Retail Leadership: Simple Steps To Solve Big Problems

Retail Leadership: Simple Steps To Solve Big Problems

Recently I was reading an article about the amazing philanthropist and person Kelsey Langdale, Co-Developer of packH2O, which aims to solve the water crisis in underdeveloped countries. In it she outlines her thoughts on how to stop, assess, and tackle issues that are overwhelming in nature. These steps are absolutely relevant in any business setting and it really does bring simple actions and processes to solving challenging business obstacles.

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  • Identify the top-level goals:
    This is your opportunity to break the problem down into three main parts. Three phases that define what you hope to accomplish and achieve that are measurable and that start to erode the problem through action and process. Reassess at each phase to maximize impact and to confirm you are staying on track to solve the challenge. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! With your team, your colleagues, senior and executive leadership on where you are and what the next steps are.
  • Focus on what you can control:
    This part is so important. There are certainly multiple opportunities to excuse inaction if we focus on all of the obstacles and issues we will have to overcome in dealing with workplace problems or just the day-to-day business challenges. But remember this…excuses are for losers. I know that is provocative and probably unpopular to actually put in print but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. When you focus on how you will succeed and how you can overcome the obstacles and get to the next top-level goal and meet your objectives, you will be one hundred times more successful and valuable than the mediocre, average retail leaders/managers/employees that excuse why they cannot.

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  • Get on the ground:
    You will never solve problems if you are removed, even the slightest bit,  from them. You need to support your team on the front lines of these business challenges. You need to understand their experiences and their frustrations and those of the customer. You need to get out from behind your desk, from behind your laptop, out of your office and into the thick of things in order to affect change, manage chaos, minimize crisis and conflict, and be present for your team or colleagues as a positive and calming model of behavior.
  • Ask for feedback:
    You can deliver solutions if you are working within a silo. You need to coalesce with your team to determine what is working, what is not, what the customer is seeing/saying. Are your actions and words bringing clarity to the obstacle and the objective? Are your actions and words transparent and aligned with the company’s guiding principles (vision and values)? Does everyone understand and embrace the direction you have the team moving in? Are you considering all perspectives? Are you incorporating the most innovative and clever ideas of others to help deliver great answers to the problem? [If you answered “no” to any of these – you need to reassess your direction and encourage the ideas and solutions of others.]
  • Partner up:
    We work in retail…decisions you make and actions you take today effect other people, other departments, and your customer. Always take that into consideration when implementing a plan. If your actions impact another group – communicate with them to ensure it doesn’t create challenge or hardship for them. But – don’t forget to consider how including other departments and people to problem solve or support your initiatives/goals/objectives can help. Just like we cannot operated within our own silos of leadership, we cannot do so inside our area of responsibility. Ask for help, explain why you need it, you will likely get the support you need.
  • Find mutual benefits:
    This is an extension of “Partner Up”…explain the benefits of a partnership and how it will help the business but also be willing, able, and available to help your partners when they need your support on something they are working on or through. Giving as much as you take (or more) will help build the credibility of your ability to be a great business partner.
  • Do your due diligence:
    No matter what – you need to have a plan that will result in a desired positive outcome. You need to use vetted information, effective communication, and actions from previous challenges that the team has faced to make the best decisions for your current challenge. Look at the problem from all perspectives and points-of-view and all of the issues that can pop up on your way to your goals and objectives. Always stop to reassess plan, gauge effectiveness with your business partners (your team and others) and communicate status to ensure momentum is not lost and you are solution-ready for most potential issues.
  • Stay motivated:
    Sure it’s easy to become discouraged…lots of losers people use those moments as a reason to “throw in the towel”. But not the best retail leaders. We are resourceful, courageous, fearless, fierce, and driven to be great and to lead our teams to greatness. Great retail leaders don’t settle for “good enough” in any aspect of their personal or professional lives and find their compelling reason to deliver excellence. You can read more about this topic in my article, “Staying Productive And Motivated In Retail“.


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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