A tale of two retailers
The angst in the store was palatable, a stench of fear permeated throughout the multi-million dollar facades as workers scurried to and fro in a blind panic. The boss was coming for a store visit. What would he find this time? There was always something? No matter how hard they tried – fault and derision were thrust upon them.
Never mind the tasks and intricate chores of a modern retail outlet or the deftness required for today’s customer service – the arrival of executive management was imminent and all were focused on his appeasement. What is his name? What is his title? What does he do? Should we smile or be stoic in the customary pretence of kowtowing on bended knee?
The ducking from sight and diving for cover as the despicable entourage of naysayers and deluded ravaged all in their path. It will soon be over apart from the stress-etched faces of management – the poor souls who pick up the pieces of the aftermath. Small groups display nervous banter of relief and seek solace from caffeine, nicotine and Guarana; others disappear into the anonymity of cyberspace.
Plans are forged and tactics honed for the next executive management onslaught whenever that may be. Futile efforts to rebuild a shell-shocked group of people whose desires are appreciation, a chance to contribute and the sanctity of belonging.
Never underestimate the devastation of a single person’s toxicity on a brand and bottom line.
The team prepared for the start of another busy day before congregating in a cheerful huddle at the front of the store. As was customary, health and safety kicked off with exercises and coaching, followed by the day’s business focus and culminating in the store leadership’s input. Rumours abounded that a member of the executive management team may be in town. Excitement spread with squeals of delight and fabled reminisces.
The doors opened to customers who responded to the wide smiles, glinting eyes and warm welcome. It was business as usual.
The arrival of the executive manager went viral and despite wishes to the contrary was enveloped by adoring colleagues. After a quick hello and thank you, the director walked the shop alone stopping to chat to each and every team member.
Never once talking business. Never once pointing out concern. Any fool can do that. Instead asking opinions and listening with intent. Instead enquiring after family and personal endeavour, but all the time absorbing the very essence of the business.
The leader stayed no more than an hour on the floor and concluded the visit by making coffee and chatting to whoever was present in the team room. Never once talking business, taking calls or looking at a screen. On departure, the director shared a key outtake. Seeing a team, the whole team, utilising the team room together – as one.
Never take for granted the inspirational impact of emotional intelligence on what really matters.
Retail is about people, for people by people.
Dave Farrell is a retailer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at [email protected].
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