Play your first string: How I took my store to #4 (Part 2)

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 2 of a 5-part series (Read Part 1) in which I will 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.

Photo courtesy of Anne Rossley (Creative Commons)

A strong leadership team is one of the most critical components of winning. Your team multiplies your efforts and expands your influence. Like the first string on a football team, they have the skills and finesse to lead the rest of the team to success.

I arrived at the store following the firing of the General Manager and several other leaders. A new merchandising manager came on board with me, and the inventory manager remained for a couple of weeks before I had to replace him too.

With a broken store and poisonous culture, I needed to put the right leaders in place to partner with me. I sought hard workers, but also leaders who were passionate about books and about upholding standards.

Multiply Yourself
I needed leaders eager to train others so they could expand their reach. It is important to be sure you are doing the right things, but even more important to coach and train your team members so that everyone models the same behaviors. How frustrating is it when you have to constantly redo things because someone does it differently?

The key action is to train your team to the standards so everyone plays by the same rules.

Coach Instead of Punish
I encouraged my leaders to pay attention to the team to ensure compliance, but since the remaining team members were wounded by the former leaders, gentle corrections were needed rather than heavy handed punishment.

By leading from a humble place and coaching constantly, I started solidifying the leadership team and setting the groundwork for improvement. Each new leader brought a positive attitude and uplifting spirit that spread through the entire team.

Praise Publicly
As our sales and customer satisfaction numbers started to rise, it was important to praise the team publicly. We started choosing an “Employee of the Month” and posting the framed certificates in the hallway, so everyone coming in the store saw who had done well. At morning meetings, we celebrated the folks who had great customer satisfaction reports. We cheered when we saw a team member do something great, whether that was to finish shelving their section in record time or find that obscure title for a customer. By recognizing the good behavior, we encouraged more of it.

When has your team been the key to winning?

Read Part 3, “What winning culture looks like.”  Thanks for reading!