I run a retail store with anywhere from 30 to 50 associates, given the time of year. It’s a fast paced and young environment; many of our sales associates are hired in and this is their first job.
Our store has been back open for about a month now. It has been a roller coaster so far. We are constantly bouncing back and forth between implementing and enforcing CDC requirements, managing associates being out due to contact tracing, people quitting, people getting hired, people getting re-hired, and sometimes people calling out sick due to the stress of all of it.
It is a difficult time for all of us. When I go back after a day off I do not feel rested or renewed. (And believe me — I don’t do anything on my days off besides the occasional load of laundry and walking my dog in the morning.) I don’t feel energetic or light. I feel like I’m moving through molasses and with every task that is checked off my list, three more get added. But guess what? I share that with my team.
Transparency is so important to team building. If I am able to share with them a small glimpse of my life — to show them that that yes, you can have a crazy morning and still show up to work and have fun and work hard — hopefully they will take that with them forever. Hopefully they will be transparent with me when they need help or are having a hard time.
Compassion and empathy usually do not crack the top leadership traits in the retail management tool kit — and I would be lying if I said they’ve always been at the top of my skill set — but they are both crucial right now. Everyone is processing this new way of living. All we can do is show up and be kind and patient with each other. Listen. Check in. Share. Ask questions. Be transparent. Share a laugh with someone.
Life is unpredictable. Shit is currently wild. If you can be transparent, compassionate, and empathetic with your team right now they will be stronger and more confident. They will be more supportive of one another and they will have more patience with their customers. I see it in them every day.