BrainTrust Query: The Participative Leader

Discussion
Sep 17, 2012

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

A couple weeks ago the Daily Retail Quote — published by the Dynamic Experiences Group for retailers to post in their stores — was, "True leadership comes not from position but from participation and effectiveness."

Some of the best leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and/or working with go far beyond managing people. They’re active participants in the success of their staff and their business.

Here are some of the ways I see strong store leaders participating in their team’s success:

1. They start each workday with a Take Five meeting. (Some of you might call it a huddle.) You know I can’t let a month go by without emphasizing the importance of the Take Five. Those few minutes every day are the cornerstone of participative management. A Take Five is a leader’s opportunity to participate in his/her employees’ daily development by sharing key information and inspiration, and focusing each employee on a key area of personal growth for the day.

2. They are actively engaged in each employee’s success. Many managers approach leadership with an attitude of "let me know if you need anything or if I can be of any help." The participative leader is much more proactive. Throughout the day and week he/she is ensuring that each employee is on-track to be successful. No, they don’t micromanage. That’s not participative. That’s telling people what to do. Instead, they engage the staff; asking questions; challenging them; jumping in and helping if needed.

3. They seek employee participation on strategic discussion and tactical direction. I’m not a big fan of getting employee "buy in." I almost cringe when I hear that term. What’s buy in? They agree to go along with it?

Participative leaders get ownership. They engage their team in the key discussions that lead to the store’s success. It doesn’t mean the staff is making the decisions about what to do. That’s still the leader’s role, but the staff has contributed to the discussions and offered ideas to create short and long-term success.

4. They’re always learning from their employees. A lot people think that leaders have to have all the right answers. Not so. Great leaders know they don’t have the answers, but they seek answers from everyone they can — especially those closest to the customer. To participate means to share, and it’s vital that sharing happen in both directions.

5. Their actions sets the example while contributing to the store’s success. Leaders can do all the training and write all the memos they want, but it’s their actions that teach employees the store/company standards and what’s expected, and how to meet those expectations. They go beyond leading by example; they lead by actions and participation.

What defines ’true leadership’ in a store owner or store manager? What would you add to the suggestions around guiding staff mentioned in the article?

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11 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: The Participative Leader"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Great article by Doug. The common thread is the need for managers to be visible on the “sales floor” (or its parallel in the restaurant and customer service businesses). The idea of “observe, correct and encourage” may be even more important for managers than the age-old idea of leading by example.

Mark Heckman
Guest
9 years 8 months ago
As a former store and later a HQ department manager, I concur with all five of the participative leadership principles listed. But key to putting yourself in position to practice these five leadership axioms, you must first have a clear view of how you as a leader organizes your group and how the leader spends each minute of the day. Having a poor group structure, for example having too many direct reports, can hinder the leader’s ability to practice the tenets of good leadership. To that end, there is also a balancing act of sorts that all good leaders recognize between “doing” and “leading,” between communicating up to shareholders or senior managers, and communication within the group. Finding the right balance is essential in having the time and focus to engage in these five leadership practices. I believe of the five, the last principle of leading by example, may be the most important. If your personal actions are not in sync with your directives, your group likely find you insincere and out of touch with… Read more »
J. Peter Deeb
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

True leaders recognize the value of building a good team. This means not only challenging people to reach their true potential, but also identifying future leaders and developing them. Also key is removing poor performers and problem employees. Nothing can destroy a team’s morale more than members staying around when they don’t pull their weight or respond to the leader’s training and development process. This can be more difficult in a union shop, but must be done to insure team ownership.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 8 months ago
96% of all corporations are still stuck in a Newtonian model of what is erroneously called “leadership.” Really it’s “management” at best and “custodialism” in truth. By far the majority of time is spent on solving problems and keeping the wheels from squeaking. Even if fully successful, this simply fixes something that happened yesterday; in other words is focused on the past. Real leaders don’t “solve problems,” they “see possibilities.” Possibilities exist only in the future. Indeed the only purpose of a problem is to point to its highest possibility. If that possibility didn’t exist, neither would the problem. The shadows in Plato’s cave (problems) verified the existence of a reality waiting to be seen (possibilities). We are in the ‘energetic’ age where we are just beginning to understand how the universe works. Since it is held together and is run by energy, it stands to reason that every retail entity is as well. Those that see and act on this will unassailably own their space in the market. Every dimension in retail (or anything… Read more »
Tom Redd
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Great piece. In the store space items, I see #1 and #2 (Huddle and get involved in the associate’s career) as critical in lowering turnover and helping the associate understand how important they are in the retail business model, the shopper’s lives, and to their store.

After listening to retail interns, these areas seem to be weak in some of the largest specialty retailers.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

All I would add is: Shares goals and desired outcomes, not methods, techniques, and activities to accomplish them. Establish expectations and then let people achieve.

Great topic and excellent points!

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Having been a store manager in the distant past, I would agree with the suggestions in this article. Team building, “shadow the leader,” be visible, get excited publicly when a team member does something well, celebrate success, share the work in business challenges, etc., etc., are all great ways to lead.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

One important basic not mentioned is the fact that a manager must always keep in mind that the associate, on a very fundamental level, is thinking, “what’s in it for me?” It sounds selfish and the best people will never actually say that, but believe me, we’re all thinking it.

So, if you keep that in mind, you’ll insert into every presentation to associates (multiple or single) regarding what needs to be done or where or how with this, ” . . .so, here’s what’s in it for you.” If you don’t have that answer, you will most likely not be successful in your endeavor.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Like the author, I believe that great leaders are great managers, great workers, and have a low-level of humility; such that they are shirt-sleeve workers along with the rest of their team. They treat each day as an opportunity and a challenge, and learn from their employees who they work along side of while measuring their performance based upon the success of their team. They are integrated with their staff, rather than managing over them. This perspective impacts everything they do, and it shows. It is “our” efforts, and they are a part of each effort. This keeps them an integral part of the corporate communication and focus from the inside out….

Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I think one of the elements that a leader can really bring to the table is clearly understanding their team’s individual and collective strengths. Using a tool like StrengthsFinder can help a leader learn more about how each member of the team works best. It can also be used to help the team understand how their leader functions. This results in focusing on what helps the team work in the most optimal way possible.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 8 months ago
More has been written about what traits make great managers and leaders than almost any other subject when it comes to building great companies. For the last 5 years I have been asking the following questions in almost every presentation I deliver and have developed a list of some of the most common answers. First question: How many of you have ever worked for a great manager or leader? If you answer yes to the questions what were some of the things that made this person so great? 1. They only allowed great players or their teams. 2. If they made a mistake and the wrong player got on the teams they learned to fail fast. 3. They managed each person as an individual, not as a part of some group. 4. They set high expectations and held them selves and others accountable. 5. They not only said what needed to be done, they said how it needed to be done and why it needed to me done. (How it needed to be done was… Read more »
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