One Simple Question In Retail

One Simple Question In Retail

I am currently working with an organization on a short-term project to identify the “critical success factors” in their business so that we can develop a better, more effective candidate profile and talent attraction/selection process for their growth and the organization’s health. It’s been a wonderful experience these past couple of weeks because I get the opportunity to meet with and – essentially – interview people of all levels of employment engagement and talent to find out what the consistent factors are in those that are extremely successful and driven inside the organization and those that are not – and everyone in between. This is to capture a fair and true assessment of the non-negotiable qualities that are needed to ensure that the organization is inviting the right people onto the team for both the future employee happiness and to support a thriving, vivid, and robust company culture.

Who Inspires You? And Why?


One of my absolute favorite questions I have always asked during interviews or when getting to know people inside an organization is the simple question of “Who inspires you? And why?”. This has been hands-down THE most fascinating question to ask in last few weeks and something that is extremely telling.

Shortly after starting this project I decided I no longer wanted to know the title of the person I was interviewing nor did I want to know where they stood their most recent performance assessment. I wanted to make an educated guess after asking my questions and listening to the answers I was being given during a dialog with an individual.

When assessing the answer to “Who inspires you?” and truly listening to their “why” it becomes extremely clear who the leaders and emerging leaders are inside the organization. Their answer tells me if they are savvy to [or even moderately interested in] the world around them. If they are inspired by something deeper than tomorrow, yesterday, or payday. Their answer will let me where they want to be in five years and how they will work to get there or if they are simply satisfied with the pedestrian day-to-day activities of an average professional life. Their answer will tell me if they are a visionary or a victim.

Everyone is able to answer this question – I have never had anyone be stumped by it – but their answer to this question means everything to their ability to lead people and themselves and deliver excellence, mediocrity, or failure.

6 Traits of Inspiring People


I am a voracious reader and I am passionate about learning both for personal and professional development. I studied European History in college and love to travel to places where historically significant events occurred to immerse myself – as much as possible – in the event and the geography for the greatest level of understanding and admiration of people I find inspire me. Though I have a fairly long list of both historic and current figures – both obscure and well-known, good and not-so-good – all of these people share some very distinctive traits:

  • They Have Created Their Own Unique Path: Oftentimes, they have taken a very difficult road in life that others wouldn’t dare. This route demands a tremendous amount of moxie,  intestinal fortitude, strength, commitment, and unwavering dedication. These people are brave, knowledgeable, and extremely focused. They are courageous and unflappable in the face of criticism, judgement, and naysayers. They are people of action and integrity – even under the most dire of circumstances.
  • They Derive An Enormous Sense Of Satisfaction From Their Accomplishments: They work tirelessly for what they believe is right and just for, not only, themselves but for those who believe in them and the, ultimate, greater good.


  • They Are Masterful Storytellers: These inspiring and groundbreaking leaders of change spend their time sharing and demonstrating something very different from the average person. The average person can articulate the parochial platitudes and principles as to why the status quo is important or ethusiastically use these things to excuse average results. Truly inspiring leaders draw from their vision, their experiences, their triumphs, and their failures. They have a unique way of looking at the world and they share their perspective through powerful stories that resonate with our minds, emotions, and aspirations in a way that average and unmotivated people cannot absorb.
  • They Possess A Deeply Held Vision: Sometimes on a small or a grand scale but they know where they are, they know where they want to be, and they have an idea and the determination to get there regardless of the obstacles they have faced and will have to face.


  • They Were Undeterred By Popular Opinion: Most people are followers and they are low-information followers at that. They are comfortable with what makes them feel safe and protected. And I am learning there are lots of people who enjoy being low-information as it absolves them of responsibility and accountability in their professional lives. Inspiring people are ruthless in their determination to find a better way. To give themselves and those around them a better quality of something. Average people fear and fight change and they are also prone to a mob-mentality. They will fight change and vilify those whose opinion differs from theirs. Truly inspiring people persevere through those challenges. They maintain their integrity and they refuse to give up/give in even if they are taking on countries, governments, or a gaggle of whiney team members [not that that’s a “thing” in retail].
  • They Are Fearless: In the face of tremendous challenge and criticism – people with vision and passion keep going – no matter what.

7 Things Inspiring People Don’t Do


  • They Don’t Give Up On Their Goal: Regardless of how tough things get they are determined and will absolutely fight for the results they seek to deliver. They have powerful and compelling reasons that they can articulate with passion and their commitment to their cause is what keeps them going when others would easily give up. They self-impose and can identify potential consequences of not moving forward and these consequences are aligned with their purpose and their goals and objectives.
  • They Don’t Allow Failure(s) To Stop Them: One of the reasons people are inspiring is because they have done something, created something, built something, or lead something that changes the world around them. At any given moment, when you are seeking to create change and improvement, you are fighting an uphill battle. You are up, oftentimes, to monumental opposition and this can mean that sometimes your initiatives fail. The sign of an inspiring and determined person is to assess what happened, their ability to reshape it, and go forward – once again – with their plan.


  • They Don’t Let What They Don’t Know Stop Them: Determined and fearless individuals ask questions, research, try (and possibly fail) until they achieve their goals. They understand that that their current limitations in life are self-inflicted and they are compelled to do more and be more and they will gather the necessary tools and knowledge to achieve their objectives.
  • They Don’t Fear Rejection: They are persistent and tenacious when it comes to achieving their goals. They aren’t afraid to share their unique and innovative thoughts and ideas with others. The list of inspiring people who had to use their determination to overcome rejection is limitless. If you want to achieve something significant, you’re going to be rejected in the process. Inspiring people overcome this disappointment by their overwhelming determination and drive.
  • The Don’t Require The Approval Of Others: Most inspiring and determined people started by standing alone in their beliefs. Through action, results, and their skill in storytelling they gained followers and supporters. These people are not afraid of being alone in their pursuits. They use their instinct/intuition as a form of intelligence and they trust what they know to be true – even if they are alone in that knowledge, initially.


  • They Are Not Lazy: If they want to achieve their objective they have to out-think, out-know, out-work their competition. They are solution finders and will ensure they overcome any and all obstacles that attempt to hinder their forward momentum. These people are maniacal in their desire to achieve something that others said couldn’t be done and they will make the investment of time and energy to prove that it, indeed, can and should be.
  • They Don’t Shrink Away From Adversity: Anytime anyone with a personality attempts to introduce new concepts or innovative ideas into the masses of average people they will be subjected to ridicule. If anything – this type of adversity propels truly inspiring and determined retail leaders forward. They have something to prove and adversity gives them  added strength and purpose.

To be inspired by someone who has achieved greatness or substantial improvement in this world is to be reminded that what moves us so deeply about someone else is, actually, possible for ourselves. It allows us to forge our very own path and use our own ideas and thoughts as a catalyst for change, improvement, growth, and the ability to do more than we ever thought ourselves capable of – and that’s a powerful and galvanizing proposition.


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 “One Simple Question In Retail

  1. Beth love the article, I’ve been in retail for about 22 years and things definetely have change from when I started and now. I would love to talk to you maybe some day. Have a good one . Colleen Thompson

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