Retail Leadership Credibility Killers

Retail Leadership Credibility Killers

If you have no credibility, people won’t trust you, and your reputation will be a flashing beacon of warning inside the market and the retail industry. You’ll become increasingly irrelevant—and vulnerable to the staggering numbers of others who are vying for talent, vying for customers, and they are doing it through building trusting relationships, a strong brand promise, and a fabulous customer experience. They are also inviting their talent along to learn and grow with them because they insist upon galvanizing a culture of trust and respect.

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This particular topic of credibility came into my mind because a former Store Director who worked inside my region sent me an email yesterday asking for a letter of recommendation because he is “looking around just not happy with my progress and not seeing opportunities that I felt should be there”. We exchanged a few emails and it seems the shenanigans at the organization we share experience with continue to this day. This email exchange had my mind racing about the things executive and senior retail leaders do [or ask others to do] that attack and kill their credibility and negative impact the workplace:

  • Failing To Keep Your Word: The number one way to kill your credibility? Fail to deliver on the promises or commitments you make. We’re all guilty of committing this sin from time to time, but when we do it more often than not, it creates a huge credibility problem.
  • Showing Up Late or Unprepared: As a retail leader we need to be the model of what right looks like. When we show up late – we are silently communicating that we don’t value anyone’s time or priorities. When we show up unprepared, we are communicating that we are disorganized and cannot manage our time effectively. Your team will follow your lead in every area of their performance. These issues can not only be crippling to your business but they will destroy your team’s reputation and future opportunity.
  • Sharing Too Much Of Your Personal Life: Recently, I wrote about Authenticity in Retail and inside that I wrote “knowing your own story and understanding it so the truth and context comes through more so than the details. These moments of thoughtful communication builds a narrative. It enables leaders to become story-tellers and when done correctly these stories are teaching more than they are revealing. Good boundaries are absolutely critical in the workplace. And so is privacy.”. If you share too much detail or inappropriate personal details you immediately erode your credibility as a leader.
  • Making Decisions Without Involving the Team: Trust and credibility are built when others feel valued and involved. It is broken when your team and colleagues feel like they don’t matter. As leaders, changes are embraced, when there is dialog and buy-in. There is a mutual respect for sharing ideas and allowing for innovation and creativity to overcome business obstacles. When we dictate and demand our team to “Do This!” – we immediately stop being leaders and we become “managers of compliance”.
  • Lying: Any size, any shape, any content. When you lie – it may not be today, but at some point your lie will be revealed. This is a huge problem in retail because we don’t encourage mistakes or risk-taking. Too many people lie, too many people assign blame, too many people use excuses in retail to cover up mistakes that are not that big of a deal and it kills credibility and is almost impossible to recover from.

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  • Gossiping: This is a huge one in my book. People who gossip seek to elevate their status by putting others down or talking about their peer’s short-comings. Nothing kills credibility and trust faster than knowing someone is a gossip. If they gossip to you about others – they will absolutely gossip to others about you. A couple years ago I had an opportunity to promoted an Assistant Store Leader to a Store Leader opportunity and when I asked her what she could do to elevate the store, which was already doing well, her response was “Well, Stephanie’s checked out already” and then she launched into all the things she perceived Stephanie did wrong. Before this conversation I was positive this ASL was a perfect fit but when I realized that her only selling point was to put down the very person who had been training and polishing her for this role, I quickly explained why she wasn’t ready and it would take some time for her to become ready for promotion.
  • Managing For Compliance: It is such an antiquated management philosophy to manage the tasks and operational accountabilities for your team. What this means is that you are disinterested in their professional development, you will be unable to fill your stores with talent proactively, you rely on your  skill of checklists over delivering true results. This is a zero-charisma, bland, and uninspiring leader who has no credibility in the market or with their team. High turn-over should be expected when a leader cannot establish or loses credibility with their team.
  • Not Valuing or Supporting Workplace Relationships: When a retail leader doesn’t encourage relationships inside their team it is a red flag that their credibility may be questionable. When there is an initiative to keep people connected and engaged with their roles and each other they feel more engaged and connected with their company. As a matter of fact, 89% say that work relationships are important for their overall quality of life [Source: Globoforce]. When a retail leader stands in the way of their team making workplace connections – there is a underlying agenda to that.
  • Inability To Admit What You Don’t Know: Retail leaders need to humanize their role for their team and be open and transparent about what they don’t know. They need to model behaviors that are conducive to a high-level of self-awareness and a passion for  self-learning and development. When retail leadership does not show their human side, most of their actions and words come through as disingenuous and out-of-touch and as a result, their credibility is called into question and they aren’t supporting a culture that supports up-skilling and self-awareness.
  • Failing To Implement Ideas/Suggestions From Team: When we seek ideas and innovation from the team the best thing we can do is to action the items that they shared their thoughts on or help refine them so we can use them in the business. The absolutely worst thing we can do is to ask for feedback and then ignore their ideas or dismiss them. You lose credibility when you become a leader who doesn’t listen or doesn’t find value in their team member’s suggestions and decided that your way of thinking and doing things is the best for the team.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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