You've just been promoted to your first retail management job. Congratulations! You certainly deserve a pat on the back. But don't let your joy at landing the new position distract you from the significant challenges that lie ahead. Running a retail store isn't easy, and inexperienced, untested managers tend to make plenty of rookie mistakes.
According to Kelley Robertson, a longtime retail sales trainer and author of Stop, Ask and Listen: How to Welcome Your Customers and Increase Your Sales, new managers face no shortage of difficulties in coping with all the added responsibilities.
"The two biggest challenges are managing their time and learning how to delegate [properly and effectively]," he says. "Managing multiple priorities, dealing with the fires that crop up in a day, responding to new problems and situations where they lack the experience also add to the list."
During the transition, Robertson says new managers often feel overwhelmed and stressed. In many cases, their sales take a hit, which can affect their overall income if they work on commission.
Ideally, new managers would receive training prior to their promotion. The reality, though, is that many retailers don't offer much in the way of structured management training, leaving new managers essentially to fend for themselves. One strategy Robertson recommends for avoiding this predicament: Get more involved in the daily operation of the store before applying for that first management position.
Why Can't We Be Friends?
One problem many new managers immediately face is becoming the boss to coworkers who previously were peers. Long-standing friendships may complicate matters further.
"For new managers to retain friendships with their former peers, both parties need to have the maturity to recognize that business and friendships must be maintained separately," Robertson says. "I have seen situations where managers have lost their ability to effectively manage their team, because the employees could not differentiate business relationships from personal ones, and, as a result, would not take direction from that manager."
That's not to say that friendships can't exist between managers and employees, he says. In fact many managers maintain an excellent relationship with their employees.
Close the Credibility Gap
When issues do arise, such as coworkers who complain about the new manager or who refuse to complete assigned tasks, Robertson recommends a direct approach. Talk to the former coworker to clear the air and determine the source of the conflict. This tactic will also help set a tone that establishes the new manager's credibility.
"New managers lose their credibility when they don't deal with sensitive or difficult situations quickly, or if they try to overexert their newfound authority," Robertson says. "Inexperienced managers are often reluctant to make difficult decisions and, as a result, wait too long, allowing the problem to fester and grow. It's important to understand that even a wrong decision is better than no decision at all -- as long as the new manager doesn't repeat that particular mistake."
Even the best-prepared candidates will encounter unforeseen situations. For that reason, Robertson encourages new managers to be patient and to give themselves room to grow into the new set of responsibilities.
"Don't expect to learn everything in a few days or even weeks," he says. "The typical learning curve for a new manager is about six months, which means it takes time to become comfortable in their new role."
Don't be afraid to ask for help, either. "Listen carefully to advice and suggestions, and be patient," he says. "You will make mistakes -- we all do. It's how you recover from those mistakes that makes the difference."