As I grew into my role as Area Leader at Flight Centre, I quickly realised the need to focus on my leadership style, priorities and communication. Some habits had to be shed so that I could evolve in line with my new responsibilities. It was a journey, but I learned a lot along the way. Habit changing always sounds onerous, but I think of it more as creating the right conditions for us to do our best work. To that end, here are some tried and trusted smart swaps that will maximise productivity and minimise bottlenecks. Let’s go!
The daily store phone call → Visits that set expectations
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating – you can gain back a day a week by swapping the morning calls to stores with a well-planned visit. One that sets out goals and targets, makes it clear you are available if needed and recognises and rewards what’s going well in the stores.
Control → Influence
I believe Area Leaders have the most influential role in retail, but not enough is done to develop the skills required to do the job well. It is easy for new Area Leaders to retreat to their more comfortable ‘Store Manager’ mindset, but this results in them taking control of stores during their visits rather than influencing their Store Managers to achieve results. Area Leaders and Store Managers are working towards the same goals but need to take different approaches. As an Area Leader, you move between the shop floor and the leadership team with a responsibility to communicate and implement strategic direction. So instead of trying to control the day-to-day of your stores, focus instead on how you can influence them to achieve results by giving them clarity around their goals and priorities.
Lumps → Sifting
This one’s all about communication and information. As an Area Leader you are responsible for ensuring all the essential information from various parts of the business and support functions are sifted together and reach the Store Managers promptly. The goal is to get the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Sifting to get the ‘lumps’ out means being able to remove information that Store Managers don’t need or perhaps isn’t appropriate. Developing a reputation as an Area Leader that provides relevant information means you are much more likely to earn the time and attention of your store managers.
Understaffing → Overstaffing
People are an investment, not a cost. Once you reframe your thinking around people strategies, you can be a genuinely effective Area Leader by ensuring that the busiest times are planned for enough people to meet demands. Most people want to shop at the weekend, and yet for many retailers, this is the first place they look to reduce people costs. If you don’t feel like you have the autonomy to make these kinds of decisions, gather your facts and state your case to your leader — you might be surprised that you can get what you ask for!
What are some smart swaps you’ve made in your Area Leader journey?