Leadership vs Management

Why “tell” no longer works

Leadership vs Management

In today’s retail world of being competitive, productive and differentiated, “telling” no longer works as a management style (not that it ever really did).

Historical Investment

The 3 key areas of performance in retail are:

  1. Stock performance
  2. Space performance
  3. People performance

Stock and space performance has historically had the most investment while investment in people has been more limited. Historically training or Learning and Development, focuses on showing people how to be efficient and pleasant, that is, how to do what they are told.

Investment Gap

There is often a disparity between the majors and the independents. Majors spend up to 5% on people development while multiples is nearer 2%. More is usually invested in logistics and shop refits.

Why Change

One of the things senior people or owners of businesses say to us is – “why do they not think for themselves”? Or “why don’t they just do what we tell them”? There are many reasons.

On the one hand, we visit stores where the manager has built a strong high performing team. The issue is that most of the time, this is due to the individual building a high performing team rather than a system which does this. Once those leaders leave, the team is no longer high performing.

Younger recruits want more involvement and look for their lead from their peers, bloggers etc., not like when I started in retail – “you better get on the ladder and listen to your seniors”.

Lastly and most importantly, shoppers are more likely to be customers if the store team are more engaging and help them make good buying decisions. Happy people sell and involved people are happy people – sounds simple but how strong a culture is it throughout your estate?


If the spread in performance between the top stores and the bottom stores in an Area is greater than 25%, then there may be a performance opportunity. We often justify performance spread by external factors or simply judge internal factors on presentation, stock control and the Manager.

A high performing team will perform as well when the manager is off and this is as a result of the Area Manager setting up the right culture of involvement, accountability and commerciality.

Leadership Is Asking

Ask before tell, show before sell, is a phrase we use in our sales programme. We think this applies also in leadership.

Our experience is many Area Managers are managers more than leaders, they spend their time assessing and issuing instructions. From my earlier comment “why do they not think for themselves? – the answer may be because your AMs keep giving them lists.

Leadership Coaching

3D printing – Is revolutionising the production world. No more expensive tooling, low cost testing and piloting, short batch production, easy speed of change, but the challenge is anyone can do it with the right equipment.

3D retailing – Give your Area Managers the system for Leadership, make it easy to follow and quick to change the circumstances and respond to changing consumer behaviour and expectations.

Turn 80% tell into 80% ask, involve teams and every individual in achieving high levels of personal and team productivity.

  1. Set the direction and targets
  2. Map what great looks like
  3. Educate – help with how
  4. Ask more than tell (80% ask)
  5. Look for bright spots more than fix problems
  6. Celebrate success
  7. Help those who struggle
  8. Hold everyone accountable for their effort


The RPS 3 step coaching process is a simple conversational tool that engages teams to be commercial at every level:

Stage 1: the planning conversation

Stage 2: the skills and implementation conversation

Stage 3: the review of outcomes and accountability conversation

The simple rule, ask before you tell sounds easy and is when delivered well and consistently.

The fundamental shift in behaviour to be a high-performing manager