What does it take to develop top retail store managers?

Discussion
Jul 19, 2019
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doctor’s blog.

Just because someone knows how to sell your merchandise doesn’t mean they know how to motivate a crew and manage your store.

Unfortunately, many retail employees are not used to having an effective boss, or being called on the carpet for bonehead mistakes, or even seeing people being fired. So, with little knowledge of what it takes, they fall on their face when put in charge of others.

Here are five ways to develop store managers: 

  1. Know the difference between managing people and managing tasks. Managers are often overwhelmed managing tasks, which often only takes continually asking, “Did this get done?” That’s not hard. Managers must be trained to ask, “How can I get my employees to achieve more sales?” That takes thinking, planning and execution skills. Managers need to understand they have a level of responsibility and accountability they didn’t have as an employee.
  2. Train the why more than the how. Managing isn’t just about creating raving customers, it’s more about creating raving employees. It takes spending enough time with your shift leads so they understand why what they are doing is important.
  3. Set clear expectations of their role and responsibilities and how you’ll hold them accountable. All the manager descriptions I’ve created over the past three decades begin with “achieve” and exceed monthly revenue goals. Everything else can wait. With the goal of increasing sales, managers understand their role is coming up with ways to deliver associate training, reward those engaging shoppers and, most importantly, letting laggards go quickly.
  4. Teach how to give feedback. Teach managers how to recognize correct behaviors, ask permission to give feedback, explain that their intention is only to help, be specific on what was seen, discuss why it happened and give next steps. Understanding when to write an employee up also needs to be taught.
  5. Have a path of learning. If they’re tasked with growing your sales, managers need more than an “attaboy!” Create a path for employees who want to accept more management responsibilities and become more valuable to receive more money and promotions.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advice would you add to those in the article on developing store managers? What manager training steps are most overlooked and why?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"For those that will be nurtured, make sure you have a clear assessment of their skills and even create an environment where they can share those skills with their peers."
"It’s sad, but those at the top have figured out how to suck out every penny of payroll they can save which only leads to higher turnover because of the heavy workload..."
"I think it starts with a very clear job description and an understanding of the skill and personality profile needed to fill the job. "

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12 Comments on "What does it take to develop top retail store managers?"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Great advice regarding what stores should do when training managers, but the problem is not that they don’t know what to do. Instead it’s that too often they just don’t do it. Retail has become a rat race for everything, leading store employees under the gun to complete monotonous tasks. These tasks have become the focus, unfortunately, too often becoming more important than the customer. Management wants those tasks completed, no matter what it takes. New managers have usually come from the store, and if they too were in an environment that did not cultivate store people but rather simply yelled and put pressure to get those tasks done, we can expect the same treatment to continue when the new manager assumes their new post. It’s sad, but those at the top have figured out how to suck out every penny of payroll they can save which only leads to higher turnover because of the heavy workload, loss of sales from unattended to customers and store managers faced with extreme pressure to make everything work. Training is vital, and Bob… Read more »
Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Every retailer I have ever worked for knew how to spot talent that would be used to create a “managers’ bench.” Whether because they recognize they have strong operational skills, good selling skills, or good visual merchandising skills, they tend to get targeted early.

So I look at this a bit differently. You know why you put an associate into the bench program. Identify their strengths and provide training to get them at least adequate in the areas where they are not as strong.

Honestly, none of this is a new concept. While I wish retailers would nurture talent across all their in-store employees, that tends to not be the reality. So for those that will be nurtured, make sure you have a clear assessment of their skills and even create an environment where they can share those skills with their peers.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Good point Paula, from what I’ve seen there are few benches anymore and it is tough to find someone who will hold others accountable. It’s easier to stay where they are.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I think it starts with a very clear job description and an understanding of the skill and personality profile needed to fill the job. A manager who quickly falls on their face was a bad hire, not a bad individual. Store managers have to get stuff done 24/7. It’s not a job requiring a lot of quiet brainstorming. Store managers have to be pretty balanced left-brain/right-brain individuals. They manage both people and process. Sometimes product and presentation even if they are given a huge amount of guidance from headquarters. And while they have to be trained on the “why,” they also have to be able to communicate back up the chain why something worked or didn’t work. They have a large role in helping the business do it smarter next time. It’s not just them learning, it’s about them helping the whole business learn.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

