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Some seemingly small changes made in the way a top-performing regional manager in a South African apparel retail group works with and communicates to her store managers have produced some dramatic results. The regional manager says she has been in retail for 20 years and seen a number of store turnarounds – but nothing as dramatic as this.

The changes she made followed Legitimate Leadership training in the group in 2018.

In mid-2017, a new store was opened in her area. The store proved problematic because it was only managing to open about six new customer accounts every month.

The regional manager appointed a new store manager in 2018, but in the first month of her service, the new manager struggled in the same way that the previous manager had.

The retail group’s standard procedure in inducting a new store manager normally includes the regional manager drawing up an action plan with the store manager. In effect, this is normally the regional manager’s action plan for the store.

But following the Legitimate Leadership training, this regional manager decided to do things differently. With the store manager, she first went to watch the game – what employees in the store were doing, identifying where the gaps were, and giving feedback.

After watching the game, she asked the store manager to draw up the action plan.

This meant that the focus had moved from the action plan, and from the regional manager and the store manager, to the team in the store and what it was doing – and how that could be improved.

Says the regional manager: “We found that customers were walking into the store and not being served, or if they were they were not being offered new accounts consistently. Previously, yes, we would watch the game to some extent – but not me with the manager, with me showing the manager what to look for.”

Also, because the store manager eventually drew up the action plan, it was her plan, not the plan of the regional manager. This also meant that the regional manager was able to hold the store manager to account more effectively – because it was her plan rather than the regional manager’s plan. And the store manager was likewise able to hold her staff members to account more effectively.

The regional manager was stunned when, in the month after this change in approach, the store’s new account openings soared to 60. And its good performance has continued since then.

The regional manager looks after 15 stores. She is now applying the changes described above to all of her other stores.

Most of the top 20 stores in the national group are from her area so she is the group’s top-performing regional manager. She says it is normally very hard to stay at the top for more than one year because every new year a higher base is established. However, she is now going into her third year as the top-performing regional manager.