Best Ways to Lead a Happy & Productive Retail Team

Best Ways to Lead A Happy & Productive Retail Team

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There is a significant misconception about what retail leadership is. Many view it as an elevation in rank and title that puts you “in charge” of everybody else, making you the authoritative figure on everything your team does. There needs to be a huge shift in this old mindset. To grow a team that produces fabulous work and delivers results, a leader needs to see themselves not as “the boss”, but a business partner and a talent-nurturer.  With the leadership title you become responsible for the success and growth of your team members, and that is a huge and important responsibility. Leaders are supposed to help unleash and nurture the talents within their team, and create an environment that enables them to believe in and discover their true potential, strive for it and ultimately – achieve it.

The Success Factor

Here’s a short list of just a few of the critical success factors in business today that we are measured against with each interaction:

  1. Innovation
  2. Customer loyalty/growth & advocacy
  3. Productivity
  4. Great customer experience
  5. Sales/Profit results

Where will all of these factors for success come from? Automation? Improved business processes? New IT systems? Nope! All of these can tools can help, but is not the source of innovation, customer perception, motivation or any other item on the list above. Success of these things come from your people—and not just warm bodies, but happy people who want to make a difference. As a retail leader, when you build a team that’s equipped with the knowledge, resources, empowerment and autonomy they need to do their job – the sky is the limit. With these tools, confidence and collaborative levels of your team will rise, and stress levels and competition will decrease dramatically. Your team will feel energized to deliver greatness and when they see results of their efforts and their impact on the colleagues – they will be even more driven to deliver excellence.

Most leaders think that getting their name to the top of the company report will be the apex of their career –  in retail this is a mistake, by definition we work to deliver results that benefit our team and the company. I believe that getting your team to achieve great things, collaboratively, as one collective unit – consistently – is the greatest achievement.

Steps To Success

  • Nurture The Obvious Talents and Uncover The Latent Talents Of Your Team Members:
    A talent nurturer knows the collective goals and objectives and has no qualms about building and working with a team that is smarter than them in fact – awesome retail leaders insist on surrounding themselves with the best talent in the market. Support the people on your team. Show them the ropes, help them grow and identify skills and talents they were unaware of to help guide them towards achieving their goals and, ultimately, the team’s Always make time for them. Find out what your team members are good at. If one is forced into a role that doesn’t involve work that challenges/intrigues them they will be miserable and therefore will not put 100% into anything else you give them. If you give them something they actually have passion for and are good at, then they’ll want grow and develop this skill. So figure out what the true genius zone is for each team member and shift their roles around to unleash their true potential.
  • Keep Everyone on the Same Page:
    One reason good teams fall apart is that some members have information others do not or some members feel unequal to others because of lack of communication. Remember that keeping your team up-to-date, engaged in a project, and knowing where everyone else stands in their role is an extremely important part of being a good team leader. Using available productivity tools will help support and accomplish this [we use Slack and ScribblePost and they have dramatically elevated engagement, communication, and collaboration].Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 7.48.13 PM
  • Invest In Leadership Education Tools & Resources:
    Retail isn’t, unfortunately, known for a focus on learning and developing talent through availability of resources and education. But when you offer tools to your team, they absolutely will utilize them. Most retail team members are so busy with responsibilities that they don’t stop and consider how much there is to learn. They learn as they go – on the job. Offering an educational “library” either virtual or tangible that is full of leadership books and training tools that they have access to will be an awesome benefit for your team and their growth. If you can speak with them about their next steps or opportunity areas and give them a resource to learn about it – it will help you, the collective team, and it will absolutely benefit them.
  • Don’t Force Contrasting Personalities To Work Together:

    This is retail so – there is a good chance you’ll have two people on your team who aren’t going to get along. And that’s okay. Your team doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy all the time. Trying to force all team members to get along can cause more trouble in the long run. Acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have to get along to be a cohesive team, but everyone must be respectful, civil, and kind. Personality clashes might, whether you like it or not, spill over on the job, so avoid taking sides and, instead, find a swift solution to resolve any conflicts.

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  • Dream Big For Your Team:
    Most people don’t know how successful they can be. As a retail leader it is your job to help them see how great they can be. You need to inspire them to deliver the exceptional results they are capable of. This is a great lesson to teach your team. It will teach them that through team-work, communication, focus, collaboration, and commitment you can achieve what you set out to accomplish. Talk them through the process and then follow up with them to have them articulate and recognize the team and individual accomplishments and contributions from where you started to where you stand.  Recognize your team often and congratulate them for the unique results they bring to the business and the team. There are lots of teams that will deliver “good enough” but only a few special teams can deliver true excellence – take them there.
  • Understand The Link Between Mood & Performance:
    It takes only minutes for a leaders mood to infect the rest of their team. The same goes for your employee’s moods. According to one theory, 20-30% of business performance is related to the mood of employees, so it’s worth looking into the balance of positive and negative emotions in your office space. According to Sophie von Stumm, senior lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London – “Positive affect refers to feeling alert and enthusiastic, and negative affect describes experiencing distress, anxiety, and even depressed moods,” and “Due to its complex nature and biological and situational origins, moods that dip into the negative-affect states can have a powerful sway over us-–in spite of any attempts to fight against it by keeping a good attitude.” If you are in a good mood, that is a perfect time to get to work!

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  • Truly Know & Understand The Individuals On Your Team:
    According to Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, people who have a close friend at work are 7x more likely to be engaged with work. When you know your colleagues on a personal level, you will start to appreciate them as a person, and working together is suddenly easier and more enjoyable. More importantly, you build trust through these closer working relationships. You don’t get competitive or take offense from what they say or do, and you will understand their actions and decisions better. You will be able to recognize when each team member has their professional hat on, and when they’ve got their personal hat on.  After all, you might as well build a happy place to go to five days a week.


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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One thought on “Best Ways to Lead a Happy & Productive Retail Team

  1. Great article! It’s all about the team and how best to connect with them daily. People wake up to do a good job – leaders must take the time to get to know everyone on the team individually to maximize their full potential.
    As a leader, I must “be” the leader that others will respect daily. It starts with me – the shadow that I cast is much larger than imagined!

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