Inspiring Excellence In Retail

Inspiring Excellence In Retail

The task of a leader is to get their people from where they are, to where they have not been – Henry Kissinger

The ability to inspire and motivate that our team members have of their retail leader. Retail Leaders who achieve great things in business are invariably those who give a lot of thought and create action around their ability to grow and learn.  Truly phenomenal retail leaders become successful by design, not by accident.  They continually reinvent, shape, and polish their competencies, knowledge, and personalities to evolve, adapt, and maintain their edge and ability to deliver excellence. They also have a passion for teaching their team members, of all levels, these things.

Establish The Standard For A Great Professional Brand

It is our responsibility and it should be our pleasure to to set the performance standard high if we expect to inspire people to excellence. Our experience allows us to see further than our team members can see on their own – which allows us to guide and support their growth and know when to get out of their way so they have the ability and determination to learn on their own.

Leading them in this way can help us identify a clear line between setting a high-level standard and expecting the impossible. Absolutely we should encourage people to stretch beyond what they can see for themselves in a realistic way and give them the confidence and encouragement to push themselves because their career growth and professional reputation depends on it.


Caring means that during your commitment with your team members to support a fabulous professional and career leadership brand for your team members, you also show up as a human being who is accessible and will enthusiastically listen to, support, and – objectively – meet people where they are in their career. It’s about understanding the other person without imposing your personal values, drive, ambition, or speed of learning on them.

Become A Mentor

The genesis of leadership, at least inspiring leadership, is to see yourself a a role model and mentor – in other words, understanding that you are the example that people will learn from [hopefully correct and beneficial lessons only]. You must create a truly admirable reputation that others want to follow in order to be able to influence and support your team’s growth.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 10.20.44 AM

Inspiring retail leadership is based on the law of indirect effort.  According to this law, most things in human life are achieved more easily by indirect means rather than by direct means.  You more easily become a leader to others by demonstrating that you have the qualities of leadership, than you do by ordering others to follow your directions. The old Manager vs. Leader comparison is basically this:

  • Managers manage compliance, create forced conciliation [they want a team of “yes” men], hire sheep, and expect people to do things “because they signed up for this”;
  • Leaders lead through encouragement, involvement, innovation, creativity, being a catalyst for action and accomplishment, recognizing contribution, effort and ability, and hiring people who share a passion for the purpose of the company and aligned values of the team.

Leadership Influence

Whereas “managers” force compliance, truly spectacular and effective leaders behave in such a way that is so exciting and successful that others choose to learn from them. They choose to respect your leadership style and behaviors.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 10.22.27 AM

In retail there are, essentially, three prevalent types of “power”:

  • Position Power: Which is, for all intents and purposes, defined as the power that comes with a job title If you become a C-level executive or a SVP/VP in a retail organization, you automatically possess certain level of power and privileges that go along with your title.  You are a “corporate leader” whether you have earned respect and a following or not.
  • Ascribed Power:  This  form of “power” is earned through your performance; the trust, authenticity, honesty, and integrity you display.  In every retail organization, there are leaders who are inordinately influential, persuasive, and respected, even though their positions may not be high on the organizational chart.  These are the people who are truly great leaders because of the quality of the people they have become, based on their character and personality.
  • Expert Power: This is the person(s) who has taken the time to become extremely competent and super valuable in a critical area. The expert(s) in a retail organization may be even more powerful than the most  senior executives, because that individual is largely irreplaceable because they are vital to continued cash flow when others are struggling.

Obviously, the most effective leaders gain influence through behaviors that are honest, inclusive, authentic and aligned and consistently modeled against the organization’s mission and values proposition. When people see your leadership as something to emulate and that achieves consistently outstanding results they are more likely to learn and trust your direction, vision, and advice.

Bias Towards Action

Profitability comes from loyalty, productivity, and having a character base from which to work. –Zig Ziglar

This is my favorite and most telling quality for leadership…Today’s effective and inspiring retail leader is the person that can concisely communicate the goals and objectives of the business and any obstacles the team may face on the way to delivering excellent results. They solicit feedback and suggestions from the team who will need to deliver results, they listen to those ideas, they incorporate them into planning and strategy, they build consensus among all of the team members and they action their plan. The best leaders build diverse, inclusive, and involved teams and galvanize their teams into action and, ultimate, results. They don’t endless scrutinize the “what ifs” or “where to begin” through time wasting meetings or conference calls… they just …go.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 10.25.16 AM

Great leadership that inspires can quickly assess results, reinvent, reshape, and revisit their course of action to ensure they achieve the highest level of results possible and they communicate in such a way that their team embraces change and swiftly overcome challenges in the business. Great leaders also teach by example the great competencies of agility and adaptability in business and guide their team to the philosophy of “what got you here, won’t get you there” – inspiring their team to understand the path to success includes change, reinvention, and learning and development and then giving them the confidence and support to learn, fail, and succeed safely.

