Conscientious Retail Leadership

Conscientious Retail Leadership

Conscientious people live longer, get better grades, commit fewer crimes, earn more (along with their spouses), have greater influence, are more likely to lead companies that succeed long-term, and are happier at work. Those are some pretty compelling arguments for focusing on being conscientious, right?!


The retail world could use a little more conscientiousness, that’s for sure. To be vigilant and aware requires the ability to check in with one’s own conscience, beliefs and values pillars. The omnipresent distractions and interruptions of every day life may attempt to get in the way, but it’s incredibly important that we at least try to become more present, thoughtful individuals and leaders to our team.  When you lack conscientiousness, you allow those things to get in the way, as a distraction,  and use them as an excuse.

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According to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, conscientiousness is related to the idea of consciousness and getting to know ourselves. “The reason a person wants to show up for the tasks, responsibilities and possibilities in a more empowered and aligned manner is the same reason we tend to want to feel like we are being ourselves from day to day,” he says. But in order to be more conscientious, we must gain a self-awareness and authenticity that is hard for many to attain. Achieving this awareness and remaining present in each moment relies exclusively on our ability to focus on the task at hand. This may require some training, self-reflection and meditation to perfect this competency.

The Mindfulness Aspect Of Conscientiousness

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, funding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” The need for mindfulness is more important than ever but also a challenge to achieve, as retail leaders are constantly bombarded with distractions, email, phone calls, and other communication, and a laundry list of shifting and evolving priorities.

Conscientiousness is often associated with self-discipline, achievement and productivity. For some, a simple to-do list or productivity tool might help with organization and systematic thinking. For others, it’s more valuable to develop self-confidence, utilize resources and tools to learn about areas of the business you need to, to successfully complete tasks.

Research shows that multitasking lowers productivity by up to 40% and increases errors and stress. Sometimes it’s more efficient to take tasks one step at a time. Decluttering or at least managing and controlling your digital life [as opposed to it managing and controlling yours] can also help with productivity. Organize your smartphone, consider turning off notifications during certain times of the day and at night. Spending time to cleanse or manage your online presence can help you achieve the organization goals and objectives you’ve set for yourself.

Consider good, old fashioned note-taking as opposed to taking notes on your tablet, phone, or laptop. Of course, typing away at your keyboard seems quick and productive, but writing down, doodling, and visualizing your thoughts on a piece of paper can help you make connections and identify priorities you wouldn’t otherwise, and doing this forces you to pay attention to what you’re writing and writing down only the most pertinent and important information. Becoming a more conscientious person can have profound effects on your career success, longevity and overall happiness and well-being at work.

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Psychology tells us that there are five main traits that inform our personality: Agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism and openness to experience. Today’s world is changing at an even faster pace with great uncertainty. Hence, I believe that each retail leader needs to be deliberately conscientious in order to keep up.

As the Chinese saying goes, “逆水行舟,不进则退”, which translates to, “learning is like rowing upstream: no advance is to fall behind”. [Source: OBlog]

 Things Conscientious Retail Leaders Don’t Do

  • They Don’t Make Rash Decisions: Conscientious retail leaders think things through, anticipate outcomes and consequences of their actions and decisions, and the impact they will have on their colleagues. Conscientious leaders are authentic and, generally, unflappable. They keep a level head and are committed to being proactive in lieu of reactive.
  • They Don’t Rely On Mental Notes: Conscientious leaders know their mental capacity and what they won’t remember. So they plan, decide and draft on paper. They write down important tasks, dates, and deadlines. Committed to follow-through and meeting all timelines, conscientious people plan and prioritize their schedules to ensure they meet all goals and objectives that fall under their responsibility.
  • They Do Not Break Promises: Conscientious leaders are dependable to themselves and everyone else they work with. They’re much less likely than others to back out of, miss or forget appointments or commitments. They rarely show up late. Conscientious people know that succumbing to convenience, the way most retail employees do, kills long-term goals; that good things take focus and hard work. Perhaps this is why conscientiousness is linked to honesty and integrity. Not breaking promises requires fully understanding what you’re able to commit to and the all conscientious leaders know this.
  • They Don’t Quit: Conscientious people have a tremendous amount of moxie and chutzpah. They’re more likely to continue solving a problem even after failing and work extra hard to make sure stuff is done right. “Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us,” explains University of Illinois psychologist Brent Roberts. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth found that a strong combination of “passion and perseverance” is, in fact, more important to success than IQ. Ms. Duckworth explains there are four components of “grit” that all of us can cultivate:
    • Interest in the subject matter, a desire to understand;
    • The capacity to deliver consistent practice, making something a daily habit;
    • Purpose, a conviction that what you do everyday is meaningful and beneficial to other people;
    • Hope.
  • They Refuse To Ignore Problems: Retail leaders who display high levels of autonomy and perceived internal locus of control; meaning, the individual takes responsibility for what goes wrong in work [and life] and they fix it. Not surprisingly, those with an internal locus of control report higher levels of personal satisfaction and perform better at work. Conscientious people pay incredible attention, they often can identify and anticipate obstacles before they arise to proactively avoid them.

