Why Store Managers Have To Be Great at Hard Conversations

In retail one of the toughest gigs is that of a store manager. Not only are they responsible for their own and team’s performance, they are also responsible to achieve store targets. Throw in the need to keep customers happy as well as implement various initiatives from head office and the role becomes pretty stressful.

Gallup research uncovered that managers on average work four hours longer per week than individual contributors. I’d suggest in retail the extra hours would be more than four! Managing a store is tough, yet also very rewarding. However, it is a supreme juggling act of trying to keep many different people happy.

This need to try and keep everyone happy, particularly their team as well as head office is very challenging. When they talk to their superior’s they are always positive and agree with everything. When they talk to their team members they want to be liked too. This mindset is often the source of many issues and challenges.

Ironically this style of store manager can be held in high regard by both leaders and their team, but in reality they are dysfunctional. They don’t serve their team or their leaders well as they aren’t being honest with anyone and this often leads to an us versus them mentality. I have witnessed this a number of times in store, when I hear store managers saying “that’s what head office want us to do, I don’t know why, just do it.”

Over time, divisions form, change is resisted and managers and team members ultimately identify with their own team, especially if their views are at odds with head office. The best retailers ensure there is clear communication going both ways, down the chain to stores but also back up, to take on board store feedback. This certainly helps to get rid of the us and them syndrome.

The reality is, store managers have to have the courage to be honest and be able to communicate the hard truths to their team as well as up the chain of command. Hard conversations are never fun or easy but they are more likely to result in positive outcomes and a win/win all round.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.