Silly Mistakes That Retail Leaders Make

Silly Mistakes That Retail Leaders Make

As retail leaders we, at times, walk a fine line with our teams. We have to be accessible and connected with our teams but we have to do so and maintain a level of professionalism and credibility as guides, mentors, and supports to everyone we represent and lead – as well as our colleagues and bosses. We have to consistently model the behaviors of what right looks like and silently instill career capital through our actions, decisions, and passion for our business.

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Sometimes this is easier than it sounds. We are human beings and – most of us – are human beings with flaws. We make mistakes and while most mistakes or missteps aren’t credibility killers – others are and once doubt is called into question as it relates to the integrity or authenticity of the leader – it can be detrimental and virtually impossible to regain/reestablish. Here are some of the more common, silly missteps as retail leaders we experience.

Common Mistakes That Retail Leaders Make

  • Being Overconfident: As any truly phenomenal leader can tell you – most of their team’s success [that they are the catalyst for] is due to the fact that they work hard. They don’t rely on hope as a business strategy. They keep their eyes on the horizon to look for potential obstacles to support their team’s success through. Great leaders also rely on resources and tools to support their professional continued development. Understanding that there is no way, with how quickly retail is evolving, they can know everything at every moment. And embracing that we constantly have to upskill ourselves and our teams to stay sharp, agile, and adaptable to our business because we don’t – or pretend to –  know everything.
  • Multi-task To Achieve Mediocre Results: This is a tough one…multi-tasking is definitely a competency to possess in retail but it is not a very effective way to manage our day-to-day tasks. Time management and priority exclusivity has to be assigned to high-impact projects or responsibilities. Our job is to develop our team, support our team, and guide our team to success. Which means we have to be constantly cognizant of our results. When we are constantly working on multiple projects at once we are not producing the best quality work – especially if we are letting it interfere with our commitment to being absolutely accessible and engaged with our team members we are not teaching responsible or successful behaviors. Modeling – through time management and prioritization – that you can get your work done, with remarkable results, by focusing on doing one thing at a time extremely well is the best coaching you can provide your team. Doing it otherwise will endorse the delivery of “good enough” results.

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  • Always Wanting To Be Right: This is such a common issue at a higher-level of leadership. We believe that we are supposed to know it all and be the voice for our teams. But this is not the case. A really great lesson that we can teach the emerging leaders we work with is that we are not right all the time. We use tools, resources, experience, context, involvement, consensus, and intuition to determine a course of action but it is not always the correct one and great leaders understand this. Strong leaders understand the need to assess our path and reinvent or redesign the approach we are taking to achieve the best results. Retail leaders who want to be right all the time or the smartest person in the room indulge a very dangerous combination of ego and logic and behave as though being right all the time is somehow endearing or simply expected…it’s not – it’s incredibly transparent and this elevated level of hubris will hurt your credibility.
  • Modeling Excessive Supplication To Authority: We grow up learning to acquiesce to authority or “do as we’re told” and take a subordinate position to those that outrank us. Especially in today’s retail environment – there is a very obvious disconnect between the executive understanding of what is happening in the business [which is usually based on black and white reporting] and what is taking place in the field which is the organic and true business – it’s what creates and supports the customer experience. As retail leaders – especially in the field – we need to make decisions that will protect the health of the business and support our team in their desire to be successful contributors with tremendous results. When we become simply acquiescent to executive direction when we know how it will impact the customer, team members, and business – we are not modeling leadership. We need to champion smart ideas that will help maintain the health and growth of the business. This mean petitioning to eliminate useless processes that exist simply “because we’ve always done it this way”, challenging timelines or directives that don’t make sense or interfere with customer engagement, and bringing thoughtful solutions to the business that will help drive results – even if it competes with or differs from executive opinion. Most executives are reasonable people if you have a thoughtful purpose to your opinion and can articulate how it will improve business.

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  • Failure To See The Positive In Others: This can happen when you function in a primarily toxic environment or you choose to be unhappy and judgemental because you dislike your job. There are enough critics in the world – remarkable leaders lead with understanding and kindness. They are firm but fair. They are objective but focused on results. Creating a balanced and fair culture of feedback and being an open and accessible leader will help connect you with your team. It will bring you clarity around their strengths and opportunities. It will help you build a path for their success. When you are invested in your team’s success you are more likely to (a) hire talent that is aligned with the business and values and (b) want to retain your high-productivity and high-potential talent. Leaders who focus on the negative will have the greatest self-inflicted challenges in the retail.
  • Favor Thinking Over Doing: Truly great leaders have a bias towards action. They refuse to be consumed with meetings or to spend their time endlessly pondering potential outcomes. They identify a course of action with their team by communicating the goals and objectives of the topic and they get started.  During the process they may redirect or reshape the plan based on how their original course is unfolding but they are action-oriented and focused on delivering great results on-time, regardless of level of challenge.
  • Publicly Complain About Being Overwhelmed Or Upset: In retail it is not unusual to have many things happening at one time or experience a sudden shift of priority during your day [sometimes it’s even an hourly occurrence]. As great leaders know – developing and emerging leadership take their cues from direct supervisors. Great leaders also recognize that every day in retail is fluid [in fact, we get a little antsy if our days become too routine], overwhelmed is a feeling that frequently precedes change, and when you embrace and manage the feelings of insecurity, frustration, and doubt effectively – rather than complain to your teams about your feelings – it usually results in wonderful growth and solutions/breakthroughs.


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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2 thoughts on “Silly Mistakes That Retail Leaders Make

  1. Well said, I have seen and dealt with leaders who are on both ends of the spectrum of every point you just described. The great ones make it enjoyable to come in to work. Your point about being unhappy and judgemental gave me a chill thinking about some direct managers I have had the displeasure of reporting to. You have a great blog. Insightful, informative and very forward thinking

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