“By being conscientious, people sidestep stress they’d otherwise create for themselves,” – Drake Baer

Retail Leaders understand the potential impediments and obstacles they face, both large and small. And they proactively tackle the issue. Conscientious people do not use hope as a strategy and they recognize that problems don’t solve themselves. They have a clear understanding that small things, unaddressed, potentially become bigger things that can hurt the business and the team.

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Spotting Conscientiousness Issues In The Workplace

When there is a lack of conscientiousness on the part of you or and of your colleagues, you will usually notice one or more of the following challenges are also common occurrences in your workplace:

  • Tardiness: Whether it is late arrivals to work, long lunches, and/or leaving early there is an issue with conscientiousness by a team members. Also, being late with deliverables and accountabilities is a sign that there is an issue with a person’s character.
  • Excuses Or Assigning Blame If your team members are quick to assign blame or make an excuse for their poor delivery or lack of productivity on a project there is an issue. You will frequently hear these people cast blame their coworker’s or other departments actions are causing shortcomings, you have a conscientiousness and common sense problem.
  • Mistakes: If there are regular and consistent errors in the work, lapses of sound decision-making, a lack of common sense or the inability to find tools and resources to complete the job well in your workplace, you have a consciousness problem.
  • Disorganization: If your processes are unclear, chaotic communication reigns supreme, or you’re missing deadlines and projects due to disorganization or lack of planning/prioritization, you have a consciousness problem.

Creating A Conscientious Culture In Retail

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  • Mission Statement & Values: Consistently speak to and model the behaviors and competencies that are aligned with your organizations mission and values system. People will be more conscientious if they can identify an alignment of purpose with their compelling reason. They become more accountable and more passionate about the project – not just about the paycheck.
  • Hire For Conscientiousness: When you are interviewing candidates ask questions around their level of conscientiousness. Ensure that any assessments administered also include questions around this personality trait. Your best employees can refer great future employees and, likely, will display a high aptitude for being conscientious. Employee referrals are invaluable to building and maintaining the right culture.
  • Provide Tools & Resources: One of the biggest opportunity areas that retail has is providing career path development and supporting that development with tools and resources that emerging leaders or even tenured leaders can use to elevate their level of knowledge or self-develop in areas they seek to learn more about. People want to learn and grow – as John Makey, CEO of Whole Foods says, “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people look forward to coming to work in the morning.” This includes meeting them, at the very least, half way in their career aspirations. If we support a culture that includes conscientiousness – we will get a pattern and commitment of self-learning and self-development from our team members.
  • Recognize & Reward What Right Looks Like: Most retail leaders spend too much valuable time trying to manage poor performing employees and getting problem/toxic employees to be better. Know who the best, most conscientious people are in your workplace and focus your energy and efforts on them. Recognize them publicly and privately for their results and commitment. Reward them with things that they will find valuable [and that doesn’t necessarily mean more money]. Everyone wants to be recognized at work. Show your employees what behaviors are valued and to beneficial to duplicate. Your B & C players will emerge and want to take part in these moments of recognition to support a conscientious culture.


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!

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