Trust your store managers and encourage initiative

Empowerment is a trendy word these days though it’s one I don’t really understand. People are making decisions in their life outside of work all the time. Most of them don’t need to be ‘empowered’ they just need insecure senior managers, HR people and the like to stop disempowering them.

In far too many retail businesses it isn’t just the staff who are disempowered, it is also store managers. They often have little opportunity to show their initiative with much of the decision making centrally controlled. So, I love it when I hear of examples of retailers who do trust their managers and reap the rewards.

This example is shared by Martin Butler in his new book, ‘The Art of Being Chosen – Secrets of success from the giants of retail’ in an interview with Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis Partnerships which also includes the upmarket Waitrose supermarkets.

He explains how a Waitrose manager took the initiative to solve a staffing problem at her store greatly reducing attrition rates among time-pressed, part-time working mums.

She correctly identified that chronically high staff churn was caused by working mums dropping their kids off at school, doing their 11.00am to 2.00pm shift and then rushing out again to collect the kids. The manager realised that there was no emotional engagement between Waitrose and these working mums.

She introduced a ‘paid-for’ 15 minute break during their shift. This gave these mums an opportunity to chat to their colleagues, feel more a part of the team and begin to understand the wider benefits of working for Waitrose.

This manager felt confident enough in the company to think creatively about how she could resolve this problem locally. As Charlie Mansfield said, “The most fulfilled managers are those who have been able to make a difference.”

It reminds me of two quotes I included in my newsletter recently. Here they are. Take a moment to reflect on them.

“Most notions of management presume that people are pawns rather players. Management still revolves largely around supervision.”
Daniel Pink

“If you have the right people on the bus, they will be self-motivated. The real question becomes: How do you manage in such a way as not to de-motivate people?”

Jim Collins author of ‘Good to Great’

Jurek Leon is a storyteller, trainer and coach who presents courses and addresses seminars on word of mouth marketing, motivation, customer focussed selling and managing the customer experience. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly ‘Terrific Tips’ e-newsletter at Alternatively, email

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Jurek Leon is a storyteller, speaker and trainer. Subscribe to Jurek's FREE monthly 'Terrific Tips' e-newsletter at Alternatively, email