Who are the leaders in your company?  The owner(s)?  The CEO?  The VP’s? We often think of leadership in terms of the most senior positions in an organization (especially if we occupy one of them!).  But what if this wasn’t true?  What if we were to tell you that the most important leaders in your company don’t hold an executive title?  That they work much closer to the front lines than the CEO does?  That they, in fact, spend a lot more of their time in the stores than attending meetings at head office? 

That’s right.  Whether you call them District Managers, Area Managers or Regional Managers, we’re talking about the people who carry the torch for you at the territory level.  Is there a more influential group of leaders in all of retail?  We think not.

Don’t feel bad.  It’s nothing personal.   It’s a fact of life that senior execs don’t get out to their stores as often as they might like.  This makes it pretty tough for store staff to follow their example.  Instead, employees take their cues and model their behaviour after leaders who make more regular appearances.  And who fills these shoes?  Why, the territory manager, of course!

The best District Managers develop powerful relationships with their people, while continually driving them to higher standards and better performance.  As a result, they are rewarded with tremendous respect and loyalty.  Their level of influence on staff behaviour, the bottom line and the company’s future is unquestioned.

On the other hand, we’ve seen territory managers drown in the muck and haze that all too often surround this job.  Infrequent or ineffective visits and poor leadership result in lacklustre performance and diminishing customer satisfaction.  If left unchecked, the downward spiral brought about by this negative influence can be difficult to reverse.  Territory managers without the proper skills and training can quickly bring disaster to your door.

How do you assess the capabilities of your field management team? 

Begin by reviewing revenues, the bottom line and staff turnover in each area.  Then look at how successfully company programs are executed in your stores.  In fact, just walk into any one of your locations and observe how well it is or isn’t operating.  That’s your territory manager at work.

Bear in mind, however, that this position can quickly become ‘the job from hell’ in retail.  District Managers are often stuck in the middle, getting pressure from above to improve results and from staff below for more support.  Everyone looks to these key players for leadership and success.  Obviously, special attention must be paid to their training and development.

So what have you done to ensure that your territory managers are successful? 

Have you provided the right orientation, training, reward and support programs? 

If so, good for you!  No doubt you’ve already seen great returns on your investment. 

If not, why not?  Your future is riding on this.  Click here to learn more about our upcoming 2-Day Retail Leadership Summit.  

Kevin Graff is the main guy behind all things Graff Retail. A renowned retail expert, Kevin is recognized in the retail industry as a speaker, author and expert trainer. Kevin's main passion is to help retailers drive staff performance.

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