More Admired Behaviors Of An Inspiring Leader

  • Find Out What They Need From You: Consistently solicit feedback and engage in dialog with your team members [all levels] to find out what they need to deliver greatness. A great leader is empathetic, involved, and a great listener. They will also take action, quickly, to get their teams what they need to be successful.
  • Be Personable: Great people want to work with and for great people. They want someone who is approachable, real, and human.   When you are a leader who is genuine, authentic, honest, and available by proactive recognizing accomplishment and displaying empathy – they will be wildly open to accepting on-going, in-the-moment feedback on opportunity areas as well. Your team will be inclined, when they believe in their leader, to bring innovative ideas and creative solutions to the business – because they realize they will be recognized and appreciated. Nobody wants to be led by an emotionless robot. Let your true personality shine ~ smile, laugh and have fun with your team.
  • Challenge Them: People are 2X more likely to stay in a role that challenges and intrigues them. There are lots of people that don’t know what they are capable of until leaders challenge them to stretch themselves higher. Great retail leaders see potential in people and help them to identify their latent abilities through assignments or challenges that show them what they are capable of. If you never push your team, they will remain just “good enough” to get average results.
  • Encourage Their Professional & Personal Growth: Find out what their interests are ~ if they aren’t forthcoming…ask. Help them, through mentoring [either finding one for them or being a mentor], to develop career capital in retail leadership. Provide them with tools and resources to learn about the business and successful practices. If your team does well – reward them with a monthly development class in an area that the collective team would benefit from. Invite your top performers to join you at networking events. If your team is exceptional – work with them to plan networking events for the retail industry to support your brand efforts and community talent attraction initiatives.
  • Provide Fair & Balanced Feedback: Your team will benefit tremendously when you show consistency and courage to provide real-time, on-going feedback – recognizing efforts and results and supporting them through their performance challenges equally will help strengthen the individual and collective competencies of your team. Setting the expectation of honest and open feedback will help you build credibility around career guidance and your leadership. This will also help your team members provide you with feedback on things they may need from you keeping the channels of communication open for interactive dialog.
  • Help Them: You establish integrity with your team when they feel that you understand and truly comprehend their role and the challenges they face. The fun parts, the obstacles, the technological frustrations, etc. Sometimes the best thing you can do to support your team is to roll up your sleeves and work along side them.
  • Ask Lots of Questions: I remember the moment I discovered the power of questions with my team and it immediately changed the dynamic of the team. I should clarify that asking the right questions changed the dynamic. By having conversations with them to ensure they were getting satisfaction from their roles, that their career path and mine for them was aligned, that they felt that we were utilizing their skills and abilities correctly.  Doing this gives you valuable information and also gives your team the confidence to follow your lead and ask questions as well.
  • Create A Culture Of Involvement: Your team wants to be involved with the company’s growth and offer innovative and creative ideas for elevated results. Welcome and encourage them to get involved. Create a method of capturing ideas and a channel for sharing the best ones with the executive leaders in your organization. When employees feel like they are part of the future success it inspires them to be more productive and proactive. Not only does this help the company, but it also prepares the team member for an elevated role in the future.
  • Empower Them: When your team is provided the tools and resources through guidance and development to understand the importance and impact of their role and the need to deliver excellent results you need to let them know they have the power and your support to make decisions that are necessary. This does involve, at times, taking calculated risks and, occasionally, failure. Your team needs to know that is okay…that you will support them and follow up with them to review their process and look for a better solution for the next time. Your team should not fear failure – if they do, they will constantly wait for your approval before making decisions – this can cripple productivity.
  • Stress Your Organization’s Purpose: I believe that because we hire, primarily, people who have worked in similar environments [ex: women’s fashion retailers will frequently only consider candidates who have women’s apparel experience] – we fail to assess the quieter competencies and alignment that candidates have to our organization’s Mission Statement & Values. Great leaders identify this BEFORE a candidate is hired. We are consistently failing to find a connection with employees that inspire them want to take ownership of their results. I think that what make truly excellent organizations and leaders stand out is their ability find people who are passionate about the purpose behind the company – not just the paycheck. Inspiring retail leaders understand the need for alignment and find candidates that are energized by the purpose, brand, and potential.


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.

View all posts by

Leave a Reply

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