovation, imagination, or possibilities and absolutely stifles their growth.
  • Be Objective: We all like to think we are objective and open-minded, but that is a bunch of bologna [as my father would say]. Each of us has certain attitudes and biases that prevent us from being truly objective. The better we understand our biases, the better we can make adjustments and raise awareness around them. We cannot project our competencies on others. People move at different paces and prioritize differently. If they are able to maintain momentum and hit targets and objectives – who are we to say their process is right or wrong and if we are truly un-objective – we may learn a thing or two from them. Who better knows how to eliminate process that don’t add value than the people who do them every day.


  • Keep it simple and clear: The greatest obstacle to build momentum around growth is that people don’t understand what is expected or the goal of the initiative. I have seen communication so chaotic and confused people, literally, delete the email because they couldn’t comprehend the contents. Or they were baffled by clearly contradictory information. Slow down, keep your communication and guidance simple, be accessible to answer questions, and repeat…often.
  • Know The Four Non-Negotiables Your Team Has Of You:
    • Ability To Inspire
    • Ability To Motivate
    • Involvement
    • Empathy
    • Infuse these into every interaction. Understand how these look to the individual talent on your team and to the aggregate team unit. These are the qualities that employees absolutely expect and need in order to grow and feel that they have a leader that supports them in their day-to-day work environment.
  • Show Your Team You Have Faith In Them: Empowering your team members often requires giving them creative license they haven’t previously had or giving them a task they haven’t proven they can do yet. That’s primarily your job as the leader. You need and want people who ‘punch above their weight class’ on your team. People that understand that producing results or just meeting the requirements of the job description that are simply “good enough” isn’t good enough. That means trusting them with things you don’t know they can do yet and they don’t even know they can do yet, and helping them understand that they, in fact, can and then giving them support and guidance.
  • Praise Effort, Not Ability: We know who the “A” players are on our team and we need to recognize their accomplishments, efforts and results consistently because they deserve it. But here are, likely, “B” and possibly “C” players on your team who don’t yet know what they are capable of. When they take on assignments, either through being asked or volunteering, they will need guidance and support and will, initially, be less inclined to take risks or unsure of how creative they can be. The mere fact that they tried something new and having their retail leader recognize and appreciate that will help them build career capital and confidence which is the first step in helping them stretch themselves.
  • Recognize and Celebrate: If you overlook this critical element you eliminate a prime motivational technique. Giving credit to, and recognizing contribution of, others is a wonderful way to inspire and appreciate them. The more you give credit, the more human and engaging a leader you will be. Take time to celebrate big accomplishment. This will help your team look for more opportunities to deliver excellence.
  • Send your team members on to bigger and better things: Some leaders hold onto their employees too tightly because developing talent is difficult and/or they don’t want to start from scratch with a new team or individual. A better strategy is to actively seek out “next step” opportunities for your team members, so that you establish a leadership reputation that people who work for you ultimately have enormously successful careers. THAT philosophy is much better for everyone involved. And once team members and others in your industry see that you support their career path in a tangible and honest way…you will have great talent vying to be on your team.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

View all posts by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *