Throughout history the lighthouse has played an important role in navigation and pilotage at sea; its purpose is to guide, to show the way, to warn of danger and generally provide safe entry into harbors.
The Store Manager is the lighthouse for the employees of a retail store and the Head Office is the lighthouse for all of their retail employees nationwide.
Lighthouses do not shift positions; they stand firm and bright and can always be counted upon to guide those looking to them for that purpose.
If lighthouses moved; changed direction and sometimes turned out their lights they could not be counted on and, therefore, could not have become such an enduring navigation aid.
Granted, technology has diminished the need for the lighthouse as we know it. But other tools and devices now replace the lighthouse.
So it is not that the need for guidance no longer exists but only that there are now different ways to provide it.
As long as humans are manning retail stores and as long as retailers want to stay in the game, the Store Manager must be the guidance device…the lighthouse.
The Manager must provide consistent guidance. In every aspect of the store operation there must be clear and consistent management at all times.
I am talking about the kind of management that is based on integrity, respect, knowledge and principles; the kind of management that every Manager should practice and so few do.
The Manager with integrity and respect for others will not say one thing and then do another; or make a mountain out of molehill one day and ignore the very same circumstances that precipitated the outburst the next.
S/he will not forget that employees- all employees regardless of their position, performance or abilities – should be praised in public and disciplined in private.
S/he will establish and abide by some golden rules and insist that others abide by them also.
They will ensure there are rewards and consequences and that both are consistently applied.
The Manager with knowledge – both general and retail specific – must use that knowledge for the good of the people and the organization.
S/he must constantly engage in productive conversation and activities that transfer that knowledge to others in the store/organization.
This Manager must make his/her knowledge free for the asking and everyone must be encouraged to ask.
The Manager with principles will not be thrown off course by whatever comes along. Decisions will not be made based on comfort or popularity.
They will be made based on principles because they understand that giving up their principles leaves them open to the turbulence and uncertainty and, very likely, the failure that befalls unprincipled Managers.
It’s easy to imagine the Manager as the lighthouse in the store environment.
Just think of the myriad of details that must be attended to every day…like receiving, merchandising, scheduling, cleaning, hiring, training, banking… just to name a few.
And those are only the non revenue generating tasks.
The really important work – serving and selling to customers – occupies the majority of the retail employees’ time or, at least, it should.
In an environment like this it is easy for employees to lose sight of the goals and to go off course simply due to the activity in the store and not because they are indifferent, unskilled or lazy.
The simple truth is that if there is no one to act as the lighthouse, or if the lighthouse is not stable, consistent and bright, the most important reason for being there in the first place – which is to satisfy customers and produce revenue – may just be forgotten.
Most retailers cannot afford to take that chance. The Managers must provide the guidance.