negativity is on offense, and positivity is on defense
I am relatively veracious with daily information (news, podcasts, vlogs, etc.) and to be completely honest, I really struggle with the amount of negativity in the fashion industry, and specifically about brick/mortar retail. When I see a headline about the “death of retail” and the “apocalypse” I do take it personally, and it is one of the primary reasons that I started writing this blog.
Yes, things are changing, yes things are hard for many retail businesses and yes stores are closing, that just means we need to be smarter, faster, and more agile (FIT) about how we approach business, acknowledging the fact that things will never be the same as they were even 5 years ago.
I would venture to say that negativity is on the offense, and positivity is on defense. And we as leaders have an enormous impact on changing this.
To start, everyone wants to work in place where they look forward to showing up every day, full of positive energy and smiling faces. And the minute the positive energy and smiling faces are gone, let’s be honest, so are our customers.
We have to commit to creating a positive work environment for the entire team. When you and your team feel encouraged, accepted and happy, they are more motivated, more engaged, and more likely to create exceptional customer experiences, creating “promoters” or “advocates” that willingly share their positive experiences, therefore putting you in the offensive. Yes, it takes time out of your day, but the process of creating a joyous workplace brings a sense of purpose to your work and results in dedicated performances.
- nothing beats a face to face meeting
This may sound very simple, but when you make the effort to connect with your team members in person, individually and in groups, as often as possible, you’re establishing a position of caring that motivates people in unlimited ways. It is easy to send short messages in emails or texts, and then rely on these small exchanges for most of your communication, but remember we are all human, and most humans respond well to the real thing...in-person communication that says, “you matter.”
This becomes more difficult the larger your organization, but even hearing someone on a call can change a perspective and make a positive impact.
- be generous with your compliments, it’s easy to do
One of the most concerning things heard from employees in is that they do not feel appreciated. That we, as leaders, do not understand how hard it is to balance all the different priorities of being on the sales floor, or working in a stockroom with too many units and not enough space, or spending an hour on the phone with an upset customer. The second someone says, “nice job” or “you made a difference,” you feel like you matter in a way that gives our work a sense of purpose. If you’re not so inclined to give out verbal gold stars, an easy place to start is with a simple “thank you.”
From there give meaningful appreciation, linking the high-fives and “nice jobs” with a more specific detailed picture behind your acknowledgment. This way, your team can understand what they’re doing well, and do more of it. Also, detailed praise shows you’re paying attention and not throwing around empty phrases. When people feel like they’re doing good work, they want to rise to the occasion even more.
-your team is full of good ideas, so ask them for their input
They’re in the trenches (or on the floor) all day, bringing their own experience and perspectives to their work. If there’s a way to organize something in a more efficient way, or merchandise something on the floor that increases sales, listen and do something with feedback. The business world moves so fast nobody can afford to stay with a status quo for too long. Instead, make it a habit to listen to new ideas (you could structure appropriate time periods for this, too), and this will tell everyone they are a valuable part of the team. Give the good ideas a try; you never know what might happen, other than the team becoming more invested in their work, for starters.
-trust that they are doing a great job, even when you are not there
This is a harder rule to practice for some more than others. Try to default to the assumption that your team is made up of adult, responsibility-taking, competent people that do not need to be treated like children. In action terms, this means that when you delegate, really let go and let the individual own the task you gave them. In a business that is 7 days a week like retail, trusting that your team is handling things well when you are not there is difficult but so very important to building a positive work environment.
-have some fun once in while
Everyone wants to have fun at work, even though everyone defines “fun” a little differently. Fun happens when people feel well-connected with a team where there’s mutual respect, open communication, acceptance of who people are and everyone is collaborating and working toward the same goal. When teams are working well together, it makes it easier to be spontaneous and have some fun, whether it’s a last-minute pizza party after a product launch, or a brief pause in the afternoon to tell stories and have a few laughs over topics that have nothing to do about work.
Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of business.
So, the next time you read a negative story about brick and mortar retail, commit to changing that perception, one team member, one customer at a time by consistently practicing a few of these things above. Together we can make an enormous positive impact on the future of our industry!