What leadership lessons have retailers learned during the pandemic?
In a keynote session at CES’s first virtual trade show, Corie Barry, Best Buy’s CEO, said she believes her role as leader is to create conditions for others to succeed and that’s been a “huge component” behind the consumer electronic chain’s success during the pandemic.
“When you unleash other amazing people to do great work, they will organically do more than you ever thought possible,” she said.
She believes Best Buy clearly benefited from four prior years of supply chain investments to support anticipated online growth. That helped scale many omnichannel practices as the pandemic emerged.
But the severity of the crisis, she believes, emboldened her team to quickly set up curbside, ship-from-store and other practices as needs were accelerated.
“There’s something very unifying about a pandemic,” she said. “And what I mean is when you’re so worried about your employees’ safety, your customers’ safety and making sure people get what you know they fundamentally need to live, that’s a very unifying factor. All of a sudden you worry a lot less about which channel it is happening in.”
She also believes Best Buy’s purpose-driven positioning helped as “clarity of purpose provides clarity of direction in a time of crisis.”
At Best Buy, the company’s purpose is “To Enrich Lives Through Technology” and that mission was heightened as stay-at-home households embraced tech solutions for working, learning, entertaining and even cooking. She said, “That’s not just a tagline; we believe that’s fundamentally what we’re here to do.”
A second purpose for Best Buy is social, and that plank became critical last year in Best Buy’s response to the protests and discussions around racial injustice.
Finally, the third purpose, personal, involves work and aligning personal lives in harmony and that’s underlined by Best Buy’s four inclusive leadership behaviors: empathy, courage, vulnerability and grace.
“When you find an intersection between the company, the social and the personal purpose, there is great power in that,” said Ms. Barry. “In a time of crisis, the clearer you are about the intersection of those things, the more quickly you can make decisions and pivot.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What leadership lessons have retailers learned from the pandemic? Has being purpose-driven and focused on employee empowerment been an advantage in helping some retailers speed omnichannel rollouts and manage challenges?