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What new store managers need beyond training

April 4, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

Since many promotions to store manager involve someone who's a great individual contributor but has little if any management experience, it's not surprising when that person takes awhile to find his/her footing.

In addition to providing the appropriate new manager training, there are a few additional ways you can help new managers succeed:

1. Have a regular weekly development meeting for at least the first ninety days. Not a manager's meeting, but have a 30-45 minute developmental meeting every week to discuss how the new manager is doing. Ask the person to come prepared to discuss one or two aspects of leading and managing he/she did well in the previous week, and one or two things he/she either didn't know or could have done better. Beyond development, this teaches self-assessment skills.

2. Give the new manager a specific area of the sales or customer experience approach to improve. It can be anything from improving how a customer is greeted to increasing add-ons, etc. Along with placing staff development and elevating the sales experience at the highest priority, it throws the new manager into coaching and developing the staff.

3. Have him/her do a store and staff assessment. Ask the new manager to make a list of what he/she thinks the store is doing well and where it can improve. While this can be very challenging, it teaches the new manager how to look critically at the store and staff. More importantly, it demonstrates that you want his/her unfiltered opinion.

4. Have him/her lead the next staff meeting. Again, this helps position the new manager with the rest of the staff. It also gives you a chance to see how well he/she conducts a staff meeting.

5. Have the new manager be in charge on a busy day even though you're in the store. Spend your day working the floor, and once each hour pull your new manager aside for some coaching. Do this every week for a couple of months.

6. Have a weekly developmental focus. Each week, focus your new manager on learning one new thing or practicing one new skill or competency. Just one. Don't overwhelm him/her. There's plenty of time to develop, and one area of focus a week is a nice steady pace. It also commits you to working with your new manager on key areas of development.

Discussion Questions:

What tips would you have for stores looking to reduce the learning curve for new managers? What other practices would you add to those mentioned in the article?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which of the tips mentioned in the article is most helpful in helping new managers to succeed?


Two things I would recommend for new managers. One is to get out of the store office as much as possible. Being on the sales floor is the best retail experience a manager can get. Second, give the manager access to information. Any manager today without a mobile device with access to as much information as possible is managing with both hands tied around his or her back. In that way, even on the sales floor they can see who is scheduled to work, what products are on sale, who are the customers shopping and what are they looking at on their mobile devices. It is only fair that they be as well armed technically as their customers.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

As a former grocery store manager who's spent most of my life in management, I think the hardest part was understanding the P/L statement.

For some reason, every manager I've worked for seemed to want to keep that information to himself. I did a good job everywhere I worked, but this one simple thing would have prepared me for the added responsibility in my new job.

bob barnes, ?, adms

Great tips here, as they lead to helping the new manager develop their Emotional Quotient (EQ), as well as their Intelligence Quotient (IQ) about their store. Other thoughts:

1. Having new managers walk their entire store, inside and out, for 15 minutes each day, and then reviewing with a mentor/manager, will assure that they are seeing the store from the customer perspective.
2. Have the new manager spend time greeting and thanking customers during their store walks at least once per week -- get them comfortable in making eye and verbal contact. This serves to buoy customers as well as inspire effective behavior with associates.
3. Teach the manager to walk their crew of associates into and out of position each day. Thank those associates, and let them know of the day's successes, as well as your eagerness to see them again tomorrow.
4. Hire properly. And, teach your new managers the characteristics you are seeking in other leaders -- honesty, integrity, work-ethic, growth-orientation, hustle, fairness & consistency.

Retail is a "high-touch" business. Associates and customers have to be made at home when in your brick & mortar store. In the process, this helps the new manager understand that they will be learning every day -- that's what growth oriented leaders want to do.

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Roger Saunders, Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

These are good ideas for helping a new manager be successful. As I wrote in What To Train A Retail Manager, the important skill is that they are to make their crew's day. Not do inventory. Not do paperwork. The only way to juice sales is people skills, not working the floor.

This can be a big change for newly promoted managers.

