I am opening a new store in 3 weeks and I would like some clarifying ideas on creating a solid foundation upon which to build my new staff; priorities, focus, feed-back/coaching schedule, basic good leadership concepts, etc. Anything that you wish you had done or thought about when you were first building your work environment.  

I am an experienced retail sales manager with 20+ years in hardlines commission sales, the business I am managing now is a women's clothing retailer. My learning curve will be in visual merchandising.

The company standard for my volume is a management staff of 1 store manager, 2 assistant managers and 7-10 part-time non-commission sales pros. I have 1 assistant manager who moved to join my store from within the company and I hired a 2nd assistant manager who has 5 years of visual merchandising and supervisory experience with one of my competitors. She relocated to our area where they do not have a store.

I had our first management team meeting yesterday. We spent time getting to know each other on a personal level, work experience, etc. Then we spent time deciding what we wanted our team to be known for in the market and company. We walked thru what our expecations were for the customer/sales associate interaction experience. I gave them my expectations for feedback, using the behaviors I learned on the feeback podcast.

I have given them the opportunity to conduct 2nd interviews with my final choices and to tell me which people they believe should be on our team.

I would like anything ideas or thoughts on team building, setting the right behaviors in motion from the beginning that anyone might have .

Thanks so much,


mattpalmer's picture

I don't have anything to contribute particularly, I just want to say that I'm in awe of your calm, straightforward approach from the very beginning.  I know it takes a lot more than just good staff management to make a successful retail store, but you've got a much better foundation than the retail places I worked in when I was at school.  Best of luck to you!

lydiafre's picture

Hey Matt,

Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. I can also learn from things I should avoid doing so if you think of anything from your previous jobs that you know doesn't work, I'd be happy to hear that too.

Thanks again for taking the time to make my day!

mattpalmer's picture

Looking back on it, it was mostly  just generic management failings, the likes you'd see at practically any organisation.  Things like not having clear lines of reporting and control.  I worked in a large department store, like an Australian version of Sears, and there was a whole regiment of faceless middle managers who'd come down from on high to hassle us, seemingly at random, then disappear, never to be seen again.  There was no opportunity to get to build a relationship on either side.  I doubt that'll be an issue in your smaller, more tightly-woven team.

lydiafre's picture

Thanks Matt! Your comment brought an important focus back for me. I've been very concerned about empowering and team-building, etc. but I have to remember that my sales staff can't be left to feel there is no leadership accountability. They can only use our direction with confidence if they are confident in the leadership team. They should always know we are trustworthy, fair, and accountable.

There has been some talk in other stores of doing away with management position on name tags because the rest of the staff feels more open and relaxed when the titles are removed. This at the same time we are working toward sharing much of the manager's responsibilities and powers with the staff. The name tag doesn't seem like a big issue, but I think if the manager's position is blended so completely into the team as a whole, some teams may lose direction, focus and accountability. Am I being too "old school" in my thinking on this?

mattpalmer's picture

... but it's still visible on your forehead -- "I can fire you".  It's one of my favourite mental images from (I think) several casts.  M&M talk about how you can never be a "part of the team" because you walk around with an invisible (to you) sign on your forehead that says "I can fire you".  I think teams can only lose direction, focus and accountability when managers let them, and "sharing [...] responsibilities and powers" doesn't reduce your obligation to your company, your team, and yourself to maintain the direction, focus, and accountability.  I'm strongly in favour of sharing as much power and responsibility as possible.  I think it *adds* to accountability, it doesn't detract from it.

Consider the situation where a customer goes away dissatisfied because the sales assistant didn't have the power to, say, authorise a return (it was outside the store's stated policy on returns, but the situation legitimately justified a return, the customer wasn't just trying to rip off the store).  In that circumstance, the sales assistant can't really be held completely accountable for the satisfaction of the customer (they should still be required to provide, pleasant, courteous service, of course), because they didn't have the power to process the return -- to do what was necessary (and *appropriate*) to make the customer happy.  If you give the sales assistant that power, you can hold them more accountable.  It also improves their job satisfaction, because they can get the job done, rather than being hamstrung and have to say to the customer, "I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to do that" -- which makes the customer unhappy, who will probably in turn make the sales assistant unhappy... it's a recipe for a downward spiral of unpleasantness.  In short: the more power and responsibility you can give to the staff, the better it is for *everyone*.

However, I'm quite sure there's a great deal of power (and responsibility) you won't be giving away -- largely because you can't.  The power to hire and fire, for example, I'm sure won't be handed out to everyone in equal measure.  Responsibility for the ultimate success or failure of the store rests with you, as the person who has been vested with that responsibility by the company.  The board isn't going to accept "well, I shared that responsibility with the staff" as a reason why the store failed -- you'll still bear the consequences.  You're still going to be assessed on the performance of the tasks given to you.  Yes, you should make everyone feel as though they have a responsibility to help the store succeed (and the power to make that happen) but that doesn't lessen your responsibility.