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? 

Team Graff Spotlight:  Mary

Spring always causes me to reminisce.  I’m not entirely sure why, but earlier this week as we busy ourselves with all the prep for RCC’s STORE Conference, I found myself going down memory lane, back to the first STORE Conference I ever attended.  That’s when I did the math and realized, this is my 30th anniversary of working in the retail industry!  It sounds unbelievable to me, but it is a fact.

I'm currently doing some research for Graff Retail that entails visiting 40 different retail stores both in malls and power centres. Perfect timing, as I have a lot of spring shopping needs on my list!

Like most of us, I tend to ‘webroom’ a lot, searching for products and services online; however, I then want to visit the stores in person so that I can touch, feel or try on the item. I’ve always loved the entire experience of looking around, discovering new products and feeling like a VIP while a sales associate passionately shows me great brands that would fit me and my lifestyle well.  Feeling that excitement when you find a great deal or unique item, or simply just walking around with a tea in hand surrounded by awesome stuff is amazing.  I actually find it therapeutic.  It's one of the reasons I chose a career in retail; because I've always loved the store experience and I know many of you feel the same way.

I have to be very honest; I was not feeling the love this time around.

Everyone always talks about how fast retail is changing.  That’s true.  But, what’s equally true is that some things just never seem to change.  Consider these never-changing issues:

Kevin said it best from the main stage at the Retail Council of Canada Human Resources Conference yesterday.  “This is the Golden Age of HR in Retail.”  As Kevin opened the Conference and listed off some of the hot topics for 2017 (Diversity & Inclusion: Gender Transition in the Workplace, Mental Health in the Workplace, Legalized Marijuana: How to Prepare to Manage it in the Workplace), just to name a few, it was glaringly clear that times they are a changing…and as Retailers, we have to be aware, informed and nimble to change with them! 

If you missed the Conference this year, here a few things I learned:

There are a lot of new entrepreneurs in the retail space, along with new and innovative concepts.  Some we call Disruptors that are forever changing the way we meet our customer’s needs, the way we interact with customers and the way we engage our employees. These companies are improving both the customer and employee experience.  Many of these are e-commerce concepts (they get most of the press).  But let's not forget there are shining examples of new and exciting brick and mortar retailers who are hitting it out of the park (take a look at Saje, The Ten Spot, Brika, Rent frock Repeat, GotStyle … I'll be moderating an exciting panel discussion with them at STORE 2017).

If there’s one thing retailers are typically good at it’s Store Operations.   There’s a checklist, process map or log book for just about everything.  Heck, the industry has even created task management software that resides in the cloud!   In a nutshell, retail is very good at the A + B + C = D stuff.

Another thing retail is very good at is promoting people from within.  It’s one of the great things about retail.  You can start out as a salesperson and before you know it you’re running a store or even a territory of stores.  Most of the VPs come from the stores too.   That produces a lot of consistent know-how across the organization when it comes to running the stores.

Therein lies the problem though.  We’re really good at managing.  But, there’s a lack of Leadership in most stores, territories and even senior management at times.

What does it take to roll out a great training program at store level?  Better yet, what does it take to sustain a great training program at store level?  Do you have the answer on the tip of your tongue?  Don’t fret, from what I can tell, the majority of retailers out there don’t have the answers to these questions either. 

Ok.  Here’s an easier question.  What gets in the way of training success at store level?  I bet you can rattle off a bunch of ‘retail realities’ that interfere with training.

Attention all Store Managers!  It's time for some "Spring Training" in your stores! 

Everyone knows how satisfying it is to do spring cleaning around the house; the same can be true about spring training for retailers!  The winter blahs are over and it's time to get the cobwebs out and get back to the basics.

If you're not sure what you need to do to refresh your training and/or performance coaching in the store, here are a few Spring Training Tips that you can start working on right away; even if you don't have a solid sales training program in place yet!


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