Retail Observer

February 2015

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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RETAILOBSERVER.COM FEBRUARY 2015 44 Libby Wagner Culture Coach Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain Profit Cultures. RO O ne of my clients called me during a particularly difficult time. He was only a year into his new role as a CEO and he was beginning to regret his decision of relocating his family and joining an organization he thought he could lead into a promising future. But after a soul-searching, sleepless year, he'd lost 87% of his executive team, morale was at an all-time low, and he had two lawsuits pending against him by disgruntled employees. We got together to talk about what he wanted (what was happening was not what he wanted; he felt clear about that!) and what his vision was for his company. He wanted a management team that was creative and innovative, who rolled up their sleeves to get the hard work done, who were willing to challenge the status quo and develop loyalty and commitment inside their programs and departments. He wanted the organization to elevate its status as an "employer of choice" in the community, where people loved to come to work, felt valued and engaged and gave amazing customer service. He wanted to be known in his industry as a progressive leader, modeling quality and productivity while maintaining or exceeding industry standards. He was genuinely in earnest. He really wanted to be a great leader and to make a difference. One of the toughest things about my work is that I promise to tell the truth. Granted, there is a difference between respectful honesty and disrespectful honesty, but in the end, it's about sharing what I see in front of me as verifiable. As a consultant and trusted advisor, my clients pay me to give it to 'em straight. The night before I am scheduled to talk with a leader after I've conducted a cultural assessment, 360 survey or a series of team interviews, is the hardest. Often, I have to meet this person with the information I've gathered, and the verdict is in: "Dude, it's you." In other words, it's not these terrible, lazy, minimally performing employees, cantankerous partners or difficult suppliers. It's you. The leader. The person where the buck stops—here. This was the case with my well-meaning CEO. Though he had a great, compelling vision, part of the problems he was encountering were either instigated by him, or enabled by him. He certainly wasn't the cause for all of the poor behaviors and choices, but he was responsible for dealing with them. And, importantly, the big gap was between his intentions (which were grand) and his behaviors. His team perceived him as controlling, closed and intimidating. They might show up to challenge the status quo or come up with something creative, as he'd told them he wanted, but were met with resistance, yelling and an unwillingness to listen. He was confusing people because he'd say one thing, but then he'd do another. Plus, no one really knew the good heart and earnest intentions he had for the organization in the way that I did because he'd never really told them in the way he'd told me. You may need to have an honest conversation with yourself: • Are my intentions and behaviors congruent? Do I practice what I preach? • Am I sharing my big vision for my company or team? Does everyone know what's important to me in addition to the financial goals? • How am I inviting truth-telling in my organization? Can (and do) people come to me with honest feedback and questions? It's never too late to do the right thing, so even if you've had a realization of "Wow... it could be me," you may want to take a closer look at how you're supporting or hindering your company's success. And, frankly, sometimes it takes the help of an interested, trusted outsider who's willing to help you and your business grow. Call me if you'd like to talk! 206-316-2567. "DUDE—IT'S YOU "

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