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

One of the most effective things I've seen used is the shadowing technique: have a manager tag along with one of your best managers ... not for a day, but for a week. It usually takes 2 or 3 days for the training manager to relax and act naturally, which is ultimately what you want. By doing it that way, they'll see decisions on the fly as well as the experienced manager making some mistakes on occasion or confronting unusual issues. The ultimate goal is for the trainee to feel comfortable thinking that they can relax; even the best managers are only human.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

Frank said it earlier. Get out of the office and stay on the sales floor if you want to know what happens in real life.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

These are some really great tips. Far too many retail store managers do not get the training required to bridge the role from whatever previous position they held (assistant store manager, etc.), to the store manager role. If store ops management in the field would simply follow the steps in this article, I wouldn't add a thing. Sure, there are more areas to address, however, diligent execution of these six points is a fantastic start.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

Successful store management is a TEAM SPORT! Many managers become complacent as they mature in their positions. They tend to hibernate into their offices and daily routines, becoming out of touch with the rank and file.

Wake-up managers, these folks don't work for you, YOU WORK FOR THEM! (They just have to let you). In order to do so, you must earn and retain their respect and trust by continually being engaged, involved, visible, approachable, supportive and above all, firm, fair and CONSISTENT in all matters of management. Their success is your success! And by the way, take a look at one of the best barometers of effective management; your employee turnover rate. Always remember; your attitude dictates your altitude.

Ron Morgan, Event Specialist, ASM

The #1 thing that new store managers need is effective role models. Before they take the reins of their own store, send them to work as an assistant in one of the top stores in your chain for a week or more. Then, send another top performing mentor to coach the new manager in their own store during their first week in the new role.

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Martin Mehalchin, Partner, Lenati, LLC

Great responses from the pros on the retail side. Now for the response from the shopper side:

1. Take action on issues relating to employees that just do not want to assist shoppers. They are not right for your store. They do not like interacting with shoppers, thus they need to be in a non-social job - like prison guard level 1.
2. Spend time at the service desk, and when issues seem to take too long to settle, then step in and get the problem solved - in favor of the shopper (as long as it is a legitimate issue).
3. Find one of the lanes that is moving fast and where the shoppers are leaving with a smile on their face. Give that lane team some attas'.
4. Know where everything is in the store. I meet lots of store manages and many times they do not know where certain SKUs are in the store.
5. Just remember - this is your store - not corporate's - so treat it and the team that way. It is yours and you earned it!

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Tom Redd, Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

Great additions everyone. I appreciate your insight and experience. Thank you.

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Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Sixth Star Consulting

One idea would be to pair him with a learning buddy. When two people have been promoted to manager status within a certain time frame, have them confer with each other on a regular basis to compare notes. Another solid idea is to pair the promoted manager with a mentor who he or she can confer with on a regular basis. The idea is to give them the opportunity to learn from others.

Tom Borg, Business Expert, Tom Borg Consulting, LLC

Having and developing the ability to set aside fear and intimidation that might interfere with the development of subordinates, colleagues, superiors and even one's self is a management skill that is permitted to be alarmingly insufficient throughout the retail industry.

The training and measurement tools for this success imperative already exist and should be a part of every individuals curriculum throughout the company and at all levels of employment. Teamwork, company modernization and market effectiveness would see exponential improvements with this value embraced and practiced. This single implementation would also support improved employee and customer relations by having a more highly qualified individual in the right job that they enjoy and excel at doing.

The necessary prerequisite of truthfully ascertaining if this is or is not present in the development and growth plans for the employee membership is not only the first step, but remains as the single biggest stumbling block for this goal. A good sidestep for this obstacle would to simply determine if it is in fact a corporate deficiency and in need of improvement.

With the program in place, live and random proficiency testing for the demonstration of improvements as well as the ability to observe if there are opportunities and justification for more training and support or advancement could exist with a higher degree of confidence.


My advice is simple (and it applies to ALL managers regardless of their environment):

1. Find a great mentor;
2. Be a great mentor.

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Dave Wendland, Vice President, Hamacher Resource Group

In businesses where one-to-one selling is the foundation - as with furniture stores - there has to be a stated, written strategy for how potential customers are handled; a "way we do things" and managers have to live it and "walk-the-walk" every day. This becomes the foundation for all sales training and managers then have a structure for implementation that can guide their work.

Joe Capillo, Owner, Top Line Strategies

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