How to survive as a leader in 2020

How To Survive As A Retail Leader In 2020?

If you currently work in retail it’s certainly hard work at the moment, the market is saturated with lots of competition and most retailers have their fair share of issues and challenges. The customer is more savvy than ever, being able to sniff out a bargain online is no longer a skill and takes little effort. The large supermarkets are fighting each other dabling in weak pricing promotions that don’t drive footfall at all but just slash margin, and Aldi, Lidl and the other discounters continue to march on and deliver value to the masses.

So is it all doom and gloom if you work in retail at the moment? Or is it a case of focusing on your leadership style and your personal values more than ever?

What’s important as a leader in 2020?

Let’s be honest, looking into my crystal ball I don’t think retail is going to get any easier just yet. Us retailers are in it for the long haul which therefore means we have to employ some pretty resilient leadership techniques to survive and give our teams confidence in us. In general there isn’t really any rocket science to this other than understanding people’s needs and acting accordingly. A good example of this and how it works base up is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

You will see looking at Maslow’s theory key elements such as trust, empathy and humility are low down the pyramid and are therefore key elements a leader needs to use as the foundation of every relationship with his/her colleagues.

Trust & Empowerment

The bread and butter of leadership. Without the trust of the people in your team, you’re pretty much finished as a leader. Earning the trust of the people you’re leading feeds into other core skills like listening, honesty and empathy.

If you show you’re no better than them, keeping the conversation open and honest you’ll find people will trust your choices far more. They’ll also understand that you’ve got the company’s best interest in mind. It goes both ways too, giving the opportunity to others in your team to make decisions that you openly trust allows them to be autonomous and feel valued.

In David Marguets book “Turn the ship around” it describes how great things can be achieved when a leader turns to trust and empower those around them to make decisions. In the workplace, it means showing others on your team that you trust their judgement, sometimes even showing you know they have more expertise than you do, and that you’re comfortable with that. Its giving people the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, and showing you believe they’re making the right decisions, so they no longer feel the need to seek approval from leadership. The responsibility and ownership are transferred from the leader to those around them, who are actually doing the job.

Empathy & Humility

Never than before has treating people like people and not like a number been vitally important. If you empathise with their ups and downs as well as motivations you can get a better picture of what’s really going on and the best way to help. I feel like you can be as empathetic as you like but without your own humility, it can feel a bit false. Bringing yourself down to others’ level and accepting that their way is better than yours, or even having a conversation like equals really helps people take the initiative.

As you lead with more empathy and humility people will naturally want to trust you and become more invested in their own work. Remember whatever you do rubs off on the people you lead can can be in a positive or negative way!

Strategy & Focus

Telling people as it is rather than sugar coating everything helps them understand not only what’s expected of them, but also how that aligns with the company’s goals. You have to be really clear with your teams and review performance on the way. A good structure of 1-1s not only serves purpose to support the colleague but also gives you a measure of success.

Consistently speaking about company goals give the team an idea of what they’re aiming for and how what they’re doing influences the bigger picture. Be sure the reward success and not focusing solely on the negative.

Servant Leadership

This is certainly the tip of the Maslow’s pyramid when you have mastered this. Defined by Robert K. Greenleaf as “the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first,” the idea is that the servant leader is always there to help and guide above all else. It’s quite altruistic; however, do not mistake the qualities of servant leadership for being a pushover or not standing up for yourself. Cheryl Williamson explains in this article a few ways she practices servant leadership.

As you will notice most of being “match fit” as a leader in 2020 is about focusing on your soft skills. As I said earlier this isn’t rocket science but it does require a good level of emotional intelligence and understanding of yourself first. Why not try keeping a journal and record your thoughts and feelings for the day, really analyse situations, how you dealt with them and the thoughts and feelings that evoked.

The best way ultimately in understanding how you are leading your teams is to seek feedback. Go ahead and ask for some feedback and ask the people who you don’t normally ask, feedback from your mate or work colleague will not give you any constructive points to work on at all.

Stay resilient and focus on your soft skills and the rest should fall into place. It won’t be easy but if you do keep a check on how you are feeling, and how you are acting you will be able to do something about negative situations, or deal with situations where you are unhappy.

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Hi! I`m Chris Webb, I live in the South East and started Leaders Retail Consultancy in 2019. Before freelancing, I was a senior retail leader for a number of the UK’s top retailers gaining experience over 23 glorious years. When I am not coaching I enjoy spending time with the family or in the gym.

Click here for more information about Leaders Retail Consultancy


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