#41: Retail Leadership Therapy with Kit Campoy
Kit Campoy spent 24 years leading teams in retail stores. In 2022, she threw her store keys in the safe and left the career she loved to write full-time. She now writes, reads, and talks about leadership daily. She advocates for frontline leaders on LinkedIn and through her newsletter, The Voice of the Frontline. Her book, The Retail Leaders Field Guide: How to Run a Kick Ass Store Where Everyone Wants to Work is available now.
Top 3 Takeaways
- Be prepared. Like many leadership situations, being a retail leader requires flexibility. Go ahead and make plans, but plan on changing those plans along the way.
- Be brave. Sometimes a situation may become unworkable. Rather than continue to sacrifice your mental wellness, you may want to take a step back or away in order to break free.
- Listen up. You may be the leader, but that doesn’t mean you’re expected to know everything or make perfect decisions. Allow for team participation and work together to move forward.
From the Source
“You step into the store with an idea of how the day's going to run. ‘I'm going to write my schedule, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.’ And who knows? A customer could come in with a huge problem that you have to sort out and fix, or corporate could change direction on a dime, and you have to throw out all of your plans. Or three people call out sick and you have to be on the floor with one other person and now you're really short staffed and you can't get the work done that you had planned on getting done.”
“Like most places, you have to have a backup plan. You have to have a plan, and then a backup plan, and then a next backup plan. So that's constantly running in your mind. And then you also have to teach your support staff how to do that as well if you're not there.”
“We're going to get through this day. However we can get through this day and we're going to support each other, and we'll figure it out. We always do.”
“It was stressful. It was chaotic. But I think that's when you're like, ‘Okay, you know what? I'm going to take an extra break. I'm going to walk around the mall. I'm going to buy everyone coffee.’ Whatever you can do to lift people's spirits and be like, ‘All right, we're going to get through today. Tomorrow's another day.’”
“Things evolve, and I felt like, “Who am I writing this for? Like what's the point of this newsletter?’” “For people who are creatives, they get very caught up in ‘Well, I started this project. I want to make it work.’ And it's okay if it doesn't work. You still learn something, you still got something out of that process.”
“When we would get in leadership huddles at my store, that's how we spoke to each other: quick, direct, ‘This is what's happening’, ‘Who's doing this?’, ‘This directive is stupid’, ‘We're going to leave this to last.’ So yeah, that voice was very easy to cultivate and tap into because that was just how I led people.”
“I didn't have any fear at all. It was just like, ‘Good, this is what I'm doing. This is how I talk. This is how I lead. This is my honest opinion of what's going on in the retail world in frontline work.’”
“They started to write me up for some ridiculous things. I was written up for quote unquote ‘not being seen as a leader in the building’. And so then what, right? Like, what's the action plan? What do I do in this person's eyes? How do I make myself seen as a leader? There was no action plan. There was no follow up. There was no ‘these are the things that we wanna see out of you’. It was definitely a way to push me out.“
“I thought that I was going to show up to work and work hard and just move up. My whole life, that's what I thought. I’m just going to work hard, and I'm going to be honest, and I'm going to be good to people,and I will just keep getting promoted. And it's not like that. Life is not like that. And that's a really hard lesson to learn.”
“My district manager was shocked that I was leaving. I just said, ‘You know what? I came here to learn how to run bigger teams and larger buildings, and I've done that and I'm done. So I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm not doing this anymore.”
“I went on LinkedIn and I did a survey, and I said, ‘Hey, do y'all want a book from me? Would that be helpful?. And it was overwhelmingly ‘Yes, please write us a book!”
“That was the same when I led teams. It was just like, ‘Hey, this is the initiative. This is the directive. This is my idea of how we're going to proceed with this, but what do you guys think? Does that make sense to you? Should we do this differently?’ Seek feedback from everybody around you. You never know. Even sometimes my 17-year old sales associates had fantastic ideas, so just listen to everyone in the room."
Connect with Kit
The Voice of the Frontline (Substack): https://kitcampoy.substack.com/
The Retail Field Leader’s Guide: How to Run a Kick-Ass Store Where Everyone Wants to Work (book): https://amzn.to/3NCWA3Y