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Leadership Development is Evolving with Modern Times

Joachim Nisgaard, Group Senior Director and Head of Talent Management & Learning, Salling Group

Joachim Nisgaard, Group Senior Director and Head of Talent Management & Learning, Salling Group

It’s no secret that without strong leadership, even the strongest business strategy becomes unyielding. Effective leaders can help an organisation maximise productivity and achieve business goals, whereas ineffective leaders can hurt productivity and put the health of the business in jeopardy. The same holds for the managers and leaders in the retail space as well. Most retail managers are required to make tough decisions every day, such as employee evaluations, recruiting decisions, and guiding other sales associates to make their own right decisions. They also need to make split-second decisions that could have larger financial repercussions. 

"Every organisation, no matter how big or small, must have a strategy for building the next generation of leaders by creating a strong leadership pipeline"

At this point, a retail manager must find a sweet spot between task direction and people management. While an excessively task-oriented retail manager puts very little effort into the people side of leadership, causing employees to feel unengaged or experiencing lack of development, an overly relationship-oriented manager can fall short when employees feel little motivation to perform. In both cases, the retail store suffers in areas such as productivity, efficiency, and revenue. Thus, retail managers must acquire both task direction and people management skills as per requirement to practice and for leadership.

The Succession of Leadership 

“Every organisation, no matter how big or small, must have a strategy for building the next generation of leaders by creating a strong leadership pipeline.” If an organisation doesn’t have a strong pipeline of leaders, the company might have to rely only on hiring external candidates to fill the leadership roles. The same applies to retail companies as well. Leadership succession planning in retail must identify capable leaders within the organisation and assess their competencies in managing a certain store with several teams in a demanding position. We, at Salling Group, have spent a lot of resources in developing a robust pipeline of leaders proficient in handling our complex retail operations as we expand.

The Importance of Leadership Training Programmes

At Salling Group, we believe that it is absolutely crucial to nurture potential leaders when they are in the midst of a leadership transition. Organisations, generally, focus on leadership development prior to an employee moving to a managerial role. However, in my experience, I have learned that it is paramount to support future leaders whilst they are in transition from one role to another. 

While leaders are in midst of a transition, i.e., 3-6 months into the new role, we usually train them on one of our transition programmes. We provide theoretical knowledge and real life cases to strengthen the competencies and work values required to move into a new leadership role. And our approach is to help the employees during the transition and support them with a 100-day plan. 

But, What Makes a Good Leader?

First, it’s really important to understand leadership in context. In other words, good leadership depends on what a leader is leading. For instance, one store manager is maybe leading a store of 800 people in a hypermarket. Within this team, the manager has to efficiently communicate the roles and responsibilities of all the sub-teams and their respective leaders. Whereas, if a manager is running a small store, his predefined duties are entirely different. The idea of good leadership thus varies depending on what tasks and responsibilities are expected from a certain leadership level and how well he can perform them. We believe that effective leadership comprises three equal parts of strategic, tactical, and operational efficiency. At the same time, a good leader must also be adept in zooming in and deal with specific operational issues and should be skilled enough for zooming out to see the bigger picture of entire operations—depending on the situation.  

At Salling Group, we ensure that the leadership training we provide to our up-and-coming leaders has all three aspects but weighted differently. Moreover, we also instil in our future leaders that good leadership is both what you deliver but also how you deliver. The combination of achieving your targets but with the right leadership behaviours.

Thriving in the Pandemic: The Salling Group Way

One of the most important aspects of leadership is adapting to any crises. And in such times, communication is one of the biggest strength of an effective leader. When the pandemic struck Denmark, we very quickly adapted to the situation. We held daily meetings with our HR management team to understand the situation and then translated it into a specific road map for our employees and leaders in the stores. We also offered our HQ employees guidance to help them connect emotionally with their team while working remotely.

We also ensured that the employees were physically and mentally fit while working from home. For instance, we collaborated with top athletes in Denmark who provided different sorts of resources and inspiration for our employees to stay physically fit. Salling Group also partnered with sports psychologists to support its employees’ mental health and help them navigate different situations. 

Our leaders were very tolerant and understanding of the fact that the employees were facing different dilemmas such as balancing work and life and, at the same time, homeschooling their kids. In simple words, our overall approach to the crisis was to be very flexible, understanding, and supportive of our employees. As good leaders do, we adapted to the situation. 

A Word of Advice 

To nurture effective leaders, organisations must focus on two things: understanding the needs of a potential manager and supporting them while transitioning between roles. In some instances, organisations believe that leading an organisation of 30 members is similar to leading an organisation 200 people, which is inherently a wrong notion. It is thus pertinent for organisations to realise that as employees move up in leadership roles, they must learn new competencies, work values and how they spend their time. At the same time, they might need to unlearn a few aspects to be successful in the new role. As Marshall Goldmisth  has said, “what got you here won’t get you there.”

Weekly Brief

Top 5 Leadership Development Training/Coaching Companies in UK - 2021
Top 10 Leadership Development Training/Coaching Companies - 2021

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