The Situational Leadership® Model in the Retail Industry

This is the second in a series of blog posts that will highlight our experience with different industries. The first blog examined our partnerships with Restaurant, Food and Beverage organizations, and can be found here. The paragraphs that follow will highlight our experience with the retail industry.

In a word the retail industry is massive. It has a collective market value of over $47 trillion and a compound annual growth rate of almost 8%. It is the largest market in the United States and the fastest growing market in Asia Pacific. Approximately 16 million people in the United States are employed by retail, and roughly 16% of retail sales are conducted through e-commerce.

In our experience, retail is also defined by fluidity (for lack of a better term!) and philosophy:

  • Fluidity – People move (and sometimes move abruptly!) in retail. At the entry level they can “come and go” … then … come back again! If they stick around for a while they can get promoted into management quickly, then have several opportunities for lateral moves or further upward migration. In large part because of this movement, retail tends to conduct training somewhat uniquely.They typically identify a venue and descend upon it for a week-long orientation targeting multiple levels. As such, entry-level employees, store managers, regional managers, etc., would be attending training at the same time.  Some of our larger retail customers conduct these sessions quarterly and on a regional basis.
  • Philosophy – It would appear there are two distinctive philosophies that govern the role of leadership development in retail:
    • Leadership Training as a Cost – “Compared to everything else we do, measuring the impact of leadership training is an educated guess … at best.”
    • Leadership Training as an Investment – “We prioritize measuring the results that are tied to our leadership development efforts, and they continue to yield dividends of significance.”

These disparate philosophies are by no means confined to retail, but in our experience, they are pronounced (organization to organization) within this realm. As to the results and dividends those employing serious leader-development initiatives identify, here are three that are consistently mentioned.

  1. Accelerated Onboarding – There are real dollars associated with the time it takes to turn a novice into a functioning expert (in Situational Leadership® terms—help someone move from the right side of the model [R1 to R2] to the left [R3 to R4]). Situational Leaders at the store manager level in retail can (and do) accelerate this migration.
  2. Quality Development – The Situational Leadership® methodology initiates with a task … which provides store managers the opportunity to develop a high quality, trust-based relationship over time. In essence, the manager and the employee form that relationship around the work that needs to be done.
  3. Increased Retention – When employees have a high-quality relationship with their immediate supervisor, it has a measurable, positive impact on their level of engagement. High levels of employee engagement translate to short-term goal achievement and an increased propensity to both consider and pursue a career (even in a highly volatile industry).

We were fortunate enough to get a quote from one of our retail customers that provides perspective on why the Situational Leadership® Model resonates in cultures that value and prioritize leadership development:

  • “Invariably, when we run our week-long leadership training experiences and ask learners what resonated the most, they say the Situational Leadership® approach. When we ask why, they tell us it is both practical and useable.”

We (CLS) are honored by that (of course!) and look forward to helping our retail customers to continue to build leaders in this vibrant and ever-expanding industry!