My home state: Arkansas. It makes my heart bleed blue and white to see Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club dropping the ball so hard. If they would let me, I’d lead a workshop for any supervisors and/or managers at any Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club for free.
I’m concerned that two things are happening: really great managers are either being beaten down or hammered out. Those managers who maintain excellent stores and are able to exceed their metrics are being promoted out of direct retail leadership. Those managers who sacrifice their metrics for better service and store appearance are being beaten down or driven out of the business entirely.
Retail Leadership Solutions
I’m done complaining to you. Let me show you how to fix it in your business.
- Ownership. Sam Walton offered early employees stock options. He called them “associates”. Teach your team to own it. If they treat the store like they own it, they will take care of it. If they take ownership of problems that come to their attention, your customers will get faster, better solutions.
- Purpose. Teach your retail leaders that their purpose is to provide the greatest experience for your customers. Some supervisors and managers think their jobs are to make sure breaks get done and the store doesn’t burn down for 8-10 hours. Break schedules and store practices revolve around the customer’s best interest, not the manager’s.
- Critical Thinking. If you bind your retail leaders to if-this-then-this thinking, they are set up for failure. Supervisors and managers need to be able to think through problems and create solutions.
- Empowerment. Your retail leaders must have the power to more than satisfy your customers. A supervisor once told me that neither he nor the other two supervisors could leave the podium to help a swamped hot dog station. They were to stand there for the entire shift and make sure the breaks got run. What?!
- Top-Level Oversight. I don’t know what Sam Walton would have done if he had seen the store that inspired this and my previous post. If it were my store, I’d be hiring new managers and running the place myself until I found the right ones. When I was at Wendy’s, we would get a tip about two days before the franchise owner or corporate inspector was stopping by. Stop in and shop at your own store completely unannounced. Stage your own Undercover Boss— regularly. And don’t stack the deck by allowing for a warning! You’re stacking it against yourself!
None of this starts with a mid-level supervisor who says: “You know, I’m going to single-handedly change the way we operate.” While he or she can make a difference at the store level, true change has to start at the top and be driven down into and through the organization.
The next time I go to Wal-Mart, I know I’ll be right back in the middle of a bumper crop of morons. But retail has been reinvented over the last two decades and will continue its evolution. Hopefully one day that will mean more refined standards of how we’re treated face-to-face.