Is Your Company Positioned For Its Next Leader?

By E. Michael Allen, V.P. Home Furnishings, AVB/BrandSource

After attending the 2018 FurnitureToday Leadership Conference, it wasn’t surprising that I came away from the event with lots of good ideas about leadership.

While I took notes of all the sessions, I found one of them, a presentation from Lorri Kelley, CEO of Lorri Kelley Advisors, to be especially pertinent to our BrandSource members.

Kelley, who has more than 25 years executive leadership and sales experience, held executive posts including president of BDI Furniture, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Palliser Furniture, chief operating officer at Home Elements, the retail store program at Rowe Furniture and more.

Her session, The Art of Creating Great Leaders, was chock full of practical, actionable and measurable advice that can help each of you at the retail level to create strong leaders in your own backyards.

According to Kelley, the first thing real leaders need to do is to focus on creating and cultivating more leaders.

To do that, she stressed, it is critical to employ the four E’s of leadership.

  1. Engage. Leaders lead at every level of the business, from the board room to the mail room. They engage with their employees and keep a sharp eye out for employees who demonstrate an innate ability to do more than they currently are. Doing more, Kelley explained, means taking on bigger roles and assignments.
  2. Equip. Leaders develop the ability to build their employees up, in part, by training them up. Make sure you supply your team with whatever tools may be needed to grow your talent pool.
  3. Empower. Good leaders know how and when to turn over responsibility. Kelley admitted that this is often the toughest of the four E’s because successful people tend to believe that nobody does it better than they do. Even if that is true, Kelley said, leaders can’t cultivate new leaders without relinquishing the reins when the time is right.
  4. Execute. Strong leaders take steps to get their leaders in training started. “You can engage, equip and empower, but unless you execute to get their people started, you will miss the mark,” Kelley said. 

Kelley also adapted these four E’s into a simple but effective Leadership Grid. In the box marked Engage, Kelley said this is the area where the leader says, “I do, you watch.” Allowing the employee to see firsthand what the leader does is one of the most effective ways to engage that person, she said.

For the grid marked Equip, the leader essentially tells the employee, “I do, you help.” By allowing the employee a hands-on role, a leader begins to equip that person to develop the tools and skills needed to lead.

In the Empower grid, that’s where the leader tells the employee, “You do, I help.”  Here, the leader essentially stands back and takes his hands off the wheel but is close enough to step in if need be.

The final grid, marked Execute, is where the leader says, “You do, I watch.” At this point, the employee has been prepared not only to begin to lead, but to seek out and empower others to lead as well.

Summing up these steps, Kelley advised the leaders in the room to “Let your leadership ceiling be their leadership floor.”

Kelley closed by sharing seven characteristics of great leaders.

1 Leaders inspire others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
2 Leaders listen more than they speak.
3 Great leaders begin with a person—not a title.
4 Great leadership is about wisdom, not education.
5 Great leaders first become great followers.
6 Great leaders demonstrate stability while driving change.
7 Great leaders give back. They always pay it forward
E. Michael Allen
V.P. Home Furnishings

Leadership is essential in every business, regardless of size. Hopefully, this roadmap will help you develop great leaders at your retail locations.

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.