Mentorship in Retail

The retail climate is mercurial to say the least. You may already feel overworked as you are required to do more with less. All the focus is on delivering results to stay competitive. How can you get the edge? How can you get the team to deliver?

Keep in mind that positive or negative business results are typically driven from either positive or negative behaviors. At the end of the day, your employees and your team are your most valuable resource, and they are worth your investment of time and attention.

Need more convincing? Recall your own journey. Can you think of someone in your life either personally or professionally who took time to help and guide you? You know, that one person that you trusted to be able to share your weakest areas. The person that had no problem telling you that you were wrong and needed to get better.

The choice of taking notice of a peer, subordinate or even…a boss to mentor is ours to make. Instead of thinking of mentoring as one more addition to the workload, consider that mentoring could be the most meaningful work you do that also has a direct result on your bottom line.

Mentoring is within arms reach with these 3 recommendations:

1. Be authentic

When done, here is content other readers find helpful:

Mentoring doesn’t require hours out of your week. It does require authenticity. Mentoring comes from the inside out. Yes, a calendar invite or two will be required, however, an honest heartfelt discussion for 30 minutes over coffee can do wonders. If you fail to be authentic, it will feel like a bad first date wherein you are both looking at your phones, doing anything to get away from the situation.

As the mentor, asking: “How are you doing?” and meaning it sets the tone of “I’m here for you.”

Your mentee may not open up right away. Few people want to admit they need help. Set a risk-free tone at the outset by suggesting that you both simply share where you are today. This can make people feel comfortable and positively vulnerable.

2. Find common ground

As the mentor, it’s natural to share your insights. In doing so, be careful not to send an indirect message that you are better due to your experience or even your title. While this may be true, the mentor must strive to find common ground and work towards common goals.

Retail staff team in a store

For example, the mentee may be frustrated with career growth or the dynamics of their team. As the mentor, don’t just give advice. Share your firsthand experiences to give the perspective that it happens to us all. After sharing hardships, present the practices you followed to help the mentee see that there is hope. This leads to tip #3:

3. Stay away from answers, but share experience

Mentoring is a progressive coaching session. It is all about the journey of perspective vs. the destination of answers. We all are traveling the path of life, and it is the experiences we live that gives us context and help us answer the “why.”

Using phrasing such as: “Give this some thought,” or, “You may consider,” sets the tone of thinking and guiding vs. ordering and doing. Execution is important but taking some time to reflect can be just the ticket to learning how to grow into the next phase of our retail careers.

Final thoughts:

It does not require a corporate mandate or a defined process to get mentoring started within your company. You can be a mentor at anytime. In fact, you most likely are right now without even knowing it. What is required is a stance of humility, honesty and openness.

As you grow in your career, always be mindful of those around you. That is, are people growing with you? The conscious leader always keeps this in mind. Make yourself a promise that you will give this some thought. Retail is always changing; be a part of the change in a positive way by investing in your people.

I’ll leave you with a thought that I have kept in the front of my mind for years:

One day someone on your team will be sitting around a campfire talking to their friends and family about how you treated them. The choice is yours as to what they will say.

Your turn

Are you mentoring anyone in your stores? Has a mentor impacted your retail career? Let us know in the comments.

About the author:

Brian Travilla

Brian Travilla is a retail leader with over 25 years of experience in a variety of industries.  With a concentration on leadership and team development, Brian is an avid contributor and writer on LinkedIn and is currently publishing a retail leadership book. Brian also is a leadership coach and offers real-life experience and strategies to develop leaders to realize and develop the right skill set to deliver results and develop the team.

One thought on “Mentorship in Retail

  1. As always, great words of wisdom! To this day I continue to share stories on our many conversations, as they helped guide me through this crazy world of retail. Keep them coming!

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