Turnarounds are when leadership matters most. Managers can stem losses with a few bold strokes, such as slashing inventory or consolidating jobs. But putting a retail organization on a positive path toward future success also requires leaders to adjust their behavior and leadership style.
Prior to 2020, many executives, operators and leaders in high-growth companies were focused on fostering innovation, driving revenue, and gaining market share. Today, many of those same leaders have had to shift their focus and make rapid decisions about things like reducing inventory, closing stores, consolidating headcount and managing expenses. They are facing time sensitive issues, and have to move to a more operational position which drastically alters the scope of their roles and priorities.
This is not an easy transition., Those in charge will be tested in ways where they have not developed their leadership skills, and the learning curve will be steep. They will need regular coaching from their bosses or outside advisors to succeed.
When I was a senior executive at Nordstrom navigating the 2008 economic meltdown, I searched far and wide for an expert to provide outside counsel and help me develop strategies for turning my $2B business around. What I found were either CEOs that were still working in the industry and unavailable to help, or consultants well-versed in academic answers without hands-on experience. I needed guidance from a leader that had “been through it” and had practical solutions for me. I found my coach in a non-executive board member who, to this day, I credit with much of my learning and leadership development. Gratefully, today I am that person.
For the past 9 years, I have worked alongside buyers, managers, CEOS and investors in all types of consumer goods. No matter what the segment of business, or whether it is thriving or failing, leadership is at the core. The quality and capabilities of the leader directly correlates with the level of success. And these four behaviors have been present in all the successful leaders I have worked with.
1: Practice Speed in Decision Making
2: Be Nimble and Adaptable
3: Measure Performance and Provide Recognition
4: Connect and Communicate
If you can model these behaviors, daily issues and crises are much easier to solve and the road to recovery is much smoother.
Behavior 1: Speed in Decision Making
The environment is changing by the day. Information may be incomplete, but it is important to process the available information quickly, align with your new priorities, and make decisions with conviction.
Determining how decisions will be made in this new environment, and by whom, will enable speed. Some decisions will need to be top down while others can and should be made within the organization.
Behavior 2: Adapt regularly without Flip-Flopping
In times of uncertainty, it is imperative that you decide what NOT to do. This could mean what classifications you will no longer buy, what marketing projects you will put on hold, or what regions / channels you may no longer pursue. Whatever they are, put large, costly initiatives on hold and save expenses until you solve the immediate issues of today.
Create an interim set of priorities and focus , and align organizational talent, performance metrics, capital and human resources accordingly.
But, if this new playbook is not yielding results, and new information becomes available, do not be afraid to course correct and adjust.
Being nimble is one of the most important behaviors leaders can possess during these times. I was occasionally accused of “flip flopping” when in reality I was constantly learning and adjusting to make progress.
Behavior 3: Adjust Performance Metrics and Celebrate Success
How you measured success in the past is probably irrelevant in the current state.
It is important you:
Behavior 4: Be Transparent and Available
In times of crisis, no job is more important than taking care of your team. In my experience, frequent, honest and positive communication is critical.
I held weekly meetings with my direct reports immediately following the executive meetings I attended with the Nordstrom family.
My purpose was twofold:
Sometimes these meetings were only 15 minutes but they were motivating.
Additionally, I made myself more available and reached out daily to check the “pulse” on the team. However you can, find ways to connect and support your employees.
Leading during a crisis will reveal a great deal about you and your organization. When the immediate problems are under control and you get to the other side, there will inevitably be another crisis to conquer. If you work on these behaviors you will be much better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
The time is now!
Contact me directly to help you navigate your turnaround plans @ Lorettasoffe@live.com