Success in Retail Environment Requires Leadership Skills

Success in Retail Environment Requires Leadership Skills

May 16, 2018
Annette Maggi
Business Skills

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Leadership in the retail setting is not just for top management.  Any and all staff who manage people or projects or new initiatives must build strong leadership skills to be effective in the retail setting.  Retail hours are long.  All levels of retailers operate with lean staff. Sales targets often feel unreachable.  But those with effective leadership skills can thrive in this environment.    

Key leaderships skills to learn and practice include:

  • Time Management. It’s essential to know when to delay a project or tactic as well as when to delegate responsibilities to direct reports or colleagues.  You also must become very effective in handle interruptions and distractions.  These can often detract focus away from key priorities, and leadership requires unfailing commitment to top strategies.  Learning to say “no” graciously and with explanation is an indication that you have mastered this leadership skill. 
  • Change Management.  Shoppers’ needs change, retail management moves around frequently leading to style changes, and competitors are constantly knocking at your door jockeying for market leadership.  Yet, change is what often drives success in retail. As a leadership dimension, success in change management means you can anticipate upcoming changes, lead groups through problem solving, managing through change, and champion innovation and progress.       
  • Contribution to retailer’s commercial success.  Can you identify a project you’ve implemented or influenced that has made a difference to your retailer’s business?  Real leadership means being commercially aware, understanding the retail business climate, the challenges faced, who your competitors are and what they do well.  You must consider why different retailers are successful and what is happening in the broader industry; you can then create a clear agenda as to how your programs and services contribute to your retailer’s business success.
  • Creation of good team culture.  If you are an RD team of one or the most recent hire on a team of 100, most of your retail work requires partnering with others within and external to the organization.  Understand other functions within your company and how to effectively partner with them.  Learn to leverage the roles, responsibilities, and experience of other groups to drive success in your own programs.  Having a team attitude is an essential retail leadership skill.
  • Confident Communication.  Retailers are becoming savvier about the skills they look for when hiring retail dietitians, and communications is a high priority.  In this role, you will work with colleagues, the general public, business partners and the media; effective communication skills are essential to getting the job done.  Being confident in your communications means listening intently, adapting your style to suit others, and learning the jargon and language of your environment.  Mimic the communication style of high performers to understand what works well at your retailer.