Do your male store managers “get” women shoppers?
Friday, September 18, 2015
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Jeffery Halter
For the past few
months, I have been consulting with an international grocery chain to develop
and implement a fully integrated women’s leadership strategy. Our recent work
focuses on the front line of retail, the store manager.
Part of the
work was creating engagement groups for male middle and regional managers to
become more aware of gender differences, not just in the workplace but in the
entire store experience. Today, the manager of a single grocery store may manage
hundreds of people and have multimillion dollar P&L responsibility. We also
know the majority of regional and store managers are men. As talented as these store
managers are, few have been well trained in consumer insights or gender
awareness, including how women think, act and shop.
Ask your male store
managers three simple questions:
1. When was the last time you created the weekly
grocery list for your household?
2. How many times did you go grocery shopping
during the past two weeks? (Picking up groceries on the way home from work
3. When was the
last time you prepared seven consecutive meals for your family?
When was the last time you shopped at 5:30 p.m. with two demanding children
wrapped around your legs and a baby crying in the shopping cart?
our male engagement group read a Harvard Business Review article on the new female economy. It's a great
eye-opener to help men start to think differently. One of the regional managers
in the group entirely embraced the article. He read it and went into one of his
busiest stores at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night. He confidently walked up to a
very busy mother of three and starting offering suggestions on easy-to-assemble
dinners and ready-to-go meals in that week’s flyer.
She looked at
him like he was from Mars. She was in a hurry and was picking up cereal, school
snacks, a prescription, a frozen pizza and a bag of lettuce. She looked him and
said, "If you really want to help, go bring me a box of Cheerios.” He did as
she requested and she actually smiled and thanked him. His lesson: don't assume
you know anything about women, even if you have read and studied. If you want
to know, ask first and genuinely listen.
simple and it’s that hard.
further insight, I reached out to longtime friend of NEW, Sharon Orlopp,
retired global chief diversity officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and president of
Orlopp Enterprise, an inclusion consulting firm. Realizing how "crazy busy"
store managers are, I asked her for a few tips store managers can do to become
more gender aware.
these insights: "It’s all about being inclusive on a daily basis. This means creating
an environment where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected. Not just employees,
but customers as well. It’s about creating a sense of belonging.”
leadership behaviors that drive inclusion are:
1. Educate yourself. Establish a gender coach relationship
with a woman who works with you. Ask her to provide feedback about your work
behaviors and what you can do to be more aware and inclusive.
2. Listen generously. Hear feedback from your gender coach
and from others. Active listening
includes being empathetic and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to
3. Observe and act.
Pay close attention to which employees speak in meetings and while touring the
store. Ask questions of employees who are quiet; they may have the best
I'd add another
for retailers: Talk to your shoppers. "You’d be amazed," Sharon told me.
"Our store personnel are so busy, sometimes they may forget to stop and
talk to our shoppers. Find out what’s really on their minds and how can we help
them. Really knowing our customers goes back to the days of Sam Walton, but it
is a lesson we need to teach and remind people of daily.
goes beyond the customer. Observing and acting also requires you to speak up
and speak out when you see or hear something that doesn’t feel right. If there
are inappropriate jokes or comments or if someone uses a demeaning tone, make
sure you address it immediately."
Ask yourself: Are
your front line managers ready to be your ambassadors to the new economy?
NEW member Jeffery Tobias Halter has
more than 30 years of experience in the retail and consumer goods industry. He
is president of YWomen,
a strategic consulting firm focused on engaging men in women’s leadership
advancement. He is author of Why Women, The Leadership Imperative to
Advancing Women and Engaging Men.
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