Retail managers are responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day activities happening in their stores. Constant contact with customers and teams, managing budgets, maintaining records, overseeing prices and stock, meeting goals, and motivating staff are just a few of the many priorities on their plates at any given time. With so much to focus on, how can you tell a great retail manager from a good one?
The best retail managers go beyond making sure their team is happy and the store is running smoothly. They’re the ones who understand how the retail world truly works, have a great grasp of how to manage store processes like inventory checks and scheduling, and are invested in evolving within their roles. A great retail manager also elevates the entire team and helps good employees become great ones.
Yet, great retail managers aren’t born overnight. They work hard to understand who they’re working with, their personal management style, and how to be a leader. If you’re interested in boosting your own retail management skills, here are a few tips to consider.
Take an Interest in Your Team.
Every team is full of interesting, well-rounded employees that have a life outside of work. Get to know what they’re like off the clock by asking about their weekend plans, grabbing lunch together, or planning some team bonding activities. When you get to know those you work with, you’ll learn the ways they work and communicate best. Plus, when people feel like they’re working with friends instead of acquaintances, accountability increases, goals become unified, and work becomes more efficient.
Since what’s going on outside of work has a tremendous impact on what happens inside of work, relationship building may show you a new perspective, increase their connection to your company, and further encourage your team to be themselves.
Other benefits from taking an interest in employees are stronger feelings of value, more trust, increased comfort with you as a leader, and important insights that can lead to potential opportunities. According to Kelly Wolske, an Insights Trainer for online retailer Zappos, “A manager may already know an employee’s strengths, but learning what their passions are can add new meaning and drive. When strengths and passions collide, that’s real purpose.”
Take a minute to see how well you know your team. Does anyone have a birthday this month? Is anyone from your team married or engaged? Can you name some of the hobbies your employees enjoy? Who’s the most creative on your team? Who’s the most analytical? What are some of the things that are currently causing stress for your team? If these questions are tough to answer, you might want to take some time to chat with your team.
Figure Out Your Management Style.
The way you manage your team can reveal a lot about your success as a retail manager. A great retail manager has mastered the delicate balance of task direction and people management. Task-oriented leaders may be able to get work done faster and more effectively, but they must also remember to put effort into the people side of the business so employees feel respected and valued. Employees ultimately work best in an environment where the manager cares about them but also clearly communicates goals and expectations.
Striking a balance between delegation and hands-on action is also key. Kay Herniman, manager of Fred Perry in the U.K., has worked in retail management for many years, including working in fashion jobs in Oasis and Selfridges. In an article on Retailchoice.com, she says “I used to try and do everything in store and my staff members viewed this as mistrusting. I’ve now learned to delegate well. I think it’s important to get the balance between the two, always be prepared to get your hands dirty and don’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t. For example, I always help unload deliveries and have been known to clean the toilets!”
Hone Your Leadership Abilities.
According to research from the National Retail Federation, the best retail managers have several skills in common. They’re dependable, they have excellent communication skills, and they’re self-motivated. Plus, they know how to keep employees engaged, resolve any problems that pop up, and make challenging decisions quickly. So how can you lead instead of simply manage staff?
The trick is teamwork. It’s important to reinforce positive behaviors, make realistic performance goals, and foster an atmosphere that values information sharing, peer-to-peer directions, and follow-up actions. Through proper delegation, group goals, cooperation, and cross-training, teams can solve problems on their own. Plus, by giving your team the resources they need to do a great job, motivating them to work together, and trusting them to do the best they can, it’ll free up more time to focus on other leadership tactics like planning for change and innovation.
Remember, all great retail managers started out as part of the team. By using their people skills, adopting a management style that works for them, and fine-tuning their leadership abilities, they’ve shown that they can propel the business forward into the future while both caring about employees and meeting sales deadlines. If being a great retail manager is something you strive for, practice these important skills to reach the next level in no time.