Leadership Transparency In Retail

Photo Source: Dilbert
Photo Source: Dilbert

Leadership Transparency in #Retail

I saw this cartoon clip the other day and actually laughed out loud. Then I realized how frequently this situation actually occurs and then it was a little less funny. I remember on a number of occasions joking with my VP of Stores or Company President that I needed a crystal ball to figure out what was happening and what coworkers were thinking.

As a leader, I am a strong proponent of sharing. I share a lot with candidates and team members because I want them to feel empowered that they have the information and knowledge to make smart, educated decisions. Knowledge is power and clarity and transparency is paramount to success – both for individuals and collective teams.

This goes both ways. As leaders we need to be clear and up front with our team members. Conversely, we need our team members to communicate with us. Where they need support – what their career goals are – are they challenged and intrigued by the work they do. They need to be courageous enough to raise their hands and articulate what they need if they are not getting it.

Here are some of the biggest retail transparency “misses” I have seen and ideas on how to repair these common issues:

Job Roles & Responsiblities:
-Overshare the position’s “job description” – This is something that I share with candidates that I will be interviewing in a pre-interview packet.
-I, verbally, review it in the interview and solicit any questions about it during the dialogue as well
-The Job Description is included in the “Formal Offer Letter”
-It is also printed and decoratively framed in the new hires work space
-We review this during each onboarding touch-base and during each “Stay Interview”
-This has minimized the confusion around the role and minimized the use of the phrase “I didn’t know” from the team members

Company Values:
-There is no denying that cultures built around company values are stronger and engagement is higher
-Recognition programs built around company values are also more effective
-These need to be more than a document floating around, a page in the Employee Handbook, a poster on the wall in the breakroom, bathroom, and/or stockroom. It needs to be a living and breathing part of the culture
-Example: If you have a value of “balance” then you need to support that value – you need to demonstrate that balance is okay in the workplace and have conversations with your team around how to manage it
(Here is an interesting article about casting a shadow for your team based on Marissa Mayer’s bold choice to only take a limited amount of time for maternity leave: Marissa Mayer’s Opportunity To Be A Pioneer for Work/Life Issues)
-Example: If you value “Efficiency” you sure as heck better make sure your culture promotes sharing ideas from all levels on how to make processes more efficient (and that you act on the feedback given by the team)

Where Does Each Employee Stand:
-You should be coaching & recognizing performance in real time with each team member
-There should be a “no surprises” practice between the leaders and their teams – meaning, that at any given moment the team member knows what their strengths are and their positive contributions are AND where their opportunity areas are and they should have a plan of action that they are working on to improve
-Keeping performance feedback a secret is just bad business

The State Of The Company:
-How is the company doing? What is the vision of the company today?
-If there are a lot of “fire drills”, last minute sales, and/or constant directive updates – let me assure you – employees are worried and, likely, gossiping
-I worked for a company in the not-too-distant past that did not share the status of the company with the field (the DM’s received sales figures weekly and the calls of desperation from the CEO & DOS, but were instructed not to share information with the field). At that time, I was one of two Districts producing a positive comp which wasn’t enough to pull the company out of the hole. It was dire and chaotic…the field knew business wasn’t great because they felt it through the confused direction – it wasn’t a secret to anyone but yet we didn’t “trust” the team enough to know what the challenges were
-Keeping the company informed (even at a general level) will help employees understand the direction and “why’s” behind actions taken

Employee’s Futures:
-As a leader it is our responsibility to help and support the development of our employee’s growth and marketable skills – the hope being that the employees will use their growth to impact and improve current business conditions
-Employees loyalty is built when the employees know that there is a genuine interest in their future by their supervisor
-Helping them improve on their areas of opportunity – giving them the opportunity to mentor others will show that the company is willing to make the investment in their future

Being a transparent leader is infinitely more effective than hoarding information or treating the employees like drones just to get the work done. Sharing status updates, business successes, and business challenges with them will give them a sense of ownership. Sharing challenges will also give your innovative team members an opportunity to come up with solutions to help the business and a stronger sense of contribution.


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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