One of the exciting and sometimes frustrating challenges of retail management is that you have a number of different priorities to deal with all at the same time. District managers, regional managers, and other retail leaders who are responsible for leading multiple stores and locations have more things going on than is possible to accomplish in a given day. Clear goals and a plan to keep focused are essential.
But the job is hard at all levels. That means you can’t just be focused on your own goals. A big part of a multiunit manager’s job is to make sure store managers and associates remain motivated and performing at their best, even when you’re not there.
Retail Management Actions That Make the Difference
From our national retail research into the key challenges and success factors of multiunit managers, we uncovered several specific actions that the most effective DMs, RMs, and other leaders take to keep ahead of consumer demands while helping store leaders and teams continually grow to meet retail’s challenges.
Here’s what your managers can learn from them:
- Be Intentional
Being intentional goes beyond planning to having a clear purpose or intent before communicating or interacting. When you’re leading from a distance, your actions have a wider ripple effect. What you say and do matters more. Effective multiunit managers start with the end in mind before they act. Before any location visit, conference call, or communication, they ask themselves: “Why am I communicating?” “What is the purpose of this interaction?”
- Prepare to Play Multiple Roles
In the constantly changing retail environment, growing your team and its capabilities is essential. But a one-size-fits-all leadership strategy doesn’t work. For this reason, adaptability was a key characteristic shared by the top-performing multiunit managers in our study. They flex as necessary to fill different roles, including teacher, coach, mentor, and champion.
- Share Expectations Around Technology
The way managers use technology reinforces how they want their teams to respond. What are you shaping? Are you constantly on your phone or tablet? Top-performing multiunit managers use technology strategically. They also recognize what should and what shouldn’t be communicated or handled via technology.
- Maximize In-Person Time
Conference calls only go so far in changing team behavior. Those rare moments when you are with your team are the most powerful in their ability to influence behavior. The team can get a much better sense of expectations, and the manager is better able to get to the root cause of issues, model real-time coaching, and make instant adjustments based on customer and management team opportunities that present themselves. Successful multiunit managers also take advantage of this time to coach and reinforce the behaviors that strengthen leadership and team performance.
- Build Relationships Before You Need Them
Multiunit managers are “in between” the field and home office. Sometimes there’s an additional layer of region or territory as well. DMs often need the advice and assistance of those who don’t report to them, so they need to influence others in the organization with whom they have no authority. Top-performing managers in our study do things like proactively contacting key partners to update them on plans or priorities. They ask for their feedback and insights, and they let them know how much they appreciate the partnership.
Having rapport with an internal partner doesn’t always mean they’ll be able to do what you need them to do. But it does ease the way when trying to influence their support and provide a better understanding of how both of your areas can collaborate to achieve common goals and outcomes. The same applies to external community and business partners as well.
Customers vote every day with their dollars and time, and even though online shopping has changed the game significantly, when it comes to high-value customer experience, technology is no match for talented people. As Andrew Goldberg, vice chairman of real estate services company CBRE Group, recently told Advertising Age, “You can’t buy an experience online. The retailers are going to have to evolve and do a better job of making it worth the customer’s effort to come to the store.”
It’s a tall order, particularly when your to-do list is already overflowing. But by following the lead of successful multiunit managers, it’s well within your organization’s reach.