To this good list from Bob I would add:

  1. Passion: This is a “learn by watching” skill that must come from senior management. One of the most effective ways to get the team excited is to see the CEO on the floor bagging groceries.
  2. Customer understanding: Another “learn by watching” skill that can and should come from everywhere and should be actively rewarded. Great examples here are “manager’s advice” merchandising as a push out and customer panels as a pull in.
  3. Mentoring: Every successful CEO will tell you the most important part of their job is lining up and testing a series of successor candidates. The same should be true for a store manager.

I have more, but you’ll have to wait for the book …

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think employing the “shadow of the leader” technique can achieve many of the capabilities listed as well as others. As a manager, be sure to set the example yourself. E.g., If you want more staff interaction with shoppers, be certain to be on the sales floor and proactively engage with shoppers so your staff can see that you are setting the example for all.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

All great input on this article. I always stressed in my years of department store management that no manager can be can be held responsible without having the authority to get the job done. They must have the authority to do what they think they must do for success; hire, fire, re-merchandise , train and on and on. The manager must be a “rain maker,” not a caretaker.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

From my personal experiences of being a store manager and leading store managers, there is a lightbulb moment that occurs when one realizes their success is truly delivered through the success of their sales professionals via optimized interactions with each and every customer. For anyone that hasn’t been in the role that may sound vague or ambiguous, but most managers were promoted due to their individual performance, while (as Bob mentions) in #1-5 management and leadership are a different game.

James Tenser
BrainTrust
This is a fine list of “human factors” that can lead to store manager success. Thanks, Bob for sharing it today. Store managers have very challenging jobs — especially those who lead supermarkets and super centers which may employ 100 – 250 people or more and have tens of millions in revenue at stake. The administrative and operational tasks can be overwhelming. Who has energy left to also be a mentor or even a role model? That’s why in retail (or in any organization, really) I believe it’s essential to push the authority as far to the edge as possible. That is, as near to the customer as possible. No amount of training, culture, or organizational design can accomplish this in the absence of empowerment and accountability. Empowerment means that the company provides the tools, information and support necessary for store managers and their team members to succeed at achieving their objectives and monitor their own levels of success. This naturally enables accountability, teamwork, recognition, and trust. When an organization fails to provide the tools… Read more »
Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

In an interview with the manager of the flagship store for a national chain store in the US, I was able to pick up a few pointers she shared with me:

  • Growth path for managers to leadership roles, regional leaders, functional units
  • Spotlighting, e.g. conferences and leader event participation
  • Building innovation into the store through process and handling, giving employees the ability to be part of the “cool” stuff
Peter Smith
Guest
29 days 3 hours ago

One of the most fundamental challenges with managers is that the very behaviors that tend to derail them are not teachable. You can tell someone to listen better, but if they lack empathy, it won’t work. If they lack resilience, they’ll avoid having the tough, but necessary conversations and they won’t hire or invest in people who they perceive might threaten their authority. Hire the wiring and teach what’s teachable.

Michael Terpkosh
Guest

I totally agree with Art Suriano’s comments and many of the other folks contributing to the discussion. Over the years, I have seen the role of “Store Director” or “Store Manager” reduced from time to manage a store team to doing tactical tasks. Stock shelves, run registers, refresh produce, clean floors, etc. Because of expense reductions (reduce the labor costs in the store) the “management” in the job description of these individuals has all but disappeared.

Finding good/great store management is difficult in today’s employment market. It is hard work and long hours. What these Store Directors and Store Managers need is more labor to do the tactical tasks so they can concentrate on managing the team and leading customer service efforts. Better, proactively managed retail teams improves customer service that equates to more loyal shoppers and incremental sales increases.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"For those that will be nurtured, make sure you have a clear assessment of their skills and even create an environment where they can share those skills with their peers."
"It’s sad, but those at the top have figured out how to suck out every penny of payroll they can save which only leads to higher turnover because of the heavy workload..."
"I think it starts with a very clear job description and an understanding of the skill and personality profile needed to fill the job. "

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