At its core, leadership is about inspiring people to do their best. Several years ago, I took over a broken bookstore (near the bottom of rankings in a major chain), and in a little over a year, brought it back to 4th in the company out of hundreds of stores, based on metrics including sales, customer satisfaction, profitability, etc.
This is Part 5 of a 5-part series (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) in which I share leadership basics which can inspire your team to greatness. Even though I am no longer in the bookselling business, these principles are transferable to any leadership situation.
Actors are not at the top of their game all the time, but when they are “on stage,” they become their character. We can improve our performance by designating “on stage” and “backstage” areas in our work and life and being sure to “act” any time we are on stage.
When we are “on stage” with customers (guests) or co-workers, we are focused on doing what it takes to win with them. We put on the persona of the confident salesperson or the friendly customer service rep. We may not always feel confident, but we project confidence when we are on stage.
“Backstage” is a different matter altogether. We can express our doubt, frustration, fatigue, or fear backstage, either alone or with co-workers. We can let off steam and be ourselves, knowing backstage is safe. There were many shifts during the busy Christmas season that I would have to go backstage to clear my head or risk handling a situation wrong because I was tired and cranky!
As a team, we even let each other know if we needed to go “backstage” for a moment after a difficult interaction or long shift. As a leader, I’ve told team members to take it backstage if they need to cool off. Backstage gives you a chance to take a deep breath and collect yourself before putting on your persona and heading on stage again.
Before opening the store each day, we declared, “It’s showtime!” That let everyone know to put on their costume and perform.
The distinction of “on stage” and “backstage” was a key part of our success because it gave the team the confidence to perform all out and know they could go backstage to cool off and rest.
The leadership principles shared in this series are basic, down-to-earth practices that are easy to implement, and one or two of these ideas may lead to moderate wins for your team. What we found, however, was that the combination of a strong team, a high level of communication, and a strong culture was the key that led to extreme success for our team.
The best part was that not only did we excel as a store, but my leaders went on to other opportunities and took this legacy and learning with them to strengthen other teams. It was a win all the way around!
What would change in your workplace if you implemented some of these leadership basics?