Yes, I'm writing this while sitting on the dock on a beautiful morning up north. There's not much better than a morning on a dock, coffee in hand and the sun slowly rising. It gives you time to think and appreciate the small things in your life.

So, it got me thinking about all the often overlooked things that we don't appreciate enough about working in retail. We spend so much time complaining, worrying and being stressed out that we can forget what a great "place" retail is.

No, your significant other didn’t write the title for this blog.  Nonetheless, it’s likely not the type of title that gets you excited, but give it a minute of reading.

How many times have you said or asked some or all of the following:

In the roles I’ve played in my retail career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Retail District Managers in various capacities.  As a Store Manager, I’ve reported to District Managers.  As a Marketing Director I’ve relied on District Managers to help execute campaigns in their stores.  And now, in my role at Graff Retail, I collaborate with DM’s on rolling out and sustaining new training programs at store level. 

In all of these roles and through all of these initiatives I’ve learned that there are 2 kinds of District Managers; one is The Pencil Pusher and the other is The Sales Driver.  There’s a big difference between these two types of DM’s.  Let’s take a closer look. 

I’m not so sure I’ve ever written a title for a blog with such an exaggeration in it.  It’s the word “Big” that really stretches the limits, as you’ll quickly learn.

For the past little while, I’ve been working with a national chain on some important initiatives.  They’re now at the point where they realize that the store standards are in disarray, to say the least.  The brand is looking a bit ragged, and at the root of the problem is a lack of consistent execution on standards.  Everything from merchandising, to inventory, to housekeeping to service standards have fallen behind.

Lately, I've been catching myself saying to my kids, 'When I was your age I didn't get to go there” or, “I didn't behave that way” or, “I appreciated…” 

And every time I start the sentence, my kids get this glossed over look in their eyes. Their eyes literally roll back into their heads.

Today, I picked up my son from Canada's Wonderland and I said…(yup, you guessed it), 'Do you know how lucky you are to be able to go to Canada's Wonderland?'   My 13 year old said to me, 'Mom, what's your point?  I do feel lucky and I do appreciate it, so why do you keep saying that?”

Passionate sales people are happy and productive – they radiate energy, interest and commitment.  Prospective customers walking into the store feel this energy and interest and respond positively to it.  They relate more quickly to passionate people and are more likely to accept their assistance and advice.

Are your sales associates selling with passion and enthusiasm?  How do you get them there?  The best leaders know that coaching and developing people is not just another task to add to their busy schedules.  It is a fundamental part of their leadership style.

You might be thinking that this is something that a millennial might say, however, quite frankly we all think the same thing as employees. It doesn't matter what generation you are from.

How great would your workplace be if all your staff had positive attitudes, confidence, determination, and loyalty?  What would it be like if they worked with meaningful purpose and provided mutual support for each other in the work place?  Sounds like utopia?  This is not an impossible achievement.

The Retail Council of Canada pulled off another fantastic event with their annual STORE Conference this week and, of course, our entire Graff Team was there to join in on all the excitement!  Kevin was on the main stage as emcee once again; introducing an impressive line-up of some of the most brilliant retail minds and the rest of us manned our booth in the Networking Hall which was busier than ever, chatting with the who’s who of the retail industry.  That’s my favourite part of it all; hearing all the buzz from retailers both big and small across the country…I hear firsthand what’s hot and what’s not and always walk away with my head spinning full of thoughts and ideas about this wonderfully fast-paced, ever-evolving and complex industry we call Retail! 

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a group about leadership; one of my favourite subjects!  One of the characteristics of effective Leadership we focused on was Enthusiasm. I'm not talking about running into the office or your stores and high-fiving everyone, every day. I'm talking about the type of enthusiasm that inspires people to want to achieve their goals.

At this conference I had the opportunity to speak to front-line leaders as well as the store operations team from Head Office. I truly enjoyed working with these teams; however, I'd like to share one of my observations with you.

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? 

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